The reason the bigwigs had not made me permanent Director of Research and Development became clear two days after my f***ed talk with Sherrie. I was offered my choice of that job or a position as Deputy Assistant Director of Western Operations with our parent corporation. That office was headquartered in Denver, but I'd be away as much as three months out of every year, traveling to every place between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean where we had a factory or office. I took their offer without thinking about it for more than a second. It would get me out of town and that was suddenly very important to me.
The way it was going to work was that I would stay on board here until my replacement came in from St. Louis and was familiar enough with the operation to take over. In the meantime, the company was going to bring in people from the various western locations to brief me on what they did and how they fit into the total corporate structure. There would be slide presentations, live video conferences, one-on-one discussions—anything I needed to get a handle on what my duties and responsibilities were going to be.
The pay raise was going to put me over the hump into a six-digit salary, but it didn't make me as happy as I'd thought it would. There was no one to share the news with...only a few close friends.
I called Melissa and Cal a few minutes after I got out of the boss's office. Melissa was the only one home, but she was thrilled at my promotion and let me know it in no uncertain terms. Then she got sad because I was moving away. We talked about dinner out Friday night and I agreed. We had a good time, but it just wasn't the same.
Two weeks later, give or take, the first of the people who were going to brief me came in to town. Ms. Webster was actually a buyer for some of our ancillary businesses and I wasn't going to be her supervisor when I got to Denver. She worked out of Sacramento and her "chain of command" went through another channel. But she had all the information necessary to give me a good look into what they did for the parent corporation and she even had a boilerplate PowerPoint presentation on her laptop. She was on her way back from a trip to the Carolinas and could drop by Texas on the way. It was Friday afternoon but she was here and I was duty-bound to meet with her.
Ms. Webster was thirty-ish, but it was hard to estimate her precise age. She wore a severely cut, dark gray businesswoman's pantsuit and there was a strict, no-nonsense, expression on her face when I first met her. She shook hands briskly with me and walked down the hall beside me with strides as long as mine. She was shorter than I was, but you'd never know it by the way she walked.
We went to one of the conference rooms equipped for audiovisual presentations. When we got there, she surveyed the room and, rejecting the adjoining room with all the projectors and high tech equipment, she put her laptop on a table and started setting up her briefing slides on its smaller screen.
Sitting at a corner of a table with the laptop between us and angled so we could both see it, Ms. Webster walked me through all the operations of her division and her company in general. I think I surprised her with some questions that I had about organizational matters...who did what and why did they do it that way? On a couple of matters, she didn't have ready answers and took notes so she call me back when she got with the appropriate personnel in Sacramento. It was a very productive meeting and I understood most of her division's impact on the overall corporate structure when we finished.
We walked out of the audiovisual room into a nearly empty floor full of individual cubicles. Ms. Webster and I looked at our watches simultaneously; both of us were amazed the afternoon was so far advanced.
"Ah, I'm sorry, Ms. Webster," I said contritely. "I had no idea we were spending so much time in there." I smiled at her. "I think," I said thoughtfully, "I'll blame it on such a well-prepared and knowledgeable briefer."
For the first time, she flashed a bright smile at me. Heretofore, it had been a professionally courteous, remote thing that barely twitched her lips and it had been aimed somewhere over my left shoulder. I liked the new one a lot better.
"Karen!" she said emphatically. I looked around. There were only a couple of people lining up in front of the elevators and they were all guys.
"No...me...I'm Karen," she said less stridently, grinning openly at me now. I blushed. I could actually feel the warmth spreading up from beneath my shirt collar and enveloping my ears.
"Oh!" I replied. "I'm sorry 'bout that...I guess I'm not paying real good attention."
"And I'm going to blame the late hour on a surprisingly well informed, really smart boss-man," she added before I could say anything more. The grin and nice compliment, coupled with the hand she put on my forearm made me feel a lot better.
"You're very nice to say that...I appreciate it very much." I wasn't quite stuttering but I was a long way from being articulate.
"Not at all," she said, patting my arm and dropping hers to her side again. The place where her hand had rested was suddenly cold. I wanted it back where it had been.
"I meant it," she added. There was that wonderful smile again.
"Well...anyway...thanks," I said. "Uh...can I get you back to your hotel or to the airport maybe? I don't know what your plans are or anything—I should have asked a lot earlier."
"Well, I haven't checked into a hotel yet," she said lightly. "I came right from the airport to here and haven't gotten there...to the hotel...yet," she added. I felt bad about that. I hadn't realized.
"Well, then I can at least get to wherever you're going to stay," I offered. "You have reservations, right?" She nodded and told me where.
"Then let me lock my office and I'll drive you over there. Would that be all right?" She nodded again, showing me some more of that brilliant smile. It made me feel warm even in the cold air conditioning favored in south Texas office buildings.
It turned out that Ms. Webster...Karen...hadn't even taken the time to claim her baggage so we made a detour by the airport. Eventually, we found where her two suitcases had been taken when she hadn't picked them up immediately and rescued them from a storage facility. The lady that helped us seemed a trifle miffed, as if there was an unwritten law requiring travelers to retrieve their luggage immediately upon arrival at their destination.
Karen and I poured nice words and warm compliments all over the lady's irritation and had the woman entirely mollified by the time we left. When we got out of sight, Karen and I looked at each other and laughed out loud at how well we'd managed to get the airline employee back on "our" side and happy with us. It felt good to laugh so companionably with a woman again.
Reclaiming my car from the parking lot, I drove Karen to one of the nicer hotels in the downtown area and walked her to the front desk. It turned out the reservation had been confirmed and her room was ready for her. It wasn't actually necessary that I accompany her there...Karen had everything well under control. But I had made myself useful carrying in her luggage so I didn't look like a complete fool—I hoped so anyway. When all the paperwork was done and she was ready to go up to her floor, I stood there debating whether to just leave...or not. I felt like a sophomore in high school again.
"Uh...Karen, if I'm out of line, please say so, but—"
"I accept," she said, startling me with her directness. "Just dinner, or...?" I looked at her blankly for a moment. The last time I'd asked a girl for at date had been many years previous and I didn't remember it as having been this easy.
"Well, how about dinner...and then I know a place we can go for a quiet drink and if you're feeling really adventurous, a little dancing, maybe. How's that?" She stepped close drew my head down to plant a kiss on my cheek.
"Pick me up at eight?" she asked, stepping back.
"I'll be here," I agreed. She smiled warmly and turned around to lead the bellboy off toward the bank of elevators. The place where she'd kissed me seemed hot enough to be a beacon, flashing on and off in the late Texas afternoon. I walked past my car and had to come back half a block to find it.
I couldn't get reservations at the restaurant where I'd envisioned taking Karen, so we settled for what used to be called "Fischer's Dining and Dancing." Through the years the name had gotten progressively shortened until it became just "Fischer's." It was a dinner club, with a very good kitchen that served evening meals until 10:00 PM. Then they opened up a sliding, collapsible wall that concealed more tables and a big dance floor. They called that section the ballroom. Anyway, at that point, the whole place became one of the better nightclubs in town until 2:00 AM.
Diners could finish their meal, and then stay at that table through the club hours if they wanted. They would have to thread their way through all the other tables to the dance floor if the urge struck them, though, and some viewed that as a problem. Other people came just to occupy the small tables adjacent to the hardwood dance floor. It was a good place for thirty-something age people to go. My wife and I had gone there many times...when we were married.
When I got to her hotel, I called up and Karen came down to the lobby. I know my jaw dropped when the elevator door opened and I'm equally sure it gaped open for long moments while she strode across the lobby to where I stood.
She was in a sea foam green evening dress with spaghetti straps over her otherwise bare shoulders. The bodice was gathered into a couple of rows of pleats just below her breasts, making the waist very high on her body. The skirt fell simply from the bodice to a couple inches above her knees in front and a few inches below the knee in back. It seemed to me to be composed of several layers of sheer silk over a more opaque under layer. Her dark blond hair fell gently to almost shoulder level. When she'd stepped up to me, her understated, open toed heels put her eye to eye with me. Hers were lovely eyes too.
"You're beautiful," was the only thing I could say. It was heartfelt, but not terribly eloquent. I thought I was coming across as a bashful schoolboy, but maybe it was all right. She blushed faintly, but didn't seem to mind the compliment. She took my arm and tucked it to her side familiarly.
"Shall we go?" she asked.
"Heck," I said, still bashful, "I could stand her all night just admiring you." I tried on a smile, hoping it didn't look like the ones painted on puppets. She smiled again and kissed me—a little butterfly kiss just in front of my ear.
"But I'm hungry," she said. "You have to feed me." I nodded, smiling back at her like a simpleton.
"Then shall we go, Madame?" I swept my left hand out in an expansive gesture toward the sliding glass doors leading out front. She nodded; we walked outside arm in arm. I never remembered passing through the doors.
