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© Copyright 2006, 2007 All Rights Reserved
Author’s note: Some readers might remember this story from a commercial site where I first published it under the pen name of Forest Hunter. Autumn Writer and Forest Hunter are the same person. They are two pen names I use.
I hope that you enjoy the story.
“Ah! The Windy City, it never changes,” Mike said aloud as a cold blast hit him. In early November the chilly winds gust off Lake Michigan and all that one can do is turn a collar up against them. Mike would have liked to have had his Melton winter coat on such a day. There had been no room in the suitcase for that, and where he had just been there wouldn’t have been a need for it. Earlier that day he had landed at O’Hare from Shanghai, almost at the end of a lengthy trip at the behest of his employer. He did his best with the navy pinstriped suit coat that he wore.
Mike could have stayed at an inn out near the airport. He decided to treat himself. There were newer hotels than the Drake, to be sure, but none more elegant. Having taken the trouble, he wasn’t going to let a breeze from the lake stop him from roaming his favorite city. He thought that he would take a walk down Oak St., find a place to eat, perhaps some music and drinks after that. Of course, he couldn’t let himself forget that anniversary present. If there was any place to find one, Oak St. would be it.
“A man with a bonus, an anniversary coming up, strolling down Oak St.,” he mused to himself. “It’s a dangerous combination.” He was surprised at his facetious tone; maybe the plane ride had been more tiring than he thought. He thought that the shower in the hotel had refreshed him. At forty-two, he still felt young enough to howl every now and then.
Mike had been away from home for a long time. Weeks rolling into a month and more sharpen edges in a man in places that had been rounded and smooth. A kind of independence seeps into the subconscious, born of the need to do for oneself. Love and companionship slip temporarily into the background, to be saved for later. As the end of the absence approached, Mike needed to relax and allow tenderness to seep its way back to the front.
Mike wasn’t thinking about all this, he just wanted to enjoy himself in his favorite city. The trip had been tough on him and his family, but it was the final push that earned him the big bonus and promotion. He had already apportioned a large chunk of the money to the 401k, safe from the clutches of the tax man. There was still enough left to buy something nice.
“Dues paid—membership secure,” he told himself as he crossed Michigan Avenue.
On the opposite corner, and two store fronts down, he spotted a jewelry store. It looked expensive. They were all expensive in this part of town. He looked for a place to cross the street.
Mike walked into the store and stopped in the doorway to survey the scene. Whatever might be found there, at least it was good to get out of the late autumn chill. The store wasn’t big, but its appointments were nicer than those in Mike’s living room. It was brightly lit. The middle of the floor was open, framed by glass cases. As the hour approached five, the store was empty of other customers. Mike could hear activity in the back, but no sales person rushed to approach him. He decided to just do some looking.
There were a lot of nice pieces in the cases. Of course, the price tags were turned over. Mike didn’t know jewelry, but it didn’t stop him from perusing the baubles under the glass countertops. He passed by the cocktail rings—not what he had in mind. There were some brooches that looked very elegant with fine detail, but he passed them by, as well—too old-looking for his wife. He said ‘no’ to the watches. There were some pendants and necklaces in an area. It looked like a place to start.
As he was peering through the glass, he became aware of a pair of eyes watching him. It was a woman, a sales associate, most likely, standing in the doorway to the back room. To Mike, it appeared as if she was sizing him up to see if her entry was worthwhile. When she saw that Mike had discovered her she emerged and slowly approached him.
“Can I help you, sir?” she called as she walked over.
“I’m just looking right now,” he answered, not looking up. “I’m looking for a present for my wife.”
“Very nice!” she answered in an uninterested voice. “Birthday?”
“No—anniversary, actually; fifteen years,” Mike volunteered. “I really don’t have anything in mind; just browsing,” he said.
“I have some work to do at the window display,” she said, excusing herself. “Call me if I can help you.”
“Alright, thanks,” Mike grumbled. He had no idea what he was doing or looking for in the posh store. In the corner of his eye, he saw the woman mount a step ladder to hang up some fabric to drape over the merchandise in the front window. Mike decided to watch her. Although it wouldn’t help him with his shopping chores, sarıyer escort at least he could put his mind on something he knew more about.
