Merope, Maybe : 16 / 19

 

Merope, Maybe : 16 / 19

[ Melanie Brown’s Switcher Universe ]
by Iolanthe Portmanteaux

 


When a Lazy Slob takes a good steady job
And he smells from Vitalis and Barbasol...
The guy's only doing it for some doll!
— Frank Loesser, Guys and Dolls [theme song]


 

Our Uber glided to a stop next to where we were standing. After giving a mock salute to the driver — who nodded in return — Wayne stepped gallantly down from the curb and put his hand on the door handle. Then he paused so he could look me in the face with a serious expression.

"Listen: we have to behave ourselves in the Uber. No making out or — you know — anything more."

I gaped stupidly. "I wasn't planning—"

He shook his head at my protest, and waved it away with his free hand. "See, *we* rate the drivers, sure. But did you know the drivers rate us passengers, as well? If you're a bad passenger, they're less liable to pick you up. So: model citizens, agreed?" He punctuated his explanation with a wink.

I've never liked winks. I don't know why. But they've always bugged me.

So: serious face, followed by conspiratorial wink. I found it a bit confusing.

In any case, the moment passed too quickly to process; Wayne had the car door open before I could even blink. His admonition was there and gone before I was able to offer any reaction whatsoever. Wayne gestured to me, and watched my legs with great attention as I got into the back seat. Noting his avid gaze, I had a sudden inspiration: I sat down first, knees and ankles touching, then swung my legs, with knees and ankles still together, into the car. Elementary. I'm sure I've seen many women do this — in real life, on TV, and in films. I should have caught on to this move a lot sooner. But it was only just then, in that moment, that it struck me as something I should do as well. Wayne looked mildly disappointed.

On the other hand, he didn't wait for me to shift over — he didn't expect me to. Instead, he closed my door and scurried around to the far side of the car .

At least he was raised well, I told myself. Then again, I already that already. In life as Anson, I was well acquainted with Ross and Pamela (Wayne's parents). They were good people.

And yet, Wayne was still young. He had plenty of mistakes and wild oats to sow — for example, what the two of us were doing right now. Wayne, oddly conscious (for once!) of the potential appearance of impropriety, left a few inches of space between us. He didn't scoot closer to me or drape his arm over my shoulders. In fact, he glanced once or twice at the driver's eyes in the rear view mirror. It made me feel almost as though we were sitting in the high-school principal's office.

I had a sudden suspicion. "Wayne," I whispered, "Have you gotten in trouble with an Uber driver?"

His eyes narrowed, as if I'd caught him out. The expression on his face said, What have you heard?

I persisted: "I mean, did you overdo it in the PDA department?"

"PDA?" he whispered, frowning, puzzled.

"Public Displays of Affection," I explained, laughing quietly at the easy tease.

His response was a soft "Pfft!" He leaned back in his seat, sat up straighter, and took up more space, opening his chest.

In what I guess was meant to be a daring move, he reached over and set his large hand on my left thigh. I caught my breath. The width of his palm covered nearly half my thigh. His fingers and thumb came near to touching the seat beneath me. His grip was warm, as well, and its warmth made me very aware of my posture and breathing. I don't know why, but it did.

None of us spoke. The driver didn't make conversation. Aside from the hand on my thigh, Wayne and I were on best behavior — not that I wanted anything more in that moment. Even so, the silence, the weight and warmth of Wayne's touch, and the fact of being closed in a car that someone else was driving, brought to bear the finality of what I was up to. I'd allowed myself to be swept along, and here I was: swept to a point of no return.

Or was it?

I suppose there were a few emergency brakes I could pull. I could tell the driver, "Stop the car — I need to get out. Yes, right here!" Or I could look Wayne in the eye and say, "I'm sorry, but I can't do this. This was a mistake." Or — maybe the most cowardly and desperate move of all — I could wait until we arrived in front of Wayne's house, and run off to seek refuge next door, with Cloe and Mukti.

My eyes roved around the inside of the car, as if I were a prisoner absurdly looking for a way out.

Sure, I was being melodramatic, but wasn't melodrama appropriate to the moment?

