Reaching Out from a Mind as Dirty as All Outdoors

If you get lucky enough, I might post adult-only material from time to time, so be 18 or over, or please be elsewhere.

I'll be discussing erotica here, the writing of it and the people who write it, as well as what we've written. I find all these aspects stimulating, but if any of them bore you, feel free to skim. You never know what you might miss, though.




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Saturday, March 20, 2021

To Remember You By

This story was already posted on this blog, but I'm bouncing it up to here because I just dd a live reading of it on a Facebook group, Lesbian Fiction Campfire. We had a whole day long series of readers,  and they've been recorded, so are all still available, but one has to join the group to access them. In any case, I said that I'd post my story here for a while, so here goes.

To Remember You By

     In the English summer of 1943, the air felt sometimes so thick with sex you could have spread it like butter, and it would have melted, even on cold English toast.

     The intensity of youth, the urgency of wartime, drove us. Nurses, WAC's, young men hurled into the deadly air war against Germany, gathered between one crisis and another in improvised dance halls. Anything from barns to airfield hangars to tents rigged from parachute silk would do. To the syncopated jive of trumpets and clarinets, to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Accentuate the Positive," we swayed and jitterbugged and twitched our butts defiantly at past and future. To the muted throb of drums and the yearning moan of saxophones, to "As Time Goes By" and "I'll Be Seeing You," couples clung and throbbed and yearned together.

     I danced with men facing up to mortality, and with brash young kids in denial. Either way, life pounded through their veins and bulged in their trousers.

     But I wasn't careless. And I wasn't in love. As a nurse, I'd tried to mend too many broken boys, known too many who never made it back at all, to let my mind be clouded by love. Sometimes, though, in dark hallways or tangles of shrubbery or the shadow of a bomber's wings, I would comfort some nice young flier and drive him on until his hot release geysered over my hand. Practical Application of Anatomical Theory, we nurses called it, "PAT" for short. Humor is a frail enough defense against the chaos of war, but you take what you can get.

     Superstition was the other universal defense. Mine, I suppose, was a sort of vestal virgin complex, an unexamined belief that opening my flesh to men would destroy my ability to heal theirs. 

     My very defenses (and repressions) might have opened me to Cleo. Would my senses have snapped so suddenly to attention in peacetime? They say war brings out things you didn't know were in you. But when I think back to my first sight of her, the intense gray eyes, the thick, dark hair too short and straight for fashion, the forthright movements of her lean body--a shiver of delight ripples through me, even now. No matter where or when we met, she would have stirred me.

     The uniform sure didn't hurt, though, dark blue, tailored, with slacks instead of skirt. I couldn't identify the service, but "USA" stood out clearly on each shoulder, so it made sense for her to be at the Red Cross club on Charles Street in London, set up by the United States Ambassador's wife for American servicewomen.

     There was a real dance floor, and a good band was playing that night, but Cleo lingered near the entrance as though undecided whether to continue down the wide, curving staircase. I don't know how long I stared at her. When I looked up from puzzling over the silver pin on her breast she was watching me quizzically. My date, a former patient whose half-healed wounds made sitting out most of the dances advisable, gripped my shoulder to get my attention.

     "A friend of yours?" he asked. He'd been getting a bit maudlin as they played "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," and I'd already decided he wasn't going to get the kind of comfort he'd been angling for. I shook off his hand. 

     "No," I said, "I was just trying to place the uniform. Are those really wings on her tunic?" I felt a thrill of something between envy and admiration. The high, compact breasts under the tunic had caught my attention, too, but that was more than I was ready to admit to myself. I watched her movements with more than casual interest as she descended the stairs and took a table in a dim corner. 

     "Yeah," he said with some bitterness, "can you believe it? They brought in women for the Air Transport Auxiliary. They get to ferry everything, even the newest Spitfires, from factories or wherever the hell else they happen to be to wherever they're needed." 

     His tone annoyed me, even though I knew he was anxious about whether he'd ever fly again himself. But then he pushed it too far. "I hear women are ferrying planes back in the States now, too. Thousands of 'em. Next thing you know there won't be any jobs left for men after the war. I ask you, what kind of woman would want to fly warplanes, anyway?" His smoldering glance toward the corner table told me just what kind of woman he had in mind. "Give me a cozy red-headed armful with her feet on the ground any day," he said, with a look of insistent intimacy.

     "With her back on the ground, too, I suppose," I snapped, and stood up. "I'm sorry, Frank, I really do wish you the best, but I don't think there's anything more I can do for you. Maybe you should catch the early train back to the base." I evaded his grasp and retreated to the powder room; and, when I came out at last, he had gone. The corner table, however, was still occupied. 

