The Redemption of Cheryl Baines

Note: This is a Romance. It is about the “redemption of Cheryl Baines.” It describes bad things she does to herself and that are done to her. The roughest stretch is at the beginning. But it is not the last one.

Normally she was dead. Normally she thought that she was dead every time she found herself slithering from a man’s bed late on a Thursday night, gathering her things, and leaving for her cold, empty apartment. This was supposed to be normal, a normal Thursday night when she trolled a local bar to pick up a younger man, to be taken to his place to get laid.

She—her name is Cheryl Baines—was fifty-three on this Thursday night. She felt every one of them. Except for a sliver of time. That was why she was increasingly desperate to capture that hour, sometimes those minutes, that were different. When she was still the belle of the ball and could satisfy a man’s urges.

She’d never be with him again. She might see him at the bar where she picked him up, but she would be ignored. She was his fantasy. His MILF. The woman who let him fuck her in the ass. Because more and more that’s what he wanted these days. She’d never done it with her husband and she abhorred it. Now she often promised he could do it when she whispered into his ear at the bar.

It was all like bad porno. She’d get dolled up. Her body wasn’t great. Too much sun left too many wrinkles and spots. Her chin sagged. While her tits, somewhat inflated at the insistence of a now-former husband (done in a failed attempt to salvage an unsalvageable marriage), sagged even more.

But he seemed to love them hanging down below her while he was in her ass, grabbing them like a hungry calf as he tried to maintain his balance. She got away with more than she should have thanks to dim lights in the bars, her five-seven enhanced by three-inch heels (which killed her feet), and a reddish-brown hair dye.

This Thursday night began normally. He wears a suit and is with a group of friends. He’s the prettiest. When he goes to the bathroom, she’s there when he emerges. She bumps against him and she sultrily apologizes, her left hand caressing the front of his trousers. He is baffled by the interaction and attention and takes responsibility for them running into one another. She takes the opportunity to run her hand across his crotch again. When she feels it harden, she knows she is in. That he would be in.

“I’m lonely and horny. Will you take me home?”

It, of course, works. She tells him she’d enjoy going home with him after she finishes in the ladies’. With a touch to his neck, she leaves him standing. She assumes he made his excuses—he can say he was about to get laid for all she cares—and he is ready when she returns. He grabs a cab, and they are in front of his building on the Upper East Side.

He nods, a combination of embarrassment and triumph, to the oblivious doorman as he escorts her through his lobby and into the elevator. She’d run her fingers across his pants in the cab and allowed him to feel up her leg, above the knee to her inner thigh. He tries to kiss her in the elevator, but she smiles and promises, “Patience.”

It doesn’t last long in the apartment. She throws him against the door as soon as it shuts, her tongue dancing in his mouth. It is all a game to this point, but the moment her tongue engages his she is alive again.

“Touch me. Fucking touch me.” She barely gets the words out when she feels his hand reach below the hem of her skirt and lift it. He feels her dampness through her panties. She feels how solid he is. For her, everything is choreographed until this instant. Each time is different for her. Soon his jacket is gone and she kneels before him, undoing his belt and undoing and pulling down his pants and boxers.

His dick pops out. To her, they are all the same and they are all unique. Even in the low light she always sees pre-cum glistening the head. And she licks it. It isn’t fair to him, perhaps, but she isn’t gentle. She isn’t subtle. He is in her mouth nearly at once. The man doesn’t care about that, of course. But it means he does not get to enjoy being worshipped by a woman. No, it is like bad porno.

This one’s hands are on her head yet he is not really in the room. He is being serviced by a gorgeous MILF. He is young, like the others, and he does the normal thing and comes in her mouth. She has enough experience to get him over the edge quickly. She loves the taste of a man’s cum and she thrills at the power her skills give her to control a man. The many years of being forced to go down on her ex-husband proving to be a benefit after all.

She rises. His pants and boxers are still around his ankles and the two are barely in the apartment. She kisses him. Some recoil at the taste of their cum. But he likes it, his tongue scraping her mouth for more. She steps back, into the room. She embarks on her practiced striptease. She knows it isn’t necessary. He, like the rest, will be hard again within minutes. But she likes the Mrs. Robinson part of the gig.

When she is naked he is staring, his pants puddled over his shoes. He is embarrassed so she looks away. When she turns back, he is naked. It is a good body. Some are Frat Boys, with bulging stomachs that would get bigger over time as her ex’s did. He has an athlete’s build. She beckons him with her hand and when he arrives she encircles him with her arms. “Take me to bed.”

It always works and soon they are in his room. It is a standard bedroom in a newer East Side building. Tastefully done, a few pictures of him and what she assumes is his family. She sees what she hopes is a former girlfriend. He doesn’t strike her as the type to cheat. She’s bedded plenty who were, and who did. He isn’t one of them.

She likes him. They haven’t said much. What would a fifty-three-year-old woman have to say to a twenty-three- or twenty-four-year-old man? But it feels nice and it felt nice that moment in the cab when his hand grazed hers and she briefly held it. By the time they are on the bed, he is hard. She is surprisingly wet. He gets a condom. Sometimes they don’t and she insists, taking one from her purse. This is her nightmare. She doesn’t want to make it worse. But he gets his own. Then he starts asking his damn questions.

They don’t ask. She gets on her back and spreads her legs and he shoves his dick in her. After a few minutes of hot and sometimes angry fucking, they ask whether “I can fuck your ass.” Sometimes they throw a “beautiful” in there, but not often. She loathes it, but it’s part of her nightmare.

It is always the same. Normally, she gets on all fours—she never lets him do it while she’s on her back—makes him lube her and his dick (she has that in her purse too) and he is in her. She doubts he has done anal, but she knows he wants to. Even for an old sagging cow like her. He wants anal.

He gets used to it and start pumping. It’s way too fast for him to enjoy it. It’s not about that. It’s about doing anal. He says horrible things. “Bitch.” “Whore.” “Cunt.” Sometimes “Mother” or even “Mommy.” And he comes quickly and with either triumph or embarrassment he pulls out. He doesn’t ask about her. Normally. If he does, she tells him she came while he was in her. It is a lie, but there is no way she’s going to have him decide he is going to make her come.

It is then that she feels dead, in contrast to the moments she’d felt alive minutes before. Then he cleans up in the bathroom. He hopes she’s dressed by the time he returns. More that she’s on the elevator. The feeling’s mutual. If he insists she stay, she says no.

All is going according to script this night. She is on her back and he has the condom on. He stands at the foot of the bed. One small lamp on a side table is on. Her legs spread. She knows her pussy glistens and she sees his dick slightly spasm as he studies her body.

Then he starts freelancing. He positions himself so he can kiss her. But not her lips. Her pussy. She half-heartedly tries to push him away, to get him where he’s supposed to be, with his dick inside her, pumping her until he asks to put it in her ass so he can come quickly and she can go home. He is eating her out. Her ex-husband never did that. No one did that since her only love, the one in college, and how she often wishes she’d married him instead of the rich, handsome schmuck she did.

He is good, this one. That ex-girlfriend must have been happy when he was between her legs. Maybe she, too, ran off with her own rich, handsome schmuck.

No! No! Suddenly a finger is in her and her breathing is getting short. Fuck! He is going to make her come. Now her hands are pulling him in. She doesn’t know his damn name so she can’t start making a fool of herself by repeating it. But she wants, needs to chant something and that something is “Oh my God. Don’t stop.”

And he doesn’t stop. He is getting off on what he is doing. They’re not like that. They take. They don’t give. Normally.

Then it hits. The pent-up, long-neglected passion is upon her and she screams, her ass gyrating on the bed as she throws her head back, a head empty of all thought except for the tongue and fingers of the god between her legs.

He continues his licking and his fingering until she begs him to stop. After he does, he slowly snakes his way up her body, his nakedness kissing hers. When their heads are adjacent, their eyes meet. She’s not noticed his eyes. She never does. What’s the point? His, though, are worth the effort. A light brown, almost misty at their edges. His nose is perfectly shaped. And his lips, with drops of her cum on them and streaming down to his chin, are magnetic to her own.

She kisses them and tastes herself. She has tasted herself from her fingers—the only way other than with her toys she can come since her marriage began—but from his lips and tongue they are an elixir. She has turned to her side to kiss him. She now runs her hand towards his dick. It is too hard, but he says, “don’t worry about him. He’s fine.”

Suddenly the only thought she has is wanting this man to make love to her. She pushes him on his back, smilingly saying, “Oh he’s more than fine” and then straddles his hips and lowers herself on him.

She thinks she feels every one of his veins as her pussy caresses it. It is not true, but this is her dream. She starts to move up and down on him but her orgasm is too recent and she is too spent to do justice to them both. She pulls off but quickly is on her back.

“I don’t even know your name.”

“Terrence. Terry.”

“I’m Cheryl.” It is her real name; she hasn’t thought to give a false one. “Now, Terry. Please make love to me.”

He is not the type to make such a leap, she thought. He easily took her home to get a blow job and perhaps a fuck. Perhaps saying “make love” would be too much.

