See chapter one for disclaimers
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Women on the Rebound
An hour later, after I had gallantly saved a local cafe from liquidation, we were back in the Porsche. A full stomach and the excursion I had planned for this afternoon were not exactly a complimentary combination, and deterring the bottomless blonde from re-defining the notion of 'all you can eat' had been a necessary, if taxing, exercise. Unfortunately, Kerry was prone to groaning appreciatively whilst devouring her food, and finding the soft moans of satisfaction somewhat intriguing, I was helpless to dissuade her from ordering a second serving of ice-cream. That said, had I devoted any more time to watching her caress a spoon with an undeniably deft tongue - the most effective diversionary tactic I'd ever been subjected to - I may not have wanted to leave at all.
Now, Kerry's melodious laughter occasionally punctured the comfortable silence surrounding us, as I, supposedly directing her towards our destination, discovered just how much I needed to brush up on my notions of left and right. All in all, we were content to simply steal intermittent glances at one another, and share the odd smile.
"Turn right here," I eventually instructed, gesturing to an impending intersection whilst trying to prevent a grin of anticipation playing upon my features.
Kerry glanced at me wryly. "You're making me nervous. Where the hell are you taking me?"
"You'll see," I teased, pointing to a lay-by at the side of the road. "Park there."
Kerry obliged, expertly manoeuvring the Porsche into the limited amount of space available. Clambering out of the passenger's side, I surveyed the landscape, my eyes centring on a nearby field. Kerry joined me, and I promptly lifted a hand to cover her eyes. "No peeking," I admonished, and she sighed in exasperation.
"For God's sake, Alex, we're stuck in the middle of no-where. What could possibly be so interesting about an expanse of overgrown grass?"
I laughed at her tetchy tone. "Well, Miss Cynical, if you can manage to retain your patience threshold for two more minutes, you'll find out." I guided her assuredly across the road, my hand still gently masking her eyes in a bid to obscure her vision. As we descended down a grassy verge, I tightened my hold on her waist, ensuring she didn't stumble over the uneven terrain. All the while, I was acutely aware of Kerry's lithe form pressing lightly against my torso, whilst hoping that she remained wholly unaware of the way my aching nipples hardened in response. I hadn't expected her close proximity to elicit such an unexpected surge of arousal, and not accustomed to having my dormant libido kick-started in such an arbitrary manner, I allowed my own eyelids to flutter closed, willing myself to regain control of my wayward emotions. In what seemed like seconds, the topography of the land evened out, and the pounding beat of pop music became audible, enhanced by the unlikely accompaniment of children's laughter and the unmistakable whirring of machinery. As the sickly aroma of candy-floss assaulted our senses, Kerry's lips curled upwards, and I found myself smiling almost instinctively in response. Tentatively, I removed my hand, and emerald eyes lit up as they surveyed the seemingly infinite array of fairground rides stretching before us.
"So, what do you say?" I laced a companionable arm through Kerry's, my expression of unparalleled excitement wholly inappropriate given my age. "Do you fancy helping me re-live the childhood I never had?"
Kerry virtually beamed at me. "What do you think?" Her eyes settled on the large ferris wheel, which, despite being one of the tamest rides inhabiting the expansive field, still looked almost formidable in size. It towered above the array of onlookers, and even the stilt-clad clowns randomly positioned throughout the fairground were rendered negligible in comparison. I looked on in wry amusement as Kerry proceeded to quite literally skip towards the ticket booth, gesturing for me to follow her with a look of impatience. I smiled at her affectionately. "And I thought I was supposed to be the overgrown kid around here?"
"Well, I'm just trying to determine if there's any merit in the notion that if you can't beat them, you should join them."
"Oh, so this is purely in the name of self-sacrifice then?"
"Absolutely." Kerry grinned, impulsively reaching out to ruffle my hair. I seized her wrist before it could make a rapid retreat, eyeing her amusedly.
