A slight shift of his weight caused the false turf beneath his feet to crunch, the sound somehow carrying over the wind. The breeze jostled the flowers, and whipped the tarp overhead in a percussive cadence. Dean Lanza stared at the grave, his twenty-year marriage ended just like the line in the wedding vows, until death do us part.
Everyone else had left. In his peripheral vision, he could see the crew waiting to fill the grave impatiently glancing in his direction. Dean remained, thinking he had to demonstrate grief in some way – because he certainly didn’t feel it.
Even the sudden, unexpected heart attack hadn’t managed to evoke a reaction. Dean couldn’t count the number of times he’d heard variations of she’s the last person I’d ever expect to have a heart attack in the last few days. His wife had been a perfect picture of health, right up until the moment he found her dead at the kitchen table.
He’d approached her on a dare – his friends encouraging him to turn his legendary charm on the gorgeous ice woman who never dated anyone. The challenge had excited him, and he’d found himself trapped in her web.
She’d resisted his stronger advances with remarkable tenacity, never revealing an ounce of lust no matter what he threw at her as they dated. In time, her strength garnered a powerful level of respect within Dean. With that respect came something else – love. He proposed, and she accepted.
Though she’d barely moved and made no sound as they had sex – save a whimper of pain as he pierced her maidenhead – it had still excited him more than with any woman before her. He’d attained the unattainable, succeeded where everyone else failed.
A little over a month later, his sex life ended with a positive pregnancy test.
He’d known she was deeply religious, but her refusal to have sex again drove the point home with brutal force. She’d wanted only one child, and sex was only for procreation. He’d remained true to his vows; helping to raise his daughter like any real man would, though his wife allowed him little input into Julia’s rearing.
Twenty years. Twenty years of a loveless marriage and a mundane existence. It all ended here, on this expensive chunk of earth atop a hill, marked by a crucifix carved with her maiden name.
Just a few minutes more, to cover up the fact that I just don’t care.
Julia stood in the distance by the car, watching her father stare at the grave. He stood straight and proud, his broad shoulders square and his strong hands folded behind him. You can come back now, Daddy. Everyone will believe you were grieving privately.
She knew better. She couldn’t summon up tears for her mother any more than her father could. Julia’s love for her mother had vanished early on in the nineteen-year religious dictatorship of her life. Even the dress she wore now, concealing every inch of her lithe body and blonde hair, had its roots in her mother’s rigid dictation of their lives.
If there’s such a place as heaven, and everyone there is like you, I’ll take hell, Mother. As soon as the thought flashed through her mind, Julia felt ashamed. The shame quickly turned to anger, however. Released from her imprisonment in the house to visit college campuses, Julia now understood how much she’d missed of the world outside, despite her church escort’s attempts to shield her from sin. Now, she knew just how her mother had brainwashed her – turned her into a little god robot, afraid everything was a sin.
At last, her father turned to walk back toward the car. You look so handsome, Daddy. You deserved better than Mother. Now you’re free.
She wanted to smile at him as he approached, but knew that he wouldn’t even see it through the dark veil covering her face. She could almost hear her mother hissing to leave the veil where it was, saying that revealing her face was a temptation to the devil’s servants – like the sweaty men now moving toward the grave to fill it.
The sound of her mother’s voice in her head sent a flash of white-hot anger flooding through Julia. She reached toward the veil. You’re not here to preach to me or hit me now, Mother. Years of conditioning stopped her hands, however. With a surge of will, she fought through the intractable discipline forced upon her and flipped the veil over her hat.
She smiled, feeling a completely different warmth spread through her as she defied her mother and thought for herself. The sensation only increased when her father smiled back, his pace quickening. While she had no love for her mother, Julia loved her father dearly.
He embraced her when he reached her, sending a tingle running throughout Julia’s body. His powerful arms held her close, making her feel safe and bringing about a slight weakness in her knees.
Julia didn’t want him to release her when she felt his arms relax. She closed her own tighter around him, holding him against her for a moment more. Reluctantly, she let him pendik escort go, the scent of his cologne setting off another race of tingles through her extremities.
“Let’s go home, honey,” Dean suggested, opening the passenger door.
