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She looked at him with terror. Sheer terror. Repulsion came next. Finally, anger. Just raw anger on her face.

“Christian, what did you just say?”

“You asked what I wanted, Eve, so I told you. I’m sorry,” he said quietly. He had always been quiet. Now embarrassed too. “Forget it. I’ve offended you.”

At times, like now, he still seemed like that shy little boy she had watched grow up.

One moment before, they had been walking side by side through a small park in the middle of downtown. A summer breeze, a line of shade trees, a respite from the noise and traffic. Children ran through the cool spray of the marble water fountain. Christian had taken her hand and sat the two of them down on a wooden park bench beside beds of purple phlox.

Her question had been simple: What did he want?

“I want to sleep with you. I want to make love to you. Before I go, that’s what I want.” Those big brown eyes of his, always so familiar to her, so warm. Now unknowing. As if the eyes of a stranger.

Just 20 minutes earlier everything had been so lovely. The two had a nice lunch, sitting at a sidewalk table outside a little Italian bistro a few blocks off the park. She had loved looking across the menu and glasses of wine at the near perfection of his face. The excitement of youth in his eyes. The softness of his always disheveled light brown hair. He was, even now, barely more than a boy.

“You and I must do something special, really special before you go,” she had said across the table. “Let’s do something really fun, something we’ll always remember. Something exciting. So, what shall it be, Christian? What do you want to do?”

“We don’t have to do anything special, Eve. Really, it’s not necessary.”

“But you and I, we’ve always made memories, Christian. Sweet memories. This is a time for a memory.”

It was a link between them. As each memory was made, she dutifully recorded it by hand in a journal, to come back to and enjoy. Their secret. One they had shared since he was a little boy, and back when she still possessed some of the vibrant youthfulness he now claimed. Such sweet days.

“No, you’re going away. I won’t see you for a long time. We must do something to mark this moment,”

As a young boy, she was his “Auntie Eve,” later, as a teenager, just “Evie.” And now, one adult to another, she became “Eve.” He was her sister’s boy.

And her sister’s boy, her only nephew, who was a mere 20 years old, had just asked to have sex with her. That was his request.

Christian was leaving in a week, to provinces and outposts with names she could hardly pronounce. Places in the desert half way around the world. He had been in the Army only long enough for training. So young. If only he would come home safe. She prayed — something she could not remember having done since all of those Sunday morning communions ago as a young acolyte in church.

In his job, Eve’s husband traveled. So, during Christian’s childhood summers, he would visit their home for weeks at a time to keep Eve company. She would whisk the two of them off to the movies, to live theater in the evenings or dinner downtown. For Christian’s parents, eating out meant meatloaf at the corner diner. But with Eve — who had money, a large house and no children — dinner was meant to be an adventure. White tablecloths, a maitre d’ and cocktail waitresses. Eve and Christian shared years of those kinds of memories. Each one recorded dutifully in the secret journal. For her, such sweet days.

Often, she and her husband would take him to their summer cottage at the beach. Once to Europe when he was a teenager. Several trips to New York City. In college, since his university of choice was only blocks from their home, he stayed with them in a guest bedroom. Eve insisted. They were up till all hours of the night. She liked his edgy rock music and offbeat poetry. He liked the exotic stories of her vagabond years in Paris and Hamburg when she was his age. On weekends, she taught him the art of fine cooking. They pored through cookbooks together while drinking cabernet and sauteing French vegetables. He was the son she never had.

She should never have asked him what he wanted. Never given him a choice. Just picked something herself, made plans for a long weekend. They could have flown to Colorado Springs and hiked the switchbacks to Pike’s Peak. Or headed to Boston for a Red Sox game, maybe take in some of the hip, open air street markets.

But no. She had to push it. And so his wish was to have sex. With her. It crushed her. How could he have even asked. The impertinence of it. It was disgusting.

“But I’ve never thought of you like that, Christian. Have I ever said anything that would lead you to believe . . .?”

“No,” he said, barely above a whisper, as they sat in the park. He chose his words carefully. He was nervous. “It’s just that . . . there’s always a chance I might not make it back. It’s a possibility. This could be the last I see of you. And you are so important bahis firmaları to me, Eve. That’s why.”