"Just because I'm a walking advertisement for the fresh-out-of-bed look, it doesn't give you a mandate to enhance the effect." My tone was one of feigned admonition, and seeing the lack of repentance in dancing emerald eyes, I decided an appropriate degree of punishment was in order. In a deliberately dilatory manner, I brought Kerry's hand to my lips, kissing the silken skin with a tenderness that surprised even myself. She glanced at me, clearly shocked, her cheeks blazing with what was rapidly becoming an omnipresent blush. I gently released her hand, offering her a shy smile, before turning to address the ticket attendant. "Can I have two - " I trailed off, regarding the young man encased in the claustrophobic booth with faintly-veiled disbelief. My heart reacted with more clarity than my racing brain, and promptly skipped a beat. Seeing Kerry's concerned expression, I swallowed audibly, forcing my features to remain impassive.
"Hello George," I ground out through clenched teeth, glaring at Richard's nephew in the hope that he'd wilt under the intensity of my gaze.
"Afternoon, Alex, I almost didn't recognise you there. You look so different with a smile on your face."
"Yeah, well, I haven't had much to smile about until recently," I replied evenly, refusing to relinquish eye contact even as I addressed Kerry. "This is George, Richard's nephew."
"You make it sound like such a stigma." George offered me a tentative smile, as if trying to convey that he was more of an ally than a foe. "So you finally divorced the bastard, then?"
This time, I allowed the shock to register on my features. Admittedly, I'd never had a conversation with the boy before, but having encountered him at a number of Richard's dinner parties - usually in the company of his overbearing father - I'd been forced to conclude that he was yet another monster in the making. "No," I shook my head regretfully. "He's away on business."
"Ah." George smiled knowingly, and I raised my eyebrows.
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
Gauging the extent of anger in my tone, his dark eyes widened and he held up his hands in mock surrender. "Hey, if you're worried about me telling him, don't be."
"Telling him what, exactly?" I demanded, my eyes narrowing with palpable animosity. "That the woman he hired to baby sit me appears to be doing her job?"
George tried his utmost to appear repentant. "I'm sorry, I didn't realise." He let out an almost pre-pubescent, high-pitched giggle, and I found myself overwhelmed with the urge to assist his balls in dropping. "I thought you two were together or something."
"Together?" I echoed, sounding suitably bewildered.
George laughed again and, heedless of the repercussions, decided to pursue the potentially dangerous topic of conversation. "I mean, come on Alex, I could tell you weren't exactly housewife material the second I laid eyes on you. I found it quite amusing, actually. I mean, I know Richard isn't exactly perceptive, but even I wouldn't have thought him stupid enough to marry someone so obviously - "
I lunged at him before he had the opportunity to finish his all-too-accurate assertion, but with lightening quick reflexes, Kerry intercepted the attack, placing a restraining hand on my arm. "Alex, calm down. He's not worth it." Emerald eyes held my own, offering a silent plea. I nodded in acquiescence, and George looked momentarily relieved, at least until Kerry turned to regard him.
"You were saying?" She snapped, and in doing so, provided me with an effective insight into the art of intimidation. Soft lips curled into a hostile snarl, and expressive emerald eyes hardened beyond recognition. It was the first time I had seen Kerry looking anything other than angelic, and the sudden antipathy characterising her features was both unnerving and arousing.
"God, what is wrong with you two? In case you haven't gathered, I don't like Richard either. If you want to carry on behind his back, then great, go for it." George was trying desperately hard to dig himself out of a hole, and in doing so, seemed only to incense Kerry further.
"For your information, George, Alex and I are just good friends, and I think you're old enough to realise that you shouldn't make accusations you can't substantiate." Kerry regarded him intently, until he flinched under the intensity of her gaze. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
George nodded, apparently scared into submission.
"Good. Because I'm thinking your father wouldn't be too pleased if he knew you were working here."
Panic began to infiltrate George's eyes. "No ma'am, he wouldn't. You're not going to tell him, are you?"