It isn’t. He turns so he is atop her. She reaches down and directs him into her. He enters slowly. He probably doesn’t have a lot of experience but his instincts are wonderful. He is amazing with his tongue and his fingers. He is more so with his dick. He moves in very slowly, watching her face to gauge her reaction. She curses his slowness. She wants him to just get on with it, pound away.

But that would be fucking. She doesn’t need to be fucked. She has a lifetime of being fucked, mostly by men whose name she never gets let alone remembers. His gentleness could only go so long. After four languid ins-and-outs, he picks up the tempo. Before long they are a single, passionate body, the room fills with the noises and smells of two people mating.

At some point her feet are behind him, her ankles crossed to rein him in. He cries, “I’m coming” and she implores him to “come inside me,” almost wishing he wore no condom. As his body stiffens and his dick bursts, she pulls him closer and holds on to him as her orgasm washes over her.

She wants to stay the night. For a change. She hopes he will ask her to. When she returns from the bathroom naked, making no effort to cover herself, and starts to head to the living room to get her things so she can get dressed, get a cab, and sleep in her own, cold bed, he holds a t-shirt out for her.

“It’s clean and it’ll fit. Can you stay?”

She pauses. She could like this man who’d just made love to her as no one had for over a quarter of a century. She walks to him, mindful of her sagging tits as he is not, and takes the offered shirt. Kissing him on the cheek, she stays.

The song from “The Graduate”—”Mrs. Robinson”—plays through her brain when she awakens at three. She is in the bed of a man who is younger than her son would be if she had children. She only learned his name in the middle of his making love to her. Pictures of his parents, neither one older than her, and an ex (she hopes) girlfriend are in the room with her.

Her mind is a mess in the dead quiet where their voices and thoughts echoed hours earlier. His back is to her, and she hears his light breathing as she lies on her back, looking unfocused at the ceiling. She feels like she is in a holiday movie in which the heroine gets the chance to think of what-might-have-been. The umpteenth variation of “A Christmas Carol.”

Of course, her life isn’t a movie. Heroines don’t do what she’s done. She’d made that one wrong decision long before and she doesn’t need to revisit it to remember the man she rejected for the one she chose. More immediately, she has to be at work at 9:30. Before she turns back asleep, she finds her phone and sets the alarm for seven. That’d give her time to get home, changed, and to work.

She then falls back into a deep sleep. When her alarm goes off, she finds herself being cuddled by Terry. It is a pleasant feeling and for a moment she wishes she could stay.

But bills are bills and work is work and, well, age is age.

“Don’t go,” he murmurs as she rises.

“It’s seven. I have to get to work. I assume you do too.”

He jumps up. It is Friday. Wiping the sleep from his eyes as he sits at the side of the bed, he asks if he can see her again. She is next to him. “If I had a boy, I hope he’d be like you. Although you should rethink getting yourself picked up by a woman, young or old. Who’s the girl?”

She says this as she stands. Now she is very self-conscious of the flaws in her nakedness. As she goes to the bathroom, he says she is his “should have been.” She found someone else. Terry doesn’t think much of him—the someone else—but his ex apparently does.

“It was a few months ago. I lost track.” She doubts that. She closes the bathroom door and after flushing opens it again, now covered by a towel. Standing in the doorway, she said, “Look her up. You never know. Nothing ventured and all that.”

She heads to the living room, where she tracks down her clothes. She is soon presentable and walks to him, still on the bed, having pulled a sheet to cover his lower body. She regrets, for a moment, not being able to see his dick in the clear light, however flaccid it is. It is a wonderful dick and tempted as she is to give it a goodbye kiss, she knows it is a bad idea.

Instead, she kisses his forehead. She assures him she’d not enjoyed sex with someone so much since before he was born. As she approaches the bedroom door, he gets up, covering himself with a shirt. When she reaches the front door, she turns.

“You’re a good man.” She smiles and looks down. “And very, very talented. It’s cliché, but you will make some woman very happy.” With a final kiss and a nod to the photo, she adds, “Maybe her. You made me happy, and I won’t forget you.”

She is in her office by 9:25. It is a late-fall Friday. She’d be busy with end-of-year reports. She didn’t work while she is married, but she needs to eat. She climbed her way, on merit, up several levels at the bank where she started five years before and is the second-in-command of her department. She is respected but not liked. She is widely considered a bitch, and turnover in her department is high. Her results save her from her personality, and her bosses view her unpopularity as a sign of her efficiency.

She snaps at one of her subordinates when he asks an innocuous question. She wonders why she is always a babysitter. She goes to the ladies’ room, staring at herself in the mirror. She is an insufferable bitch. It is year-end, but she tells her boss, Yvette Evans, she is not feeling well and goes home, taking work with her. Yvette is relieved since if she could have Cheryl work remotely and not interact with the, you know, people in the department in person her life would be far simpler.

As Cheryl sits on the subway heading to her place on West 94th, clutching her work, she does feel ill. She realizes the train is pulling into 125th Street; she has to get a downtown train back, having missed her stop.

Once home, she drops her bag on the floor. She goes to the bathroom of her one-bedroom apartment. En route, she notices there are no pictures. Unlike Terry’s place. She runs the tub and strips. Before getting in, she again stares into a mirror. She looks like shit. Her hands hold her tits and let them drop, bouncing for several seconds. Gray roots show in her hair and her pubic strands are thinning. She hates what passes for “sex” in her life but also craves it. She understands she can only get any by enticing young men too horny to care about anything but her age and even then only in the too-dim lighting of a bar with promises of anal.

She sits in the tub, sporadically running soap over herself until the water is too cold to tolerate. She gets up and towels off before slinking to the tiled floor and weeping.

After a time, she walks naked into her bedroom. She reaches into the bottom drawer of her dresser. She pulls out her vibrator and lies in the center of the bed. She fucks herself with it. She fucks herself as so many men fucked her. Pounding it into her dry pussy, not caring for the damage she is doing. Again and again. There is no satisfaction in the act. It is not stimulating. She’d not been fucked the night before. Terry made love to her and brought her to heights she’d forgotten existed. She deserves to be fucked and abused and if he wouldn’t do it, she would.

Until she stops. She lays on her back. The vibe lays on her thigh where she dropped it, humming until she can turn it off. She stares at the ceiling, at one spot until she is spent and then she curls into a ball and sleeps.

*          *          *

Cheryl Baines stayed home the following Thursday night and slept in on Saturday, going out only for some groceries and things from the drugstore. She’d promised to stop by the Christmas party of one of her few friends, this one on the Upper East Side. She arrived on the early side in her suitably seasonal, maroon dress. Only four or five couples were there when she walked in, handing her coat to her host and getting a glass of wine.

For the most part, she stood at the periphery. After about an hour she was among a group that dwindled to a couple. He was a partner of her ex’s lawfirm. The two met her, he reminded her, years before at the Park Avenue apartment Cheryl and her ex shared when they were married, and where he still lived with his new, younger wife. She vaguely recalled him. He made her tense, and his wife asked if she could get her a re-fill, which she did.

Her husband seemed pleasant enough. A bit smooth around the edges, as was her ex. Suddenly he leaned close to her. “I understand you like to take it up the ass.”

She was stunned, shocked into speechlessness. She whispered, “I have to go,” and heard him bellow, “Or do you only let guys in their twenties do that to you?”

She searched for her coat as the guests quieted at what they heard and was on the sidewalk hailing a cab before she could put it on. When she got to her place, she threw what she held on the floor and fell onto her bed. She was in a ball when the buzzer from the lobby rang. The remnants of her life could not get worse, so she answered it.

“It’s Rosalind Bickel. I need to speak to you.”

It was about ten-thirty. She’d been home for about half-an-hour. The name sounded vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place it. She buzzed her up. When she opened the door she was shocked. It was the wife who went to get a drink. She started to close the door, but Rosalind’s hand stopped it.

“Give me a minute. Please.”

Cheryl relented. She opened the door and directed the woman into her small living room.

“I didn’t think you remembered me. I met you while you were married. My husband worked, still works, with your ex. Bonnie”—the host—“gave me your address.”

Great.

“My husband, who’s an asshole by the way, chose sides and that was that. I’m not here to ask you to forgive him for what he said. He is beyond forgiveness. I came to talk because, if what he told me about you after you left is true, I think you’re beyond fucked up.”

Cheryl stared, trying to figure out this woman’s game.

“You don’t remember, I’m sure, but I was only recently married when we met. You were in the apartment on Park Avenue and 73rd Street. My husband just made partner at the firm and you sat with me and asked whether it was worth it. All the time he spent to make partner, all the time he’d spend to be a partner. All I can say is that you warned me and I didn’t listen.”

Cheryl was calm for a moment. She looks at this near stranger. Nearing tears, she leaned forward. “Please help me.”

Rosalind reached into her bag. She opened her wallet and handed a card to Cheryl.

“She’s good. I see her once a week.” She closed her purse.

“He cheats on me. He’s been cheating almost from the start. I should have listened to you then. It wasn’t the hours he spent at the firm. After a while I was glad when he worked late, to keep him out of my hair. No, it was the one-nighters and the affairs. He did it with a few associates until the firm, your ex included, told him to stop because it could get messy. They didn’t care that he was fucking an associate when they were out-of-town on a case. They just worried that it could get complicated.