     "Mind if I sit here?" I asked. "I'm Kay Barnes."

     "Cleo Remington." She offered a firm handshake. "It's fine by me. Afraid the boy friend will try again?"

     So she'd noticed our little drama. "Not boy friend," I said, "just a patient who's had all the nursing he's going to get." I signaled a waitress. "Can I get you a drink to apologize for staring when you came in? I'd never seen wings on a woman before, and...well, to be honest, I had a flash of burning jealousy. I've always wanted to fly, but things just never worked out that way."

     "Well," Cleo said, "I can't say I've ever been jealous of a nurse's life, but I'm sure glad you're on the job."

     "Tell me what being a pilot is like," I said, "so I can at least fantasize."

     So she told me, over a cup of the best (and possibly only) coffee in London, about persuading her rancher father that air surveillance was the best way, to keep track of cattle spread out over a large chunk of Montana. When her brother was old enough to take over the flying cowboy duty, she'd moved on to courier service out of Billings, and then to a job as instructor at a Civilian Pilot Training Program in Colorado, where everyone knew that her young male students were potential military pilots, but that Cleo, in spite of all her flight hours, wasn't.

     Then came all-out war, and the chance to come to England. Women aviators were being welcomed to ferry aircraft for the decimated RAF. I watched her expressive face and hands and beautifully shaped mouth as she talked of Hurricanes, and Spitfires, and distant glimpses of German Messerschmidts.

     As she talked, I did, in fact, fantasize like crazy. But visions of moonlight over a foaming sea of clouds kept resolving into lamplight on naked skin, and the roar of engines and rush of wind gave way to pounding blood and low, urgent cries. Her shifting expressions fascinated me; her rare, flashing smile was so beautiful I wanted to feel its movement under my own lips.

     I didn't know what had come over me. Or, rather, I knew just enough to sense what I wanted, without having the least idea how to tell whether she could possibly want it too. I'd admired women before, but only aesthetically, I'd rationalized, or with mild envy. But this flush of heightened sensitivity, this feeling of rushing toward some cataclysm that might tear me apart... This was unexplored territory.

     "So," Cleo said at last, looking a bit embarrassed, "that's more about me than anybody should have to sit through. What about you? How did you end up here?"

     "I'm not sure I can remember who I was before the war," I said, scarcely knowing who I'd been just half an hour ago.

     She nodded. We were silent for a while, sharing the unspoken question of whether the world would ever know such a thing as safety again. Then I told her a little about growing up in New Hampshire, and climbing mountains, only to feel that even there, the sky wasn't high and wide enough to hold me. "That's when I dreamed about flying," I said.

     "Yes!" she said. "I get that feeling here, once in a while, even in the air. This European sky seems smaller, and the land below is so crowded with cities, sometimes the only way to tell where you are is by the pattern of the railroads. The Iron Compass, we call it. I guess that's one reason I'm transferring back to the States instead of renewing my contract here.

     "The main reason, though, is that I've heard women in the WASPs at home are getting to test-pilot Flying Fortresses and Marauders. And that's only the beginning. Pretty soon they'll be commissioned in the regular Army Air Force. In Russia women are even flying combat missions; "Night Witches" the scared Germans call them. If the war goes on long enough..." She stopped just short of saying, "If enough of our men are killed I'll get to fight." I was grateful. "History is being made," she went on, "and I've got to be in on it!"

     In her excitement she had stretched out her legs under the table until they brushed against mine. I wanted so badly to rub against the wool of her slacks that I could scarcely pay attention to what she was saying, but I caught one vital point.

     "Transferring?" I leaned far forward, and felt, as well as saw, her glance drop to my breasts. The starchy wartime diet in England had added some flesh, but at that moment I didn't care, because all of it was tingling. "When do you go?"

     "In two weeks," she said. "I'm taking a week in London to get a look at some of the sights I haven't had time to see in the whole eighteen months I've been over here. Then there'll be one more week of ferrying out of Hamble on the south coast. And then I'm leaving."

     Two weeks. One, really. "I've got a few days here, too," I said. "Maybe we could see the sights together." I tried to look meaningfully into her eyes, but she looked down at her own hands on the table and then out at the dance floor where a few couples, some of them pairs of girls, were dancing.

     "Sure," she said. "That would be fun." Her casual tone seemed a bit forced.

     "I don't suppose you'd like to dance, would you?" I asked, with a sort of manic desperation. "Girls do it all the time here when there aren't enough men. Nobody thinks anything of it."