“Of course you’ll make it back.” she lied. “You’ll come home, find a nice girl to marry and have kids.” But he seemed sad. Again he apologized, made excuses and took his leave. Too embarrassed to stay and talk. She could hardly control her anger as she sat on the bench by herself. No tears. Just numbness.

* * *

Betrayed. That’s how she felt as she lay next to her snoring husband that night. How could her lovely young nephew have been so vulgar? After all the wonderful years and string of adventures they’d had together. So many sweet days. Had she done something to give him the wrong impression? She always dressed modestly, even her swimsuits and shorts. There was never any impropriety, nothing untoward. She replayed those years, but was at a loss.

With little sleep, she began her morning walk to the college campus. It was her first class of the day. She taught French literature. The walk, through narrow streets of old neighborhoods, was usually cathartic. Not today. She needed to make sense of it all. Christian had ruined everything.

He had girlfriends. She had met them. They were young, vibrant. Blonde and brunette fashionistas, with shiny hair and flawless skin. Skirts up to their creamy quick thighs. Despite his quiet shyness, they were attracted to his boyish good looks. She knew that. They’re still around. He’s certainly not a virgin. He could have any of them. It’s silly that he would even look at a 52-year-old woman. What could he possibly see in her?

Back at home and alone in the early afternoon, she locked the bedroom door, stood in front of their full-length mirror for long moments, examining herself. Her sunny yellow summer dress had been tossed over a stuffed chair, her bra and unassuming panties at her feet. She was naked. And perspiring from the walk home. Wiping her brow. Her eyes fixated on her reflection.

This is absurd, she told herself. What was the point of this? What was she looking for? In her twenties, she had done this often. Loved seeing herself nude in the mirror. Adored the change from the boyish physique of her teen years. She had loved caressing herself, watching the reflection of herself as she ran her hands over her small, heavy breasts. Loved the sensitivity of touching her brown nipples. Watching them get hard. Her fingers grazing lightly over her tight abdomen, down to the curve of her hips. Then sifting her fingers through the bit of soft, fine dark hair between her legs. Lingering there. Watching. All the time watching herself. She loved the arousal of gently massaging her hips, even running a finger between them, touching herself unashamedly.

Each time back then, she would finish by using a finger to gently rub herself until she came. Watching the reflection of her own eyes as she did. Odd that she would — or could — bring herself off while standing. She felt luxurious. Hedonistic. She savored the glow about her. Watched it in the mirror as her orgasm subsided. Reveling in her nakedness and the sexuality she wielded. Her vagina so beautiful, she thought. This adorable little slit, a secret opening to her mysterious, wondrous self. The very center of her body and soul. But she was young then, Christian’s age. So alive. And for awhile, with one lover after another. She could love so passionately. Back then.

There seemed to her very little left in the mirror now. She was slightly taller than most women. Still slender, proud of her thin arms, the nice curve to her hips. She would give herself those. But her breasts were beginning to droop a little. Then there was the dry skin, mottled a bit. The richness gone. Her deep chocolate hair giving way to gray. Those China blue eyes fading slightly. Crow’s feet emerging A particularly noticeable wrinkle on her jaw. Her legs, too skinny. Bird legs. Overall, mostly dull. Just dull. Nothing sumptuous, nothing splendid. Her luxuriousness long gone. The glow of her sexuality, despite a once-a-week partaking by her husband, now a thing of the past. At least, that’s the way she saw it.

She looked away from the mirror. Her own nakedness embarrassing her. Just an unclothed woman now, and a bit ashamed. A restlessness enfolding her, anxiety creeping in. Opening her vagina a little, she touched her clitoris, out of habit, rubbing it with little result. Now faster, rougher, forcing herself along, until she reached a hard-fought orgasm. Fluid all over her hand. Running down her thigh. Slumping to the floor, she lay on her side. Closed her eyes. Pulled her knees up. Held herself tightly. And cried.

* * *

“You seem lost in thought,” said her husband, the two of them in lounge chairs next to each other on their back patio. Wine glasses in hand. It was early evening. A nightly ritual.

“Just watching the stars come out. That’s all,” she said. He turned back to his music, a few Schubert sonatas, piped in from the den behind them. She was thinking of her college years.