“Okay, Daddy,” she responded, sitting down and pulling the voluminous cloth of her dress out of the way so he could close the door.
“Will you be okay, honey?” Dean asked as he straightened his tie, preparing for work the next morning.
“I’ll be fine, Daddy,” Julia responded, moving to kiss him on the cheek. Biting her lip for a second, she summoned up her courage to ask, “Could I have some money to buy some new clothes? I’ve always wanted to pick out some things of my own.”
Dean closed one eye in concentration as he ran through the finances in his head. I’ll have the check from Marla’s life insurance before long. That will pay off the mortgage, both cars, all of the credit cards, and leave a lot left over to invest. A large chunk of free cash appeared in his mind, the weekly blood money from his paycheck that always went to the church. Not satisfied with ten percent, his wife had always tithed twenty percent of his pay to god. Thinking about the opulence of the church, and how much of that he’d financed over the last two decades, he answered, “I’ll put five hundred dollars on your reloadable credit card as soon as I get to work.”
Julia’s mouth dropped open in surprise. With a squeal of delight, she threw her arms around her father’s neck and kissed him hard on the cheek again. “I love you, Daddy!”
Smiling and chuckling, Dean reached for his keys hanging on the wall. Right next to them hung a second set – the keys to his wife’s car. Pulling them from the hook instead of his own, he handed them to Julia. “Take the car. It’s yours now, honey.”
“Thank you so much, Daddy.”
“Be careful driving in the city,” Dean cautioned, and then kissed Julia on the forehead.
“I will. Have a good day at work.”
“You have a good time shopping,” Dean responded as he grabbed his keys and walked out the door.
As he drove to work, Dean struggled with how to respond to the inevitable condolences he’d be dealing with for a few days. In the end, he decided to follow the same path he’d taken at the funeral, pretending to deal with his grief privately, while going on with his life in public. A quick glance at the speedometer caused him to start and jerk his foot off the accelerator.
His brow furrowed. Two miles per hour over the speed limit, and I’m acting like I ran over someone, he thought angrily. Glancing over at the passenger seat, he thought, You’re not sitting there to nag me any more.
With a smile, he pushed his foot back down. Reaching seventy, he ran with the traffic for the first time in twenty years. I wish I’d thought to put the top down. Imagining the wind whipping through his short brown hair, Dean sped down the freeway to work with a smile on his face for the first time in a long time.
Julia refreshed the web page, and smiled when she saw the balance change. The sight of over five hundred dollars on her card made her feel giddy. Logging off the website felt like it took forever. As soon as the page closed, she snatched up the keys to her mother’s car – her car now – triumphantly.
Julia opened the sunroof before she pulled out of the garage. The wind whipped her long blonde hair as she pulled onto the freeway, driving for the first time without fear of a rigid timetable hanging over her head.
Stepping into the store with plenty of money felt like Christmas to Julia. She didn’t even know where to begin. A display of flag-patterned swimwear for Independence Day caught her eye – a skimpy bikini in particular. The first change in her wardrobe now firmly set in her mind, she walked over to the lingerie.
Making a face and popping a package of white cotton granny panties – all her mother had allowed her to wear – with her finger, Julia took one more step and pulled a hanger from the rack. Rubbing her fingers over the satiny material of the red briefs, Julia let out a little sigh of pleasure. Caressing the crotch of the panties translated into a tingle between her legs, anticipation of how good the material would feel against her skin. The panties went into her basket, quickly followed by eight more in varying colors – though none as vibrant as the red.
Sheer, lacy brassieres settled into her basket next. Julia let out a little snort of frustration when she couldn’t find a 34c in red to match her new panties. I’ll find one at another store, she thought, and moved toward a rack of skirts.
Looking down at her skirt, which covered her knees, Julia immediately reached for the shortest one she could find in her size. Holding it up against her body, color flooded Julia’s cheeks. She hung the skirt back up, realizing that an errant breeze while wearing it would reveal sefaköy escort her to all the world. Selecting one of greater length, she moved around the rack to find more.