     "They sure as hell would, if they were doing it right!" Cleo met my eyes, and, in the hot gray glow of her defiant gaze, I learned all I needed to know.

     Then she looked away. "Not," she said carefully, "that any of Flight Captain Jackie Cochran's hand-picked cream-of-American-womanhood pilots would know anything about that."

     "Of course not," I agreed. "Or any girl-next-door nurses, either." I could feel a flush rising from my neck to my face, but I plowed ahead. "Some of us might be interested in learning, though."

     She looked at me with a quizzical lift to one eyebrow, then pushed back her chair and stood up. Before my heart could do more than lurch into my throat, she said lightly, "How about breakfast here tomorrow, and then we'll see what the big deal is about London."

     It turned out we were both staying in the club dormitory upstairs. We went up two flights together; then I opened the door on the third floor landing. Cleo's room was on the fourth floor. I paused, and she said, without too much subtlety, "One step at a time, Kay, one step at a time!" Then she bolted upward, her long legs taking the stairs two, sometimes three, steps at a time.

     Night brought, instead of a return to common sense, a series of dreams wilder than anything my imagination or clinical knowledge of anatomy had ever managed before. When I met Cleo for breakfast it was hard to look at her without envisioning her dark, springy hair brushing my thighs, while her mouth... But all my dreams had dissolved in frustration, and I had woken tangled in hot, damp sheets with my hand clamped between my legs.

     Cleo didn't look all that rested, either, but for all I knew she was always like that before her second cup of coffee. When food and caffeine began to take effect, I got a map of bus routes from the porter and we planned our day.

     London Bridge, Westminster, Harrod's department store; whether I knew how to do it right or not, every moment was a dance of sorts. Cleo got considerable amusement out of my not-so-subtle attempts at seduction. She even egged me on to try on filmy things in Harrod's that I could never afford, or have occasion to wear, and let me see how much she enjoyed the view. I didn't think she was just humoring me. 

     In the afternoon, after lunch at a quaint tearoom, we went to the British Museum and admired the cool marble flesh of nymphs and goddesses. Cleo circled a few statues, observing that the Greeks sure had a fine hand when it came to posteriors; I managed to press oh-so-casually back against her, and she didn't miss the chance to demonstrate her own fine hand, or seem to mind that my posterior was not quite classical.

     Then we decided life was too short to waste on Egyptian mummies, and wandered a bit until, in a corner of an upper floor, we found a little gallery where paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite movement and other Victorian artists were displayed. There was no one else there but an elderly woman guard whose stern face softened just a trace at Cleo's smile. 

      Idealized women gazed out of mythological worlds aglow with color. The grim reality of war retreated under the spell of flowing robes, rippling clouds of hair, impossibly perfect skin. 

      Cleo stood in the center of the room, slowly rotating. "Sure had a thing for redheads, didn't they," she said. "You'd have fit right in, Kay." 

     I hoped she herself had a thing for redheads. Standing there, feeling drab in my khaki uniform, I watched Cleo appreciating the paintings of beautiful women. When she moved closer to the sleeping figure of "Flaming June" by Lord Leighton, I gazed with her at the seductive flesh gleaming through transparent orange draperies, and allowed myself to imagine stroking the curve of thigh and hip, the round, tender breasts.

     "I don't know how this rates as art," Cleo said, "but oh, my!"

     A hot flush rose across my skin, of desire, yes, but even more of fierce jealousy. I wanted to be in that bright, serene world, inside that pampered, carefree body, with smooth arms and hands, not roughened by scrubbing with hospital soap. I wanted to be the one seducing Cleo's eyes. "She could have a million freckles under that gown," I blurted out childishly. "The color would filter them out!"

     A tiny grin quirked the corner of Cleo's mouth. "Freckles are just fine," she said, "so long as I get to count them." She turned, leaned close, and shivers of anticipation rippled through me. "With my tongue," she added, and gently laid a trail of tiny wet dots across the bridge of my nose. I forgot entirely where we were.

     Then she bent her dark head to my throat, undid my top button, and gently cupped my breasts through my tunic as her warm tongue probed down into the valley between. I couldn't bear to stop her, even when I remembered the guard. My breasts felt heavy, my nipples swollen, but not nearly as heavy and swollen as I needed them to be.

     Cleo's gray eyes were darker when she raised her head. "Where," she murmured huskily, "is a bomb shelter when you need one?"

     But we knew that even now, with Hitler's Russian campaign distracting the Luftwaffe enough that there hadn't been a really major attack on London in over a year, every bomb shelter had its fiercely protective attendants.

     The guard's voice, harsh but muted, startled us. "There's a service lift just down the corridor. It's slow."

