RJ rubbed the hood of her truck with a soft cloth, the pickup’s shiny black paint job reflecting the morning sun. She bent over slightly and lifted her sunglasses as she looked at what she thought was a smudge. "Antique, indeed," she snorted as she wiped away the spot.
"It is an antique, RJ. It’s almost sixty years old."
She stood up and turned to face Pete. "Now don’t you be starting on my favorite girl too. It’s bad enough that Leigh thinks of her as a rust bucket."
"That’s just the way she sees –"
RJ raised a hand to forestall the cook’s words. "Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. But look how beautiful she really is." She gazed at the truck woefully. "It’s not fair that Leigh can’t see her beauty as well."
Pete had to admit that RJ was right. The dark-haired woman had treated the truck with tender love and care for a very long time. He blew out a deep breath and handed RJ the cup of coffee he’d brought her. He’d been doing it since the late ’40s, and it had become a comforting ritual for them both. A cup of coffee in the small downtown park before their day began, just so they could talk about everything that was going on at the diner or in Glory or how their community’s latest addition was fitting in.
RJ tossed the rag into the front seat of the truck, then followed Pete to a bench under the tall oak tree across from Mrs. Amos’ house. As she took her seat, she noticed Flea sitting at the base of the tree, her eyes narrowed in concentration as she stared up into the branches. Leigh’s right. She gets stranger every day.
She sipped her coffee, then glanced across the lawn at the store where her mother was shopping. RJ pulled her cigarettes out of her pocket, hoping she’d be able to finish one before her mother was done shopping and she would need to drive her back home.
"So," Pete sniffed his coffee appreciatively. "How’s Tony doing?"
RJ thought about that for a moment before she answered. "He’s gonna be just fine. He’s already making new friends and is adjusting to all this very well." The way that young folks fit into Glory always surprised RJ. Had she not been doing this for a lifetime she would have guessed that the older people would be more prepared for death and what lay beyond. They’d lived longer, known it was coming, had time to plan and prepare. But that usually wasn’t the case. The young folks, so often stunned to be here at all, tended to take things in stride, adjusting to death the way they adjusted to life — with a blind acceptance. To them, forever was just a word and tomorrow was greeted with more enthusiasm than fear.
In Glory, a person’s outer form was a combination of how they saw themselves and how others saw them. And Glory had its share of old codgers. She laughed to herself, admitting that most of them were lovable souls that somehow still managed to be thorns in her butt.
She turned to Pete. "He asked for something called a CD player. I don’t have a clue."
Pete nodded. "I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry about it."
"I need to try and catch up a little." RJ scowled unbecomingly. "Seems that a lot of things have gotten past me. I’m starting to feel a little out of touch again."
"Speaking of that." Pete bumped shoulders with his friend. "We think you should take a little vacation."
"Oh, ‘we’ do, do we’? And where would I be going? My options are pretty limited."
Pete scratched his jaw, wishing he hadn’t forgotten to shave this morning. He hated stubble. "That’s not completely true, RJ. Arrangements can be made, you know. And I can think of one cute, fair-haired trucker who’d probably be pretty happy if you wanted to spend some time on the road with her."
RJ rolled her eyes, her head dropping forward. These people wouldn’t give up until she was barefoot and pregnant. Not that Leigh would be much help in that department.
"Pete," her tone was serious. "I don’t know about that. Not that it wouldn’t be a lot of fun." She groaned inwardly, her mind flashing to the soft lips pressed against her throat. "But I’m not so sure that’d be a good idea. Not to mention the fact that you’d best be minding your own business."
"She makes you happy, Fitz. Any fool can see that."
"Especially if that old fool happened to be sitting just outside the bathroom in the garage the other night, eh?"
Surprisingly, Pete blushed to the roots of his hair. "Let me amend my former statement. She makes you really happy."
"Smart ass," she murmured. Not that Pete was wrong. She just didn’t like the fact that he was rubbing her nose in it.
RJ crossed her arms over her chest. "But it’s not like we can really be together, is it?" Sure, the sex had been great. Better than great. But she was already feeling a little guilty about the time they’d spent together. Damn Catholic upbringing. "She’s a beautiful woman, who should be spending her time with someone … with someone …"
"I wasn’t going to say that!"