Everything about this moment was stupid. *I* was stupid. The situation was stupid. What I was doing was stupid. Even Wayne bore his share of "stupid" — although it wasn't his fault. Mainly it was me: I was up to something stupid, me.

Ever since the car door closed on me, a song was playing in my head: it was the theme to Guys and Dolls. In a nutshell, the song is about all the crazy, misguided things a man might do if he fell for a woman: things like: get a job, rent a decent apartment, bathe more frequently... I had to think for a moment to remember what Vitalis and Barbasol are, but the message was plain — a man could twist himself into a new shape for the sake of a woman... if he lost his head.

You could infer from the song that, if only he didn't get entangled, a man could live a less complicated life: a more peaceful, less demanding, less hygenic life.

Why that song? What prompted it? My subconscious was being surprisingly clear: I was doing the same thing as the guy in the song. Not that I was getting a job or an apartment or using Barbasol for Wayne's sake... it wasn't literally that. What I'd done, like the "guys" in the song, was that I'd lost myself. I hadn't changed my life... but I was doing things I ordinarily would never do. Not in a thousand years.

I was acting impulsively.

I've never been impulsive. I could count on one hand the times in my life that I've done anything on impulse: most of them happened on the day I met the Switcher. First, I'd eaten that weird, roasted-tea scone. Second, I turned left rather than right at the river. If I hadn't done that, I'd still be Anson.

The third impulsive thing was calling Rowan, rather than the processing center. If I hadn't done that, Femke wouldn't have been assaulted by Stan. We wouldn't have risked jail on account of Stan's "presents." Was there any upside to that impulse?

Well, yes, I had to admit that there some upsides: I had Femke's help. I had a place to stay. Rowan and Javier had my back. And I had the USB drive with all of Merope's records.

Plus one little thing: I got to taste Maude's excellent strawberry/rhubarb pie. It was worth remembering.

And come to think of it... going back further in my life... when I asked Cleo to marry me, *that* was on impulse. I hadn't meant to do it. At least not at that moment. On pure impulse I went ahead and did it.

So how did *that* turn out? Well? Badly?

Probably a combination of both, sometimes both at the same time.

Did I have a good marriage, overall? Was being impulsive a bad thing, in and of itself? I sighed heavily, and louder than I meant to. Wayne cocked his head and gave me a quizzical look.

"This is crazy!" I muttered, then shocked, I put my hand over my mouth. I hadn't meant to say it out loud! I was talking to myself, referring to the mad jumble in my brain, the unreconcilable mess of experiences that I couldn't sum up into a neat, categorical judgment: good or bad, right or wrong, crazy or sane...

And now Wayne was sure to think that *I* was crazy...

His face lit up in surprise, and his eyebrows danced. He glanced at the dashboard, then hunched over me, bringing his face close to my left ear. In a low voice he confided, "Yeah, taking the ring road definitely isn't the best choice. We'll end up coming into my neighborhood from the back, so to speak. But these guys just go wherever the GPS tells them."

I glanced out the window, then back at Wayne. "Uh, I didn't mean..." I began, then gave it up.

"I guess I don't know where I am," I pretended to confess, and gave him a weak smile.

He smiled and gave my hand a squeeze. "We'll be there in five minutes," he whispered.

"Great," I breathed, dreading and wanting it in the same moment.

Although he'd moved his hand to cover mine, I could still feel his handprint on my thigh. I could probably take a pen and trace the outline of his hand from the residual warmth. Somehow, that thought — the mental image of tracing his contact on my skin — made me feel even more an idiot than I did already.

Anxious, I wet my lips with my tongue and set my hand on top of his. I anteed up. He smiled at that.

And then we arrived at his house.

 


 

Wayne and I stood in the darkened street, watching until the Uber faded from view and a suburban silence descended over us. His house stood directly in front of me, across a well-kept lawn. My old house (Anson's house) was visible mostly as a shadow in the darkness.

I let out a shaky, uncertain breath. "So quiet!" I observed in a hushed voice, afraid of breaking the silence. "Not even crickets." Wayne didn't answer. Instead, he raised his eyes and scanned the houses around us. I realized later that he was checking the windows; looking for lights, watchers, silhouettes of vigilant neighbors... Nosy Parkers who might spot us and tell Wayne's mom and dad.