Hearing George begging for mercy with as much dignity as he could muster, I stifled a laugh, having developed an affinity for Kerry's authoritative tone. Deciding to take pity on Richard's nephew, who, after all, had professed his undying dislike of my husband, I offered him a rare smile. "No George, we're not going to say anything. Believe it or not, discretion isn't beyond me." The queue of people that had accumulated behind us were becoming increasingly restless, and acutely aware of their dirty looks and muttered profanities, I decided to put an abrupt end to our interesting exchange. "Now, if you could give us the tickets, please."
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry." George, once afflicted with an acute case of verbal diarrhoea, had apparently been rendered monosyllabic by Kerry's faintly-veiled threats. He handed us the tickets with trembling hands. "There you go. They're on the house."
"Don't be silly, George." I handed him a wad of notes, having become intimately acquainted with the bank during my dinner hour. "Keep the change. If your father's anything like Richard, you're gonna need all the help you can get."
He regarded me with a pathetically grateful expression. "Thanks Alex." Tentatively turning towards Kerry, he offered her a shy smile. "It was nice meeting you."
Kerry rolled her eyes and, true to her tolerant self, humoured his attempts to make amends. "Likewise." She tugged at my shirt sleeve. "Now come on, we've got some sights to see." I thereby allowed myself to be dragged onto the ramp leading up to the ferris wheel, my shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter.
"You do realise that I'm supposed to be the cruel and calculating one around here?" I reminded my feisty companion, regarding her wryly.
"Well, I felt like indulging in a bit of role reversal. And besides, he was practically still a kid, and you know how competent I am when it comes to dealing with the chronically cocky."
"Kerry?" I ventured, stepping into the car a fairground attendant had chivalrously reserved for us.
I watched attentively as the safety rail was lowered, giving it a customary yank to ensure that it was working effectively. "If you ever compare me to that jumped-up piece of shit again, I'll throw you off this goddamn thing." I closed my eyes as we began to revolve upwards, grasping the rusted safety rail as though my life depended on it - which, I suddenly realised with a mounting sense of panic, it did.
"Alex, if you don't like the rides, then why did you bring me here?" Kerry asked, her tone one of barely concealed amusement.
I gritted my teeth. "I was trying to teach you the consequences of eating too much."
Kerry laughed, and I felt a soothing hand lightly begin to caress my own. I shook my head, grinning in self-depreciation. "I don't have a problem with the rides, so long as they're within a few metres of the ground. Stick me on the Waltzers, and I'm in my element. It's just excessive height I have a problem with."
"But it's beautiful up here!" Kerry sounded breathless, her tone epitomising that child-like wonderment I found so endearing about her.
Unfortunately, I couldn't see her face, because my eyes remained firmly shut. "I'll take your word for it."
"Alex." Kerry sighed, gently attempting to prise my hands away from the safety bar. "Do you trust me?"
"Yes," I answered, with little hesitation.
"Then open your eyes."
Slowly, tentatively, I obliged, taking at first an apprehensive peek, and then, becoming aware of the amazing view, somehow mustering the will to abandon the comforting void of darkness. "Wow." My gaze centred upon the horizon, and I was left awed by the expanse of the turquoise ocean, and the comparative insignificance of those who stood at its mercy. The miniature yachts, barely discernible, seemed to add an element of realism to the otherwise picturesque scenery, as did the people littered haphazardly across the golden beach. The sun, almost blinding in its intensity, fell upon the soft grains of sand, making everything around it shine with a vitality that seemed impossible to encapsulate. Knowing that for most of my life, I had taken this for granted, I felt tears stinging my eyes, suddenly realising that missed opportunities had all but characterised my existence. The uneasiness in my stomach indicated that we were launching into another revolution, but lost in an intense reverie, I failed to notice.
"Hey." Kerry spoke softly, twisting her head around to regard me with palpable concern. "Are you OK?"
I hadn't noticed the tears streaming down my cheeks until Kerry reached out to wipe them tenderly away, and I shook my head, embarrassed by my untimely display of emotion. "God, I'm sorry."