“So he started fucking associates at other firms. He’d meet a pretty one at a deposition or in court and explain how talented she was and how she might fit in nicely at his firm. Of course, not to be crude, but more than anything he wanted his dick to fit nicely into her. Even married ones.

“I found out when the husband of one of the married ones dropped a dime on him. When I told him, he found out who that husband was, found out he was a lawyer at another firm, and called a senior partner there to make sure the husband never made partner. And then he made a point of fucking his wife in their bed, leaving his card on the nightstand.”

Cheryl knew her ex was bad, but never like that.

“But why?”

“The kids. We have two. Both at Dalton. When they’re off to college . . . Who knows? But for now I let him get his rocks off with someone else and he leaves me alone.”

Cheryl wanted to know whether she’d taken a lover.

“He wouldn’t care. But I haven’t. I’m still married and I made a vow. I’ve become very good at taking care of myself and I dream of having a lover. But, no. I haven’t.”

Rosalind’s honesty drew Cheryl in. She opened up about the abyss into which she’d fallen. Reciting how while she didn’t like taking it up the ass—she told Rosalind what her husband said to her before shouting the rest—she craved young men using her that way.

“Look. I hate to say this, but you probably let one of the lawyers at the firm do it, which explains how he found out, and if he knows surely your ex knows.”

Cheryl said she’d figured that out. Rosalind turned to her.

“So where do you go from here?”

Cheryl told what happened to her on that Thursday night nine days before. How Terry made her feel “like a woman.” She told about her what-might-have-been man from college. Rosalind asked if she ever thought of looking him up.

“He’s dead.” Rosalind gasped. “Killed in a car crash. It was twenty years ago. Someone I knew from school matter-of-factly asked whether I’d heard about him, and she told her about it. Knowing that he was forever gone did not help my sanity.”

Before Rosalind left, Cheryl promised to contact the therapist. She swore herself to celibacy until they met, which was in early January. It wasn’t difficult.

*          *          *

One of the benefits of not having children was that there was zero reason to have anything to do with her ex. She received enough cash in the divorce settlement that she was comfortable, although she still had to work. At her bank, she started to soften some of her edges. She became conscious of the gratuitous cruelty that she dished out. She tried to cut it down. She wasn’t as cruel as she had been. Not perfect, but in the first quarter her department didn’t have the flood of transfer requests that often exacerbated her bosses.

*         *         *

By March, Cheryl was seeing the therapist Rosalind recommended twice a week. She helped her get some understanding of why she was punishing herself for the decision she’d made in college. Why she’d become what she’d become. Slowly, she enjoyed masturbating and varying the videos she watched and the stories she read to get off. Sometimes she read or watched lesbian stories. She had no desire for a woman, but at times fell under the sway of the gentleness depicted. If only she could find the gentle man who would satisfy her and her newly-recovered needs.

Her masturbation was often angry. Her night with Terry, though, left her thinking of someone loving her as she ran her fingers or her vibe over her folds and into her pussy. She envisioned the beautiful man who made her come. She sometimes regretted not getting his number, but that was for the best. He was far too young to be anything but a sextoy to her, and that was no good for either of them.

Still, she was not actively searching. She had too much to deal with. The sessions with her therapist helped. So did regular lunches with Rosalind. It did not help, though, when Rosalind confirmed to her that Cheryl, or more particularly her ass, was a regular topic of discussion among the assholes who were partners in her husband’s firm. Rosalind said she sometimes thought about sending a note to the disciplinary committee or a partner at a firm where one of his conquests succumbed.

In late April, Cheryl told Rosalind that she was ready to date. Did she know anyone? It turned out that Rosalind knew a number. She’d been keeping a mental list ever since her December conversation in Cheryl’s living room. From that point, Cheryl went to dinner every couple of weeks with a man who called her at Rosalind’s suggestion. None of them were boys. All at least forty-five, a few into their early sixties. All single. Many were divorced. Some widowed. One or two never married.

Cheryl let her hair revert to its natural color, which turned out to be brown with hints of gray. The long period in which she dyed it left some chemical damage, but she liked how it looked, especially the way it was cut. She kept it short and easy to tend. The shortness complemented her narrow face, aquiline nose, and blue eyes. As a bit of a folly, she got the upper lobe of her left ear pierced, matching the more conventional piercings she had on the lower lobe of both ears. She often wore a small ring in each of her three piercings and sometimes connected the two on her left ear with a tiny, silver chain.

There was nothing she could do with the skin she’d allowed to cook when young, but she worked to flatten some of her rounded edges. Although she also neatly trimmed her bush, that was for her alone. Much as most of the men with whom she went to dinner—she insisted on splitting the check—expected that they would go to bed with her, she would not allow it. She had more than a lifetime worth of being fucked. Someone would make love to her or never see her neat trim.

*         *         *

“I’m leaving him.”

Cheryl knew who. But why all of a sudden?

“They just fired him. Too toxic even for them. Apparently, he was served with a complaint from the Disciplinary Committee. He might get disbarred.”

“I wonder if he tries to take anyone down with him?” This was a reference to others in his firm, and they both knew it was chiefly to Cheryl’s ex.

It was a Wednesday in early July. The two were meeting for after-work drinks at an outside table of a bar near Cheryl’s apartment. Rosalind’s only regret was that she waited so long to leave. Not only did she have to suffer living with him, although thankfully not sharing the same bed, she missed the chance to get more money from him since it seemed likely that his income was about to drop to $0. Of course, their Fifth Avenue four-bedroom would cushion the blow. It was worth at least $3 million. Plus the house in the Berkshires, which would go for a million, a million-and-a-half. Both were free-and-clear. Plus the brokerage accounts.

On August 1, Rosalind and the boys were set up in a three-bedroom on Riverside Drive. It’d take a while for the divorce to go through, but there were enough liquid assets to pay rent in the interim. He could stay in the Apartment on Fifth.

Her older son was beginning his senior year and the other his sophomore at Dalton. Why she’d waited so long to leave she never knew. But that was Rosalind. Throughout this period she found solace in hearing of Cheryl’s improved love life. She still hadn’t slept with anyone—Rosalind respected and encouraged her high bar—but she’d been tempted a few times. She almost did over Labor Day weekend. It was her fourth date with Barry Johnson, and they got along well. Relaxed. A widower with a daughter at Dalton, he knew Rosalind from when she lived on the East Side and their kids played. He was kind and gentle and for the first time Cheryl was aroused when she was with a date.

As their fourth dinner neared its end, they began to engage in lovers’ banter. Little touches. Neither were children—he was about her age—and both knew where it was headed. They were eating in Cheryl’s neighborhood so she asked him to walk her the four blocks home. They did it quietly and kissed when they entered her apartment. Oh, God, it was glorious.

She surprised him when she stopped. She whispered that she needed to tell him something before they went further. She got waters and joined him on her couch. She told her story. Honestly. What she had done. What she let others do to and with her. How it was behind her.

Barry listened silently. She knew before she finished, though, that he would make an excuse and be gone. Which is what happened. “It was very nice to meet you, but I don’t think it’ll work out.” His last words to her. She was on the phone to Rosalind before he was in a cab. Cheryl was very matter-of-fact about it. Her history was a Really Big Thing. If a man could not accept that, she would not accept him.

She held up some hope that Barry might reconnect once he thought it over. But he never did. So into the fall Cheryl resumed her stretch of dates with friends of Rosalind. It was pitiful in some respects, but Rosalind was thoughtful in the men she set Cheryl up with. And they were all very nice. It was just that the one who clicked—Barry—couldn’t accept her and, more, her past.

Cheryl regretted what happened with Barry. Not that she hadn’t gone to bed with him. She’d become adept at satisfying herself sexually. No. It was that there were moments when they were together, and especially that blissful one when they kissed, that reminded her of what was missing. Love and a physical connection with a man. That it happened once told her it could happen again. And on her terms.

She and Rosalind became closer, going out or staying in for dinner two or three times a week. Roz began pumping her for information on the men she’d gone out with, Rosalind’s newly single-status freeing her to consider her options. They even became regulars at a bar on Broadway, teasing more young men than they should have. They both knew they were flawed but attractive for their age, and Cheryl had enlightened Rosalind about just how attractive their age was to a certain type of man. Young, fit men.

It was all a lark. While Rosalind was more likely to go to bed with a man just for the sake of going to bed with a man—she didn’t have Cheryl’s baggage—she was not a cradle-robber. Once or twice, though, they were approached by an older gentleman, but they quickly scoped that he was married and looking for something on the side. This was not only gross, but they would not do that to another woman, even if he said they had an “understanding.”

*          *          *

Bonnie, who hosted the Christmas party where Cheryl again met Rosalind, the one where she was outed as an anal-slut, never contacted her again. Cheryl had the good fortune of never running into her again, and she hoped it would last.

This meant that the one annual event that forced Cheryl to mingle with strangers was off her calendar. She spoke to Rosalind about it. Roz was not going, preferring to spend time with “a better class of strangers.” So it was a bit of a surprise when the two women entered the lobby of a building on Riverside Drive not far from their places and told the man at reception that they were there for the Actons’ party.