At the time he looked to me like a hunter, surveying the terrain. I couldn't help it: physically, I was in a kind of awe of him. I was Jane to his Tarzan. If he'd picked me up, tossed me over his shoulder and run off with me, I'd be all for it. My mouth actually watered at the thought. I had to swallow twice.

Neither of us had moved from the spots where we descended from the car: the width of the absent Uber still separated us. I held my breath, acutely aware of my heart beating. The car had left me in the middle of the road in the semi-darkness; Wayne stood closer to the curb. I felt exposed, almost naked, perched on my high heels, wearing my little dress — that suddenly seemed quasi-immaterial, nothing more than a little scrap of fabric.

I hasten to say that I wasn't naked. I only *felt* that way: vulnerable, foolish... alone, small, defenseless.

"Don't move," Wayne cautioned in a low voice, and in a few steps he stood in front of me. He put his hands on my upper arms and squeezed me, the way you'd squeeze a loaf of bread, and my subconscious tossed up the word perfunctory. I'm sure that the part of me that used the word knew perfectly well what it meant, but the part of me that stood in the street — gaping, big-eyed, impelled by desire — could only silently repeat the sounds, the syllables: perfunctory? It didn't register. The doubt in me wanted desperately to pump the brakes, but by this point I hardly knew where they were, let alone reach them.

"Give me your shoes," Wayne whispered. "Your heels will go click-clack and wake up the neighborhood."

"It's still early," I whispered back. "It must be ten-thirty or thereabouts. And why are we whispering? We're not in a library." I gave a little smile and teased, "Plus, the Uber's gone."

He frowned, not getting the joke, and took a deep breath before explaining. "Look: I still live with my parents—"

"I know, Wayne," I interrupted. "I know that." I felt more than a little irritated. How many times did I have to tell him that I used to live next door? That I'd watched him grow up? At the very least, did he not remember that he'd already told me he lived with his folks when his little dog licked me?

He seemed put out by my interruption, so he said, "Do you know what's great about older women? They know what they want."

I frowned at his non sequitur. My brain didn't seem up to the task tonight. I couldn't even manage an indignant what? I guess he meant to remind me why we were here; that I wanted it, that he hadn't dragged me along. At the very least he meant to throw me off a bit. While I waited for the gears in my brain to turn, Wayne pressed on. "The point is, I have to sneak you into the house, understand? There's no way you can sneak around when you're wearing heels."

I took a look at his driveway. "Do you expect me to walk barefoot up—"

"I'll carry you," he told me, cutting the negotiation short.

Carry me? That sounded like a great option to me.

I slipped out of my shoes and handed them to him. He hooked the heel straps over his left pinky, where they dangled like baubles on a charm bracelet. I placed my hand on his shoulder and jumped up, into his arms. He caught me neatly and held me close. Then he flew up the driveway: quickly, silently, without no trace of effort whatsoever. It left me breathless. His hold on me was so firm, I didn't bounce in his arms. He didn't seem conscious of my weight. He didn't grunt or strain, not even slightly. He moved fast, but he didn't breathe hard. When he set me down next to a window at the rear of the house, he didn't need to catch his breath. He seemed totally unfazed by the effort — which was rather exciting in itself. In fact, he looked ready to pick me up and run another mile, just for the fun of it.

I felt like a silly goose, but his muscular power gave me a physical thrill.

"Wait here," he commanded, and he looked me up and down, as if evaluating something. He glanced at my back. Then he reached out, took my bag from me, and ran back around the house the way we came.

 


 

If I didn't feel foolish before, I felt ridiculous now. I mean, less than a week ago I was a portly retiree. Before encountering the Switcher, the biggest events in my day were my new bucket hat, and a weird new scone. Now I was a thirty-something female wearing a little black dress, standing barefoot in the wet grass behind a surburban house, waiting for a twenty-something fitness buff to open his window and let me inside.

Wayne didn't leave me waiting for long. When he appeared at the window, he paused before opening it, to put his finger to his lips. Yes, okay: he wanted to remind me. When he continued to stand there looking at me, not opening the window I made impatient motions with my hands, miming the raising of the sash. He frowned with pursed lips. He huffed. Then he put his finger to his lips three times quickly, as an imperative. I raised my eyebrows. Seriously? But when he didn't move, I nodded vigorously, making the same shh gesture. Then and only then did he begin to open the window.