"This is a lovely place," Karen said quietly, leaning close to me to talk. She was looking all around, smiling at people who caught her eye, and absorbing the character of the establishment. People were looking at her too. I wasn't that much of a regular here, but there were some who knew me. They wondered who the attractive young woman was. Many of the unattached men were just looking at Karen with lust in their eyes. I could sympathize with them. She was extraordinary looking...and she was with me.
"It is," I agreed with her. I debated whether to say what was on my mind. I took the plunge.
"You're probably getting a lot of looks because I used to bring my wife here sometimes," I told her, trying to keep my tone matter-of-fact. She looked at me for a moment, then leaned closer and ran a fingernail along the pale circle on my ring finger where a wedding ring had once been.
"So...what's this all about," she asked.
"That is what's left of what I thought was a heck of a good marriage," I said slowly.
"Just two more weeks, a couple of days and I'll have the final decree," I told her.
"We've been separated for a while, just marking time until the mandatory waiting period runs out."
"What happened?" Karen said in a level voice. She was looking me directly in the eyes with no hint of reproach, but no particular sympathy either. I gave her the short version.
"Oh, we had been getting a little distant over the past year or so...and I'm not exactly sure why. She has her career and I seem to be developing one I hadn't counted on. Maybe we were just drifting apart all along and didn't realize it," I mused.
"Well, anyway, she went to Vegas with two other couples—friends of ours—and I couldn't go at the last minute because of a problem at the Denver plant. She says she was mad at me, she got d***k, got dazzled by the bright lights and all the commotion, and went with a man up to his room, and...that's all she wrote," I said.
"A one-night stand?" Karen asked. I shook my head.
"No, she spent the whole weekend with him. From what some friends told me later, she didn't know the guy was from here. But when she got back, he started calling her and eventually they hooked up for some noontime quickies and a few evenings. I don't know how many times, but it went on for about a month and a half before I saw her on the street with the SOB."
"I see," was Karen's only reply. I took it as mildly reproving. She later told me she'd not meant anything of the sort, but I didn't know that at the time.
"Uh...I just couldn't forgive something like that...I'm sorry, but I'm a little rigid on the cheating thing and Vegas was bad enough. I've tried to figure out if I could have worked past the first...thing...out there but I don't know if I could have. But I sure couldn't deal with them keeping on doing it back here at home," I told her.
She nodded her agreement, sighing expressively. She scooted closer to me, putting her hand on my wrist and lowering her voice so no one else could hear. We talked for a long time, at first about my failed marriage, but we got off that subject quickly. There were too many good things to talk about.
I found out that she was thirty-one, a year and a half older than I was, and we joked about her being the "older woman." She had been divorced herself, more than ten years ago, so she had an insight into my problems. She had worked as a waitress for a couple of years afterward while she went to night school for a business degree. She'd then started to work in a large office where a beautiful woman was almost expected to advance "on her back" but she'd refused that route up the chain. Nowadays, she headed up a division of twenty-six buyers who roamed the nation locating the corporation's necessary resources.
We talked about our lives, discovering we both had a love for Tom Clancy novels, music from the 60s and 70s, and paintings that actually seemed based in reality instead of a hodgepodge of mismatched blurriness. I warned her I wasn't a very good dancer, but I felt great on the dance floor with her in my arms. I managed to not step on her toes even once. I told her on the way back to our table that I couldn't understand why she ever wore pants to hide her beautiful legs.
They were lovely. She was a tall girl anyway and her dress accentuated that. Her tanned legs were bare of any stockings—she just didn't need any. Her legs seemed impossibly long and beautifully shaped from slim ankles all the way up to what I could see of her slender thighs.
She told me that business was business—and this wasn't business. I smiled at her and agreed there was no way this had anything to do with the job. She looked closely at me. I guess she saw my sincerity because she came up to me and kissed me lightly on the lips. I was surprised, but enormously pleased.
She said she had to go to the little girl's room. She picked up her clutch purse, smiled at me, and walked away. I watched her leave, mesmerized. How do women manage to sway from side to side that way while moving forward at the same time?
I didn't know that Melissa and Cal were at Fischer's that night also. Melissa told me years later that she'd gotten up from her table and gone to the ladies restroom to confront Karen when she saw Karen leave our table. When she got there, Karen was already back out at the vanity and was touching up her makeup. Melissa had chatted with Karen a little and watched as Karen took off her panties while surrounded by a half-dozen other women.
Karen told a startled Melissa and the others that her guy was going to get lucky that night and she wanted him to know it. Melissa blurted out that I was married. Karen questioned her a little to make sure I was actually separated and that my divorce was going to be final soon.
Once assured this was so, Karen stuffed her panties into her small purse and snapped it shut. The clutch bag was a tiny one and there hadn't been much room. The catch didn't want to close. After a bit more conversation, Melissa told me, she'd warmed to Karen and they chatted for a moment before Melissa impulsively reached under her own evening gown and yanked off her panties. She told Karen her guy was going to get lucky too.
I didn't know why Karen was laughing quietly to herself when she got back to me and she didn't explain. It wasn't important. Just seeing her smiling, happy face was more than enough. That she seemed to be paying me close attention was making my pulse race faster than it had for a long while. My wife and I hadn't had a good time out in so long, I'd pretty much forgotten what it was like. That was the last time I thought of Sherrie that night.
As we were making our way to the door at closing time, I saw Melissa and Cal also leaving and I bulled my way through the crowd to get close to them. I introduced Karen but Melissa told me they'd already met in the restroom. We stood around talking for a bit but parted company quickly to go our separate ways. I didn't know at the time why Cal was so flushed and anxious to leave. I thought his constant shifting of weight from one foot to the other was a pee-pee dance of some kind. In retrospect, I guess it was a modified one. Melissa's panties, I know now, were in his sports jacket pocket.
Outside in my car, Karen disdained the seatbelt and sat close to me. When I turned my head, her lips were there to greet me and we kissed for a long time. It was soft and gentle at first, short and tentative. She became more demanding after a bit, though, and I met her half way. I found her tongue ready to flick out and twine itself around mine as we kissed deeper and longer.
My left hand found its way to her soft thighs and I slipped it slowly under her skirt. Her smooth skin felt hot under my palm. The sheer, flimsy material of her skirt slid over the back of my hand sensuously. Her legs were closed at first. When my hand reached her hip, even I could tell she had no panties on. Then she spread her legs for my hands. There was only silky smooth flesh under my fingers...until I found the moist, heated outer lips of her sex. We broke the long kiss; we were out of breath anyway. I looked questioningly into her eyes for a long moment.
"If you don't want this to happen," she whispered, "you better say so now, Ron." It was the first time she'd said my name just that way.
"Is there a boyfriend at home...or someone you're close to...?" I asked quietly. She shook her head gently.
"No one," she said softly.
"Then let's not stop," I said simply. She put a hand on the back of my neck and pulled me tight for another long kiss. Our tongues dueled as my fingers probed gently, stroking all around her vulva. I was pleasantly surprised to find her pubes were shaved clean. It only made my arousal that much harder and stronger.
Karen's fingers got busy unzipping my trousers and releasing the hardon that had become too large for comfort inside my boxers. We kissed and explored each other until the horns and shouted suggestions to "get a room somewhere" became too intrusive. We broke apart, grinning like c***dren caught being mischievous.
"We have a room," she breathed into my ear.
"We have an apartment," I said, "but the room is closer."
"Drive fast?" she said with a little giggle.
"Ohhhhh, yeah," I replied. The motor was started, the transmission in gear, and we were rolling in less time than it takes to tell. On the way, Karen pulled my cock out of my shorts and slowly massaged me. Halfway to the hotel, she slipped lower on the bench seat and took me in her mouth. I sensed she didn't want to make me come, though I'm not sure she understood how long I'd been without a woman. She almost miscalculated the effectiveness of her tongue on me. She wanted to give me a little pleasure and saw no reason to wait until we were behind closed doors.
I liked the openness of that. It was honest and clean when compared to the dirty, sneaky sex between my wife and her lover that I'd had to deal with for so long. It was good—so good that I don't remember much of the last half of that trip.
Once in the hotel room, Karen locked the deadbolt and turned to face me. Smiling mischievously, she reached behind her head and undid a couple of buttons. Pulling the thin spaghetti straps off her shoulders, she let her dress fall in a shimmering slide down her body. The breath hissed between my teeth when I saw her nude for the first time. The woman was a walking sex bomb, and she knew it. She looked at the bulge in my pants and licked her lips.
"This is going to be fun," she said. I had to agree. I think she saw my agreement in my eyes.
Confidently, she walked up to me, still in her heels, and wound her arms around my neck. Our lips met and her tongue snaked into my mouth and weaved a dance with mine. I beat hers back and thrust my own through her lips to repay the favor. In seconds, we were breathing hard through our noses, unwilling to break apart just to breathe.