As he watched the woman on the ladder, Mike wished that he had paid more attention to her when she was up close to him. He pegged her age at late thirties. She was of medium height. She wore her hair long. It parted in the middle and cascaded in waves to her shoulders where it sat like a mantle on a gold-toned satin blouse. She had on a leather skirt that hugged her form—her form looked good. The leather was dark brown, matching her hair. The skirt was long, mid-calf, and had a provocative slit on the right side that reached to mid-thigh. She was wearing black hose. As she moved about on the ladder the slit would open momentarily to expose her shapely legs. Below the hem of the skirt her legs gracefully ended in narrow feet fit into black heels. Mike couldn’t make out he facial features; she had turned away from him.
Mike craned his neck to get the best view of the toned limbs, black-clad camouflaged against the dark brown skirt. They cruelly peeked out, and then disappeared in the side slit of the skirt. Mike thought that she lacked that ‘housewife look’. She was just a little too shapely, too worldly to fill that role, he thought. In his business travels he met many such women. He could always tell at a glance which of them had half their mind on business and the other half on hearth and home. To him, this woman had the look of a divorcee.
“An independent woman of independent means,” he thought to himself as he admired her.
Mike took his time to partake of the visual feast to his satisfaction. She stretched out an arm to catch a corner of the non-cooperative fabric above her. As she did so, her blouse was pulled tightly against her, defining the outline of a perfect breast. She raised her right foot a step higher on the ladder; the slit caused the bottom half of the skirt to fall away. Mike got his first glimpse of her thigh, covered part way in the black hose. It was worth waiting for. The upper leg was a perfect match for the sculpted calf below it. At the midway point, the black hose abruptly ended. Smooth flesh shouted out at him. It screamed ‘Place your hand here and feel the firmness underneath the skin and the creamy softness on top!’ If he could do so, Mike thought, his practiced hand would switch on her senses, strip away her reserve, and make her hope for more. He could quench her thirst, and beyond, given the chance.
If the slit had been only a few inches longer, he could have seen the panties, too, if there were any. Isolated on the ladder in the front window, she was on display for the scores of passersby. Mike saw them all move on, no one noticing.
“A private show, just for me!” he thought, indulging a sudden, improvised fantasy.
He assumed that she was distracted by the stubborn drape in her hands, so he was careless in his surreptitious inspection.
“Would you like me to show you something, sir?” she called out loudly to him, but not in an angry way. It seemed to Mike that she wanted him to know that a man viewing her body didn’t fluster her.
Mike had been busy observing her display and hadn’t noticed her head swivel toward him. He assumed a momentary sheepish grin, embarrassed at having been caught in his over-tasting. The woman descended from the ladder and started walking behind the counter to where he was standing.
She didn’t walk like she was just moving from one place to another. There was purpose in her sway and swing of her hips, allowing the soft leather of the skirt to fully work with her contours. She thrust her knee forward through that teasing slit with each alternate step.
“She saw me ogling her and she liked it,” Mike congratulated himself. “Let’s see where this leads.”
Mike’s sheepish grin faded to a confident smile, to show her that he felt no shame at being discovered. He was, in fact, glad that she had seen him stealing the view. He wanted to see her face. He was less interested in how pretty, classic, exotic or erotic it looked than the answers to his questions. Was she confident and self assured; or would she turn away at eye contact, like a shy maiden? Was she worldly and sophisticated; or would her expression have that ‘housewife look’ that betrayed preoccupation with report cards, ironing shirts and getting dinner ready?
“Sinner or saint, she’s definitely a lady,” Mike thought, as he waited for his answers. He observed her dress and manner and judged it to belong to a woman who was aware of her allure. She would let a man peruse her package, perhaps reach out to try to pull the ribbon. Only those of her choosing, however, would be allowed to untie the bow to commence the unwrapping.
She would not offer herself cheaply, for any taker who might cast a lot for her favor. To earn her a man would prove deserving by besting—not only other men—and also her disdainful assumption of esenyurt escort the mediocrity of all but a few. She challenged men to win her. For those few who won, she would reveal her secrets one at a time, drain a man of his own, and create new ones with him. Mike sized her up this way in the moments that it took her to approach him.