Hollis kaçak iddaa had been her first. He was an upperclassman, handsome, experienced with women, a bit full of himself. In bed, brutish and taking, always taking. Forcing her to swallow. Never giving anything.

Michael had the largest penis of them all. Long, but more importantly, thick. Quite impressive to look at. And she loved looking at it. But once inside her, he had not the faintest idea of what to do with the damn thing. All in all, a real disappointment.

Now James, he could take her to the pinnacle, and over. Each and every time, no less. Both of them sweating profusely afterward, the sheets damp and twisted from their calisthenics. He was lean and toned. And a great cook. Too bad he was a jerk.

A few others, cute but inconsequential. Then in Hamburg after college there was Klaus, who liked to lick her entire body with his tongue, then recite erotic passages to her from “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” as she sat on top, riding him back and forth. She would try to time her own climax to the one he was building up to in his memorized lines. Now that was fun.

Then, of course there was her husband. Polished. Caring, attentive during the day. At night, okay. Matter of fact. No real problem. No complaints.

But then, to her this whole sex thing, all these years later, was maybe no more than a five on the scale of 10 in importance. Interesting sometimes. But not nearly as exciting as a good dinner party with a dry white wine and lively conversation.

And then an uncomfortable thought. Not exactly an epiphany moment. Just a sense of the logical. If sex was so unimportant to her, why then was Christian’s request so off-putting? Why her anger?

* * *

“What have I done to cause this, Christian?” she asked the next day after setting up another lunch date. She wanted to eat Thai at a small, quiet restaurant, one of their favorites over the years. Out of embarrassment, he tried to decline. She wouldn’t have it. He was sheepish as they sat down. She plied him with two glasses of their Monsoon Valley wines before pressing him with that question.

“You haven’t done anything, Eve. You’ve been yourself. That’s all it takes.”

“There’s nothing about me that’s unusual, Christian. Certainly nothing sexual. I’m as old as your mother. And I’m family.” She paused.

“And I’m not even pretty. Maybe when I was your age. Not now. I’m just me.”

“You want an argument,” he said, “because you’re angry. But I’m not going to give you one. You just don’t know what I see in you. You have no idea how beautiful you still are. And that’s another thing I like about you.”

“What about Amber? You were dating her just a few months ago. Isn’t that still on?”

“Over. Done. My choice.”

“Wasn’t she a good lover?” Eve asked, immediately wanting to retrieve the words. She apologized. None of my business, she said. She’d never been that crude before now. What’s with me, she wondered.

“This is not about finding someone to sleep with before I go, Eve. It’s about wanting to be with you.”

She’s not sure she understood. But her anger was dissolving. Her disappointment tempered. Now just embarrassment. She looked away, at the other people dining. Shifted slightly in her chair, cleared her throat. She could feel the flushness on her face. This was not like her. He had thrown her off her game. She had been strong heretofore, in charge. For the first time, Christian made her vulnerable.

“It just doesn’t make much sense to me,” she said uneasily, clearing her throat again. “Do you have any idea what a 52-year-old woman looks like au natural? Not like Amber, I can assure you.”

“You just don’t get it, Eve. That doesn’t matter to me. Did you ever notice that when I’m with you I always grab your hand to hold. My heart races when I do that. Every single time. Doesn’t do that with anyone else. And I’d rather talk to you than anyone else. I just want to pull you to me, as close as possible and not let go. But I’m not allowed. All I can do is hold your hand or hug you for a second or two. I can only imagine what it would be like to kiss you. But it’s not going to happen, is it?”

* * *

Of course it couldn’t happen. She had to say no. What else could she say. She lay in bed that night next to her husband. Christian had also recounted one of his fondest memories. Just last year when they were at the beach house, her husband walking the shoreline, she sunbathing and asking Christian to rub sun protection on her back. She turned face down so he could smooth the lotion in.

“I was so thrilled that you would let me do that.” he had said. “It probably meant nothing to you. But it was everything to me. Just feeling my hand on the skin of your back. It was electric. I felt closer to you than ever before.” He was right. She had no recollection of it.

What would it be like to kiss her? Had he really wondered that? My God, she thought to herself. When was the last time anyone wanted to do that kaçak bahis to me? Not since those college boys decades ago. And her husband in those early years.