Rosalind was there because of Cheryl. Cheryl was there because she stopped being an ogre at work. Those who worked for her began to have affection for her. They spoke about her now and then at lunch, but never in derogatory terms. Chiefly speculating the cause of her transformation. Hers became a department that people wanted to transfer into and not the other way around.

Her bosses noticed. Yvette was her direct supervisor. She was married to Steven Acton. Cheryl was invited, for the first time, to their annual Christmas party. Yvette said she could bring a friend, and Rosalind was that friend. As the couple reached the eleventh floor, they heard the party and went in. Yvette took their coats, directing them to the bar after introductions. The two women got vodka tonics and scanned the room. Large windows presented a view of the Hudson and the Palisades, lights twinkling in the New Jersey night.

They went to enjoy the view and as they turned Cheryl almost choked on her drink. She grabbed Rosalind’s hand. “It’s him.”

“Who?”

“Remember that one I said made love to me, the last one. He’s standing by the table with that pretty woman. . . . Don’t stare.”

Shit. Cheryl recognized the “pretty woman” in the photo. The ex who looked over them while they were in bed together for their one-nighter. Before she could look away, he saw her, and his face blanched. Neither wanted to know the other. Before either could react, Yvette led Cheryl and Rosalind around the room. Cheryl knew some guests from work and Yvette introduced her to those with no affiliation with the bank. Seemingly stuck in place was Terry.

When they reached him and the woman with her arm through his, Yvette said he was her nephew Terrence Wright and she was his fiancée, Marilyn Ellis. They said “hello” before Yvette took them to meet one of her neighbors. Cheryl looked back at him and saw the same shell-shocked look she knew was plastered on her face.

Cheryl calculated how long she could stay without being rude, but putting Terry aside, she was enjoying herself. It was her only party of the season. If he could stay, so could she. She excused herself to use the bathroom and when she emerged he was waiting for her. He wanted a word.

He opened the door of an otherwise empty bedroom. He said, “I had no idea you would be here, that you work with my Aunt Yvette. I knew nothing about you. But I’ll leave if I make you uncomfortable.”

God, Cheryl thought, he was handsome. She wondered whether he would have made love to her again if she had tracked him down. A future even. He had that much of an impact on her. As she was thinking, he added, “So you know, Marilyn and I were broken up when you and I got together. You pushed me to get back with her.”

She reached for his wrist. “Terry, it’s our secret. I promise.” She paused. “The night I spent with you was more than enjoyable.” He was getting embarrassed. “All I can say is that she’s a very lucky woman, and I’m happy for you.” She gave his cheek a light brushing with her fingers and turned to open the door.

Their absence wasn’t noticed except by Rosalind. Cheryl simply told her that it was all good, and the two continued to enjoy themselves. Sadly, all of the age-appropriate men seemed taken. Then a new prospect entered the room. Cheryl recognized him immediately from one of the other pictures in Terry’s room. It had to be Terry’s father. Yvette’s brother.

She positioned herself so she would get an introduction, her hopes fading when she saw his wedding band. Well, Cheryl thought, it was worth thirty seconds of fantasy. Plus, of course, there would be more than a little awkwardness given what happened between her and his son. What she had done to his son. What his son did to her.

“This is my brother, Jonathan Wright. You met his son, Terry. Jon does some magical things for some magical company near the UN. And, ladies, in case you are wondering, he is a poor widower.” Yvette’s voice lowered. “His wife died about four years ago of cancer.”

Talk about a downer on a conversation. Jon lightened it, “I’ll never get completely over it but thanks to my sister and a few others I’m back on the market.” After a nice-to-meet-you-ladies, he was being introduced to others at the party.

*          *          *

Cheryl spent Christmas with Rosalind and her two boys in the house in the Berkshires, a few hours north of the City in western Massachusetts. They were good kids and she was awed by how well Roz did with them. Cheryl’s ex, by the way, was mired in the fall-out from his conduct, and the attendant publicity had slashed his ex-firm’s, and Cheryl’s ex’s firm’s, client base and, with it, unsullied partners were abandoning ship. Cheryl’s ex was so prominent at the firm that he was chained to it, and his fortunes were also falling, saved only insofar as he had not been caught doing something that would be of interest to the Disciplinary Committee. So his law license was secure, for the time being.

Whether his new, younger-model wife would stay with him was anybody’s guess, but the smart money was that she was already half-way out the door. It did not affect Cheryl financially since she already had her share of the assets in the divorce. But she took pleasure in what was happening to her successor and she didn’t feel a moment of guilt that she did. By that point, if he was going to smear her with her past, he would have done so. More, because she was in full-disclosure mode, it didn’t much matter if he did.

*          *          *

Cheryl had the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. It was the end-of-the-year, but her department’s work was done on December 20 and the office was dead for the week. She stayed with Rosalind at the Berkshires house. Her boys enjoyed Christmas itself, but there was not much for them to do afterward. They took a bus back to Manhattan on December 27, leaving the two women alone. It was a nice house to the north of town. It overlooked a small lake, and one reached it via a meandering driveway that wound through a tree grove. On two acres with trees along its borders, it offered them privacy. The boys stocked up on supplies and built a good stack of firewood, in case a storm hit, before they left.

The two women sat on the sofa in the large great room that took advantage of the view to the lake. A slight dusting of snow created a white tinge to the grass and the trees, the tops of which swayed in the wind. They’d had a simple spaghetti dinner, sauce out of a jar, and a salad and were finishing off a bottle of Chianti. Rosalind knew how to keep the fire going and it roared behind them. Her divorce would be final in about a month. Both the house and the apartment were on the market, the latter in contract to sell for $3.4 million. Rosalind was glad she had this last chance to be at the house.

They lit several candles, and there was a soft light from a lamp by the entrance to the large room. Again on the sofa, each with a book and sitting on either end, with Cheryl’s legs inside of Rosalind’s. Cheryl reached to caress Rosalind’s hand.

“You know I love you, don’t you?”

“Of course.” Her eyes burned into her friend’s as she gave the hand a squeeze. “As I love you. Imagine where we’d be without each other.”

They’d shared much, perhaps too much, over their year together. Neither woman would be as sane as she was without the other. Rosalind had been too intertwined with friends-of-her-husband to develop a network of her own friends except for the odd fellow Dalton-parent. And those friends were preoccupied with their own kids and their own marriages so the mundane horrors that Rosalind was going through were curiosities of no consequence to them. She didn’t begrudge them this; she’d been as neglectful of their troubles. Her relationship with Cheryl, with its bizarre beginnings, was a godsend.

In a sense, the two viewed each other as sisters. Each was an only child without a family to lean on. Their parents were alive, but too distant physically—Cheryl’s were in New Mexico and Rosalind’s in Florida—and mentally to be of any help. So they had each other and the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

Now they were chatting about whether they would go into town tomorrow to pick up some eligible men. Cheryl teased, “you go ahead. I’ll just go to my room when you bring him back.” But neither would sleep with anyone just yet. They’d set ground rules and would not, even on vacation, breach them. Much as they both thought about it.

Which is how the conversation turned to Jonathan Wright. Rosalind saw how Cheryl looked at him, her eyes following him around as he met with others at Yvette’s party. She lacked the courage to go up to him, and she was afraid of what Terry would say if he noticed her interest. And could there be any interest given what she and his son had done?

Rosalind emptied her glass and refilled it, topping Cheryl’s off.

“You are too old to be afraid. Of him. Of Terry. Of love. Yes, it’ll be infinitely more complicated. For all you know he feels zero for you. From what you’ve told me”—she took a long sip—“you always regretted dumping the nice guy in college and picking the schmuck. Don’t have regrets with Jon. At least try.”

Neither woman looked at the other during this exchange.

“You’re right. I’m too old.” And they finished the wine, each a bit drunk. Rosalind placed her arm around Cheryl and led her into the master bedroom as the fire burnt out. She sat on the bed as Cheryl struggled to get undressed. While she did, Rosalind went to get a nightgown and toothbrush from the room where Cheryl stayed when the boys were there. Cheryl was in the bathroom when Rosalind got back and Rosalind gave her the brush and the gown.

While Rosalind was undressing, the toilet flushed and Cheryl emerged and got into Roz’s bed. When Rosalind finished in the bathroom, she joined. Cheryl turned on her right side and Rosalind wrapped her arms around her. Cheryl had not been held like this by a person she loved, and who loved her, since before she was married. Rosalind whispered, “Goodnight sweetheart” in her ear and Cheryl put her arms around the other’s hands and said “Goodnight sweetheart” back. Both women were soon asleep.

*          *          *

At about ten on her first day back at the office after the holiday, Cheryl knocked on Yvette’s door. Yvette waved her in, and Cheryl told her it’s personal as she closed the door.

“It’s about your brother.”

Cheryl was curious whether he was seeing anyone and whether he’d said anything about her. Yvette leaned back in her chair and laughed.

“You’re asking me if you can go on a date with my fifty-five-year-old brother?”

She couldn’t contain herself while Cheryl’s face reddened across the tidy desk. She got serious and leaned forward.