She stood facing him. Mike read her name tag: ‘Rita’. His gaze landed on her face, to see if reality matched fantasy. The almond eyes looked at him from the curled frame of her hair. They were dark, almost black, encircled by blacker eyelashes. They did not yet give away her thoughts. Her cheekbones rode high, with olive skin stretched tightly over them. She used make-up sparingly, except for her lips, which she painted crimson. Her final feature, the long, narrow nose, bent slightly near the bridge; it ensured that she had a look of interesting beauty without looking pretty. In another time and place she might have been the wife of a Roman Emperor; or better yet, the Emperor’s courtesan.
Her lips were full, especially her lower one. They were parted slightly. The perfume hit Mike by surprise. It encircled him like a vapor, erasing awareness of all except the temptress and his estimation of what might be smoldering in her. From between her parted lips, out snaked her tongue to wet them, passing slowly from corner to corner.
“Tell me about your wife,” she said. “Perhaps I can help you choose something for her.”
“Not much to tell,” Mike answered. “A typical housewife, I guess.”
“You don’t make that sound very exciting. Are you sure that you’re in the right store? There’s a nice, quaint little book store around the corner; perhaps a nice romance novel would suit her better,” she said, with a hint of disdain. “I could direct you to the Williams-Sonoma Store. Maybe she would like a saucepan … or a blender.”
She leaned forward as she said the final words. Her lower lip pouted out as she said saucepan; her tongue lingered on her teeth on blender. Her manner betrayed a passive contempt for the mundane realities of ‘housewifery’. Hair stood on the back of Mike’s neck as he detected his conversion from hunter to prey. He had to reassert his cool, show interest, but reserve. She challenged him to sharpen tools not used in a long time. He sensed that he would need them.
“Maybe that’s where I’ll end up,” he said. “I’ll see what you have here first.”
She placed a board, covered by a gray, felt cloth on the counter. She bent and reached into the glass case, emerging with a pearl choker.
“This might be nice. Four strands of cultured pearls. Gold clasps. A good value: six hundred dollars,” she said, testing him.
As he hesitated, she held it up to her own throat, and Mike enjoyed the contrast of the white pearls with her olive skin.
“It’s nice, but not exactly what I had in mind. She’d never wear it.”
“Oh, I’m sorry; I imagine she’s a little chubby around the neck; then this would never do.” She feigned a pout; Mike recognized the implied comparison.
She pulled out a pendant on a gold chain, but it wasn’t right.
“Where are you staying?” she asked, making small talk with him.
“At the Drake,” Mike replied. “How did you know that I was from out of town?”
“I can always tell. You’ve been on a long trip, haven’t you? You have that—lonely look.”
“Just in from six weeks in the Orient; mostly in China. I’ll be home tomorrow.”
She reached into the glass case and produced a pearl bracelet. She fastened it to her own wrist to model it.
“Four nice strands, a gold clasp with a safety closure. This is a good value.”
Mike took a look at the bracelet, but his eye stuck on the wedding band she wore. Disappointment and curiosity filled him at the same time.
“I don’t think so,” Mike said. “It’s nice, but just not the right thing.”
“You’re very difficult to please!” she chided, unclasping the bracelet. “What could I ever do to make you happy?”
“I didn’t mean to be difficult. You’re making me feel bad,” Mike countered. “I see that you’re married, too – I saw your ring. You know how hard it is to buy a gift for a spouse. What would you want him to buy you?”
“How would I have a chance to tell him? He’s gone away on business again, just like you, leaving me here all alone,” she pouted.
“I’m sorry, Rita, I didn’t mean to upset you. You’ve been very nice. Show me something else. Do you mind if I call you ‘Rita’? I saw it on your name tag.”
Rita’s eyes brightened and her tongue rewet her lips. She bent down into the case again. When she stood up, she held three strands of white pearls, which she placed on the grey-felt board.
“These are sure to do the trick,” she said. “All of the strands are AAA grade, 8 mm diameters. I’ll try them on to show you the different lengths. Here is the sixteen inch.”
She brought the shortest strand around her neck and reached around back to clasp it. Mike noticed that avrupa yakası escort the top button of her blouse had become unfastened, opening the collared blouse to just above the point that Mike could see the top crest of her bra.. She must have done it when she had bent behind the counter.