With agonizing slowness he raised the sash, millimeter by millimeter. His intent was clear: he was trying to minimize the groans and creaks the window gave out, and it released those sounds liberally and loudly. From the noise, you'd imagine an elderly asthmatic with a bad back was struggling to get out of bed. I can't imagine that anyone in the house could possibly remain asleep at the concert of screeches and squeals. They'd have to be deaf or under the influence of a potent narcotic.

By now, the sham of my "indecision" was clear. If I could stand here, watching Wayne's face as he labored manfully but uselessly to silently raise that wailing window, I couldn't pretend that I was anything but all-in. Fine: I was here for the sex. I was here for his muscles. I didn't have a single ounce of doubt, not one tiny iota. My hesitation and fluttering were nothing but a pretence, a fig-leaf, a sop for my conscience.

When at last the window sash let out its final trumpet, I stepped up to the window and set my hands on the sill. I looked down for a toehold. I was more than ready to climb inside.

"Wait a minute," Wayne whispered, holding up his palm. His face assumed a wolf-like, hungry aspect. "That's a really lovely dress."

"Um, thanks," I replied, puzzled.

"You don't want it to get dirty, climbing in the window. That would be a shame, wouldn't it?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess." I looked at the opening; touched the sill. It's true. It was a little dirty. "What did you have in mind?"

"Why don't you take your dress off, and hand it to me. That way it will stay nice and clean."

I regarded him for a minute. He waited. Then he said, "You know you have to get naked at some point."

"Okay," I conceded. I turned my back and Wayne unzipped me. I slipped out of the dress — which honestly was a lovely dress; it felt amazing as it slid off my body — then I folded it in half and carefully handed it to him.

Now dressed in nothing my bra and panties, I put my hands on the sill again, and looked for a toehold.

"Wait," Wayne stopped me again. I scoffed. "Seriously?" I asked him. He shushed me and shrugged, smiling.

"In for a penny," he offered.

"Fine!" I muttered, and slipped out of my undergarments. When I passed those inside, he had me turn my shoulder toward the window and reached out to take me. "Don't make any sudden moves," he cautioned, "or you'll throw my back into next week."

At his coaching, I rested my head on his left arm while he lifted my knees with his right. Once my head passed inside, he shifted both hands under my butt and glided the rest of me inside.

"It's a tricky move," he confessed. He wiped the perspiration from his forehead using the back of his hand.

I was about to ask how the effort compared to running up the driveway with me in his arms, but he planted a sudden and dramatic kiss — I think he wanted to kiss me, sure, but I'm pretty sure he wanted to forestall any talk.

We didn't kiss for long, but it left me out of breath.

Panting, out of breath, I stood on tiptoe and reached up to touch his upper arms, feeling his muscles with my fingertips.

Then, in spite of my longing, I noticed the way my dress lay in a crumpled bundle on his bed. Admittedly, I hadn't exactly folded it, but I didn't ball it up like that! I picked it up, shook out the wrinkles, and asked, "Where can I hang this?"

"Just leave it on the bed," he replied in a distracted tone, as if my dress didn't matter. "Anyway, we can't stay in here — my parents will hear everything."

Then, absurdly, he reached for the window.

"What the hell are you doing?" I demanded.

"Closing the window," he answered. He frowned and shrugged. "Isn't it obvious?"

"If you didn't already wake your parents when you opened that thing, for sure you're going to wake them when you close it."

He shook his head as if I'd said the most errant nonsense, and in one swift movement he pushed the window shut. It closed with a quick, soft squeak.

"Are you kidding?" I exclaimed in a soft voice. "Why didn't you sweep it open that way?"

"You ask a lot of questions," he countered defensively. "It only makes noise when it's going up. If you go fast, it's worse. My dad says it's like the brass section is slaughtering a hog." He shrugged. "Whatever. Come on now, follow me."