“A year ago I would have told you to stay clear of him. It was a long while. He had a horrible time getting over Carly. It wasn’t as perfect a marriage as he seemed to think it was after she passed. We knew not to push so we let him sort of linger in it. It was Terry, his son, you met him,”—at which Cheryl nodded—“about a year ago. Something happened to Terry, I don’t know what, but over Christmas, he told his dad that he, Terry, made a mistake in letting Marilyn—you met her too—go and that he was going to fight for her. It was, as Jon told it, quite dramatic.” She again leaned back, passing a pen between her hands. “But somehow whatever Terry did worked, and Marilyn was with him for my birthday party. It’s March 19 if you want to know.”

“Noted,” smiled Cheryl.

“Anyway, Terry told his dad that he had to get his own life back together, that his mom wasn’t coming back, and how he was sick and tired of seeing his father mope. No one else could get through, but Terry did. Long story short. Jon took a few tentative stabs at dating. He told me he was really out of practice and couldn’t understand why any woman would want to spend time with a widower in his mid-50s.

“I mean, you’ve seen him. Who wouldn’t want to spend quality time with him? And I’m saying that as his sister.”

She again laughed and rolled back on her chair.

Leaning forward again, she said, “and you being here means you obviously would like to.”

Cheryl tried to quiet her boss, nodding and reaching her hand to slow her down.

After Yvette recovered from her little joke, she said, “If you had come in here a year ago and asked about him, I would have told you to keep away for another reason. You were, I hate to say this, really fucked up. You did good work but everyone hated you. I don’t know what happened but you changed.” Another pause.

“I think you two would be good together. I really do. Did he mention you? No. That doesn’t mean anything. Bottom line. If you want me to ask him whether he’d be receptive to having drinks with you, I’ll do it. Just say the word.”

Yvette was having way too much fun with this. Cheryl got up and reached for the door.

“Whatever the word is, consider it said,” and she returned to her own office.

*          *          *

Several weeks later, Cheryl sat in her dark living room deciding what to do. She’d returned from her second date with Jon. The first was simply drinks. He lived in a bright two-bedroom rental on East 72nd Street and worked near the UN. They went to a nice place she and Rosalind frequented on Broadway. Drinks turned into dinner. Jon walked her to her apartment and gave her a kiss goodnight. She avoided any awkwardness about him coming up with her by quickly giving him a peck on the cheek and turning to open her building’s front door.

Their second date involved dinner in a restaurant near his place. It went well. She knew he wouldn’t be unhappy if she came up to his place, but she again put him off by hastily hailing a cab. When she came through the door of her apartment, she dropped her bag and took off her coat and slung it over a chair. She got herself a glass of water and then she sat on her couch in the dark.

She decided. With her fingers shaking, she dialed his number. She stared at it before she hit the green button. He answered after three rings. Cheryl told him she needed to speak to him about something and asked if he could come to her place. It was only about ten, although on a Thursday. He was there in about half-an-hour. He was dressed more casually than he had been during their date. As was she.

When he sat, bewildered about being summoned, she told him, as she’d rehearsed a hundred times, that she’d had sex with his son. This stunned him. As if he’d been slapped. She begged him to listen. She said she thought and hoped that they might have something together but that she had a secret she needed him to know before they took things further.

She told about her nights picking up younger men. Servicing younger men and allowing them, as she put it, avoiding details, to “screw her.” How she did it again and again. How she loathed and loved it. Was in therapy for it (although that was only bi-weekly).

She told him about his son. How he’d changed her. She was rambling, she knew, but could not control it. She stopped only when she could go on no more. Then she cried quietly as she sat in a chair across the coffee table from the sofa. She did not dare look at him. She had revealed her secret, all of it except for the part—anal sex—that she could not bring herself to speak of. She waited to hear the door slam behind him. He would tell Terry how “disappointed” he was in his having given in to his baser needs with that whore. His sister would fire the slut who worked for her.

“I don’t know what you want me to say.” It was Jon. Finally. “I thought . . . think we might have something.”

He asked her to look at him. He was still sitting across from her. He said he needed to speak to Terry. He didn’t know what would happen, but he first needed to speak to his son. He got up and took his coat from a hook by the front door. He would call her. He was gone.

“You’re an idiot.” Rosalind felt horrible as soon as she said it. It was after eleven that night and she was sitting where Jon sat less than thirty minutes earlier. She rose and walked behind Cheryl’s shaking body. She bent down and put her hands in the other woman’s and kissed her on the top of her head.

“I know you had to tell him. Maybe I would have waited a bit longer but you had to do it. And now you’ll know.” When she put her friend to bed, knowing she’d be fine alone, she walked home in the cold, feeling wretched for her.

*          *          *

When work ended on Friday, Cheryl took some comfort in that Yvette had not called her into her office for having had sex with her nephew. If she knew, she’d at least have told her to transfer the hell out of her department. She’d get a decent recommendation, but she’d be gone. So Yvette mustn’t know. Of course, what was her brother going to say to her?

She rode the subway to 96th and Broadway with her thoughts. Each passing minute increased the likelihood that she’d never see Jon again. When he hadn’t called before she went to bed that night, she accepted that they were done. She tried.

Rosalind took her to brunch on Saturday so they could drown Cheryl’s sorrows in mimosas. The two sat in a warm part of the restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue, and Cheryl was a little tipsy when her phone jingled.

{Jon:} OK. I’m ready to talk. Your place or mine?

Cheryl showed the text to Rosalind. She turned her phone back, waiting until Rosalind said, “do it.”

{Cheryl:} Yours. If that’s OK. I can get a cab.

He texted back the address and she was soon in a cab, heading across the Park. When she got to Jon’s apartment, Terry was there. He said he owed getting back with Marilyn to what she said. With that, he picked up his coat, said bye to his dad and sort of bowed and let his eyes touch Cheryl’s as he said bye to her and left.

When the door closed, Cheryl turned to Jon.

“Which leaves us, where?”

“I have no clue. I know your secret. I can try to handle it.”

She said, “I need you to understand because I need you to trust me. I’ve not been with another man since that night with Terry. Am I on the wagon? I don’t know. All I know is that I want a chance with you.”

She had sobered up quickly when she got his text. Now she was calm. Part of her wanted to get into his bed, to feel his arms around her, to surrender to him. A very large part of her. But she knew that if this was going to work, if they were going to work, it’d be a project. It began there, in that living room. But it’d take a while to be completed.

*          *          *

“You’re still an idiot.”

Cheryl was lying on the floor in Rosalind’s living room. It was a nice floor. It was a nice ceiling. When she arrived after her “chat” with Jon, she’d immediately gone to her friend’s. At first, she just sat on the floor, not wishing to sit on a chair, and then dropped so she on the floor like she was a child again.

Rosalind was in an armchair, which she’d turned so she could place her bare feet on Cheryl’s stomach. She’d conceded that Cheryl’s plan to come clean hadn’t been bad, now that it seemed to have worked. No, Cheryl’s new idiocy was her failure to go to bed with him then and there.

Cheryl rubbed her friend’s feet. She wasn’t ready.

She thought of Jon while she was in bed that night. Usually, she was not organized when she masturbated. Tonight she was. She placed candles around the bedroom and left only one small side lamp on with small, lit candles. She’d removed the covers and changed the sheets. She asked Alexa to play soft music as she lay in the center of the bed. Her pink vibrator was on her right side. She put perfume on her neck and lipstick on her lips.

Her session started when she rubbed each of her breasts, slipping her fingers up so they could squeeze each nipple, just enough to hurt. With her left hand still on a tit, she moved her right down her tummy. It went lower until her fingers brushed lightly over her bush. They continued over her folds. Tempted to touch her clit or insert a finger into her pussy, she held back.

Cheryl too rarely savored the pleasures of her body. Rarely did she lie so brazenly and touch herself so confidently. She reached for her vibrator and put it on a low setting, running it up and down her folds. With her eyes closed, she lowered her head to the pillow. She pictured Jon. What he would look like, naked and hard for her. The vibrator was near and then touching her clit, and she felt a jolt. She increased the setting. She was wet and returned it to her bed after turning it off. With both hands, she ran her fingers up each of the upper thighs, up until they were on either side of her opening.

She picked the vibe up again. She teased herself with it, whispering, “not yet.” She was wet enough, but she was pleasuring herself and wanted to linger. She kissed the vibrator and put its tip into her mouth and then the rest of it, slowly removing it through her lips. Her hand shook slightly as she lowered the toy to her pussy until it pointed at her hole. After lifting her head to see the lascivious display, her knees up and wide apart, she put her head back as she slowly inserted it, turning it up several notches. Staring at a spot on the ceiling. She was right. Wet enough.

She paused and rotated it and then inched its way in, rocking it back-and-forth. She was right again. She could not deny herself for long. She’d denied herself that afternoon when she didn’t lie in Jon’s bed.

A flash of anger for not bedding Jon that afternoon, or letting him bed her, shot through her and for a moment threatened to leave her pummeling herself with the phallus. As she’d done that horrible afternoon before. She controlled that urge. And was overtaken by a different, infinitely more pleasant one. It was Jon making love to her. Jon’s dick gliding in and out of her. As she heated up, she repeated his name and now what minutes before would be a rush of anger was one of lust and passion as she increased the vibrations. With one final effort, she shoved it in and held it as she rode out the powerful orgasm with it completely inside her.