I took her right breast in my left hand. She was bigger than my wife. Sherrie wore a bra with a comfortable "B" cup. On her best days, I told her it was a B+ and made her believe it with extra attention to her breasts before we made love. Karen's titty was a somewhat bigger than Sherrie's—more than a mouthful, more than a handful even...and I have big hands. I kneaded her breast for a time, thumbing her nipple gently because I hadn't had time to moisten my fingers yet. It was hard to think with Karen's body mashed against mine but I finally hit on the idea of slipping a finger inside her and using her own juices to wet her nipple.
No sooner thought of than done. My hand roamed down from her breasts to her hip and inward to her mound. She accommodated me by pulling back slightly to let my hand glide over her satiny skin down between us, over her faintly rounded belly and down into the "V" between her legs. In seconds, my middle finger was slipping inside her outer lips, and then deeper to tap into the hot wetness within. My index finger joined the other and they began sliding inside her as one.
"Oh geeeeez," Karen breathed softly. Karen writhed under my hands, working her hips up and down against the invading fingers. She broke off the kiss and threw her head back as she humped my hand, breathing hard and fast. I never got my hand back up to moisten her nipple.
"Seems to me like we should keep the foreplay to a minimum?" I breathed into her ear. My fingers were moving faster, sliding in and out of her more quickly. It took her a while to respond.
"If you don't," she panted, "I'm starting without you!" I chuckled. Karen was a lusty woman, unafraid of saying what she wanted. I'd been used to a more withdrawn woman for years. When I was married, I'd wanted Sherrie to open up as Karen was, but Sherrie had never quite gotten there.
I wanted to show Karen I was equal to the task of satisfying a woman so free and expressive about her needs so I determined to hold off on my climax as long as I could. I would have anyway, but I wanted this to be extra special for both of us. I shifted a little to her side and pressed her up against the bathroom door so I could put my palm flat against her belly and on the midline of her body. Sliding my hand down, my index and middle fingers naturally entered her slit and slid over her clitoris before diving deeper into her vagina.
Once my fingers glided over her clit, I curled them inward so they pressed against the front wall of her cunt. Finding that little bean-shaped, raised area already prominently developed in my new lover, I worked her G-spot for all I was worth. The dual stimulation on the nubbin of a clitoris and on the sensitive tissue a couple inches deep inside her was too much.
Before long, Karen was sobbing for breath, telling me over and over not to stop—as if I had any thought of doing that—and shuddering with each new sensation that welled up from her sopping pussy.
I don't know how long it was but in surprisingly short time, Karen stiffened for a long moment before relaxing again. I slowed my hand, making the caresses long and slow while she recovered from a small orgasm. We never stopped though. Her hands were darting all over; touching my chest, my arms, down to my waist, plucking at my shirt as she tried to find a place for her fingers to anchor themselves.
She began humping her groin into my hand again, slowly at first, then with greater urgency. We found a new rhythm, my fingers stroking in and out over her clitoris and G-spot while her hips bucked up to meet downward plunging fingers. She was panting hard now, sucking in her breath and puffing it out again just as fast. I could feel her upper body trembling; her high heels beat a quick tattoo on the tiled floor as she shifted her feet to accommodate my fingers just a tiny bit better.
"Baby, baby, baby," she chanted. I could feel her vagina begin to snatch at my fingers, trying to keep them inside her for non-stop stimulation but I wouldn't cooperate. I worked my fingers deeper, my palm sliding over her mons and rubbing hard against the small, bl**d red clit. My fingertips slide over the textured G-spot and beyond, racking over it both going and coming.
"No...anhhhhh," Karen gasped. Her body become rigid again, even more unmoving than before. It was as if she were pinned against the wall by my fingers as they worked in and out of her cunt. Her head was thrown back, her flushed face twisted in concentration as she slowly worked her hips in a tight circle. She stopped, freezing in place...and I felt her juices pour down my fingers and down her thighs. She sighed, unable to move for a long moment. Leisurely, gently, I caressed her upper thighs before working my way up to less sensitive places...the heaving of her chest eased enough that she was able take in great gulps of air and let them out slowly.
"Hold me up," she pleaded. Her knees weren't as steady as they had been. I pressed my body against her, propping her up and holding her firmly against the wall.
"I think I'm making a mess in the floor," she said ruefully and giggled
"I know you are," I told her, "and you taste delicious." I stroked between her thighs once more and brought my fingers back up to lick the thin, pungent syrup of her G-spot fluids. She giggled again, and caught my wrist, pulling my hand to her mouth. She took my fingers, one by one, into her mouth and slowly licked and sucked them dry.
"You're right...I do," she said finally. "You are soooo lucky to have me." I had to agree. We kissed for a long time, sharing the taste of her orgasm once more.
"I want you inside me," she whispered finally. She finally had her breathing under control again. I took a step backward.
"Undress me?" I asked. She didn't bother answering before kneeling in front of me and yanking my shoes off. She tossed them into the closet behind me and followed them with my socks. Seconds later she had my belt undone and my pants around my ankles. I felt foolish, but there was no one there to see except Karen and she was concentrating on something else.
She was pleased—she looked up at me and grinned—when she saw how hard I was. Still looking me in the eye as much as she could, Karen began licking the underside of my shaft from my scrotum to the little slit in the end of my cock. She took the head inside her lips and then deep into her hot mouth. I shuddered with the dual pleasure of seeing what she was doing and feeling the sensations coming from my penis. Karen felt my body tremble and glanced up again with a sparkle in her eyes. Her tongue swirled all around my cock, wetting it thoroughly before she let me out again.
Working slowly, she eased my foreskin back over the glans a little bit at a time, using her tongue to spread more lubrication as she went. She seemed to know just how much my flesh could stretch before it began to hurt and she never went faster than I could take it. Even so, it wasn't long before my foreskin was tucked securely behind the mushroom shaped glans and Karen, took me into her mouth again.
This time, the heated wetness of her mouth and throat; the motion of her tongue swirling all over the head...it all made my knees begin to buckle. She began a slow bobbing motion, letting the purple head of my cock slide in, then letting it nearly fall completely from her lips. Her tongue slid enthusiastically around the underside, stabbing into that tiny "V" shaped area at the base of the glans again and again.
I couldn't take too much of that. She had me groaning aloud in just a few minutes. I took her wrists in my hands and pulled her back up. We melted against each other, my cock sliding along her soft belly while she cradled me, rocking her hips back and forth to massage it between us. We kissed, our tongues diving deep and insisting upon twining, and twisting around the other. We broke the kiss, breathing deep from each other's breath.
"I want you...now," she ordered. I kissed her lips once more just to taunt her.
"How do you want it?" I asked teasingly. "Tell me how you want it," I insisted. My hand was busy on her mons veneris again; my fingers were stroking in and out of her in a demanding rhythm. Her chest was heaving against me; her hard-pointed nipples sc****d against my chest with every breath.
"Hard," she whispered, trying to adjust her body so that my cock would slide into her of its own accord. I kept my body high, not letting her have it.
"Just hard?" I asked. "You want me to take you hard...just hard?"
"Hard and fast," she said, "and now," she added. There was a tiny pleading note in her voice as our little game played out.
"Hard and fast?" I asked. I could feel her nodding though she didn't speak. She needed her breath too badly to supply an overstressed body with oxygen.
"Then that's what I want too," I said.
Dipping low, I pressed the head of my penis inside her outer labia. Working it up and down her slit, I coated it with the juices from her vagina and remnants of her ejaculation fluids. When I was ready, I guided myself lower to the spreading opening of her sex. Pushing a little further inside, I could feel when I was seated securely in the front of her vagina. I bent my knees a bit more, shifted my feet and thrust deep inside Karen's cunt with a single, long plunge.
Karen's head tilted back spasmodically. She cried out so loud I was afraid someone passing by the door would hear and think it a scream of torment. I knew it wasn't. Her vagina already had been open its whole length and was more than ready for me. The tip of my cock nudged her cervix and I felt her wince slightly. I knew how deep I could go now and I adjusted my feet a little. It probably wasn't necessary. In seconds, I was plowing just as deeply again and there was no contact. Her womb had done its magical little trick of withdrawing and I could now pound my hardness deep into her body.
Karen was pinned there against the wall by my penis and her own desires. Our bodies strained at each other as we worked hard to f***e pleasure from each other's body. I powered into her, pistoning in and out with abandon. She'd wanted it hard and fast? She got it.
Harder and harder we fucked, pushing and mashing ourselves against the other in an ever-increasing pace. I changed what I was doing abruptly and slammed balls deep into her while I whipped my groin around in an arc to make my cock corkscrew down inside her. I did the same thing in the opposite direction when I withdrew. She gasped and nearly lost her balance as she set herself to take my new tactic.