Julia spent hours selecting and trying on outfits. She replaced her one-piece bathing suit with a bikini, and her nightgown with a silky chemise. With a basket full of new clothing, she started toward the checkout lanes. Passing the rack of skirts, she hesitated. After a moment of embarrassed consideration, she grabbed the scandalously short skirt and put it in her basket before moving on to pay for everything.
Dean kicked back in his office chair looking out the window, his work done for the day. Not going too badly. Word got around quickly, and people aren’t making a big deal. Maybe I’ll get through this with minimal frustration.
A knock on the jamb of his open office door caused him to turn. As soon as he saw who stood in the doorway, Dean felt his cock swelling with blood.
“Mr. Lanza, do you want this printed in draft, or high-quality?” Emily asked.
“Draft,” Dean answered. “It isn’t finalized yet, I just want a general idea of how it is going to look.” His cock throbbed, the sight of his blonde co-worker in her short skirt and tight top awakening his ever-repressed desire.
His thoughts flashed back to an office party. The CEO had demanded attendance at the party – the only reason his wife had let him go. She, of course, wanted nothing to do with it. Everyone drinking at the party had put Dean in a black mood, as he knew that even a hint of alcohol on his breath would have instigated a tongue-lashing from his wife. Emily had consumed more than her fair share, however.
Dean remembered the event like it had happened only moments before. Emily walking up to him, her top revealing tantalizing hints of her breasts and her skirt showing off long expanses of leg. Her suggestive whispers and the scent of her perfume had nearly driven him mad. In the end, he’d only managed to resist letting things go farther because he worked with Emily, and because he knew his wife would find out somehow.
Emily nodded and turned to leave, her perfect bottom moving hypnotically beneath the tight skirt. Dean reached down and adjusted his straining erection, trying to put the thoughts from his mind. He knew better than to get involved with anyone in the office, and doing so this soon after his wife’s death would look absolutely crass, anyhow.
Pulling out the phone book, Dean decided to fulfill at least one fantasy from the long-ago office party. Flipping to the yellow pages, he located a liquor store between the office and home. His mouth watered in anticipation of his first beer in twenty years. Quickly scribbling down the address when he found a place on his normal route home, he glanced out into the main office floor.
Emily was looking right at him, and smiled when she saw him. For a moment, Dean thought he was looking at his daughter. The two of them could be twins, save for Emily’s eye-catching style of dress and the loss of youthful glow that Julia still had.
Dean nodded politely, and quickly turned toward his computer to tap away – trying to drive the ever-occurring and disturbing thought from his head.
Julia quickly hung the last of her new panties over the retracting clothesline in the laundry room, knowing she needed to get supper started soon. She wanted desperately to put on her new clothes, but she knew better than to do so without washing everything first. She’d disobeyed her mother only once in that regard, and the rash in her private regions had itched unmercifully. Every secretive attempt to scratch and relieve that nearly painful sensation had drawn a truly painful slap on her wrists from her mother.
She’d not spent all her money on her new wardrobe. A quick stop at the grocery store provided a perfect present for her father. Julia’s mother had restricted their diet with the same draconian authority as every other element of their lives. It couldn’t stop her father from thinking about his favorite things, however. Thanks to a cooking class, Julia knew just how to prepare the guilty treat of fat-laden hamburgers and fries for supper. I’ll finally get to thank you for being so good to me, Daddy, Julia thought as she hurried to the kitchen.
Dean stepped into the house, a six-pack of ice cold Budweiser replacing the briefcase he normally carried in the door. A shiver ran down his spine when the scent of beef cooking tickled his nostrils. He almost groaned in delight, hurrying toward the kitchen.
“Welcome home, Daddy,” Julia said, her smile brightening the dining room. On the table in front of her sat two plates, each heaped high with french fries and a steaming burger.
“If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up,” Dean said and let out a little chuckle. He sat down his six-pack and settled into his chair, drinking in the silivri escort scent and shivering yet again in anticipation.
“I didn’t know you drank alcohol,” Julia said as she sat down, looking at the six-pack with a surprised expression.
“Well, I haven’t since I married your mother, she wouldn’t allow it. I never was much of a drinker, but there’s nothing like one or two – mind you, one or two – after a hard day’s work, or with a nice greasy meal. Thank you for this, honey.”