With that, he pushed me ahead of him, out the door of his bedroom, into the hallway. He kept his hands on my shoulders, and steered me this way and that. I'd been inside the house before, but not so much in the back of the house, where the bedrooms are. And the fact that I was completely bare, without a stitch of clothes, frightened and excited me, but paradoxically I found it confused me. The possibility of discovery, of being caught naked by Wayne's parents, lurked around every corner — and we seemed to be turning a lot of corners.

I want to say At last we arrived in the kitchen, but it was only a matter of moments. I blinked two or three times, utterly confused. Did he want to have sex on the kitchen island? Mentally I worked out that if I lay on the counter, Wayne would need a step-stool, or he'd come up short—

—but of course, silly me — that wasn't the idea at all.

Wayne soundlessly opened the door to the basement. "There's a rec room downstairs," he whispered. "It's nice, and it's the perfect place."

My mouth fell open. I meant to ask, Can I bring my clothes along? but he didn't give me a chance. He spun me around and gently guided me to the top of the stairs. Then, suddenly, he said, "Stop."

"What?" I asked, but I got my answer immediately. He slid his hands over my derriere, softly moaning in satisfaction. "I couldn't resist any longer," he cooed in my ear. "I had to touch you." Then his hands slid up my sides and made their way to my breasts, which he gently but thoroughly fondled.

I have to say, I liked it. I wanted it. I enjoyed it. I could feel his excitement pressing against my backside, but when his hands slid down south of my belly button, I grabbed his hands and said, "Wait — let's get downstairs," and without waiting for his pushing, prodding, or guiding, I quickly and quietly descended the stairs.

I won't give you the blow-by-blow. I'm sure you can imagine. A lot of my excitement and arousal — and pretty much every ooh! — was due to it being my first experience of sex as a woman. Yeah, and a lot of it was due to Wayne's youth, stamina, and musculature. He certainly delivered, so I shouldn't complain, but while the sensations were powerful and sustained, and though I hit heights of pleasure I didn't know were even possible — and God, if I had circuit breakers in my brain, they would all need to be replaced after that night.

But even so, one part of me found itself sort of standing to the side and watching, and that part couldn't help but notice that for Wayne it seemed to be a purely physical act.

Which is not to say that he wasn't attentive and considerate. He most definitely was. He was also kind and sensitive.

Still, there was a point when he was fully invested in his labors — and yes, it felt good; it felt very very good — but he was in such deep physical concentration, that I very nearly wanted to ask him, "Hey, Wayne — what's my name?"

Of course, I didn't. I wouldn't. I couldn't be that unkind.

But seriously, in that moment, I could have been anyone, any woman who happened to be lying underneath him. I wondered at one point whether he was being careful to not say my name, in case he got it wrong.

Okay: I'll admit I'm nitpicking. But there is one moment I need to mention. It was absolutely the most significant moment. We were lying on an uncomfortable narrow couch. Wayne was on top of me, going at it, full bore. I'm not sure how to explain this, but until that moment, I hadn't considered what we were doing — or better, the *implications* of what we were doing. In my mind, to this point, it was all about pleasure, excitement, about this being my very first time... Until I kind of woke up from my passive state to realize that his breathing and movements had changed — like music, when it shifts to a deeper, more serious key. There was no mistaking what the key change signalled: it abruptly became irresistably obvious that he was about to climax... inside of mewithout protection.

My entire body stiffened at once. The realization, the implications, the possibility of a truly life-altering event, exploded in my brain with a piercing, blindingly white light. The shock of my sudden awakening showed on my face and Wayne, true to form, completely misinterpreted it.

"Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah! You like that, don't you. You do, you do. Oh, yeah, you love it. You love it. Here we go— uh!"

And then, paradoxically, I climaxed with him — a happenstance that immensely pleased him. It was a long, intense, electrical explosion that didn't just go bang! and stop. No, it grew to an intensity that rocked us both, and then unexpectedly grew and didn't stop. Then, thinking/feeling it was over, I relaxed. My body let go, and in that slackness another climax hit in a second, even stronger wave. My mind, overwhelmed, went blank. I don't mean that I lost consciousness — not at all. But the level of pleasure was so high, so global, that I was pushed beyond words, beyond analysis, beyond any articulation.

I lay there, spent, like a rag doll. If I had any energy left in, I'd be trembling and shaking, but I didn't. Like I said, I was spent. And shocked.