She was bucking back into me now. When I stabbed in, she met me with an equal push out. Our groins were mashed tightly together now. Neither of us could move. There was little thrusting or riposte. Our straining, overheated bodies were soaked with sweat, our muscles tiring quickly.
I could feel the tightening in my scrotum as semen pumped upward – I imagined I could feel the muscles in my groin flex and contract as salty fluids from my prostate were added to the mixture. I felt the mass working through muscular tubes in my lower abdomen and from there into my penis. Thick, liquid heat was pumped the length of my cock as I summoned the strength to push deep into Karen one final time.
The milky white come spurted from the slit at the end of my cock and splashed inside her onto the walls of her vagina. Once, twice...I felt a third eruption launch itself inside my lover. The fourth time was almost painful but I lurched forward anyway, planting still more cream inside her cunt.
The sensation of the hot come jetting into her vagina must have set Karen off too. Her own orgasm had built until she was beside herself with the need for completion. Her legs splayed wide as she balanced on her high heels, she whipped her groin up at me as I continued to thrust inside her cunt. She rode my cock hard, adjusting her stance to make my cock rub harder against her special, sensitive places. When the last of my come spurted into her, she screamed out her need, pushing back and rotating her hips one last time.
She jolted to a stop, her body freezing into place with the intensity of her ecstasy. I felt her tummy contracting in time with the ripples spreading along the length of her cunt. Her vagina tried to milk a few more drops from my balls, but I had no more to give her for now. Her leg muscles spasmed, jerking uncontrollably and she avoided falling only because my cock was holding her in place. I held her up, propping her body and mine against the wall as well as I could while I gulped in huge lungfuls of air. I watched Karen come back down from her orgasm.
I felt the intense sensations emanating from her vagina slowing, lessening, and finally giving up their lock on her body. She was breathing as heavily as I was, almost gasping in her need for oxygen to fill overworked lungs. Gradually we recovered, but it was a while. When we could breath without panting, her arms tightened around my neck and she pulled me into another long kiss.
"Hey," she said softly.
"Mmmmmmm?" I answered.
"You do know there's a bed in this room, right?" she asked teasingly. I chuckled and bent my knees to allow my barely tumescent penis to slide out of her. She whimpered in protest but I caught her hand and began pulling her farther inside the hotel room.
"Wait!" she protested. I turned to see her slipping out of her heels and tossing them aside. She raced past me and got to the bed first, sk**ding across the satiny bedspread and landing on her back with her head on the pillows and her legs spread wide. I wasn't far behind though, and I was hard as a rock again before she could find me and guide my cock inside her. Her enthusiastic, open sexuality had an effect on me far greater than anything that could ever be stuffed into little pills and sold on the open market.
There were actually two double sized beds in her hotel room. We played on one of them for hours, took a long lazy bath together, and then played some more. sl**py and almost exhausted, we stretched out between the sheets on the other bed so neither of us would have to sl**p on the wet spot—the wet puddle actually—on the other bed.
After that first night, Karen checked out of the hotel and spent the rest of the weekend with me in my apartment. I'd thought I'd show her off by taking her out Saturday night again, but we wound up spending all of Saturday and Sunday indoors. I couldn't get enough of her body and it seemed to me she felt the same about me. We wound up not wearing a stitch of clothing the whole time and had sex in every room.
The bathroom, with its inexhaustible supply of hot water in the shower, got a lot of attention, as did the bedroom, but Karen spent a good amount of time bent over various pieces of furniture in the living room too. She loved to ride me "cowgirl" style for an hour at a time, teasing me by freezing an instant before I would otherwise come inside her. She'd let me recover for a minute or two and then begin rocking her cunt over my cock again. When I finally came, I gave her more ejaculate than I can ever recall gushing out before.
She enjoyed a few hours on the dining room table too—with her legs splayed wide while I licked her pussy through as many orgasms as I could give her. When I slipped my cock inside her, she would whimper softly and wrap her arms around my neck, holding on until we worked ourselves up to more climaxes. By Sunday evening, we were exhausted and even a little bit sore in places.
When Monday morning came, I drove her to the airport and put her on a Sacramento bound aircraft. We'd agreed not to call each other until Saturday came around but when it finally came, we both got busy signals because we were calling each other at the same time. From then on, we met whenever we could. The sex was great and so were the times we made it different...the times we made love.
For a time, we were making American Airlines rich with our travel back and forth, but my move to Denver finally came about and the trip was shorter. We saw each other every couple of weeks for a year and a half and took two weeklong vacations together, one in Vail and the other in the Bahamas.
I finished the flying lessons I'd let lapse years earlier and got my certificate. I promptly bought a small, single-engine Cessna whose upkeep and operating costs were even more than airline tickets, but I could fly on MY schedule. The memory of the time I took Karen up and we initiated each other into the mile high club high over the mountains kept me smiling for weeks.
I was happy for Ron. After seeing him so miserable for so long, it was good that he'd found someone he could be happy with and who seemed to have his best interests at heart. They made a beautiful couple on the three occasions Cal and I saw them about town and especially on the dance floor at Fischer's. Ron, I could tell, had taken some dancing lessons, though I didn't know when he'd found the time. Their effect was more than evident. He and Karen would glide around the ballroom floor almost effortlessly, their arms wrapped around each other and their attention focused completely on each other.
It was clear they were in love and I had mixed feelings about that. I'd been Sherrie's best friend since high school and Ron was a comparatively recent addition to my list of close friends. But he was so happy...and I couldn't blame him one bit.
Karen was so beautiful and Ron was a much better looking man than he knew. I knew more than a few women in the club who would have left their dates, and some their husbands, in a heartbeat if Ron had crooked his finger and beckoned them to come to him. But he'd never do that. I knew my Ronnie. It's enough to say that the two of them just seemed to fit perfectly together.
Now that he's moved to Denver, Ron emails me once a week or so, always full of cheerfulness and inquiries about the new baby and everything. I never told Ron I was sure Cal had gotten me pregnant the night both Karen and I took off our panties in Fischer's ladies room, but I think he knows. I did tell him about the panty thing in Fischer's...and that was probably enough. Ron's a smart guy and reads between the lines pretty well.
When Calvin Junior was born six months after Ron left, I'm not sure he realized the "R" that was Cal's middle initial was for "Ronald." That was just like him. That Cal senior and I had given our baby his middle name in recognition of Ron's friendship would never occur to our good friend.
Anyway, after her divorce, things were really rough for Sherrie and that went on for a long while. She had to quit her job because the word got around the office about her and Ron's divorce and what caused it. Every unattached male, and many who weren't, thought what he had between his legs was just the thing to make her happy again. Even though she cut everyone off cold, and embarrassed a number of them in the process, they wouldn't quit trying.
Her new job was at lower pay and she found it hard for a time to pay all the bills. She finally found the big two-bedroom apartment she wanted, but it cost more than she really had to spare, and she had to buy a lot of new clothes too. When the sale of the house she and Ron had lived in finally closed, things got better but she was soon buying food, clothes, and what all for those two other people who came into her life and...well, I don't really want to get into that. I didn't understand what she was doing for the longest time, and I still don't agree with her reasoning. I mean, those two "roommates," as she called them, weren't going to intimidate my—. Shoot! I said I wasn't going to get into that mess, didn't I? Enough said.
It took 'til almost a year after their divorce for me to get comfortable with Sherrie again. She called me every week during that time and never got off the phone without apologizing to me and Cal for that Vegas nightmare. She was sorry...but sorry don't cut it sometimes, you know?
Well...that's what I thought, but after a while it was clear the girl was absolutely overwhelmed, totally ashamed of what she'd done with that man in Vegas and more ashamed of seeing him after she came home. Separate from that, she was also devastated that she had hurt her husband so badly. She couldn't talk to me for even a minute without breaking down and crying when she tried to say how bad she felt about betraying his trust and love.
She'd felt guilty at the time, she said, but she got messed up in a feeling of dirty excitement. She said it had given her a fluttery feeling in her belly like when she used to sneak out of her mom and dad's house to meet with her first serious boyfriend. She said doing that guy from Vegas made her feel young and alive again, vibrant and a good kind of nasty. I didn't understand any of it, and the part about feeling young again didn't sit well at all. I turned thirty year before last, and Sherrie was just twenty-nine now. I wasn't sure I bought a single word she said about a need to feel young "again," the little twit.
Hey, guess what? I didn't know this until Sherrie and I resumed visiting each other on Saturday mornings again for coffee and a little gossip. That was a long time coming, let me tell you! I was some kind of unhappy with that girl for the longest time.
Anyhow...she told me one morning that she'd actually been at Fischer's one night back then, all by herself...and she'd seen Ron there with Karen. She said it had been just before he moved to Denver. She'd gone just to have a decent dinner she didn't have to cook but she wound up watching them dance while she tried to eat a cold steak.