     She gazed impersonally into space, her weathered face expressionless, until, as we passed, she glanced at Cleo's silver wings. "Good work," she said curtly. "I drove an ambulance in France in the last war. But for God's sake be careful!"

     In the elevator Cleo pressed me against a wood-paneled wall and kissed me so hard it hurt. I slid my fingers through her thick dark hair and held her back just enough for my lips to explore the shape of her lips, and my tongue to invite hers to come inside. 

     By the time we jolted to a stop on the ground floor my crotch felt wetter than my mouth, and even more in need of her probing tongue.

     There was no one waiting when the gate slid open. Cleo pulled me along until we found a deserted ladies' room, but once inside, she braced her shoulders against the tiled wall and didn't touch me. "You do realize," she said grimly, "what you're risking?"

     "Never mind what I'm risking," I said. "One nurse blotting her copy book isn't going to bring everything since Florence Nightingale crashing down. But you..." Tears stung my eyes, but it had to be said. "You're holding history in your hands, Cleo." I reached out to clasp her fingers. "Right where I want to be."

     "Are you sure you know what you want?" 

     "I may not know exactly," I admitted, drawing her hands to my hips, "but I sure as hell know I want it!" I reached down and yanked my skirt up as far as I could. Cleo stroked my inner thigh, and I caught my breath; then she slid cool fingers inside my cotton underpants and gently cupped my hot, wet flesh. I moaned and thrust against her touch, and tried to kiss her, and her mouth moved under mine into a wide grin. 

     "Pretty convincing," she murmured against my lips.

     I whimpered as she withdrew her hand, but she just smoothed down my skirt and gave me a pat on my butt. "Not here," she said, and propelled me out the door.

     On the long series of bus rides back to Charles Street we tried not to look at each other, but I felt Cleo's dark gaze on me from time to time. I kept my eyes downcast, the better to glance sidelong at her as she alternated between folding her arms across her chest, and clenching and unclenching her hands on her blue wool slacks.

     Dinner was being served at the Red Cross club, probably the best meal for the price in England. Cleo muttered that she wasn't hungry, not for dinner, anyway, but I had my own motive for insisting. The band would be setting up in half an hour or so, and with the window open, you could hear the music from my room. Well enough for dancing.

     So we ate, although I couldn't say what, and Cleo teased me by running her tongue sensuously around the lip of a coke bottle and into its narrow throat. Her mercurial shifts from intensity to playfulness fascinated me, but the time came when intensity was all I craved.

     "I don't suppose you'd like to dance, would you?" I repeated last night's invitation with a barely steady voice. "If I tried my best to do it right?" I stood abruptly and started for the stairs. Behind me Cleo's chair fell over with a clatter as she jumped up to follow me.

     I reached my tiny room ahead of her--nursing builds strong legs—and crossed to the window to heave it open. Then the door slammed shut and she was behind me, pressing her crotch against me, wrapping her arms around to undo my buttons, and cradle my breasts through my sensible cotton slip. I longed to be wearing sheer flame-colored silk for her.

     When she slid her hands under the fabric and over my skin, though, I found I didn't want to be wearing anything at all. "So soft," she whispered, "so tender..." and as my nipples jerked taut under her strokes, "getting so hard..."

     A melody drifted from below. "Give me something to remember you by." I turned in her arms. "Teach me to dance," I whispered. 

     We swayed gently together, feet scarcely moving in the cramped space, thighs pressing into each other's heat. Cleo kneaded my hips and butt, while I held her so tightly against my breast that her silver wings dented my flesh.

     "Please," I murmured against her cheek, "closer..." I fumbled at the buttons of her tunic. When she tensed, I drew back. "I'm sorry...I don't know the rules..."

     "The only rule," Cleo said, after a long pause, "is that you get what you need." 

     "I need to feel you," I said.

     She drew her hands over my hips and up my sides, then stepped back and began to shed her clothes. Mine, with a head start, came off even faster.

      The heady musk of arousal rose around us. A clarinet from below crooned, "I'll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places…" I cupped my breasts and raised them so that my nipples could flick against Cleo's high, tightening peaks, over and over. The sensation was exquisite, tantalizing--I gave a little whimper, needing more, and she bent to take me into her mouth.

     I thought I would burst with wanting. My nipples felt as big as her demanding tongue. Then she worked her hand between my legs, and spread my juices up over my straining clitoris, and my whimpers turned to full-throated moans.