"Don't be." With a wordless understanding, she clasped one of my hands in hers, tracing intimate patterns across my palm with the length of her thumb. Unconsciously, we leant into one another, and I was shocked to find that our proximity no longer nurtured my libido, but my soul.
That was not to last for long though, because before I had even begun to regain my footing after leaving the ferris wheel, I was being dragged in the direction of an ominous looking roller coaster. The 'Avalanche' was designed like a makeshift bob-sleigh track, and upon climbing five flights of stairs to get to the boarding point, I was praying that the ride would be worth the effort. My eyebrows raised upon seeing the streamlined cars, although it perhaps shouldn't have surprised me that they were only slightly more roomy than their real-life counterparts. My sense of trepidation grew though, upon realising that they were designed to be shared. Kerry regarded my aghast expression wryly.
"Please don't tell me that you're claustrophobic, too?"
"Of-course not," I replied, a little too quickly, unwilling to sacrifice any more of my butch facade.
"Don't worry, I'm the short-ass around here. At least you get to see where you're going." Kerry motioned towards a young couple who had just boarded the car in front of us. The man was propped up against a back rest at the rear end of the contraption, and the woman was seemingly positioned between his splayed legs, her torso barely visible to the human eye.
"Lucky me," I responded glumly, though for some reason, I was rapidly warming to the idea.
When it was our turn to board the car, Kerry agilely swung herself into the cramped space, leaving me to clamber in behind her with all the grace of a pregnant elephant. She let out an indignant yelp as I inadvertently kicked her, and after a moment of helpless laughter as I tried unsuccessfully to attain some degree of comfort, she eventually resorted to forcing the offending appendages apart and yanking them into position.
"If my legs were designed to bend that way, I'd be giving Madonna fucking yoga lessons," I hissed, wincing.
Kerry patted my thigh consolingly and, having had a lifelong aversion to being patronised, I dug two bony fingers into her ribs. The unexpected assault caused her to jump, and she promptly whacked her head on the outer rim of the car. Trying desperately hard not to smile, I tenderly rubbed the stricken area. "Oh sweetheart, I'm so sorry. Are you OK?"
Kerry might actually have given me a reprieve, had my convulsive laughter not belied the concern in my tone. I let out an indignant squeal as she dug blunt fingernails into my calf, and never one to avoid exacting revenge, I allowed an experimental hand to rove underneath her T-shirt, mercilessly tiggling her stomach. I was starting to relish the sensation of her squirming between my thighs, but my pleasure rapidly turned to trepidation as our car tilted at an unnatural angle, beginning its ascent up a steep incline. Forgetting my so-called stoicism, I resorted to clinging onto Kerry for dear life, wrapping my arms around her slender waist. As we hurtled along the meandering track at a sickening speed, we reverted to screaming and giggling like school kids, even daring to raise our arms in a show of tentative bravery. That never lasted for long though, because we both inwardly relished the sensation of our bodies being meshed together in a protective embrace. So much so, in fact, that we revisited the ride eight times in the course of the next three hours.
The afternoon slipped by so quickly, and it was with some regret that Kerry and I traipsed back to the Porsche, tired beyond belief, but still giddy from the adrenaline rush our impromptu outing had incurred. Not even a trip to the local grocery store had been able to quell our good spirits. It was only after an ageing pensioner admonished our puerile behaviour (Kerry had been standing on the rim of the trolley as I ran up and down the aisles at a perilous speed) that we managed to settle down. For probably the first time in my life, I had devoted a whole day to self-gratification, and Kerry's engaging company had left me craving a repeat performance. As I sank back into the now familiar upholstery, it suddenly occurred to me that during the last few hours, Kerry had invaded my personal space in virtually every conceivable way. I found it astounding, and quite unnerving, that I hadn't even felt the slightest hint of objection to her presence. If anything, my jaw was still aching from the omnipresent grin I had plastered to my countenance, and laughter lines no longer seemed unattainable.