Sherrie said what she had done to Ron really came home to her right then and there. She said she'd hadn't understood—not way down deep where she lived—exactly what Ron had gone through...what he'd felt. That changed when she saw him with "that woman," as she put it. Seeing that Ron cared for Karen really hurt. It was like someone had driven a stake right through her belly, she said. She actually felt a physical pain, according to her.
I told her Ron had every right—I was a little snippy about it, I think. I said he had a perfect right to be seeing Karen and Sherrie said she knew that, and she'd known it at the time. They'd already been divorced a month and more at the time, but it still hurt her worse than anything she'd ever known.
She was only telling me so I'd know she finally realized how shitty she had treated the man she loved and who had loved her. I told her it was about time and Sherrie didn't even get mad at me. Actually, she was real bitter—mad at herself. She wanted to punish herself but didn't know how. She had too many responsibilities.
Well, Sherrie and I got through that phase and we've gotten closer. I suggested she get a little counseling or talk to a minister or something. When she got back on her feet financially, she did go see a guy who did marriage counseling and she got better. She never got comfortable with what she'd done, but she came to accept the things she'd done without them dominating her whole life. If she'd let it, I'm not too sure she wouldn't have wound up in a mental hospital or something. She felt that bad about it.
She comes over all the time now and we talk about anything under the sun, just like we used to. My boys think their "Aunt Sherrie" hung the moon and stars and they run to greet her whenever she comes around. She hugs them tight and gives them tickles and kisses until they laugh and laugh and laugh.
Cal took longer to warm back up to Sherrie. For the longest time, he would quietly be somewhere else whenever she came over. Between what I was telling him from my talks with Sherrie, and the things that he saw firsthand, he slowly thawed. Sherrie used to bring her two roommates over to visit every so often and Cal took to them right off. After a while, the house seemed a little empty when the three of them weren't there.
I'm going to fix that though. Cal and I are going out to dinner at Fischer's tonight and I'm not even going to wear a pair of panties out there to begin with. We're going to work on having a houseful of people ALL the time, even if I have to change diapers on a bunch of them. I want a girl this time.
The first three years in Denver were busy, exciting, and jam packed. I was working hard and spending long hours in the office. It was the same old story. When the big bosses find out you can handle responsibility, they give you more pressure and additional responsibilities just to see if they can find your breaking point. They hadn't found mine...yet. But they were surely getting close.
Karen and I didn't seem to cool off at all and I was thinking of giving her a ring and asking her to marry me. She never brought the subject up, though, and I sometimes wondered why.
Then the shit hit the fan in Afghanistan. Our firm had secured a number of sub-contracts from one of the major Defense Department contractors to rebuild the infrastructure in that poor country. In one of them, we were acting as a service corporation, gathering the resources and sub-letting our own contracts to smaller firms to perform a myriad of tasks, very much like Halliburton does in Iraq. We just do it on a much smaller scale.
Anyway, we were overseeing a contract to build a major highway north from Kabul through Feyzabad and up to the border with Tadzikistan. The road was going to be used primarily for military purposes for a long time, but the newly free elected government of Afghanistan hoped someday it would promote trade in the northern intermountain region between the two countries.
It was dangerous because the shredded remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists who'd gotten their asses kicked by a U.S. supported group of Afghani warlords weren't THAT far away in the steep mountains on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They came back across the border from time to time, slipping through an increasingly tight ring of Pakistani, Afghani, and U.S. soldiers, to wreck whatever they could and then run hard back to their sanctuaries. It didn't happen often. It was, more often than not, a one-way mission and the number of willing suicides had been steadily decreasing for years.
One such group, though, managed to sneak into the country and had blown up a key bridge over an impassible gorge and shut down the road between our crew at the head of the new road and the supply depots in the rear. At the same time, they'd gone through a number of the small towns and villages for fifty miles around the bridge, destroying such things as schools built to educate both girls and boys, community centers, a few fledgling radio stations and one television relay site.
The contractor personnel on the ground had called back for help and our firm had had to let a contract to another small business so our main contract could get finished on time. It was important for our future as a corporation. Seventy-two hours later, young Mr. Ron Masters was in the air heading for Kabul to supervise the combined effort of two dissimilar groups of workers now working on the same project. Both companies had agreed to that. In fact, they'd been relieved they wouldn't have to work out a pecking order and try to find for themselves an equitable division of the labor.
Before I left, though, I had to have a talk with Karen. I'd be gone a long time and some things between us needed to be resolved. I needed to know if there was an "us" and, if so, what were we going to do about it?
"Honey, have you ever thought about getting married?" I asked. I was watching her prepare a tossed salad in her apartment the day before I had to leave. The knife she was using kicked against the side of the sink and made a harsh, clattering sound as it rattled around in the bottom. She turned around to stare at me with her eyes wide. She was clutching her hands against her stomach and I was afraid she'd cut herself. I got up and stepped quickly across the kitchen. Taking her by the wrist, I turned her hand over and examined it carefully but I didn't find even a slight nick.
"Sorry," I said, "I thought you might have cut something."
"I nearly did!" she remarked. Some color was coming back into her face and I sat back on the stool at the breakfast bar.
"Well, have you?" I asked. She leaned back against the counter and looked at me wonderingly.
"Have you?" she answered, except that it wasn't really an answer. I nodded anyway.
"Yeah, I have," I said. "But I don't know how you feel about it. Sometimes I think you prefer what we have now...the independence and stuff, you know?"
"What else?" she demanded.
"Well, there are those times that I wonder if the way we live now doesn't suit you best. We see each other for a few days each month and we have an incredible time, but you live here in Sacramento and I live in Denver. I wonder if it's not one of those 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' kind of things. Getting married would be a heck of a step and I wonder if you would want me around...underfoot all the time, as it were." I'd rehearsed almost all these words. I truly had been thinking about our situation for a long while.
I think I surprised Karen. We'd become comfortable with each other and hadn't found any reason for disagreement in a while now.
"No," she said. "It's not that at all, hon." She hesitated, then came to me and wound her arms around my neck. She kissed me long and hard.
"Ronnie," she said slowly, when we came up for air, "the reason I haven't brought this up is a little different from what you think." She took a deep breath, not backing away an inch. Her arms were still wrapped around my neck, though a little looser.
"I love you, Ron, that's no secret, and I know you love me, too," she said softly. "The only thing wrong is that you hold back something of yourself from me and I don't think you even know you're doing it. If it weren't for that, darling, I'd quit my job in a heartbeat and come to live with you for the rest of my life."
I was astonished. What was it I was holding back from her?
We talked for hours. I never did get a handle on what she thought I was holding back. It had something to do with a belief that I hadn't yet closed the book on Sherrie—that I still loved Sherrie and hadn't worked her out of my system.
I thought that, if anything, I might still be harboring a lot of pent up anger and hostility towards Sherrie. To me that sounded more like what I was feeling than anything else. I got a little impatient with Karen. I didn't believe there were any good feelings left for my ex-wife and I told Karen so. She was adamant, though, and wouldn't budge on the idea.
We ended the discussion after dinner, refusing to let it devolve into a full-blown argument. Neither of us wanted to do that with only twenty-four hours before I left for Afghanistan. Life was too short.
Later that night, we made love in her bed and bathroom, and then back again—twice. We finally lay exhausted in each other's arms.
"Ronnie," she said just before we both fell asl**p, "let's both of us think hard about our future while you're gone, okay? Then, when you come back, we'll go away somewhere...by ourselves for a long time...and we'll work it out, okay, darling?"
"Okay, it's a date," I said softly. She didn't say anything more. After a while, she turned away from me and backed up until we were spooning. My arms were wrapped close around her. We slept hard, woke up early and made love again...and then I had to go.
When I got back to Denver, I had about six hours before the flight to JFK Airport in New York. From there, I'd take a series of flights heading east to Europe and then to the Asian continent, gradually working my way to Kabul. There weren't that many airlines flying into that war torn country and the corporation had a policy of requiring its employees to use American flag air carriers whenever possible. It made the routing a little more difficult and more circuitous than it otherwise would have been.
After doing a load of clothes and packing everything I could imagine needing in Afghanistan, I still had two hours left with not much to do before going to the airport. Mulling over the near argument with Karen, I hunted through the back of my closet until I found the box containing all the papers, court motions, and other material left over from my divorce. In the bottom, hidden by a mass of paperwork, was the packet of photographs I had snapped of my wife and that other man.
Beside them was the small ring box that held Sherrie's engagement and wedding rings. She'd sent her rings back to me through her attorney the day after our divorce had become final. I'd thought they were her property. After all, I'd given them to her, but I guess returning them to me was her way of getting some finality to the marriage.