     Cleo raised her head. Her kiss muted my cries as she reached past me to shut the window. "Hope nobody's home next door," she muttered, and suddenly we were dancing horizontally on the narrow bed. I arched my hips, rubbing against her thigh, until her mouth moved down over throat and breasts and belly, slowly, too slowly; I wanted to savor each moment but my need was too desperate. I wriggled, and thrashed, and her head sank at last between my thighs, just as in my dreams. Her mobile lips drove me into a frenzy of pleading, incoherent cries, until, with her tongue thrusting deeply, rhythmically inside me, my ache exploded into glorious release.

     In the first faint light of morning I woke to feel Cleo's fingers ruffling my tousled hair. "If I were an artist I'd paint you like this," she whispered. "You look like a marmalade cat full of cream." 

     I stretched, and then gasped as her fingers roused last night's ache into full, throbbing resurgence. "Sure enough," she said with a wicked grin, "plenty of cream. Let's see if I can make you yowl again."

     This time I found out what her long, strong fingers could do deep inside me, one at first, then two; by the end of the week I could clutch at her whole, pumping hand. 

     Sometimes I think I remember every moment of those days; sometimes everything blurs except the feel of Cleo's hands and mouth and body against mine, and the way her eyes could shift suddenly from laughing silver to the dark gray of storm clouds.

     We did more sightseeing, the Tower of London, Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral scarred by German bombs. We took boat trips up the Thames to Richmond Park, where we dared to kiss in secluded bits of woodland, and down river where we held hands across the Greenwich Meridian. One night, in anonymous clothes bought at a flea-market barrow, we even managed to get into a club Cleo had heard of where women did dance openly with women. We couldn't risk staying long, but a dark intoxication followed us back to her room, where I entirely suppressed the nurse in me and demanded things of Cleo that left both of us sore, drained, and without regrets.

     On our last night in London we went anonymously again into shabby backstreets near the docks. I brought disinfectants, and we chose what seemed the cleanest of a sorry lot of tattoo parlors. There, welcoming the pain of the needle as distraction from deeper pain, we had tiny pairs of wings etched over our left breasts.

     We parted with promises to meet one more time before Cleo's last flight. I mortgaged a week of sleep to get my nursing shifts covered, and at Hamble Air Field, by moonlight, she introduced me to the planes she loved. 

     "This is the last Spitfire I'll ever fly," she said, stroking the sleek fuselage. "Seafire III, Merlin 55 engine, 24,000 foot ceiling, although I won't go up that high just on a hop to Scotland."

     From Scotland she'd catch an empty cargo plane back to the States. I had just got my orders to report to Hawaii for assignment somewhere in the South Pacific. War is hell, and so are good-byes.

     "Could I look into the cockpit?" I wanted to be able to envision her there, high in the sky.

     "Sure. You can even sit in it and play pilot." She helped me climb onto the wing, with more pressing of my backside than was absolutely necessary, and showed me how to lower myself into the narrow space. Standing on the wing, she leaned in and kissed me, hard at first, then with aching tenderness, then hard again.

     "Pull up your skirt," she ordered. I did it without question. She already knew I wasn't wearing underpants. "Let's see how wet you can get the seat," she said, "So I can breathe you all the way to Scotland." She unbuttoned my shirt and played with my aching breasts until I begged her to lean in far enough to suck them; then, with her lips and tongue and teeth driving me so crazy that my breath came in a storm of desperate gasps, she reached down into my slippery heat, and made me arch and buck so hard that the plane's dials and levers were in danger. I needed more than I could get sitting in the cramped cockpit.

     We clung together finally in the grass under the sheltering wing. I got my hands into Cleo's trousers, and made her groan, but she wouldn't relax into sobbing release until I was riding her hand, on pounding waves of pleasure as keen as pain.

     I thought, when I could think anything again, that she had fallen asleep, she was so still. Gently, gently I touched my lips to the nearly-healed tattoo above her breast. Tiny wings matching mine. Something to remember her by.

     Without opening her eyes she said, in a lost, small voice, "What are we going to do, Kay?"

     I knew what she was going to do. "You're going to claim the sky, to make history. And anyway," I said, falling back on dark humor since I had no comfort to offer, "a cozy menage in Paris seems out of the question with the Nazis in control." 

     Then, because I knew if I touched her again we would both cry, and hate ourselves for it, I stood, put my clothes in as much order as I could, and walked away.

     I looked back once, from the edge of the field. Cleo leaned, head bowed, against the plane. Some trick of the moonlight transmuted her dark hair into silver; I had a vision of how breathtaking she would be in thirty or forty years. The pain of knowing I couldn't share those years made me stumble, and nearly fall. But I kept on walking.

     And she let me go.


     On June 24, 1944, against all justice and reason, the bill to make the Women Airforce Service Pilots officially part of the Army Air Force was defeated in Congress by nineteen votes. In December, the WASP were disbanded.