Oh, and there had been that one other time. A nightclub in Chicago, near Loyola, an end-of-conference party of French teachers one summer. Lots of people. It was near midnight. All three were drunk, Eve and the fun teacher couple she met, Marta and Frank. They had woozily carried their martinis out back to the empty patio and sat at one of the many tables in the darkness. Somehow they were discussing sexual fantasies and wanted to know hers. Surely she didn’t tell them. But the gin and vermouth had taken their toll.

Marta sitting to one side of her, Frank on the other. Their chairs right next to hers in the dark. Then, both trading kisses with her, his hand gliding up under Eve’s skirt, along her thigh, Marta’s hand moving up the other thigh. Eve fading in and out. How did all this happen? All so funny at first, then frightening. But their kisses were warm, their taste laced with booze, Marta’s perfume filling her nose. Marta’s lips were so soft on hers. Never kissed a woman before. From there, even fuzzier recollections. Her panties lying on top of the table, fingers inside her vagina, others on her clit. But it must have been Marta’s fingers rubbing her into excitement. No man could ever be that adept. God, she was good.

Then just Marta kissing her, delicious little kisses and probing with her tongue. And now Eve’s own hand being guided to Frank’s hard, naked cock sticking out of his unzipped pants. Marta telling Eve to pump him while she would suck him. Then his sperm spewing over Marta’s face and all over Eve’s hand. They quickly invited her to their hotel room. But she declined. At least she think she did. She woke up in her own hotel room the next morning and hurried to catch her plane. Threw her skirt and blouse away. Couldn’t understand all the stains.

For weeks she was obsessed with guilt, but then considered it an aberration, letting the details fade as much as possible. After all, she was 35 back then. Her husband could never know. She wouldn’t let that happen. She had learned her lesson.

She closed her eyes. Heard her husband’s breathing next to her in bed. Thought about Christian licking her skin, like her long-ago young lover, Klaus, in Germany. Wondered if Christian could take her over the edge like James did. She could hardly remember the intensity of those orgasms. I’ve got to stop these fantasies, she told herself, angry at having even gone there. Left her bed, trundled downstairs, pulled a novel from the bookshelf and curled up on the sofa. Thumbed through the pages, looking for passages of inspiration. Some kind of guidance.

If the mere act of massaging suntan lotion onto her back was so “electric” to Christian . . . If he was the only person on the planet who cared to kiss her these days, would it be absolutely abhorrent to let it happen? Somehow it began to seem such a simple request. To let him sleep with her. After all, things like that didn’t mean that much to her any more. And she always before would do just about anything for him, she loved him that much. He was her best friend.

No one else need know. What’s the harm. Just a gift to Christian. Besides, he was leaving in four days. None of them could know the road ahead. A future without him in her life seemed unthinkable. She couldn’t allow him to leave with this divide between them. Really, such a simple gift.

And, if she did this, what kind of lover was she to be? Would he want slow, gentle romance? Or was he looking for a whore? Hollis had wanted her to lie still, like a cadaver. James wanted her to take the lead. How was she supposed to know what Christian wanted? She knew nothing of his desires.

And what if he were disappointed with her? What if it was a let-down to him? After all, at 52, how much could she offer him? She feared her nude reflection in the mirror certainly suggested not much. She couldn’t bear that to happen. Now she was worried sick. Intimidated.

* * *

The plan was for each to drive separate cars to the coast, arriving at the beach house late in the afternoon, in time for dinner, then spend the next two days there before he had to report for duty at Fort Bragg.

“Let’s go to the beach for just a few days,” she had told him over the phone. “Meet me there this afternoon if you will. It’ll just be the two of us.” No mention of what they would do there. Neither broached the subject. On the two-hour drive down, she had never been so unsure of herself.

The greeting when they arrived, their dinner and walk on the beach afterward — all awkward. Back at the beach house, their conversation clumsy, suddenly with little to talk about. This rift was alienating him, and tearing her apart. All of it an embarrassment. Even more so since this was the same ocean-front home she and Christian had been coming to since he was 10. Their summer refuge. The three of them, her husband included, would sit on the wooden deck and watch the ocean tide drift out on evenings. Always before, peaceful, soothing, conversation deep into the night, laughter too. Good times. Sweet days. But now, everything was unnatural.

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