"Of course not." He looked smug. "You’re not as smart as me."
RJ’s eyebrow quirked but she said nothing, burying her nose in her coffee cup instead.
Pete pressed on. "We’ve been talking about all this, RJ. You’ve worked hard. And we love you. But let’s face it, you’ve never been a hundred percent happy here. Getting out for a while, spending some time with Leigh, it would be fun, wouldn’t it?"
"What’s your heart’s desire, RJ Fitzgerald?" Pete’s eyes twinkled.
RJ shook her head, laughing softly. "Very funny."
She sighed and nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I admit it, it would fun." The way I feel with her… Jesus. "I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but being with her was the best time I’ve had in years."
Of course it was. "You should go for a few days. It’s not impossible, Fitz. You know that."
"It may not be impossible, but it’s still not likely. And Leigh might not want to be traipsing around with nearly a stranger."
"You didn’t seem like strangers to me. Especially after what you two were doing."
RJ narrowed her eyes. "You know what I mean, Peter, the troublemaker."
Pete tossed his cup into a trash bin alongside the bench. He stood and pulled up the pants that had dropped just a little below his ample belly. "If nothing else, it would be an opportunity to ‘catch up’ with the world a little, so you won’t feel so out of touch when someone like Tony comes along."
She nodded reluctantly. That much was true. Based on the folks coming into Glory and that radio in the diner that only got that hideous A.M. station, things had changed since WWII in ways she couldn’t even imagine. RJ focused on Flea as she circled the base of the tree. "What makes you think that Leigh would be wanting me to tag along with her to begin with? We were only having a bit fun, Pete."
"Oh, puleeeze!" Pete tried not to roll his eyes. RJ was certainly a stubborn one. But after only talking to Leigh a few times, he suspected that she was exactly the same way. He was hedging his bets. "Let’s just say that someone who is very persuasive is planting a tiny seed in your friend’s brain."
"Would that friend be the lady trucker?"
RJ jumped to her feet at the sound of her voice. She spun around to face her mother, who was holding an overflowing bag of groceries.
Katherine passed the bag to her daughter and looked at her disapprovingly, clucking her tongue against her cheek as she waited for an answer.
RJ began poking around the sack so she wouldn’t have to meet her mother’s inquiring stare. "Uh … well …"
"Ruth Jean, I don’t like that girl."
RJ eyes darted to helplessly to Pete then back to the forceful older woman. "Mother, you don’t even know her."
"What do I need to know about her other than the fact that she’s alive? I think even you’d have the good sense to know that this is going to keep you apart from her. Assuming you ever get past just wanting to take her to bed."
RJ’s mouth dropped open. "Mother!"
Pete tried to intervene and save his rapidly sinking assistant. "Now, Katie –"
"Don’t you ‘Now Katie’ me, Pete. You more than anyone should know it’s not possible for them to be together and you shouldn’t be encouraging Ruth Jean to go and be with that girl. In the long run it’ll only hurt them both. That is, if they ever get past just wanting to –""
"I know. I know," RJ said quickly. "For the love of Mike, you don’t have to say it again."
Pete sighed heavily. "But they seem to make each other happy."
"All right, so they make each other happy. Eating ten pounds of chocolate in one sitting would make me as happy as a lark. But that doesn’t mean it’s what I should do, now does it?
"Are you gonna let Ruth Jean out then? Are you gonna let her leave Glory permanently? Are you gonna let them be together should they want that?"
"Be together?" RJ tried to throw her hands in the air, which was a terrible mistake considering she was still holding her mother’s groceries. She fumbled with the bag. "Is it necessary to marry me off just because I took notice of a pretty woman?"
Katherine ignored her daughter’s comment and continued to focus on Pete. "Or are you gonna let them be happy for a short time and then make her come back, so she can be more miserable than before. She –"
"I’m not miserable!"
Pete and Katherine both shot RJ a stern look and barked, "Don’t interrupt."
"Stop!" RJ moved between Pete and Katherine. "Just stop."
The anger and hint of defeat in RJ’s voice made Pete’s chest tighten.
"I won’t be pushed into doing," she glared at Pete, "or not doing," the glare shifted to her mother, "something to please either one of you. It’s my eternity and I’ll spend it the way I see fit!"