The pearls dipped to her collarbone, which Mike strained to see past the undone button.
“Don’t say anything,” she said. “Let me put on the next strand to compare.”
Rita fastened the eighteen inch strand around her neck. As they hung, the final pearl dipped just under the topmost fabric of her gold blouse. Mike imagined that it must be barely diving into the cleavage that lay beneath the fabric. It reminded Mike of the outline displayed on the ladder. He was convinced that perfect breasts lay waiting.
She stood motionless, showing the pearls. Then, realizing the obstruction of the gold fabric of her blouse, she pushed it gently aside, just enough to show the final curve of the strand. The move bared more flesh, and Mike could see the black lacy top strands of her bra. The contrast in color with the blouse surprised him. It more matched her skirt and hose. He wondered if she had selected it for that purpose. Mike was aroused, but sensed that that the ritual of the last strand would be the best.
After a few seconds, she lowered her hands and the blouse fabric resumed its former place.
“Here is the longest strand. It’s twenty-four inches,” she announced. She fastened it behind her.
The latest string eclipsed the others and lay glowing against the gold satin midway between her collar and belt. She let him view it for a few seconds, and then delicately took hold of the end of the strand. With her other hand, she pulled the blouse away from her skin to make a space and promptly dropped the pearls into the opening. They disappeared behind the fabric, descending below, to play among her breasts.
Rita let Mike watch her hide the pearls, and let a few more seconds tick. She reached a hand up to the next button of her blouse. With two delicate fingers she slowly undid it.
“What do you think of these?” she gushed, leaning forward on her elbows onto the counter top.
The three strands of pearls dangled from her in concentric circles. The shorter two strands swung freely, the longest was lodged where Mike had pictured it, reposing in her cleavage. The blouse, unsecured, fell away. Mike looked through the frame to the bare skin, the black bra, the perfect breasts. The half globes were hanging like twin melons on a vine. They were olive-tan, framed in the black bra.
There could be no mistaking the display for other than the offer that it was. At first, Mike took little sips from the visual cup of nectar. Staring would have been too crude, but more importantly, he wanted to savor the taste. Gulping would have cut short the pleasure of discovery. If he could, he would have reached in to test the ripeness of the melons. His discerning eye would have to suffice. He burned them into his memory, and the unrevealed totality of them into his imagination. Just as Mike was only a few seconds from drinking his fill, she stood, buttoned her blouse and removed the strands of pearls, placing them on the grey felt.
The border between memory and imagination is often undefined, taking a form to please the user. In the same way, loneliness and desire blend together; shades of grey bridge black and white.
“Well, what do you think?” she asked. “Did you see anything that you want to take with you?” She let her eye contact remain a second longer, her raised eyebrows in query.
“They’re not exactly what I was looking for … the pearls, I meant,” Mike answered, flustered by his poor choice of words.
“Of course, what else could you have meant?” she lilted provocatively.
“Maybe you have something else. Pearls just don’t seem to be doing it for me,” Mike said. “I would consider something a little more upscale.”
Rita’s eyes danced with pleasure and expectation. She paused for a moment, allowing Mike’s statement to fully resonate. In such a store as he was in, it had great meaning.
“I think,” she said with a coy smile, “that you have been away a long time, or you have been very bad, or maybe you have been very bad while you were away for a long time.”
“I have been away a long time,” he answered. “I haven’t been bad …but I’m not home yet.” Mike chuckled a little at the end.
“I have something in the back that you might like,” she purred. “Wait just a second.”
She slowly turned and made her way to the door of the back room. Her walk was a repeat of her earlier display. This time, Mike was treated to the view from the opposite side. The leather of the skirt allowed her to move comfortably while grinding her hips in a way that each flexing of the tight buttock cheeks was test and proof of Mike’s assumptions.
She promptly returned carrying an oblong box that she kept closed.
“We have been keeping this in the safe. It’s special—one of a kind. A man like you might appreciate it.”
Rita lifted the lid of the box. Laid out was a necklace composed of perfectly round green stones, mounted in a row on a gold chain. The stones were a deep green with darker green flecks, like the shamrocks of Ireland, and had a translucent quality.
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