     Thirty-three years later, in 1977, when women were at last being admitted into the Air Force, the WASP were retroactively given military status. It was then, through a reunion group, that I found out what had become of Cleo Remington; she had found a sky high and wide enough to hold her fierce spirit, and freedom as a bush pilot in Alaska.

     And she was, as I discovered, even more breathtaking at sixty than she'd been at twenty-six.

     But that's another chapter of the story

____________


The other chapter is a story,”Alternate Lives,” in that same collection, but be warned that Kay was actually bisexual, and had raised a family with a soldier whose life she had saved during the war. Cleo in Alaska was partnered with a former “Night Witch” who had defected from Russia. The story is entirely about the three women coming together on Kodiak Island.



https://www.amazon.com/Ride-Remember-Other-Erotic-Tales-ebook/dp/B004WKQFIK/ref=sr_1_7?crid=2YME04GVSJTW3&dchild=1&keywords=sacchi+green&qid=1616272615&s=books&sprefix=sacchi%2Caps%2C150&sr=1-7 




  

     

        

 

         

        

     

                 

      

           

          

     


     

     

             

       


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Charity Sunday: Let Them Not Hunger

 


Let Them Not Hunger

At last! I’m not constantly donating to political causes! Not that they’ve stopped asking, but I’m stopped answering, at least not for a while. I’m trying to get back to environmental causes, but there are always even more urgent needs, so just now I’m answering a cause or two (or more) to help in feeding desperate people in distant places.


Here’s how this works. I will contribute one dollar to this cause for every view of this post within two weeks, and two dollars for every comment.  


My charity choice for this Sunday is AVAAZ.org, for their work in Yemen, where roughly 85,000 children have starved to death, unable to get enough food or medical care during the devastating civil war. Half of all medical facilities have been destroyed or forced to close, and 80% of the population needs urgent humanitarian aid -- including 12 million children.


As usual, I don’t have any stories at all connected to this situation, so I’ll resort once again to a food topic, or rather a long excerpt from a story that happens to include quite an entertaining dinner scene, even though that’s not the main theme of the piece.

____________________________

  

Meltdown

Sacchi Green


“Some piece of work you got there.” Sigri jerked her head toward the door. Or maybe she was just flicking a trickle of sweat out of one eye, since her hands were occupied with hammering a rod of red-hot iron into submission. She’d been wearing goggles but shed them when we came in. “Ought to keep a shorter tether on your toys, Roby.”

It was just as well Maura had already flounced out in a snit when she realized that we weren’t going to focus on her—although Maura’s every movement was far too elegant to be termed “flouncing.” Even when she’d knocked over a short trollish creature built using trowel hands and garden-rake teeth, tried to right it, got those long auburn waves that had sold ten million crates of shampoo tangled in another contraption, and knocked that one over, too, her taut ass was as elegant as it was enticing. She could have been modeling those stretch ski pants for a fashion spread in Vogue. Probably had been, in fact, when she’d been here in New Hampshire in October for an autumn leaves photo shoot. Now, in January, the outfit suited the snow coming down outside.

Sigri’s boi, Rif, edged deftly among the metal sculptures, righting the ones Maura had knocked over, touching some of the others as though they were friends. Or lovers. In their shadows, her slight body and pale short hair were nearly invisible. She hadn’t spoken a word since I’d been here. Now, at a gesture from Sigri, she followed Maura out of the barn. 

Maura needed to be the center of attention. Someplace deep inside being in the spotlight terrified her, but she still craved it. She didn’t know how lucky she was that Sig and I had been ignoring her, catching up on old times and our lives over the past twenty years. She’d brought us together for her own convoluted purpose and pushed me over the edge of anger into rage once I knew what she was up to. Could’ve been part of her plan; Maura’s plans were never straightforward. I didn’t care whether she was listening outside the door or not. 

“I’m not her goddamned keeper!”

“No? Somebody sure ought to be, and I get the impression she thinks it’s you.”

I perched gingerly on the seat of an antique hay baler stripped of its wheels, waiting its turn to be cannibalized into parts for the scrap metal beasts and demons Sig sold to tourists and the occasional high-end craft gallery. “Not a chance. Don’t tell me she hasn’t been trying you on for size.” 