Wayne lay atop me panting, catching his breath, coming down, cooling off, kissing me over and over.

I wanted nothing more in that moment than to climb out from underneath him and go wash myself. I wanted to find a trampoline where I could jump stiff-legged, like I'd seen Queen Victoria do in a limited TV series, in hopes of shaking out a pregnancy, of keeping it from taking hold.

But I didn't. I doubt that the jumping would work, although it would probably make me feel a little better — at least I'd have tried something! But... the real reason I didn't? I didn't want to seem rude or ungrateful. So, instead, I waited. While I waited, patting his back and ruffling his hair from time to time, his breating slowed. Then his breathing deepened, and next — he fell asleep! He fell asleep on top of me!

He was too big and heavy for me to push off. I couldn't slide out from underneath him because I was blocked: Directly above my head an arm of the couch stole all my wiggle room. I was trapped. Luckily, I had no trouble breathing. Go figure.

What to do? I felt sure he'd shift or roll off at some point, although rolling off would mean falling on the floor. Falling on the floor might wake his parents.

So I waited. At least I didn't need to use the bathroom.

At some point, I too fell asleep.

 


 

I woke to find myself still trapped by Wayne's dense and muscular body. Apparently he hadn't moved or changed position all night long. It was still dark outside, and my alarm hadn't gone off yet. I had it set for 6:30, to give myself plenty of time to get ready for my first day on the job. No need for concern there, yet. On the other hand, my right foot had fallen asleep, and I needed to use the bathroom. "Wayne?" I softly called, but he kept right on sleeping, his breath deep and even. I poked and prodded him. I called his name, I hissed his name, but nothing would rouse him. I tugged his hair and twisted his ear. No joy.

At last I decided there was nothing for it but to roll him off me — even if it meant his landing heavily on the floor. But how to do it? My legs were under his legs. Only my arms were free, but I couldn't get any leverage there, either. I wiggled and twisted every part of my body. It didn't help me escape, and it had the unfortunate collateral effect of arousing Wayne in his sleep. I quit my wiggling and lay still, waiting for his tumescence to subside.

All I could do was wait. At some point my wake-up alarm would sound, and hopefully Wayne would stir.

I waited and waited. I desperately needed to pee. I began to groan and gasp with the effort of holding it in. I considered just lettting it go, and peeing on Wayne's parents' sectional. It was leather; I should be able to wipe it up and clean it off...

When will my alarm go off? I cried out silently to myself.

Then it hit me: my phone was upstairs, in my bag, in Wayne's bedroom. Shit. I had to get up there before it went off.

"Wayne! Wayne! Wayne!" I croaked hoarsely. I needed to wake him without waking the rest of the house. While I quietly barked his name, I tickled his armpits and ribs.

"Wah, wha, huh?" he grunted. "Wass happenin'?" While he mumbled incoherently, he managed to make enough space beneath him for me to execute a desperate maneuver. With one hand on the couch's arm, and the other on gripping the couch's base, I tugged and pushed with all my might, and in one smooth slip I was able to slide my body to freedom. Once I escaped from under him, he collapsed back onto the couch and fell right back asleep, as if nothing had happened.

For a moment I lay on the floor, soaked by our combined perspiration. As I gathered my wits, his hand descended and very nearly closed around my leg. I scooted backwards on butt until I was safely out of reach.

My right foot was still asleep. I had no feeling in that foot. Was it unhealthy for it to be in that state for so long? I pinched and shook the foot. It was warm, but it was dead to all feeling. I could have stuck a pin anywhere from my ankle on down and not felt a thing. It felt as though I was touching someone else's foot, not my own.

I worked on it for a bit, massaging, shaking, rubbing. No change. And I still needed to use the bathroom.

I got to my feet and nearly fell right back down, but I caught myself, leaning on the couch. It was a weird sensation: it was like having a block of wood at the end of my leg.

I couldn't wait for the situation to change. Clutching one thing and another as I nobbled my way around that basement rec room.

Behind the bar I found a half bath. If you're not familiar with the term, it means a little room with a toilet and a sink. This particular one was also outfitted with a old, crusty hand towel, bent permanently into its draped position. I didn't touch it. I was afraid to.