RJ was breathing hard and both Pete and Katie could hear the tears in her voice. In all the time Pete had known her, he’d never heard her raise her voice to Katherine. And by the look on the older woman’s face, she realized she’d pushed RJ too far.
RJ cleared her throat and took firm hold over her emotions. "Come now, Mother. I’ll take you home." She strode over to the truck, not bothering to say goodbye to Pete or wait for her mother to join her.
Pete’s voice dropped to whisper. "You should be ashamed, Katie. RJ deserves a chance to be happy just like everyone else here. And she never will be if you keep acting like this."
"If you can figure out a way for her to be happy with this girl, I’ll gladly accept it. Otherwise don’t be filling her head with such foolishness. You know better than anyone that almost nobody leaves Glory." She spoke faster when it appeared that Pete was going to break in. "If you can arrange it for RJ to go be with this girl, I would never stand in her way. I’m not a fool, Peter."
Pete’s shoulders sagged.
"I can see the connection between them, same as you. And despite the teachings of my generation, I’d gladly welcome the trucker –"
"Leigh," he supplied.
Katherine nodded. "Leigh … into my family." She paused and searched Pete’s face, her eyes widening with realization. "Ruth Jean’s already been given permission to go?"
Katherine pursed her lips. "When ‘almost’ becomes ‘yes’ you won’t hear another word from me. Until then, don’t be getting her hopes up."
With that Katherine marched over to Carol, waiting patiently as RJ opened the passenger door. Before she got in, Katherine looked up at her daughter and smiled reassuringly. She kissed her on the cheek and got into the truck.
Pete frowned, his heavy brow furrowing as the truck drove out of sight. Flea, who was apparently satisfied that there was nothing up the tree that she couldn’t live without, jumped up on the husky man’s shoulder and nuzzled his neck. Pete absently stroked her soft, coal-black fur. "What do you think, Flea?"
The cat meowed loudly and batted at Pete’s face with her paw. "Yeah. I know," he grumbled. "I need a shave."
"You take these with you, Ruth Jean!" Katherine tossed her daughter two Golden Delicious apples as the young woman hurried down the back porch steps.
RJ pulled them out of the air and tossed them through the open passenger window of her truck. "Thank you, Mother. But I’ll be taking Tony down to the diner. Don’t know why you’re throwing fruit at me. We can eat there."
"Because the fruit is good for you. That greasy food they serve at the diner ‘tis not fit for man nor beast. Even Flea won’t eat everything there. And she’s not exactly discriminating."
"Not like it’s gonna kill me or anything," RJ mumbled. She pulled her sunglasses from her pocket and slid them on as she started up the truck and pulled out of the driveway. Despite herself, she reached over and grabbed one of the apples, taking a large bite. It was cool and juicy. "Perfect."
Flea crawled out from under the seat and jumped up onto the wide dashboard, stretching her long silky body out. She gave a long yawn and licked a paw before scrubbing behind an ear.
"Well, there you are. Did you hear what my mother said about you?"
The cat yawned again. She only occasionally paid attention to humans. They were a tad tedious for her tastes.
"I thought you’d be going to the diner with Pete, the troublemaker, today."
Bored, she flicked her tail in an irritable manner and turned away from RJ to soak in the sun at a better angle.
"Uh huh. Maybe I like talking to myself. Ever think of that?" RJ stuck her tongue out at Flea, then took another bite of the apple. "You know, you should be grateful there aren’t any dogs in Glory."
After a brief stop at her brother Patrick’s shop to pick up a surprise, RJ continued on to Mrs. Amos’ boarding house. She pulled up out front and climbed out of Carol, but reached through the window and gave the horn a couple of quick blasts. "Tony Hampton, get your backside down here, boy! The day is a’wasting."
A window flew up on the second floor, and Tony’s smiling face appeared in the space.
Huh. He got a hair cut. She chuckled. I’ll bet Mrs. Amos insisted.
"I’ll be right down, RJ, just let me grab my jacket and –"
"It’s warm as can be! You don’t need your jacket. Come on!"