Sig concentrated more intently than necessary on the metal she was bending across the edge of her anvil. “‘Trying’ is the word, all right.” Her hammer came down hard. “The magazine crew was doing a photo shoot down the road with my neighbor’s big black Percheron mare close by and sugar maples in the background. Rif hung around watching, kind of dazzled by the glitz, I guess, so when Maura asked about the weird iron critters out front here, Rif dragged her to the barn to see more. I knew you’d worked with her—Rif keeps some of those fashion mags around for some strange reason, and I don’t deny taking a look now and then. Just to see whether your name’s in the small print as photographer, of course. Not for those skinny-ass models.” That brazenly lecherous grin was just the way I remembered it.

“Yeah, Maura has a thing for sharp scary things, the weirder the better. So I guess one thing led to another?”

“One thing led to—zip! Nothing but some crazy maze of ‘yes…no…wait, maybe…’ Does she have any fucking idea what she wants? Won’t negotiate, won’t submit, won’t bend, likes to be hurt but mustn’t be marked anyplace it would show when she models bikinis. I tell you, Roby, I don’t have the energy anymore for games like that. No topping from the bottom.” One more hammer blow and a curse, and then the warped metal was cast into a tank of water where it hissed as it cooled. From what little I’d glimpsed, I didn’t think it had turned out as Sig intended.

“She doesn’t know what she wants until she gets it,” I said. “Looks like just now she thinks she wants it from you.” And she has the gall to want me to show you how to give it to her. I’d given in to Maura’s pleas to come back with her to the Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire for a long weekend visit with my old friend Sigri, which did sound tempting, and then just as we arrived at the farmhouse, Maura had told me casually that she wished I’d teach Sigri the right way to hurt her. I had never come closer to hurting her in all the wrong ways.

“Screw it. I wouldn’t have bothered at all if Rif hadn’t been all for it.” Sig pulled off her heavy leather apron and straddled a wooden bench. “Why’d she drag you here, then? Not that I’m not glad to see you. Every time I see your name on one of those photo spreads in a nature magazine I think about getting in touch, but somehow I never get around to it.” She considered me for a moment, the fire from the forge casting a red glow over her square, sweaty face and muscular arms. “Good thing you moved on from the fashion ads racket. Your stuff is too good for that.”

“The fashion biz pays better.” I didn’t quite meet Sig’s gaze. “I still do it once in a while.”

“You didn’t come when Miss Fancypants threw a fit last October and insisted they had to get you because she wouldn’t work with anybody else. So why now?”

“I was in Labrador on assignment from the Sierra Club magazine! And next month I head for Patagonia. In any case, I do have my limits. The guy they had here was good and needed the work.” I looked her full in the face—a face I’ve seen in my dreams through the years more often than I’d like to admit. “This location is a big draw, though. So many memories…”

“Ohhh yeah!” Her smile this time was slow, reflective, and genuine. I wondered what she was remembering. My second most vivid image from those days was Sigri’s fine broad, muscular butt in tight jeans twenty feet above me on the face of Cathedral Ledge. 

We’d been casual friends, members of a fluctuating group of dykes renting this very same farmhouse for a few weeks in the summer while we hiked and climbed, and again in the winter as a ski lodge. Both of us usually had a girlfriend in tow, but when it came to rock climbing, we trusted each other and no one else. Even on easy climbs with iron bolts not more than twenty-five feet apart, when you take the lead with a belaying rope and call "Watch me," you damned sure need to know that when your partner on the other end answers "Go for it, I've got you," she has absolutely got you, her end of the rope firmly anchored, and will hold on if your grip fails or a rock edge breaks away and you start to plummet down the unforgiving cliff face.

We’d only admitted to figuring in each other’s fantasies back then as mead companions, playing at being Viking warriors ravaging villages side by side as we bore off not-unwilling maidens. She still wore her yellow hair in that thick Viking braid down her back; I couldn’t tell in this unreliable light whether there were silver strands mixed in with the gold. My own dark cropped hair was still more pepper than salt, but not by much.

“Well, you’re here now, and I’m glad. No need to let that glitzy bitch spoil things.” She put away her tools and adjusted the damper on the furnace to let the fire die down. “Think we could make her sleep out here in the barn?”

“Not unless we made it seem like her own idea. Which isn’t impossible.”

“Never mind for now. Rif’ll show you your room, and once you’re settled in, we’ll eat dinner. She’ll have it the oven by now.”

“Rif sounds like a real treasure.” 

“More than I deserve, that’s for sure,” Sig muttered, almost too low for me to hear. She made for the door. I followed, admiring that rear view the way I used to when no one was looking. Just a bit broader now, but even more muscular since she’d turned to blacksmithing. The front view had been admirable, too, but harder to enjoy covertly. Back then butch buddies did not openly ogle each other’s chests, and things hadn’t changed in that department. I could tell now that it was still remarkable, even hidden behind the leather apron shielding her from any runaway sparks or splinters of metal. 

