He booked a hotel far enough from the center of town that I know we won’t run into anyone we know. I view this as a kind of foreshadowing. Imagining that discretion factored into his plan for us to meet jangles in my bloodstream like an aphrodisiac. But it doesn’t take much.
Emboldened by the heat of the gin, and my helpless excitement at our physical proximity, I speak my thoughts aloud, hearing them for the first time.
“Could you tell how much I liked you, back then?”
“Of course, Penelope. You have no idea how hard it was for me to keep my wits about me and pretend not to notice you blooming right before my eyes, into a beautiful young woman. I will never forget that day in your father’s study.”
My mind clicks immediately into the exact moment when Rick became more than just a fantasy. When he became a goal.
On the hot summer days I found good reason to flaunt my red string bathing suit with my favorite denim shorts. My mother forbid me to wear the handmade cut-offs in public, due to the fact that the taut fullness of my bottom peeked out from underneath. But what did she know about fashion. With her formless tunics and stretchy polyester slacks in muted pastels. Boring.
Rick and Daddy spent Saturday afternoons in the study, talking about serious things like politics and philosophy. I liked the cadence of their voices, the way they rose and fell against one another. Sounding so important. Like the men discussing world events on TV.
I would find any excuse to interrupt their in-depth intellectual discussions, like asking for help adjusting my bikini top. The knot kept slipping down from the growing weight of my bosom.
“Go see your mother!” He waves me away for the third time this afternoon.
“But Mom’s not home!” I plead in the doorway.
“Oh, alright, come here.”
The two men sit side by side in armchairs angled toward one another. Daddy likes to look you in the eye when he makes a point. I stride toward them, carrying myself with the practiced grace of the girls on the covers of the back issues of Cosmopolitan stacked under my bed.
“Hi, Professor Waldman.” My smile is precocious.
“Hello, Penelope.” Rick shifts in his seat, allowing me entrance in the shallow space between the two sets of legs.
Perched deliberately on Daddy’s knee, my legs yawn open carelessly. So wide that Rick can clearly view the humid hollow of my inner thighs. The plump swell of darkened red fabric straining against a damp indigo snake of denim that barely holds my shorts together at the crotch.
Gathering my long, wild hair in a pile on top of my head, leaning my upper body forward, I tip my firm, newly-formed breasts at him like an offering, while Daddy fingers the nylon string at the back of my neck.
I look Rick straight in the eye, like a dare. Like a challenge. His eyes connect and lose focus immediately, wandering over to the bookshelf across the room. Scanning the endless rows of cracked, bloated spines.
Can he tell how hot I am for him? Maybe he is used to this type of girlish adoration from his students. In his eyes there is not even a hint of recognition, nothing to indicate he harbors anything more than familial affection for me. But this only seems to motivate me to work harder for his attention. Elevates the goal to a challenge.
I feel a bit giddy at the recollection. Lightheaded with my present inebriation. It was so many years ago. But now I’m a woman. Fully formed in body and mind, if not in my emotions. Because it all still feels very real. Like only yesterday.
A smile spreads across my face, one of satisfaction. I was correct in my instinctual feeling that he had to have felt something too.
“It’s a taboo subject, you know that…even though it’s obvious you have always been a girl who knows what she wants.”
He sets down his tumbler and takes a deep breath, looking around for our server.
This doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is. His worn gold band glimmers against the glass and I study the neatly trimmed nails, the long thick fingers of his strong, yet gentle hands.
“I used to fantasize about you…” I stammer, surprising myself.
I blush and lower my eyes when he emits a low chuckle at my sudden candor. But he doesn’t seem surprised.
“Don’t be embarrassed, it’s not unheard of. I can’t help my curiosity, though…at what types of ideas plagued your young imagination.”
To be continued…