Mrs. Amos opened the front door. She stepped out on the porch and shook her dishtowel at RJ. "You don’t need to be coming by here making all that racket, RJ Fitzgerald! You can come up to the door and knock like a respectable human being. How am I supposed to teach these boys some manners with you acting like that? Hmmm?"
Before she could reply, the screen door opened and Tony darted past Mrs. Amos, running for RJ.
Tony cringed and skidded to a halt just before reaching the short set of steps off the front porch. He turned and walked calmly back to Mrs. Amos, planting a gentle kiss on the old woman’s cheek. "I’ll be home in time for dinner."
Mrs. Amos smiled. Tony was one of the sweetest and easiest boys she’d boarded in a long while. He was eager to please and had a tender heart. Tony just didn’t know it yet. "You do that. And don’t you be eating any of that food that Pete is fixing at that diner." She swatted at the young man’s bottom with her towel as he once again darted for RJ. "And don’t you be giving that boy any cigarettes, Ruth Jean."
"Yes, ma’am!" RJ mumbled a few grumpy words to herself and climbed back in the truck as Tony jumped in the passenger side.
RJ waited until out of sight of Mrs. Amos’ house before she offered Tony a cigarette.
He looked pathetically gratefully. "Thanks." He lit the tip then and rested his elbow out the window as he took a deep drag. Tony exhaled with a happy sigh, his expression turning thoughtful. "How come we can go down to the diner?"
"Huh?" RJ’s eyes slid sideways.
"The diner?" Mrs. Amos had tried to explain this all, but it still didn’t make any sense to Tony. "How is it we can go back and forth to the diner, which is outside Glory, and we’re dead. And some folks who are alive can go to the diner but not Glory. Like the blonde."
Tony shrugged. "Everyone knows you’re banging her like a screen door in a hurricane."
The tall woman began to choke on the smoke from her cigarette. Coughing, she glared at Tony with astonished eyes.
"Well, you are, aren’t you? Either that or someone in that bathroom was in some serious pain and found religion all at the same time." Tony’s eyes glazed over. "Nothing wrong with it, you know. She’s damn cute. And what a great ass! If I thought she’d let me –"
"Don’t even think about it," RJ warned, her eyes watering from her hacking. She shook her head fiercely. The back of her throat stung and she coughed again, using the time to collect her scattered thoughts. The boy’s bluntness had thrown her for a loop.
RJ tossed her cigarette out the window. "One: I’ll thank you not to be saying things like that about Ms. Matthews. She’s a very nice woman."
Tony grinned. "What I saw was very nice."
RJ smacked him on the back of the head. "Two: Wipe away that thought right now, Romeo. "
"Hey!" Tony rubbed the spot.
"She’s too old for you by ten years." RJ smirked. "Though your lack of facial hair would probably work in your favor."
Tony scowled and self-consciously rubbed his baby-smooth cheeks. "Some women appreciate a clean-shaved face," he muttered defensively.
"Assuming you actually need to shave."
"I shave!" Okay, once a month. But that counts!
Not believing Tony’s protest for a second, RJ continued by saying, "Three: there’s no need for you to be so … so … vivid with your language. Especially about something that is none of your business."
Tony looked to his sneakers and then to RJ, giving her his best puppy dog face. "I’m sorry."
RJ lifted an eyebrow at the teen.
"Okay, I’m sort of sorry."
"I didn’t mean to upset you, RJ." He stuffed his cigarette in the truck’s ashtray, searching for the words it would take to get himself out of hot water. "It’s just that you’re so laid back, it didn’t seem serious between you and –" He paused. He was beginning to stumble over the words and feel stupid, which he hated. "I’m sorry."
RJ exhaled slowly. "Look, lad, we can talk about anything. But you need to show a little respect, especially when it comes to Ms. Matthews." She reached out and massaged the spot on the back of his head where she’d smacked him. "Lucky for me you finally decided to wash that hair. Or my hand would be slipping right off your head."
"Ha. Ha. Very funny." He crossed his arms over his chest but couldn’t help crack a smile. RJ was pretty cool.
"Just watch what you say from now on."
"Yes, ma’am." The last word was an effort, but not as much as he thought it would be.