I looked at the photographs one by one, finding them to be distasteful but I couldn't summon up any deep resentment or anger any more. It was like the pictures were of two strangers instead of one stranger and one loved one. As such, they were just examples of low-grade pornography.
It occurred to me I didn't want these left behind just in case I died over in Afghanistan and someone had to go through my personal things. Impulsively, I pushed everything else back into the box and closed it, leaving out the pics. Then I put the photos through my shredder. In a few moments, they were unintelligible bits of glossy, colorful paper and I thought no more about them.
Afghanistan in late winter is abominable. It's always bitterly cold...or snowy...or windy. Actually, it was usually all three at once. It was seldom that all three of the weather patterns ease up and give us a nice day. On top of that, this north, northeastern sector of the country was incredibly barren and bleak to my eyes. I had no clue why anyone would want to live here, but Afghanistan is one of the longest inhabited countries on the face of the planet. I could only shake my head.
The days were long, the work hard and dangerous even without the threat of Al Qaeda or Taliban terrorist attacks. Working with heavy equipment is dangerous in its own right, but we built a pretty good safety program and rigorously enf***ed the rules.
For defense against the bad guys, we had a platoon of Marines under the command of a young Lieutenant to defend us but they couldn't be everywhere. I didn't like the naked feeling of being unable to protect myself and my crew. After I'd been there a month, I coaxed the senior sergeant in the platoon into giving me an M-4, the carbine version of the M-16. Its real owner had gone back home on emergency leave and hadn't come back. It was still on the Marine company books; it was just that I was taking care of it for them.
I felt a lot better with it around. I was a passable shot with it; I always had had a knack with weapons. With my Remington Model 700 at home, I could knock down a deer at 200 yards and more every time I fired it. Well, anyway, the M-4 felt comfortable in my hands.
By the third month of my stay, we had the bridge virtually rebuilt. New foundations were poured where they needed to be and replacements filled in the places where the blast had blown girders away. At the same time, we'd worked out a resupply plan for the crew still building the road north, using helicopters to ferry in supplies and materials needed urgently. For other equipment, supplies, and vehicles, we bulldozed a dirt road around the gorge and through empty terrain. It worked, after a fashion. We could get to the head of the road, but it took a lot of time and the crew up there had to make supply requests a long way in advance.
Actually, things were improving every day. The contract looked secure—the road would be finished on or before schedule, and the Department of the Army had even awarded us another small contract that looked very lucrative. We were working hard, but there wasn't much else to do in the empty wasteland so we routinely worked f******n hours a day, or more, just to have something to do.
When we heard Ron was going to Afghanistan, I almost died. Ron was as close to me as a b*****r and I was worried sick about him. When I told Sherrie, her face turned white as a sheet. She nearly collapsed. It surprised me a little; she and Ron have been divorced right at three years now and had lived apart for even longer, what with the separation after he left her and all.
It's been so long since I had a minute free to add anything to this diary. If I repeat some things, I guess I'll just have to delete them when I look at this thing when I'm old and gray, huh?
Well, let's see...where was I? Okay...a while back, I had to try and get Sherrie to lighten up on herself again. For the longest time, she went back to beating herself up pretty bad about having caused so much grief and it was hurting her health. She went through a second round of counseling and it finally began kicking in. She got over the worst of her depression as she and the counselor explored what she did and what she could do to make things better. She's done pretty well ever since.
When I told her about Ron's trip overseas, though, it threw her for a loop. It wasn't until we started getting regular emails from him that she settled down again. The emails were widely spaced because they didn't have real good communications over there but they came through often enough to keep us from being worried too much.
He said it was hard work and stuff like that, but also pretty boring. There wasn't much to do except work. On the other hand, he said that he'd worked off the "love handles" he'd been getting worried about and he was probably in the best physical condition of his life. A photo he attached to one of his emails showed us he was right. Sherrie made me blow it up to an 8 X 10 and print it for her. She also kept a couple of 5 X 7 prints.
It was about that time that I noticed Sherrie wasn't dating—not at all. When I asked around, I felt like a fool. She hadn't dated since she and Ron broke up...and I never noticed. Isn't that terrible? My best friend and I didn't know.
Well, anyway, Cal and I started taking her out every so often with us to dinner and stuff like that, and sometimes to Fischer's for some dancing. Sherrie would dance fast dances with some of the guys, but she was awfully picky even then. Most of the men got turned down flat and some went away red-faced from whatever she said if they persisted. My Cal says Sherrie has a "real good" command of the English language when she wants to use it. He said it like he admired her for it. I guess that tells me what kind of language she commanded, huh? Well, I figured out Sherrie would only dance slow dances with Cal and a few older married men she'd found she could trust. On top of that, she wouldn't have anything but a little white wine when she went with us and only a couple of glasses lasted the whole night.
It didn't take a genius to see that she was "saving herself" for something and one day, I got her to talking about it. It took isolating her in my backyard back under the pecan tree and making her real comfortable with a lot of good food and a couple of hours talking about nothing in particular. Finally, she let down her hair a little and said she had this feeling that Ron was going to come back to town someday.
When he did, she said, he was going to see she wasn't fooling around with anyone and maybe he would forgive her for what she did "back then." If it took the rest of her life, she said, she'd wait for him to see how she'd changed and then she'd deal with whatever came next.
She didn't really have more than a slim hope they'd get back together, she said. In fact, she assumed they would not. It was like this whole thing was some kind of penance and she was just serving time until Ron released her from it by coming home and agreed she had changed.
Sherrie didn't know when he would come back, she just figured he would. I told her I could think of a couple of sure-fire ways to get him to come home. She wouldn't have any of that though. She was adamant she wasn't going to use any coercion though. I told her that sounded like she was setting herself up for a long, dreary life but she just shook her head and smiled knowingly at me. He was going to come back to town someday; she just knew it. I gave up talking to her about it.
I even tried to introduce her to some nice guys from Cal's work but she never would go out with them. I'm not real pleased with this whole mess but she seems to be okay with it. She is just not going to date anyone at all. I had to accept it and let the discussion drop. I didn't have to like it though.
Sherrie filled out again after getting her mind around most everything in the second series of counseling sessions. She'd lost a lot of weight with the worry and self-recriminations and stuff, but now she's gained most of it back and she looks really great. I hate her. Even after having three k**s of my own, my boobs aren't anywhere near as big as hers. It's not fair.
The woman seems to be more focused and happier than at any time since her divorce. She's a volunteer with the local PTA and works hard on the neighborhood watch program too...of all things, huh? Her life seems to be fun again; I guess her two roommates help keep her from getting too down in the dumps. Heck, they smile all the time and I guess that would have to give her a boost just about all the time, huh?
Oh...and Sherrie's doing good at work too. She had taken a job at a new accounting firm not too long after the divorce and has been promoted three times in the little bit less than three years she's worked for them. She has sixteen auditors and financial analysts working for her now and it looks like she's in line for a better job when the old fart screwing it up finally retires. She loves her work.
She's been coming over for barbeques for a long time now...whenever Cal and I have one...and she's just fantastic with the k**s. She's like part of our extended f****y. Our oldest boy is five now. His birthday was last week. My three year old, Cal junior, is just like a son to her and my f******n-month-old girl follows Sherrie around everywhere she goes. It's cute to watch my baby walk a few steps toward Sherrie, stand still when she feels her balance going, and then plop down on her bottom. Then she gets on all fours and crawls sooooo fast. She giggles like a maniac when she finally catches up to Sherrie. All three of my k**s just love her to death.
Ron should be emailing us again any day now. It's been about a week and he tries to send Cal and me something every week or ten days. I show them all to Sherrie; she hounds me for the latest one if I haven't forwarded it on to her right away. I wonder what Ron would say if he knew?
I found out that Afghanistan in early spring isn't the garden spot of the world either. Instead of blowing snow, we got blowing dust and I wasn't sure which was worse. Both have serious disadvantages. I think I'm tending toward a preference for snow though. At least it melts and goes away; dust and sand just get into small crevices and clog up the works. Twenty-five percent of our heavy equipment—bulldozers, dump trucks, rock crushers, etc.—were down on any given day because dirt had fouled air intakes, gotten into lubricating oil, or any number of other things. It's particularly galling because most of our machinery was made for environments where dust and sand are part of the working environment. I was beginning to suspect a little sabotage.
Two weeks after my first suspicion, Marine Lance Corporal Arvin Cantwell and I caught one of the nameless unskilled laborers screwing on an air filter housing that should never have been unscrewed to begin with. We didn't like hiring these guys because it was impossible to vet them and we had no idea if the local warlord had actually sent them as trusted workers, or whether the guy just wandered into camp. The one we caught might have been Osama bin Laden's cousin, for all we knew.