As she lay—after removing the vibe, even kissing it, tasting herself, turning it off—in the splendor of the room lit by candles and a small lamp, with soft, magical music in the air, a tinge of the smell of her sex there too, she knew that she must have him.

She eventually roused herself enough to prepare for bed, for sleep. She returned to the bed, too tired to clean her toy, leaving it to lie with her overnight. After blowing out the candles and telling Alexa to stop playing the music, she pulled the cover over herself, reached to turn off the light, and entered into a sleep so different from any she could remember that it seemed a different species.

*          *          *

Cheryl ignored Yvette’s teasing on Monday. She’d told her about her first two dates with her brother, assuring her that she was taking it slow. He’d not confided any details to her. All Cheryl would say was that she’d seen Jon the day before and they had a good time.

She and Jon spoke each night the following week and agreed to visit the Metropolitan Museum on Saturday morning. They explored galleries like an old, married couple. Her arm through his. He knew little about art and made no effort to disguise his inadequacies. She didn’t care. She was growing to love the sound of his voice. His laugh. When they collected their coats and left, it was cold, but not too cold to walk to his place less than a mile away. When they got caught at a red light before they could cross 76th Street, he turned to face her. She wore a faux-fur headband over her ears. He brushed the few strands of her hair from her forehead before leaning down to give her a peck on the lips. It was an easy kiss, made with the nonchalance of lovers who appreciate the value of their small, intimate moments.

It was in that instant that she fell in love with him. The simplicity of their intimacy. The most natural thing in the world, even if he likely forgot it the moment the light changed and they resumed their walk.

He confessed to having nothing to eat at his place, so they stopped at a deli and got sandwiches and some coleslaw. A bag of chips. They were tired from walking around the museum. When they got to his place, he got a beer for himself and a glass of water for her.  They sat at the table in the kitchen. It was small, one of those bistro tables, but high, and they sat on the tall chairs that encircled it.

The apartment had a nice view across to Queens and they chatted of nothing as they ate. When they were done, both were nervous. As he rinsed off the plates for the dishwasher, she stepped behind him, encircling his waist with her arms. It was a little awkward because he was a good six inches taller than her, but she managed to whisper, “take me to bed.” He turned off the tap and placed the dishes in the sink. He turned to her. They kissed again, but this was far more physical though, strangely, no more intimate than the one they’d shared at 76th Street.

As she led him to his bedroom, he stopped her. He asked her to sit. When they were on the sofa he said that she’d told him everything and she was entitled to know the truth about him. Some he’d never told to anyone.

He slept around a fair amount before he was engaged to Carly. Once that happened, he never cheated on her. After she died, though, he was in a dark place. His family—his son and his sister—knew about it and did what they could to help him. He saw a grief therapist and it took years before he moved on.

What his family didn’t know is that there was a period when he regularly went out on Saturday nights to get laid. Generally speaking, he had no hesitation playing the pity card. He was the lonely widower. He cruised to various bars on the East Side, taking the woman to his apartment and giving her taxi fare home. It was quick, protected, and satisfying to him and he had no regrets. The period lasted about six months. A score of anonymous but pretty girls in their twenties and thirties.

While Cheryl was glad he told her, that he got it off his chest, it was surely less of an issue than what she did. It seemed that his approach was positive. In contrast to hers. She got them both back on track when she leaned to him and devoured his mouth after straddling him on the couch, running her hands up and down his sides.

“We have a deal. Then is then. Now is now. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“And now I need you to make love to me.”

As they walked to the bedroom, her again leading him, she turned and said, “I’m afraid I might need this on a regular schedule.” She began to strip, without concern for all of the physical flaws she feared she would expose. She looked at him. “You have been warned.” And she laughed as she discarded her layers, as did he. His breath was taken by her beauty. She did have flaws but when he first saw her in her nakedness, he was overwhelmed. His look alone directed her to the bed.

For her part, she was awed by his dick as it protruded from him. She was on the bed, waiting, and it was at her eyelevel. She saw the flaws in his fifty-five-year-old body. But he was among the most beautiful things she’d ever seen, and she could not wait for him to be inside her. This was not a foreplay situation. She assured him that she was wet enough and he knelt above her, lowering himself until she could grab his dick. He’d put on a condom, and she directed him into her. The moment it was in her, and still only just the head, she felt like a woman in a way she hadn’t since she didn’t know when.

He entered her. A light shot through her body. This was not the plastic phallus she’d used each night that week. Which she kissed. Which she blew before and after it was inside her. It was no longer an it. No, the dick inside her was a he and she relished it. As he found his rhythm his moans became guttural. He was full of passion until she sensed it turned. He was no longer making love to a beautiful woman. He was fucking a whore. This skank. The slut who’d fucked his son and countless others.

He was angry for defiling his dick, the wonderful dick that had made love too few times to his Carly, his beautiful, dead Carly. She deserved to be fucked, this one. As he began to hurl obscenities at her, under his breath, she at first thought he was in the moment. Role-playing. Too late she realized that he was not. That he was raping her for the secrets she revealed. The waves that had been washing over her suddenly collapsed as panic overwhelmed her.

She cried “Stop! Stop!” He would not listen. He would not stop. She tried to push him off, but he would not move. He was too heavy and too crazed. He increased the tempo of his pumping as her eyes grew big, staring up at his tightly shut ones, seeing his mouth spit out the horrible words to remind her of what she was.

She thought she might be bruised from his strength and contact, bashing into her. Finally, with a final thrust, he shot into her. Again and again he spurted. When he was done he pulled out without a sound other than the plop of his removal. When he stood, he glared down at her naked body, which was shaking, her eyes still large.

“Get out of my bed, you whore. If you come near my son again, I will do worse to you. You deserve it you old, ugly cunt.”

He fled the room.

Numb and in shock, Cheryl did not know what to do beyond assembling her things and getting dressed, feeling the disgust at her moist panties coming into contact with her suddenly dry pussy. She dressed quickly, and grabbed her bag and her phone and was out the door without ever seeing him again.

*          *          *

Rosalind asked if she should call the police.

“And say what? It started well and it turned bad. And with my history. With his son? No. No police.”

Rosalind had never felt so sorry for another person.

The thankfully few hours remaining on Sunday were a blur to both women. Cheryl, though, had been there before. Each time she’d let herself be defiled she went to work the next day, no one the wiser. She did the same this Monday. Perhaps a bit shorter with people than she had since she’d become the “new Cheryl,” but not so anyone noticed. She’d decided, though, that she could no longer work for Yvette. She liked her and had grown to cherish the time they spent, but she was a reminder of the man who raped her.

She lightly rapped on Yvette’s open door. She wouldn’t tell the whole truth, but enough to make it credible. She said she hoped it would work out with Jon but it hadn’t and she thought it best to move to another department.

Yvette said she was surprised, that she understood things were moving in the right direction. Cheryl said she thought so too, but it wasn’t meant to be. She trusted that Jon had too much pride to admit to having done what he had done or to expose Cheryl’s secrets. Yvette made some calls that afternoon, and by Friday Cheryl had a job in a department five floors above where she’d been. After several additional days getting her things for her successor, she left.

The new department with its new job and new co-workers was a needed change. Cheryl always tried to separate work from life, and she looked forward to going in each day. As spring began, she could walk in her trainers—her dress shoes at the office—the three or so miles on nice mornings. Through Central Park much of the way. And when it was light, she often walked home. Inside, she remained numb.

She hated being alone at home. She spent much of her weekends with Rosalind but feared she was taking up too much of it. Roz’s two boys liked her, almost as an honorary aunt. The oldest would be going to Princeton in the fall and the other had musical intentions. Rosalind began dating once her divorce was finalized—her husband voluntarily accepted a two-year suspension of his law license—with the apartment’s sale proceeds funding a large portion of her share of the assets, to be supplemented when the sale of the Berkshire house closed, with them sharing custody of the children, who spent most of their time at Rosalind’s.

Cheryl enjoyed hearing of her friend’s dating exploits, living vicariously, wishing she, too, could enjoy no-complication sex. But she couldn’t and did not go out with Rosalind to flirt. She was paying the price for her sins. She accepted that. Gradually, her numbness dissipated.

In June, she ran into Yvette in the lobby of their building as they were leaving work. They’d not seen one another since Cheryl transferred. They’d spoken about business matters now and then, but that was it. Although Yvette needed to catch a train, there was “always a later one.” She accompanied Cheryl on her walk north. It was a beautiful late spring afternoon, with summer in the air.

Yvette asked what really happened with Jon. Cheryl confessed that she told him about some very bad things she had done. The things in her past. Yvette picked up on it, asking if stopping whatever it was she was doing is what made her, “I hate to say it, but a better person?” Cheryl admitted it. It was, she told Yvette, a period of destructive self-loathing and she allowed young men to do horrible things to her just so she could have young men do horrible things to her. It somehow satisfied a dark need. If only briefly.