"Now in answer to your original question. The diner is sort of … well…" She scratched her chin. Even after all these years she could never really came up with a good answer to this question. "It’s a place that exists between the two realms of life and life after life. Think of it as a spiritual bus station. Only with onion rings." She chuckled at her own joke, vowing to use that again with the next person who asked her. "It was your last stop. For the living folks, well, their journey goes on. It’s where the living and dead mingle without the living knowing it, but they both enjoy a good cup of coffee."
"Or a little more." Tony grinned wickedly.
She raised a hand in warning, and Tony playfully ducked out of the way.
"So is Glory heaven?" His face went serious as he mumbled, "No way in hell I’d end up in heaven."
RJ let out a heartfelt sigh. "Not in the way you’re thinking of it, no. It’s another stage of existence. You might say we’re ‘ghosts.’ But as you know, our bodies are still real, even if things don’t quite work the same. A moth turns into a butterfly, but it will still go splat against your windshield when you hit it."
For emphasis she reached over and pinched Tony on the thigh, earning a loud yelp.
He rubbed his leg. "I see what you mean." Tony thought for moment. "So I can die again?" He shivered a little at the last thoughts of his lifetime: paramedics shoving tubes down his throat, needles poking his arms, a burning sensation traveling through his veins.
"No. You won’t age physically and if you get hurt," RJ steered around a large pothole, "you’ll feel something very similar to pain, but your body will heal and you’ll go on."
"Like a fuckin’ superhero!"
"Hardly," she laughed. "Something else that’s important, Tony, is to understand that just because you’ve left one stage of existence and moved into another doesn’t mean you’re not real. You are. You’re just different than you were before." RJ’s smile grew broader. "Why, some of those children running around Glory didn’t die young. They were born right here to parents who had come here from the living."
Tony’s eyes widened. "Oh, man! Condoms here too?"
RJ snorted. Is he ever going to be surprised! "There are more possibilities in Glory than you’ve even imagined."
They were silent for several moments, the cool breeze blowing gently against their faces as they drove along.
"You do know the stuff I did when I was alive," the young man asked hesitantly, still unable to get leave behind the concept of heaven and hell that had been drilled into his head as a small child.
RJ nodded. "I know. But Glory isn’t about punishment or reward anymore than the moth is being punished or rewarded by turning into a butterfly."
Tony still looked confused, and she cursed herself for repeating a lame analogy that didn’t work the first time. She sighed, wondering when this got so difficult to explain. "Glory just ‘is.’" One of RJ’s hands dropped from the steering wheel and she motioned out in front her. "There are no flying angels, with white wings and harps. Things aren’t perfect and it sure as hell isn’t utopia." Her tone softened. "But Glory is a very good place, Tony. And how content you are in your afterlife is going to be up to you." There. That sounded easy, didn’t it?
"But you’re happy here, right?"
RJ blinked. No one had ever asked her that so directly before, though in fairness Pete had been hinting around it for the last forty years or so. She found herself unwilling to examine the question too closely and roughly pushed it from her mind.
When the silence in the truck grew, Tony made a face, causing RJ to roll her eyes. "Don’t worry so much. You have all the time in the world to figure things out."
Tony clapped his hands together eagerly. "An eternity at the diner picking up chicks just like you doesn’t seem so bad to me."
"Behave yourself or you’ll be chopping the wood today instead of fixing up that kiln we’ve got back there." RJ gestured over her shoulder to the crate in the back of the pickup.
"Cool!" But Tony’s excitement disappeared as almost as quickly as it came. "Um … RJ, I might not have mentioned this. But just because I like making things with clay doesn’t mean I’m any good at it."
RJ couldn’t help but laugh at the boy’s woebegone expression. "Tony, I wouldn’t be worrying if I were you. You’ve got a really long time to practice.
Leigh pushed open the door to the diner. It had been nearly a week since she’d been by on her last route. One more delivery on each end and she was due her week break. She couldn’t wait. Weary blue eyes flicked around the diner, looking for RJ.
"She’s not here yet," Mavis said from behind the counter, not looking up from the silverware she was sorting and placing in trays.
"Oh." Leigh tried not sound disappointed. "I wasn’t –" She suddenly closed her mouth. Leigh couldn’t even make it believable to herself. She wasn’t even going to try to lie to Mavis. She coughed awkwardly, then rolled her tongue over her teeth as she walked to the counter.