"You know, I really enjoyed myself today."
Kerry briefly averted her gaze from the road, regarding me with a genuine smile. "I'm glad. So did I."
"I only wish that I hadn't been so awkward when you first arrived. I was a complete cow to you, and you really didn't deserve that. I'm sorry." I regarded her stunning profile intently, fighting the urge to run my fingers through her silken hair. Kerry clearly wasn't so wary of tactility, and she rested a hand lightly against my knee.
"Alex, forget about it. I forgave you a long time ago. I never blamed you for being wary of me. I mean, let's face it, if I was in your position, I wouldn't exactly be welcoming either."
"Yes, but there is such a thing as passive resistance. Unfortunately, it's never struck me as remotely effective." I smiled wryly, shaking my head. "If I let my resentment fester, things tend to get out of hand."
"Is that what happened with Richard?" Kerry ventured, glancing at me in an attempt to gauge whether I was willing to discuss my godforsaken husband.
"No." My tone had taken on an abrupt quality, and I emitted an audible sigh. "I was perfectly rational when I attacked him, and though I had to feign regret to get out of that bloody asylum, I'll never forget how satisfying it was to see him squirm." My eyes narrowed as I allowed the memories to resurface, and the bitterness that accompanied them was more than evident in my tone. "I mean, you know what it's like, Kerry, to have filthy little hands crawling all over you, when you're powerless to do anything about it. He only had his way with me once, but that didn't stop him leering, it didn't stop him making snide little comments to his friends." I swallowed audibly, and seeing Kerry's vice like grip on the steering wheel, silently admonished myself for having the audacity to compare our very different experiences. "Kerry, I'm not saying this to hurt you. Hell, I know I could never begin to fathom what you went through. I just want you to understand where I'm coming from, that's all. I know he's my husband, and sex is part and parcel of marriage, but that doesn't change the fact that the thought of him touching me makes me physically sick."
"So why marry him?" Kerry countered, glancing at me curiously.
"Because my father loathed me beyond reason, that's why." My lips curled into a twisted smile. "I was the eternal burden on his carefree shoulders, and he simply couldn't abide by me. As soon as I donned my first pair of dungarees, he knew I was a dyke, and given another year or two, he would have kicked me out on the streets anyway." I shrugged. "I thought I may as well opt for marrying the rich guy, because I wasn't going to see an iota of my inheritance and there weren't any other alternatives. I don't have enough co-ordination to be a lap dancer, and the thought of sleeping with one smug bastard was preferable to sleeping with hundreds of them, no matter how much money was in it for me."
"There must have been other jobs?" Kerry stated uncertainly, though she was sounding increasingly sympathetic.
"If you're an idealist, then maybe," I conceded sarcastically, "but when your parents don't see the point in educating you, it's an effort to get through high school, let alone college. And let's face it, if you want a decent job, you need a degree. I had no money of my own, and I came to the conclusion that the menial jobs were hardly worth applying for." Expecting her to accuse me of elitism, I continued before she had the chance to interject. "NOT because I thought myself above stacking shelves, but because that kind-of an income wouldn't really have assisted me in any way. I might have been able to afford three meals a day, but a roof over my head as well? I don't think so. And what sane employer is going to hire someone who doesn't have a fixed residency, never mind no residency at all?" I sighed, inhaling a deep breath. "Yes, I took the easy option, and I've been regretting it ever since. I'd divorce the bastard, but that costs money, and even if I did manage to scrape together the legal fees, I'd still be left with nowhere to go and no-one to turn to. It's not a pleasant feeling." My tone had become hoarse with emotion, and Kerry reached out to clasp my hand.
"You're not alone, Alex, not anymore."
There was a moment of silence, whereby I was content to simply revel in the truth of Kerry's words. Her inquisition, however, was far from over.
"You spent all those years tolerating him," Kerry observed, eyeing me intently. "What changed? What made you attack him like that, seemingly out of the blue?"