“You’re welcome, Daddy. Now eat, before it gets cold.”
“You don’t have to ask me twice,” Dean responded and laughed, picking up his hamburger. Swallowing the first bite, he said, “Now this is heaven.”
Words ceased then as they ate.
Taking a sip of her soda, yet another addition to their dinner of sin, Julia glanced at the six-pack and said, “I’m almost afraid of that. Mother talked about alcohol like it was a potion that turned you evil with one sip.”
“Your mother was hard. It’s probably good in some ways, because I don’t know what kind of father I’d have been without her reining me in. I think you’ve missed out on a lot of life because of it, though.”
“So have you, Daddy. Why don’t you have one?”
“I don’t know if I should. I don’t want you getting ideas that you should start drinking. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it myself, when you don’t overdo it, but it’s easy to overdo it.”
“You taught me better than that, Daddy. I’ve seen drunks, and I don’t want to be like that. Go on.”
Dean pulled one of the sweating bottles from the carton, thinking that he should probably get the rest into the fridge soon. Twisting off the cap, he brought the bottle to his lips and took a slow pull. The sensation of the beer settling in his stomach was better than sex – certainly better than any he’d had in the last twenty years, anyway.
“What does it taste like?” Julia asked.
“Earthy. Sharp. I don’t really know how to describe it. It just tastes good.”
“Could I try a taste?”
The question startled Dean. His daughter had asked any number of direct questions over the years, but never one like this. “Honey, you’re not even supposed to drink until you’re twenty-one.”
“It’s okay, I understand. I was just curious,” Julia replied with a hint of disappointment.
Hearing that tone in his daughter’s voice stabbed Dean’s heart like a dagger. “You know what – why don’t you try it. I’d rather you do it here with me than to sneak off and do it somewhere else.” He pushed the bottle across the table as he finished speaking.
Julia picked up the bottle curiously, sniffing and finding the scent strange and vaporous. She tipped it back and took a drink. Her father couldn’t help but laugh at the face she made.
“This is awful,” Julia said after a quick cough as she put the bottle down.
Still laughing, Dean reached across the table and took the bottle back. “Beer is sort of an acquired taste.”
“I’ll go wash the dishes, Daddy. You just enjoy your beer, though I can’t understand how you can.”
When Julia returned a minute later to collect the glasses, she put her hand on her forehead. “Is it supposed to make you feel light headed?”
“That and a little silly.”
Julia smiled and said, “This part isn’t so bad.”
“It’s the morning after that gets you,” her father chuckled and drained the last of the beer from his bottle. Remembering the lesson that had taught him as a youth to limit how much he drank, he said, “Go ahead and do the dishes. I’m going to run out for a minute. I’ll be right back, honey.”
Dean returned at almost the exact same time as Julia emerged from the kitchen. Julia glanced curiously at the paper sack in her father’s hands.
“I went and bought something that shouldn’t cause you to make such a face.” He pulled away the sack, revealing a clear bottle filled with clear liquid. “This is Schnapps. I’m going to let you have just enough to see what the next morning is like, without letting you overdo it too much. I know my first hangover taught me moderation, so I think you would do well to learn the lesson too.”
Julia’s expression betrayed fear, but also curiosity as she approached. Her father opened the bottle, holding it out toward his daughter. “Here, take a sniff.”
Julia inhaled, and her eyes widened. “It smells like peppermint.”
“It tastes like it to. This stuff will sneak up on you before you know it. You have to be careful with alcohol that tastes good. It’s easy to go overboard. Let’s go watch a movie and you can have a few drinks.”
Dean slipped a tape into the VCR, and then returned to the couch, where Julia sat with a timid look of anticipation on her face. Dean shook his head almost imperceptibly, fighting off a chuckle. I always thought I’d be urging her to stay away from alcohol, and here I am introducing her to it. She’s going to be tempted eventually, so it’s better if I teach her what can happen – and when to stop.
Pulling the shot glass he’d also purchased at the liquor store from his pocket, Dean sat down and poured a shot of the minty beverage for his daughter. She took it after a moment of hesitation, and then tipped the tiny glass back.