The waitress looked up after she put away the last of the spoons. "Have a seat." She lifted a carafe in Leigh’s direction. "Coffee?"
Leigh slid onto the stool and nodded. "Sure." She plucked a sugar packet from a bowl on the table and restlessly picked at the paper. "Do umm … do you know if she’s going to stop in today?"
Mavis smothered a grin. "Soon, I expect. You’re here a little early today." She turned over a coffee cup, which was waiting upside down, and poured in the fresh brew, placing a clean spoon next to it.
Leigh nodded again. "Got in last night late and slept in the truck."
"You look tired."
Leigh frowned. She knew she did. Most folks, however, never said anything about it. Even Rooster and her other trucker friends seemed to overlook what had become nearly permanent shadows under her eyes. "I know," she admitted quietly.
Mavis leaned forward, her elbows on the countertop. "You’ve got some time off coming up, right?"
"One more week and I’ll get a week off." I can’t wait.
"What are your plans?" Mavis asked nonchalantly, absently straightening the salt and pepper shakers.
Leigh shrugged. "Sleep. Sleep. Fun. And no driving."
Leigh’s eyebrows jumped. "Contrary to the evil reputation I have with some folks, Mavis, I do usually sleep alone."
Mavis tsked Leigh. "That’s not what I meant. Did you know that RJ has a little time off coming up?"
"No," Leigh drew out the word.
"She doesn’t get out too much. And I happen to know she’s got a … friend in Seattle she’d love to meet. That’s where you live, right?"
"Sort of." Leigh looked at Mavis knowingly. "Are you suggesting that I should invite RJ to come with me on my week off?" Like I haven’t already thought of doing that very thing.
"Of course not. You don’t even know each other, right?"
"Right." But Leigh’s answer was reluctant.
"I can tell … you girls are just out for a little fun and spending a week together would probably be awkward." Mavis pinned Leigh with her eyes. "Right?"
Leigh blinked. "Well, I don’t –"
Mavis turned her back to Leigh and reached for a plate. She smiled. "I mean, just because you’ve laughed and enjoyed each other over these past few weeks whenever you’ve stopped by the diner doesn’t mean it would be like that away from here."
Leigh swallowed but didn’t answer. Would it? "I’m," she pushed away from the counter, suddenly feeling very confused. I’m lonely? "I’m not ready to eat just yet, Mavis," she said quickly. "I’m going to grab a fast shower next door and then I’ll be back."
Leigh grabbed her backpack and hustled out the back door just as Pete walked through the front door.
"How’d it go," Pete whispered conspiratorially to Mavis as she pulled an apron over his head and tied it.
Mavis winked, then kissed the cook on the cheek. "Mission accomplished."
RJ moved her ladder over another few feet and climbed it, getting off carefully and trudging across the roof of the garage. The spring storms had been especially hard on the old building and it was in need of a few basic repairs. Setting her hammer down, she pulled a small crowbar from her belt and began to peel back the shingles that covered the roof, then the roofing paper.
The male and female squirrel, who had hitched a ride with Pete back from Glory, sat in a tree outside the garage, watching RJ.
"I can’t believe you killed me!" the female whined. "And on your first try, too." She herself had used poison on her mate. Not to mention all the blunt trauma episodes in their past. The smaller squirrel had seemed indestructible, nearly mystical in his ability to avoid actual death. Figures, that in the end, only he could end his miserable little life.
The male puffed out his chest. "And you said I could never do anything right."
"What a time to be wrong."
"What are we going to do? We’re in Glory — squirrel purgatory! We’re being punished!"
"I know." He began to sob. "We’ll never see our park again." His cries grew louder. "Never spend the day with our seventeen baby squirrels."
You mean my seventeen babies and your three. Heh. The female’s ears perked up and her eyes went unfocused. "No more gathering food for everyone, preparing it for everyone, and cleaning it up," she whispered.
"No entertaining our friends."
"I will miss that delicious beaver though."
The male’s head jerked sideways.
"In a purely platonic way, of course," she said insincerely.
"Oh. Right." He snuggled closer to her, seeking her comfort in this, his hour of need. "We’ll never entertain at our nest."
"No more taking those same five feathers that line our nest and rearranging them so the neighbors will think we have new wall paper." Her eyes widened a little with realization.