The handful of dirt and rocks we found in the air intake confirmed he had ties to one terrorist group or another so we turned him over to a trio of Afghani National Guard soldiers. They took him away and we never saw him again.
The incident put us on guard and our equipment up time improved dramatically, but other things continued to crop up. We had about forty days to go on our schedule so we clamped a tight security on all our vehicles. First, we parked them separately from the main "tent city" set up for locals and contractors alike. Then Lieutenant Fredericks put on a night guard around them and my crew also provided personnel for that task. My people weren't armed, but they could sure raise a commotion if they saw anything out of the ordinary. Their purpose was to get an alarm spread wide enough, and quickly enough, for some of those tough Marines in our security platoon could handle whatever came up.
There was a pervasive concern among all the imported contractor personnel that if something was going to happen, it was going to happen soon because once the road was bulldozed all the way to the border, disrupting it would be a strictly local event and easily repaired. We were uneasy and uncomfortable.
I'm going to have to have a talk with Melissa, I guess. Turns out she's been passing my emails on to my ex-wife, Sherrie. When I'd last talked face to face with Karen, Sherrie's name had come up as an obstacle in mine and Karen's relationship. Karen thought I wasn't "over" Sherrie yet and that she would always be some kind of ghostly presence between Karen and me. I thought that was ridiculous, but fortunately I bit my tongue before letting that word get out into the discussion. I don't know much about women, but I was smarter than that.
Anyway, that Melissa was giving Sherrie information about me. Melissa compounded the error by telling me that Sherrie was concerned about me. It was all so darned irritating.
In some way, although I had no control over it, it was a validation of Karen's concerns. It seemed to say that Sherrie was still a part of my life even though we'd been divorced over three years now. I really didn't appreciate Melissa telling me Sherrie wasn't dating anyone and would not date because of her guilt from the way she'd treated me so long ago. Big deal!
Unbidden, some of the good memories came back to me last night, though—like...that first afternoon I went into the little café on the main drag just off campus. I was plowing my way toward a mechanical engineering degree, attending class in the daytime and working at night to make ends meet. Sherrie was a waitress in the café and gave me the biggest smile when I sat down at a table at her station. I think I fell in love before she handed me a menu. There were other dreams, but that was the most striking.
It was in the mindset of being highly security conscious that I found myself watching a chubby young Afghani male in the mid-day chow line a week later. He caught my attention primarily because he appeared suddenly from between two of our big dirt haulers. I hadn't seen anyone in that vicinity as I'd walked by, so his emergence startled me. The more I watched him, the less I liked what I saw.
He'd come out of nowhere—as if he'd been hiding out there beyond the heavy equipment—and he was looking all around like a country boy just come to the big city. I set my cup down on the hood of one of the Marine Hummers and repositioned the M-4 on the strap that hung on my right shoulder. I put the muzzle pointing down and grabbed the pistol grip. That meant I had to twist the carry strap a little, but now I had the weapon ready for action. Seconds count and I'd just saved myself a couple if something was about to go down.
Lance Corporal Myers was with me at the front fender of the Humvee. His steel tray and coffee cup sat beside mine. There were only a few of us who would sit down while eating. We wanted to be able to see all around and react quicker to potential threats. So we stood, and the Hummer's fender was a nice ledge at a convenient height for our purposes. Billy (the k**, of course) Myers was one of the squad leaders and we'd become pretty good friends over the past couple of months. He and I were the best shots in the group's sporadic, and highly unofficial, target shooting contests.
I examined and then loaded a thirty-round magazine in the M-4 every morning, just like the Marines did. I'd pulled the charging handle to lock the bolt back this morning as part of the loading operation, but now I thumbed the bolt catch release to send the bolt forward and chamber a round. As I watched the unknown young man, I clicked the safety off. My right forefinger was along the receiver, instead of on the trigger. I didn't want to fire accidentally; only a fool puts a finger on the trigger of a deadly weapon if he isn't ready to pull it.
"Sir...Mr. Masters...what's wrong?" Billy Myers had glanced down when he heard the bolt mechanism snap forward in my M-4 and saw I was loaded for bear.
"I'm not sure," I murmured, watching the young guy across the way. The k** had a strange expression on his face, intent, mesmerized...and scared.
Suddenly my suspicions were kicked into high gear. This Afghani was positively rotund, a very plump young male in a place where there just wasn't that much food to go around. The only fat males I ever saw in this region were older men with a comfortable amount of authority. Their very plumpness was a sign of their wealth and power. This young man didn't meet any of the criteria.
"Shit," I breathed softly. The young man was digging under his loose clothing, finally pulling a cord up the open v-necked over garment he had on. There was nothing I could think of in the Afghani wardrobe that matched what he had in his hand. He was walking quickly toward a big group of Marines and my construction contractors who gathered around the massive soup kettles waiting for seconds. I opened my fingers and let my cup of coffee drop.
"NOOOOOOOOO!" I yelled. The man spun around and looked at me. A gust of wind pasted his clothing to his body and I could see the outline of several big blocks of...something...wrapped around his upper body and waist like a vest. He turned and tried to run toward the group of men.
Yanking the M-4 up and putting the sights on the back of his head, I pulled the trigger. There were a lot of guys downrange and normally I wouldn't have fired, but nothing about this was normal. I saw the spray of bl**d, bone, and brain matter out the exit wound in his forehead. He pitched forward, dead before he knew it. I guessed, in a fleeting thought, that it was true a headshot killed a man instantaneously for all practical purposes. Whether it had or not, the detonator cord was not pulled and the gang of construction workers over there were not blown into tiny bits.
"BOOTS AND SADDLES! BOOTS AND SADDLES!" Corporal Myers was screaming the untraditional alert signal for the detached platoon of Marines into his radio. The young privates had heard the phrase in an old John Wayne movie that had made its way out to us and they'd adopted it as quick warning cry. The Lieutenant didn't like it, but he wisely put up with it.
There were more shots. They came from behind me. Billy and I whirled around to see a ragged line of armed men running toward the encampment. More were scrambling from a ravine no one had paid any attention to before.
The Lance Corporal and I both went to one knee and began firing. The M-4 fires single shots or 3-round bursts. I kept the selector on the semi-automatic setting and squeezed off round after round. There were more Marines getting into action now. I could hear the Lieutenant directing a squad into position to pour an enfilading fire on the line of terrorist fighters. Seconds later, the squad opened fire and the number of attacking terrorists began to decrease rapidly. I punched the catch release to drop the empty magazine and slapped another one into place, tapping it to make sure it was seated properly.
Hearing a discordant noise, I looked to my left. An old Afghani wearing a black turban, his face twisted with hate, was running toward me as fast as he could go, screaming imprecations at the top of his lungs. More importantly, he was firing a semi-automatic pistol at Billy and me. Billy wasn't going to be able to do anything about the new attacker. He was still engaging the group of terrorists coming in from the ravine. It was up to me.
I swiveled clumsily around—I'd been shooting to my front and he was coming at me from my left—and started shooting back. This time I moved the selector to automatic with my thumb and began firing three round bursts. The second group stitched three .223 caliber holes from his crotch to throat and he lost all interest in killing Billy and me. Still running forward, he simply leaned forward until he ran his face into the ground. It took a short time for him to bleed out through the gaping throat wound and the big exit wounds on his back, but he was effectively dead when he hit the ground.
Most of that had to be relayed to me later, because as I was firing that burst, the last shot he fired hit me in the left shoulder. The heavy round caught me just as I was awkwardly getting to my feet and moving toward the shelter of the Hummvee. I stepped into a depression and twisted my ankle before I could get there though. Already falling, the impact of the .45 caliber slug accelerated my fall and my head slammed into the Humvee's heavy fender. I'm told I went out like a light.
Ronnie's been hurt! They say he's been shot but I can't get anyone to tell me how bad or anything. I'm going to start screaming and scratching some people's eyes out if they don't tell me.
I didn't know it but Ron put me and Cal, as well as that Karen person I bet, down as "next of kin" to be notified if he died or got hurt or something like that. With no f****y, beyond a couple of second cousins—his only s****r died in a car wreck a few years back—I guess Ron thought it was a natural thing to do. When he gets home, I'm going to hug and kiss him for thinking of us that way...and then I'm going to give him a piece of my mind about going places where they shoot at you and stuff.
Sherrie took it well, darn her. I couldn't believe how cool she was about it. Heck, she was a basket case when she found out he was going to that country. Now she was calmly reassuring me and saying he was going to be all right. It was more of that drivel about how he was going to come home someday and nothing was going to prevent it. It was only a matter of time, she told me the other day. I hope she's right.
He hasn't seen my two young c***dren either; they were born after he left to go to Denver and I want them to know him. Oh God, I hope he's okay.