Without realizing it, the pair were at the Park’s entrance. Yvette’s feet were sore, since unlike Cheryl she was wearing dress shoes. They sat on a bench near the zoo. Yvette pulled out her phone and called her husband, telling him something came up and she’d be a bit late and it was up to him to figure out what he was having for dinner and, no, she wasn’t sure what time she’d get home. She hung up. Cheryl envied her.

While the call continued, Cheryl thought of what to add. She decided no good would come from the full truth, about Terry and about the rape. But she wanted Yvette to know that she told Jon about her past. It wouldn’t be honest not to. And he, understandably, could not accept it, especially in light of his relationship with his late wife.

“Relationship? They hated each other at times. They hid it from Terry and everyone else. But she’d call me.” Cheryl stiffened. “Oh, it wasn’t abusive, or physically at least. I probably should have told you, but it’s always been my secret. Jon can get moody. It came and went, but she sometimes felt more alone when he was in the house than when he was away. Most of the time, though, it was like everyone thinks. At those times they were a model couple.”

“I slept with Terry, your nephew.”

Cheryl did not mean to say it and immediately regretted it. In the wash of what she was saying, Yvette wasn’t sure she heard Cheryl correctly, her eyes confused. Cheryl repeated it. She didn’t know who he was. They were both in a horrible place. It was just the one night long ago. It was what turned her around. She had to expose what she did and what she was when it happened. Yvette had to know that her nephew changed her life.

The two were spent. Cheryl led Yvette, silent as she struggled to understand what she’d been told, to Fifth Avenue and put her in a cab for Grand Central. It was too much for Cheryl too, but she continued her walk home, oblivious to the laughing and screaming of those who were enjoying the late spring air.

*          *          *

Cheryl was preparing to go to lunch when the security desk in the lobby called her. A Marilyn Ellis was there to see her. It took a moment to recognize the name. Cheryl’d immediately RSVPed “No” when she received the invitation, surprised she was asked. Why was Terry’s fiancée downstairs waiting to talk to her?

When she reached the lobby, she recognized the pretty woman staring out the large windows overlooking Park Avenue. There was a pair of empty chairs to her left. Cheryl tapped her, said hello, and directed her to them. The chairs were set at an angle.

“Terry told me what you and he did. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I almost left him then and there. It was disgusting.”

Cheryl nodded but refused to back away. She leaned forward so their voices wouldn’t be overheard, but didn’t dare touch her. Both women’s hands were in tight balls in their laps. Marilyn continued. “But I told him I would think about it. I stayed at a friend’s apartment and borrowed a dress from her to go work this morning. I haven’t spoken to him since. I knew you worked for this bank, and I took the chance that you’re in this building. I’m nearby.”

She paused, trying to get what she had to say right. “I know it’s not fair of me to criticize him. I left him for someone else and he was free. But the way he talks about it, with you, it gives me the creeps. And, I’m afraid, it makes you into quite the slut. Yet he insisted that we invite you to the wedding. I appreciate you declining. What I need to know is why did he insist on that. Why would he want to have anything to do with you? I get that you worked for his aunt and all. I don’t understand. Can you—?”

Before she could finish, Cheryl told her why, at least as best she’d figured it out. It was a random encounter. They both were pretty close to rock bottom. Terry because Marilyn was gone. And it was enjoyable for them both. “Strangely, it gave both of us hope that we could be better than we were that night.”

With that, the topic was exhausted and they rose. Cheryl wished Marilyn a nice wedding and hoped she had an even nicer marriage. And the two separated. Cheryl hoped that, for Terry’s sake, she’d said what had to be said. And while she did feel a slight hankering of a particular affection for him, however colored by what his father did to her, he was Marilyn’s and, she hoped, always would be.

*          *          *

Things in life and at work again moved along at a mundane pace, which Cheryl preferred. She was often lonely, especially when Rosalind began seeing someone seriously. She took to working with several charities in her neighborhood regularly and expanded her small circle of friends. A month or so after she sat with Marilyn in her building lobby, she received a framed photo of the two from their wedding. Both signed it, and Terry, it appears, said “With fondest regards.”

She did well at work, and Yvette nodded, but never spoke to her, if they ran into each other in the building or nearby. Once they were on an elevator together, and they were each able to say “how are you?” before people mercifully got between them.

*          *          *

Cheryl didn’t remember when she’d last spoken to her ex when she received a call on a rainy July Saturday. She was re-reading “The Age of Innocence” in the late afternoon, hearing the rain batter her window, a glass of milk and a plate of oatmeal-raisin cookies keeping her company.

She stared at her phone, at his name as the caller, before getting whatever it could be over with and answering. He sounded embarrassed. She’d lightly followed what happened to him since his firm collapsed. He was well enough known that a monthly DuckDuckGo search kept her up to speed. She’d seen that he’d opened a “boutique litigation practice” in a small office in a not-quite-a-first-tier building on the far East Side. She could find nothing on his personal life. Including about his second wife.

He had an apologetic tone when he began, saying he was thinking of her and just called to see how she was doing. He always was a bullshitter. She reminded him that she knew it.

He confessed that he was almost broke. He’d been killed by legal fees in connection with his firm’s dissolution and might have overspent on gifts for his bride when times were flush. He’d, well, tapped out his bank sources and maxed out his credit cards. Could she see herself clear to lend him some money?

Cheryl wondered how many people he called before getting to her, surely at the bottom of his list. The bastard. “I have three words for you. Bank. Rupt. See.” She hung up. There were other three-word combinations—Go Fuck Yourself coming first to mind—she might have used. But she was being polite. No need to gloat.

Rosalind burst out laughing when Cheryl told her. Her own ex was pretty much in the same boat, but she got her money out in time. They agreed that having a park bench for the two to share was too good for them.

At that point, Rosalind had far more pleasant news. She’d gotten engaged the day before, and Cheryl was the first to know. Her ring was simple—it came from his family—and it suited Rosalind perfectly. Cheryl’d long heard about Paul Wilson, M.D. Met him several times. He, too, was divorced. An orthopedist with a good gig at Lenox Hill Hospital and a private office on Park Avenue. He also had an apartment on Riverside Drive and a house in the Berkshires, not far from Rosalind’s since-sold place. A mutual friend introduced them and the company was good and the sex, as Cheryl was often reminded, was great. He had two girls, both working in the City, who were older than Roz’s oldest. The kids got along well enough, and it would be a simple ceremony up in Lenox, Massachusetts, near his house.

The wedding weekend was a delight. Cheryl drove up with Rosalind and her boys a few days before. Paul’s house wasn’t big enough for everyone, so Cheryl stayed at the inn on the outskirts of town, where the ceremony would take place. She was Rosalind’s Maid of Honor. In all the guests numbered about thirty. They hoped the ceremony would take place in a garden at the inn, but rain prevented that, and it was moved inside. Simple, heartfelt vows. Then a sit-down dinner overlooking the yard. The rain made the trees that encircled the property glow and glisten as the sun went down.

Cheryl sat between two attractive men. Both doctors in Paul’s practice, in their fifties. One was with his wife and the other was a free agent, with a divorce on his CV. The four were among the eight sitting at the bride’s and groom’s table. All four were staying at the inn—Rosalind and Paul were at his house and spending the week there—and the alcohol flowed. They all had razor-sharp minds and quick wits and soon they were relaxing like old friends, which of course all but Cheryl were.

Cheryl woke up at about three in the morning. She turned on the small light on the side table and struggled to the bathroom where she turned on the bright, painful light. She saw a woman who looked like shit in the mirror. Hair disheveled. Makeup smeared. Her stomach was queasy. In all the fun, she’d lost track of how much she’d drunk. She thought she might puke so she sat on the toilet seat briefly.

No. False alarm. Bathroom light off, she headed back to the bed and rolled in. As she reached to turn off the light by the bed, she saw a hand-written note:

Cheryl,

You are beautiful when you snore.

Don

She looked around in a panic. No, she was alone. He must have put her to bed. She realized that while she had her panties on, beneath her nightgown, her bra was gone. She could not remember. Anything. And what about his note? She found her insides rumbling, and rushed to the bathroom and retched into the toilet. After struggling up and thoroughly rinsing out her mouth, she managed to get back into bed. Whatever happened happened. She could do nothing about it. Not only did she look like shit, she felt like it. She got into bed and curled into a ball and at some point after she turned the light off she was again asleep.

At first she didn’t know what it was. The knocking. Oh. It’s the door. She got up, and opened it a crack. Don was standing there. Sheepishly.

“I just wanted to make sure you’re OK.” He had a small tray with two cups of coffee and milk and sugar.

“What happened?”

He asked to come in. The room was a disaster, but she was past caring.

She got a robe, and he sat in an armchair. She took the proffered cup and poured some milk and spooned some sugar in as she sat on the bed. She took a slip.

“OK. Tell me.”

“First,” he said, “I did not undress you. That was Sam.” Sam, she recalled, was the wife of the other doctor she sat with at the reception. “I carried you up.”

