Outside the train, things whipped by as fast as the thoughts racing through his brain.
"What will she think of me? Will I be all right? Do I look OK? What is she gonna think?"
Rows of naked almond trees, stacks of white beehives. Whip.
Proud horses standing like bronze statues in their corrals. Whip.
Flocks of snowy egrets making wing for a picture-perfect sky. Whip.
He was out of his element, riding though hill country as foreign to him as any flatlander. Out of his mind too, when he considered her beauty compared to his reflection in the train window. He wouldn't be up to her standards. He remembered her telling him she was picky. She was likely to put him on her no-no list, her dreaded no-no list. Not only bound for a first meeting with her, he was bound for miserable failure. Like a seven-year-olds rubber-band airplane motor, his stomach was tied up in knots.
Straight shot north to purgatory. Whip.
One way ticket to Palooka Ville like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront. Whip.
Brando once said in an interview he liked getting beat-up in pictures. Made the audience have empathy for his character, feel sorry for the guy who was-whipped.
"I'm a hell-bound for destruction kind of guy."
Yet he and the train pressed on, winding its way north past yellow rolling hills spotted with scrub oak packed with mistletoe in their branches. Finally, there was a stop.
Stockton, then a bus.
He sat in the back, the very back, like an inferior breed of man. With each passing mile he grew more nervous, with each kilometer more tense. Every inch closer was torture, sheer torture.
"Doomed to failure, that's me."
Only two people left. One guy made like a magician's rabbit and disappeared. Now there was only him. He put his suitcase down on the sidewalk and looked around the alien environment. It was the middle of nowhere, the center of nothing, and as strange and unfamiliar as the twilight zone.
"Why do I do these crazy things? What's wrong with me? Why am I so God-damn needy?"
She wasn't there waiting. Nobody was there waiting. Everything was shuttered and closed.
"I should call her and tell her I'm here." he said to himself. "No, you can't you ass-hole. Her number is back in Long Beach in your telephone book, and you've got no cell phone, you most foolish of fellows!"
Minutes went by. It was getting dark. Silence and stillness ate up the landscape, leaving it as empty and hollow as the Grand Canyon.
'All my grand plans and schemes are so much rubbish, only good for the waste basket.'
Out of nowhere a van appears. He recognizes it from the picture. Charlotte, in jeans, standing in front of her van, wearing sunglasses, movie star sunglasses to match her movie-star face.
He catches himself comparing her to a movie star. She's not.
She's seriously better.
She possesses a sexy yet innocent face. Long dark hair flows past her shoulders reaching just where it should, which is over her breasts. Good for love-making kind of length when you think of it, the kind of hair that provides a playground for a gentle man's fingers. What he plans to do with that hair. He's dreamed about it so many times it isn't funny. The van pulls around and stops right in front of him.
Out steps a magnificent creature and walks straight towards him.
"What are the rules? What are the damn rules?!! I forgot the damn rules!! Oh yeah, it's hands off for twenty-four hours. That's what we agreed upon. In case it doesn't work out. Twenty-four hours, but one kiss of greeting is allowed. Yeah, I remember now, we get one kiss. After all, what can one kiss hurt? Everybody kisses a kiss-of-greeting kiss nowadays. It's the sophisticated thing to do! Charlotte is sophisticated! I'll ready my lips for a greeting-like kiss."
She opens her arms and approaches. He stands there like a fool but has the sense to embrace her. She's wearing a blue dress and high-heels and the distance between their lips is closer than he pictured it. It's the high heels. She tilts her chin. Oh my god, her eyes are beautiful! The pictures didn't do them justice. Then the first kiss, the all-important earth-shaking kiss.
Her lips press his. He's intoxicated as he breathes in her fragrance. She's soft and warm and comfortable. It's an incomparable embrace, an unforgettable kiss, unique, sensuous, and indefinable, like nothing that's happened to his mouth before, a genuine one-of-a-kinder. The promise of future pleasure expressed by her lips is somehow stronger than mere words.
She has an exotic taste straight from the Arabian Nights. Sir Richard Burton called it, 'pure unadulterated nectar'.