Snow was building up fast along the short path from the barn to the house, piling the existing banks along the sides even higher. Good thing we didn’t have to drive anywhere tonight. Maura had damned well better not make me wish we could get away. 

Dinner was maple bourbon-glazed salmon with hot cornbread, mushroom risotto, and tossed salad with pecans and dried cranberries. Perfection. Rif was perfection, too. Maybe too perfect. Her cooking was excellent, and her serving of it—well, let’s just say she epitomized service in more ways than one while managing to sit for long enough to eat her own food. Quiet, efficient, never speaking without being spoken to, anticipating our needs, all with downcast eyes, at least whenever I glanced at her. Just the same, I could feel her gaze on me from time to time, and I was pretty sure she was sizing up Maura, too.

Maura was sizing up Rif right back, maybe taking notes on how to appeal to Sigri. At least she was putting on a pretty good demure act. Sig and I were wallowing in nostalgia, swapping recollections of cliffs we’d climbed, mountains we’d summited, ice walls we’d conquered, and apr├Ęs-ski orgies we’d enjoyed the hell out of. 

Finally, when we were about done eating our desserts of individual pumpkin custards and sipping Rif’s excellent coffee, Sig turned to Maura like a good host. “How about you, Maura? Done any climbing?”

“Oh yes, I’ve been on some jaunts with Roby out in the Sierras.” She gave that trademark toss of her head that made strands of chestnut mane drift across one or another of her perfect breasts. Her navy silk shirt was conservative but clingy in all the right places. “You know how it is, though, hiking with somebody so much older, having to take things slower than you’d like.”

Sig shot me a “what the fuck!” look.

Okay, Maura was asking for it. I smiled, genuinely amused, but also irritated as hell. “Got a mouth on her, hasn’t she. Don’t worry. It’s just that insults are the best Maura can manage as foreplay.”

“So how does that work out for her?”

Maura’s glare in my direction was weakened by her belated realization that Sigri was just as old as I was.

“Depends on the circumstances. The last time she called me too old, she was already spread-eagled, tied to the four corners of a tent frame, and demanding to be gagged.”

Rif’s eyes flashed wide open for just a second. Sig nodded judiciously. “I can see getting a little something out of that.”

“What I got was a bent tent frame. What Maura got was my mark in a place even a bikini won’t reveal.”

Maura apparently decided to go with the flow. “Isn’t it cute,” she said with a sultry smile, “the way old folks’ memories get so fuzzy?”

Sigrid leaned forward and looked from Maura to me. “More foreplay?”

“Well, she seems to think so. It’d be cute if it weren’t so juvenile.”

Sig almost asked another question, thought better of it, pushed back her chair, and stood up. “Rif, how about you kids go take a walk while Roby and I have a nice chat about grown-up matters.”

“Is it still snowing?” But I knew perfectly well that it was. “They could just stroll around inside the barn, and Maura could decide which sharp-edged, long-toothed demon there she’d most like to fuck her in her dreams.”

Maura managed to stifle a smartass retort. Rif stifled a smile, then went to stand beside Sig with head meekly bent, speaking softly, before leading Maura away. Sigri and I moved into the cozy living room to sit by the fire and savor our after-dinner port, like any Old Country lords of the manor. Except that, instead of port, we savored excellent home-brewed mead a friend had given Sig and Rif at Christmas. 

While Sig bent to pour a little of the golden elixir into my genuine bull-horn cup set in its own wrought iron stand, I felt her closeness with a jolt that startled me. In the old days, no matter what girl I was with, if Sig was in the room, I was more aware of her than of anyone else. Comradeship, sure, but I couldn’t deny that there’d been an intensely sensual element as well. Now she was so close I could have reached out and touched her breast, guarded now only by flannel instead of leather.


That’s all you get for now. What, you thought you were going to get some really hot sex? It comes later, after Rif reports that she and Maura have fired up the sauna hut, and everybody gets naked and really, really hot. And then rolls in the snow. The complete story is in my collection Wild Rides from Dirt Road Books. If you ask me nicely, though, I might email you the whole story. Another story with the two main characters, “Bright Angel Falls,” is on my blog as the Charity Sunday entry titled “National Park Nostalgia” posted on July 26th, 2020. As a matter of fact there are a dozen or so Charity Sunday stories or excerpts posted on my blog, and even more of my stories, so if you want some free reading, there you go.


For another Charity Sunday blog, go over to lisabetsarai.blogspot.com. Lisabet is the writer who established this tradition, and a varying number of others also contribute. Scroll down on Lisabet's post, and you'll see the link for another participant