I closed my eyes, not sure if I was willing to answer that question, simply because of the pain it incurred. Kerry deserved more than some half-assed explanation though, and so I reluctantly forced myself to address the issues I had spent years evading. "Do you know how it feels, spending each and every day contemplating why you even bother to carry on, when it would be so much easier just to give in?" I fought back the onslaught of tears, choking out the words I had longed to say ever since I'd resigned myself to confiding in Kerry. "Well, that night, he pushed me too far. I sat on the landing, listening to him converse with his so-called friends, and as always, I was the running joke. 'I've never met anyone as uptight as Alex, and I mean uptight. She just about re-defines the notion of frigid. I've given up trying to get a response out of her, anyone else want to try?'" I mimicked Richard's lewd tone, only my own was marred with pain and resentment. "I started wondering where the justice was in life, you know? There he was, inches away from me, so unbelievably smug and content, and all the while I was banished to my bedroom, feeling like my life was falling apart. To put it simply, I got pissed off. So if anyone other than my psychiatrist asks me if I regret what I did, then I'm afraid the answer's 'no', and I don't think I ever will. I only wish that I'd had the guts to carry it through." I was crying now, and having spent my life hiding behind a stoic facade, I felt oddly vulnerable. My self-pity was momentarily forgotten, though, as Kerry flicked on her indicator, signalling that she was about to reverse into the adjacent lay-by. "What are you doing?" I asked sharply, frowning confusedly.
"Well, as multi-talented as I may be, even I would struggle operating a steering wheel whilst trying to hug someone."
"I don't need a hug," I protested, angrily wiping away my tears for the second time that day.
"Ah, the eternal cry of the femme-in-denial," Kerry teased, before perfecting a motherly Southern drawl. "You might not need a hug, darlin', but I know damn well that you want one." A crooked smile graced her features. "So get that purty little ass over here. Now." Leaning across the void between our seats, Kerry wrapped her arms around me, and I had no choice but to sink into her warm embrace, as always, drawing strength from her presence. For some unknown reason, I found myself laughing into her shoulder, perhaps at the sinisterly accurate accent, in all of its inappropriateness. Pulling away from me slightly, Kerry began to stroke my tear-streaked cheeks. Her tender caresses were administered so lovingly that they bordered on being erotic, and the intimacy of the act left her fingertips trembling. Gazing into her compassionate emerald eyes, helpless to prevent myself from drowning in their depths, I tried desperately hard to think of anything save how much I wanted to kiss her. Fortunately, Kerry didn't seem to possess any qualms when it came to taking advantage of vulnerable women. In an act that was undeniably chaste, she pressed moist lips to the corner of my mouth, eyes searching my own for the slightest hint of objection. She found not an iota, and the relief in her expression was evident. I smiled softly, resting my forehead against her own, glad to take a proverbial time out because my emotions were turbulent, to say the least.
"You don't know how badly I've wanted to do this," Kerry whispered brokenly, her tear-filled eyes shining with sincerity.
"Hey." I lifted a finger to trace the outline of her lips, smiling as she unconsciously leant into my touch. "You're not exactly easy to resist, either. I mean, do you have any idea how many times I've fantasised about jumping your bones today? If you had any sense at all, you'd be down at the local police station, filing for a restraining order."
"I didn't realise I was dealing with such a romantic," Kerry teased, her eyes dancing with amusement.
"I don't agree to go to dinner with just anyone," I reminded her, pointedly. "And besides, I thought actions were supposed to speak louder than words?" I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively, just in case the innuendo infiltrating my tone wasn't blatant enough, and Kerry shook her head, laughing. Our eyes met in mutual understanding, and what had been hesitation evolved into a primal need we were both utterly powerless to ignore. When our lips met again, it was with the certainty that there were no misread signals between us and, whimpering with barely contained arousal, our tongues clashed with impassioned ardour. My eyelids fluttered closed as I succumbed to the blissful sensation, and I somehow sensed that the day's enjoyment factor was about to escalate.
To be continued....