On the outside his swag appears cool but inside he's shaking like an autumn leaf in a thunderstorm. He's actually weak in the knees. He pulls himself together and attempts to get a grip. She shows mercy and understanding in her eyes. Maybe he won't make her no-no list after all. He relaxes at her touch, taking what's referred to in dime novels as 'a sigh of relief'.
It's time for the drive back to her place. Then it's up the stairs and in through the door for a sophisticated dinner at eight.
They sat across the table from each other. Soon they would eat, but right now they were sipping white wine. It was probably as light and sweet as her thighs. Just as low in calories too.
"You know," he continued nervously, "I'm always ready to play a few rounds of 'get to know you', I am! I'm also prepared to wait for my desert. I'm one of those fellows who can push back his desert and save it for later."
He smiled an increasingly ingenuous smile.
Crossing her fabulous legs allowed her tight dress to ride up just a taste; the one she'd swore she'd never wear in public. 'Too tight and revealing' she called it.
"That's good. I'm ready for that."
It was only too obvious she was ready for anything.
"Here," she asked, leaning forward, "would you like something more to drink?"
Her cleavage? Enchanting. The passing years and gravity itself had shown absolutely no ill effects on her small perfect breasts. Her feminine fortitude had beaten nature itself.
He took note of this fact. She was always handing him facts to take note of, intimate yummy facts. Always ready to hand over information too, for a price. Not for money you understand, but trading it for something of value to her, and her alone.
He cleared his throat nervously.
"Of course you realize I'm keeping my distance- on purpose. For your sake."
He was trying in vain to remain aloof, detached, uninterested, non-engaged, no never, not ever nonplused.
She wasn't buying it.
"And why is that?" she countered.
Taking a sip, she threw back her chin and swallowed, touching her throat lightly with her fingertips, then drawing them slowly down until they were lost, in the same manner his eyes were lost, in the comfortable shadow of her cleavage. She saw him note her perfectly sculptured throat. She was ready to show him what was what.
He needed a phrase to reinforce his manhood, show her who was in charge, something strong and confident, something expressing bravado.
"Because once we touch, it's all over."
She calculated him calmly, face to face, eye to eye. She knew she had him. He'd reached the tipping point seconds ago. Now it was time to move in for the kill.
"My shoulder's been bothering me all day. My physical therapist was too hard on me," she pouted quite properly, like a lady in distress.
She looked to him for his reaction, then placed her glass on the table and started to rub her shoulder.
Damn and Gee Whiz, she had nice shoulders and arms.
"I wish I could reach it better. It's so awkward doing it yourself."
It was perfectly true. She was tired of doing it to herself. She wanted a man to do it to her, which was clear even to a slow-poke like him. So, ever the gentleman, he offered,
"Would you like a massage, Miss Charlotte Kay Bailey?"
Her name tasted like ambrosia when it spilled from his lips. Just saying 'Charlotte' excited him. He knew he was in trouble, some kind of wonderful trouble from which he'd never want to extricate himself.
"That might be just be what I need. Let's go sit on my couch where there's more room. We'll be more comfortable there."
Her voice took on a silken quality, like that of a shy woman. Form loomed over content and devoured it. It's not what she said; it's the way that she said it.
"Yes, let's," he answered, trying to maintain authority. "I'm sure we will."
He peered in the living room and saw...what was it? A divan, a sofa, a couch?
"Damn," he thought, "It looks like a love-seat to me."
Hand in hand the lady and gentleman walked into the living room.
To Hell with the twenty-four hours.
Desert before dinner may not be proper but stimulates the appetite. Whoever thinks seduction is exclusively a man's game doesn't understand the rules. Never a gender-specific sport, anyone can play and usually does. I mean, you grow up and learn to take turns with your partner, don't you?
She was the girl next door with a veneer of erotica so brilliant he could see his reflection.
He was the handsome angelic out-of-town stranger whose strength she just couldn't resist.
Oh, how they danced. When it was over they lay exhausted like contented children in each-other's arms.
And then he realized... like he was shot... like he was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through his forehead. And he thought,
'My God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure.'
He understood for the first time that all men have a taste of Kurtz and all men are Brando, and every man gets whipped occasionally by his imagination, but in the end gets his just deserts.
If the woman is right.
© Steven Hunley 2012