I woke up in an Army run hospital in a compound on the outskirts of Kabul. My head hurt worse than anything I'd ever felt in my life. When I tried to move, a fiery pain lanced through my shoulder. My vision contracted to a narrow tunnel of blackness before slowly receding. Holding my body still, I lifted my head an excruciating inch or so off the pillow and tried to look around.
My right arm had a big needle sticking in the primary artery; a plastic tube lead from there to a bottle of what was clearly bl**d hanging on a pole next to my bed. There were some other liter-sized bottles up there too, but I didn't know what they were. On my left side, by craning my neck painfully around, I could see my shoulder was hidden by a mass of bandages. Experimenting with a tiny movement of my fingers, I confirmed whatever lay under the dressing was the source of the agony that had almost made me pass out.
A middle-aged woman in hospital surgical greens came in a door I hadn't noticed. She took one look at me and backed out of the room to call a summons down what I took to be a long hallway. In a moment, a man and another woman joined the first woman and they all arranged themselves beside the bed that I was just now figuring out I was in.
"How're you feeling?" the guy asked in a gruff voice. I could see the big silver eagles on the light green shirt under his white coat. I guessed he was a doctor.
"Shoulder...hurts...bad," I croaked. I'd had to swallow hard a couple of times just to manage that. I massaged my throat and pantomimed drinking something.
The doctor nodded and motioned to the first woman I'd seen to pour me a glass full of water from a steel pitcher. She put a straw in it and held it to my mouth so I could drink thirstily.
"Thank you," I told her. My voice was still hoarse and faint, but it had improved a hundred percent from my first attempt.
"Where am I?" I asked, glancing at each of the trio of medical personnel.
"Kabul," the doctor said bluntly. He started pointing one of those little flashlights in each eye, flicking it away, and then back. Finally, he grunted and put the darn thing away.
"What's your name?" he said suddenly, surprising me.
"Ronald Terrance Masters," I shot back. "What's yours?" He was beginning to irritate me.
"Doctor Evans," he said shortly, but he had a faint grin on his face as he said it. "You remember what happened to you?" he asked in a more amiable voice. I nodded slowly, careful to not move my shoulder.
"We were ambushed by some Taliban guerillas," I said slowly. "There was one suicide bomber and then a bunch of them attacking from out of a draw behind us...and some old guy with a pistol." I waited but there was nothing else. "I can't remember anything past that," I complained. The Colonel/Doctor nodded. Curiously, he seemed very satisfied about something.
"From what they tell me," he said conversationally, "you smacked into something hard and got knocked out. But it looks like that's going to be okay. The skull doesn't appear to have been fractured and it doesn't look like you suffered more than a light concussion. You don't seem to have any loss of memory, and your pupils are equal and reactive so I think the head injury is the least of your worries."
I accepted what he said. I sure didn't feel any different than I had before the firefight...well, except for that headache, that is. It was fading a little. The intensity was already noticeably lessening.
"And I don't think your shoulder wound is going to be a big deal either," he said confidently. It was easy for him to say that. It wasn't his shoulder. I bet his wasn't hurting even the tiniest little bit.
"Ungh!" I grunted when I tried to move. The younger of the two, what I took to be nurses, wiped away the sweat that had suddenly popped out on my forehead.
"We can give you something for the pain," the doctor said. He made a couple of entries on some papers on a clipboard at the end of my bed.
He turned and left, taking the older woman with him. He was talking a mile a minute to her, using words I didn't understand and quickly lost interest in. The young nurse, a First Lieutenant, stayed behind to bathe my face with cool water. When I asked, she let me use the bed controls to slowly raise my chest and head higher. I've hated to lay flat on my back since I was a boy and felt a lot better reclining instead.
When the matronly older woman came back, she put a needle into some gadget on the tube they had stuck in my right forearm and a few minutes later, the level of pain dropped away fast. It also put me back to sl**p.
Two weeks later, I was "ambulatory" in the jargon the Army Medical folks use and more than a little restless. The shoulder was healing well and they already had me doing some really light, slow movements to make sure the knitting muscles would be flexible when they mended. I found a computer terminal they would let me use. I was able to access my Yahoo account and got off some emails to Karen and Melissa letting them know I was okay.
My inbox was full of anxious inquiries from both of the women in my life—Karen and Melissa—and, surprisingly, from a lot of folks back at corporate headquarters. I emailed my boss and my secretary back in Denver and asked them to spread the word that I was fine and getting better fast. I said to tell everyone that I only could use my right arm for now and typing with one hand was really slow. I'd answer all the emails as I could, but it would be a while.
The guys from the Marine Platoon came by yesterday. They'd been rotated back to a base camp for some R&R before going back out on another assignment. I had no idea what was going on when the young nurse rolled me and my wheelchair—I didn't need it, didn't want it, but it was "regulations" she said—into the hospital dayroom.
A few minutes later the double outside doors crashed open and the whole Marine platoon, all 46 of them, marched inside. They halted, forming a double rank around three sides of the room, did a facing movement into the center toward me and stood at attention. The Lieutenant commanding them marched up to a point three paces in front of me and saluted. I learned a bit later the two officers flanking him were his company and battalion commanders. The nurse "helped" me stand up. I felt foolish in my faded blue hospital pajamas and ratty old robe, but no one paid any attention.
The Lieutenant brought everyone to attention and then shouted a command to give me a hand salute, though I guessed it wasn't strictly kosher. Military personnel don't salute civilians but they did it anyway. After putting his men at parade rest, the Lieutenant read a thoroughly unofficial "award citation" off a piece of paper that looked kind of like parchment.
Then they presented me with a large, circular hunk of metal from the base of an artillery shell and burnished to a soft brown color. It was, the citation said, to stand in lieu of a "Bronze Star" for bravery in the incident occurring at kilometer 137...etc., etc. The thing said my "quick reaction" (as opposed my memories of a panicked one) saved the lives of many Marines and civilian contractor personnel.
My face was scarlet by now and I was so choked up I couldn't talk. Finally, I got out a shaky-voiced thanks to the officers and men. I asked if I could shake the hand of everyone in the platoon and I positioned myself at the door. As they filed out, I shook every single hand and then followed them outside to mingle with them for the last time.
The next morning I was on a military Med Evac flight that went in to Landstuhl, Germany where I spent several days. Then I was put on a plane home. I knew the corporation was reimbursing the government for all the medical attention, but I think all those folks went a little above and beyond.
Everywhere I went, Marines kept coming up to me and engaging me in conversation, always referring to my "Bronze Star." I didn't know how complete strangers knew my face and name, much less any details of what I'd gone through "in country," as they kept saying. It was a revelation to me that military personnel have one of the fastest unofficial communication networks in the free world.
I loved the camaraderie of those dangerous men in the Marine Corps and wondered a time or two whether I'd missed my calling, but it was too late in my life to seriously consider a change now. It was time to go back to what I do best.
My "vacation" in Afghanistan, exhilarating as it had been, was over. My office in the Denver corporate complex was waiting for me when I got back to town. Except for a little mustiness, it was exactly the same as when I left it six months earlier.
The relationship between Karen and I didn't make it through the long separation. It's not that she was seeing anyone. In fact, she was a very lonely woman in many respects. She'd waited for me to get back and well on my way to healing before laying the sad news on me. We argued for a while but I saw she wasn't going to budge on her idea of the ghostly presence of Sherrie still being between us. I sensed something had happened to push her over the edge. I could not get her to tell me what, though. I swallowed my anger before I said some things that would have made our split a viciously bitter one. I didn't agree with her but I had to accept that she most emphatically felt that way.
I didn't like it but, in a way, I knew she was right about breaking up. But she was right for the wrong reasons. The thing was, we'd been together for a long time and, while I'd thought of asking her to marry me, I'd never quite done it. We parted as friends, I guess—as much as two former lovers can be, anyway.
What brought everything home to me was how quickly I got back on an even keel. Two weeks after Karen and I split up, I was dating a woman who worked on the third floor of our building and enjoying it immensely. There was never going to be anything serious between us, but it was fun.
Two months after I got home, I overheard two guys talking. One was the executive assistant to the Chief Financial Officer and the other a guy who ran a section in the Human Resources office. I, it seemed, wasn't going to be here very much longer. The CEO had mentioned my name had been proposed for another position and he was just about ready to announce the move. The two men I inadvertently eavesdropped on shouldn't have been talking about it, but even in the executive washroom, people don't always check under the stall doors before they start gossiping.
A week later, I got the official word. I was going back to where I'd started from, but this time as Executive Vice President. I was intrigued by the proposal. It was somewhere between a promotion and a lateral move, but it had a lot of potential. The position I was holding down now was pretty much a dead end unless I was willing to wait seven or eight years for the two guys and one woman who were above me in the hierarchy to retire and get out of the way. I pondered my decision for a couple of days, but there were too many pluses to the position they were offering me. I took the job. Four years and a week or two after my divorce, I was going home.
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