But in that little room, in that basement space, I sat down and enjoyed the most glorious, pent-up wee I've ever had. It was absolutely true to the phrase "relieving oneself." Oh, lord, was I relieved.

Next came my Mission: Impossible. I had to sneak upstairs and retrieve my clothes and belongings before my alarm went off. How much time did I have? There was no away of knowing.

So: up the stairs, no problem. Nary a squeak. Into the kitchen, no problem. The door opened smoothly and quietly. The clock on the stove read 6:27. Shit! But then again, the clock on the microwave read 4:35.

Next, how to find Wayne's room? I remembered that we'd left the door open, so that was a major clue. As I pictured last night in my memory, it seemed that all the other doors in that hallway were shut. Shouldn't be hard to find, then.

In fact, it wasn't hard at all. After two quick two turns, I found myself in the same hall, and the same door left open. I padded inside. Wayne's bedroom. No doubt. There was my dress on the bed, my underwear on the desk, my shoes on the floor, but where was my bag?

Naturally, it was exactly 6:30 when I asked myself that question, and my phone began to chime: a silly, ding-a-ling-ding-dong melody meant to softly wake me. But where was the damn thing? At first frantic, I scanned the room, looking everywhere (or so I thought), but finding nothing. Then, calmly, I stood and listened, turning slowly until I realized...

There! My little backpack sat on a shelf, high up on the wall. Why did Wayne put it all the way up there?

I snatched it down, fumbled with the flap, fished out the phone, and killed the alarm. Whew. Was my mission successful? At that moment it seemed so: I hadn't heard a sound from the rest of the house. Thank God, thank God, thank God.

6:30, and all is well.

Then I turned, and there in the doorway stood Ross, Wayne's father, his mouth hanging open.

I, for my part, stood in the center of Wayne's bedroom, as naked as a person could be. I held my phone in both hands in front of my chest, but the sight of him so startled me that I dropped my phone to the floor. It landed with a fairly quiet bounce on the rug, but in any case, Ross had already seen and could now see everything there was to see. I had no secrets from him, at least anatomically speaking. I gaped at him, frozen, voiceless, with no idea of what to say or do. I didn't cover my breasts and privates; it didn't occur to me, and would have been pointless anyway.

Ross was slightly less surprised than me: after all, he'd been able to study my backside as I searched for my phone and fished it out of my bag. He held up both hands, in a gesture of surrender or harmlessness, and he backed away, out of sight.

I retrieved my phone, dropped it into my bag, and gathered up my clothes. Before I left the room, I checked three times that I had everything: dress, bag, shoes, underwear (both pieces!). Dress, bag, shoes, underwear. Then I scurried back downstairs.

The reason I didn't immediately dress myself was this: Although by now it had dried, when I first slid out from under Wayne, I was drenched in sweat - both his and mine. I couldn't bring myself to put my clothes — especially that beautiful dress — over my skin in that state.

But of course, I couldn't face using that crusty old hand towel, so I rummaged around the rec room until I found a clean bar towel and three tea towels. With those and what remained of an ancient bar of hotel-size soap, I managed to give myself something like a sponge bath. I did the best I could.

After I dressed, I regarded Wayne. He was still down for the count. I shook him. I called his name. I pinched his ear. Nothing. I considered giving his ass a good hard slap, but knew that they'd hear it upstairs. I thought about leaving a note, but didn't. I figured he didn't need one.

And then—!

Next to the bar, there was a door. A metal door, without a window. With a little effort, I tugged it open and found myself outside! And if that didn't beat all, the door opened — and shut — with hardly a sound.

Oh, Wayne.

Though I was dressed, I hadn't put my shoes on yet. I didn't want to clip-clop down the driveway. I made my way barefoot through the grass down to the road. I wiped my soles with the bar towel (which I'd brought along for just that reason), and slipped my shoes on. Then I clip-clopped away from Wayne's house until I was stood in front of my old house. Hopefully no one would see me.

I pulled out my phone and was about to open the Uber app. But then... a car came rolling down Wayne's driveway. Ross, Wayne's father, my old neighbor, was at the wheel.

He pulled up next to me, rolled down the window, and asked, "Would you like a ride somewhere... Anson?"



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