"I know," the male anguished. "No more spending every Saturday with my mother."
The female knocked her mate down in her enthusiasm. She began kissing him wildly. "Thank you, thank you!"
RJ stared down at the roof. She thought she heard something. When she peeled away the next two shingles and paper, the noise grew louder. One more shingle and she could tell that it was water running. She pulled away a bit more paper and gasped. She could see directly down into the shower, where Leigh was currently soaping her feet. Sure, she had to crane her head around a beam and lean wayyyyy into the hole. But she could see her.
The male squirrel glanced curiously at RJ. "The human is a peeping Tom."
"This is news?" his mate answered. "They’re all perverts."
Leigh’s soapy hands worked up one leg and RJ bit her lip, stifling a groan. She pulled her head out of the hole and shook it a few times to clear it of the vision. "I will not look," she told herself firmly. "That’s a disgusting thin’ to do."
She wiped off her brow. Despite the fact that it was a relatively cool spring morning, RJ was feeling a little flushed. But I have to clear away that bit of insulation. It’s my job. I’ll be nothing but a professional and avert my eyes. She snorted. Yeah, right. But still, RJ hesitated.
"The human is having an attack of conscience. I can tell," the male declared.
His wife made a face. "How would you know?"
"Not by watching you, that’s for damn sure."
Losing the battle with herself, RJ peered back into the garage, easily getting a luscious eyeful of Leigh’s slick, naked body through the gentle cloud of steam. She was careful not to make any noise as she pulled away a piece of insulation that was obstructing her view.
Leigh soaped a large blue washcloth, running it slowly across her stomach.
RJ swallowed convulsively and whimpered just a tiny bit.
The hot water felt wonderful against Leigh’s skin. The shower in the garage was blessed with fabulous water pressure and her skin tingled where the water stuck her. She moaned with pleasure and RJ nearly lost her footing.
Swearing quietly, RJ backed up out of the hole and looked around self-consciously. This was like some demented test. And she was failing. Miserably. Giving up any pretense of restraint, she tossed the hammer and crowbar on the ground so she wouldn’t risk dropping them into the shower and stuck her head back down inside. Her hair was now damp from the escaping steam and her forehead and upper lip were beaded with perspiration.
Leigh soaped her washcloth again and tilted her head back. Eyes closed, she ran it languidly up her neck, then back down to circle both her breasts.
This time RJ couldn’t stop the escape of a low groan of pleasure as she watched Leigh’s nipples tighten.
But Leigh didn’t seem to hear it above the spray of the water.
The blonde lifted one arm, trailing the cloth from her underarms to the tips of her fingers. Then switched hands and repeated the procedure. Her skin was pink and flushed and RJ could feel an increase in the rising and falling of her own chest.
"Lord, ha’ mercy," RJ moaned, her eyes riveted on her lover, a throbbing in her lower belly making itself painfully known.
Leigh stuck her head directly under the spray, washing out the shampoo. Bubbles cascaded down her body over slippery firm breasts and disappeared over her thighs and between her legs. She picked up the washcloth and followed the bubble trail as she began to slowly drag the cloth between her legs.
RJ gasped. Her feet lost their purchase on the sloped roof and her arms began to flail wildly in an attempt to keep her balance. Her head popped out of the hole.
Leigh looked up into the empty hole. She cocked her head to the side and waited a few seconds before hearing a few loud thumps, what sounded like frantic clawing, and a high-pitched yelp. There was an even louder thudding sound, immediately followed by "Son of bitch!"
Leigh laughed and turned on the cold water. If RJ could swear, then she was still alive. And Leigh needed to cool down. RJ wasn’t the only one affected by her little show.
The male and female looked down at RJ, who was laughing and coughing weakly, sprawled out in the dirt alongside her hammer and crowbar.
The male scowled and put his acorn into his mate’s waiting, outstretched hand. "I’ll have to owe you the rest," he mumbled grumpily.
"Are you good for it?"
"That’s what I thought."
"Will you accept payment in sexual favors?" he asked hopefully.
The female thought about that for a moment. One acorn would last her the afternoon. She shrugged. "What the heck, I could stand a quickie."
"Is there another kind?"
"Not for squirrels."
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