“You’re kidding. Please tell me—”

“No. I’m not kidding. It was fine. You drank way too much and it suddenly hit you. It was just the four of us in the living room, and we thought it best to put you to bed. Sam got you ready and literally put you under the covers. I came in to make sure you were OK, and you were snoring like a freight train. Hence my note.”

“And?”

He waited. “You are quite beautiful when you’re sleeping.” He hurriedly added, “Not that you’re not beautiful other times.”

“Fuck you,” she laughed as she’d completely relaxed with this stranger in her room. “But I suffered during the night. I puked at about three.”

“We’ll get some food in you and you’ll be OK. They’re serving breakfast downstairs. I’ll be there when you get down.”

Don got up to leave. Cheryl looked up. “Thanks for taking care of me. I didn’t—”

“Stop. I’d do it for anyone.” As he passed, he turned toward her. He brushed a strand of her unruly hair from her forehead, and kissed it. It was spontaneous and he was embarrassed about it and quickly left. Cheryl found her hand rubbing where his lips touched her. Was it the simple kiss of the sort she found so intimate when Jon, the bastard, kissed her at 76th Street? Or was it what all appearances said it was, just a friendly kiss?

She wouldn’t find out sitting there. She drank a bit more of her coffee and rushed to shower and get dressed. She kept the former brief and the latter simple. About twenty minutes after Don left, she went into the inn’s breakfast room. Several tables were taken by other guests at the wedding, but she did not see Don. Sam rushed to her, pointing her to the library next door. He was in an armchair reading The Times. He smiled and rose when he saw her, and they joined Sam and Dick, Sam’s husband, at the table. Fortunately, nothing more was said about what transpired the prior evening, beyond Cheryl thanking Sam for taking care of her.

They enjoyed the breakfast. Don offered to drive Cheryl back to the City. She’d planned on going home with Paul’s girls, who were taking Roz’s boys with them too, but not only would it lessen the crowding in that SUV but would, she hoped, be an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours with a handsome doctor.

After saying their goodbyes, Cheryl and Don were heading home. He had an Audi S4 and Cheryl immediately felt comfortable with his driving. And they talked. Big picture things. Cheryl bemoaned her nightmare of a marriage, with a detour to explaining how it at least led her to Rosalind. She hesitated but revealed that both of their exes were in deep trouble regarding their law licenses.

For Don’s part, his background and marriage were boring. He grew up in southern Connecticut. Went to college at Williams in western Massachusetts and medical school at Columbia. He began practicing at Lenox Hill and that’s where he’s been. His marriage was good “while it lasted,” but they drifted apart. It was as painless a divorce as one can expect when you have two kids.

“No, neither of us cheated or did anything wrong. It was a growing apart. Part of it was religious tensions. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m Jewish. I have enough guilt already without doing anything to deserve it.”

He said his two girls were adults when the divorce was final. And he still speaks regularly to his re-married wife, Jessica.

For most of the drive, though, they were alone in their thoughts. Cheryl felt comfortable in the confined space with Don, glad Rosalind was honeymooning in Lenox so she could quickly get intel on him.

*          *          *

Rosalind provided a fair amount of intelligence about Donald R. Miller, M.D. She said she thought and even hoped they’d hit it off. What Roz said about Don was consistent with what Don said about Don. When Don asked Cheryl for dinner on the following Thursday, she said yes. When she asked him to brunch on Sunday, he said yes. They spoke frequently over the next few weeks and went out several times.

Then it was time. Four dates, each more enjoyable than the last. Anticipation in the air while they ate at a nice Italian restaurant near Don’s apartment. When he asked her up, this time she accepted. When the door was closed behind them, he leaned into her in the foyer. They kissed. Long and deeply. Intimately. She began to swoon, and pulled away.

“We need to talk.”

She sat in his living room. She told him about herself. All about herself. The (few) ups. The (numerous) downs. The abuse, and the rescue. He was quiet. To him, she gave no sign of being damaged goods. She was simply a sweet, kind, and gorgeous yet lonely woman. A woman for whom he lusted.

By the end, she was crying. He put fingers in her cheek, wiping away a tear as it wandered down her face.

He leaned in, telling her to look at him.

“I am in the healing business. People come to me with things that are broken. I fix them. That’s what I do. They come in for follow-up visits. I remove the cast, take an x-ray, and eventually tell them they’re healed. You’ve had something broken. As far as I can tell you’re healed.”

He gave her another kiss. They were relaxed, but both thought it too early to be more intimate.

*          *          *

Don called her each day after her confession and several days later asked her to a colleague’s party the coming Saturday. It was mid-August. Cheryl had met a number of the doctors and nurses with whom Don worked, but this was more than that. An audition of sorts? He picked her up at his apartment and a car took them across town. She wore a ruby cocktail dress with matching heels. Her hair was done well, her makeup light. She wore a single strand of small pearls and a simple watch. A gold chain draped her left ear, connecting her two piercings. Her right ring-finger had a ring with several small sapphire stones that complemented her eyes.

Don was in a perfectly-tailored dark blue suit with a white shirt and red tie. He wore a running watch and no jewelry. His lone folly: light blue socks that complemented the dark blue of his trousers.

When they arrived, Cheryl at first thought it much like the dreary events she hosted or attended when she was married. Forced smiles and banal chatter. Perhaps too much alcohol. She lit up when she saw Rosalind and Paul, and the four spoke briefly before the two doctors worked the room. Rosalind and Cheryl turned to the guests and Rosalind relayed what she knew about everyone. Don and Paul returned and took the ladies to meet people. Cheryl relaxed.

As they were leaving, Cheryl excused herself and after a trip to the bathroom, she and Don made their goodbyes to Rosalind and Paul and the hosts and were soon in a car taking them to Don’s apartment. Both knew what was going to happen as they rode up in the elevator. He had her panties in the right pocket of his jacket—she’d handed them to her as they rode down from the party—and she’d confirmed his attentions with a light rub of his trousers on the way up. They did not dare anything about it in the elevator; he’d warned about a camera.

At the apartment’s door, Don struggled for his keys, turning to kiss her lightly as he turned them and opened the door. As it swung open, she saw that the living room was lit.

Someone was watching “Pride and Prejudice” on the big TV on the wall.

“Damn.”

“Dad. Is that you? I hope you don’t—”

A woman in her mid-20s stared at the pair. She began to apologize, saying she should have called. She could just go to her mother’s. For a moment the almost lovers stood until Don closed the door.

He whispered, “Do you want to go to your place?”

Cheryl looked back at the girl. “No. Introduce us.” If Cheryl was jumping into the deep end, she had to find out if she could swim.

After an “are you sure?”,  Cheryl decided to stay.

The girl was Don’s older daughter. Cam, for Camille, was 27 and single and worked for an investment firm in Philly. She’d come up for a few days before heading out to the Hamptons for a week.

Looking at Cheryl in her ruby cocktail dress, she ran into the second bedroom and brought out a baggy shirt and sweat pants. “You seem about my size. If you’re staying, you should change.” As she headed into the room to change, Cheryl sidled up to Don. “I think I need my panties back.” He reached into his pocket and discreetly—though not so discretely that Cam didn’t notice—handed them back, whispering, “they’re mine now, this is just a loan.” She kissed him on the cheek, quite spontaneously, and went into Cam’s room to change.

He avoided the third-degree from his daughter by himself getting comfortable in his room, and he came out in a pair of jeans—the fit of which Cheryl noticed was very nice—and a polo shirt and sweater. Cheryl was barefoot.

Then the three, more the two girls since Don lost interest in the movie in favor of focusing on his date, watched, periodically debating who is the better Darcy. Cam insisted that the movie version, and Matthew Macfadyen, was steamier and her preference against the slow buildup that Cheryl favored in the Colin Firth version. They, as Austen fans must, agreed to disagree and watched, sitting next to one another on the sofa while Don turned from admiring Cheryl to browsing his iPad. Both girls would have felt a little bad for him had they not been enjoying each other’s company so well.

While the credits rolled, Cam announced that she was going-to-bed/goodnight and in a minute she was heard in the bathroom and then with a “goodnight” was gone.

She bashfully emerged a minute later, carrying Cheryl’s dress and shoes, saying, “if” she was going home, she’d probably need them.

With Cam gone, Don asked if she was going home. It was only a few blocks and she was tired and the moment was gone, so she thought it best that she do. He rapped on his daughter’s door and said he was walking Cheryl home. When she said he could come in, he opened the door a crack and said, “with luck I won’t be back. But I’ll have my keys.” With an “Ew, TMI,” he closed the door and a few minutes later they were walking down Columbus Avenue to Cheryl’s building. She’d changed into her dress, with panties, while he spoke to Cam.

Once inside her apartment, he turned on her. Literally. His hands rose up her outer legs as he leaned down to kiss her. They pushed up the hem and he reached for the waistband of her panties. “I said they were just a loaner.” To which he heard a breathless, “They’re yours” as he retrieved them.

She reached around and unzipped her dress and pulled it over her head. She was naked except for her lace bra and shoes, and she stepped out of the latter of those. He was suddenly on his knees on the oriental rug in the foyer, his right hand lightly brushing against her mound and his left holding her ass, soon followed by his tongue as he got her wet. This was no prelude. This was something new and delicious. He was a man who could become addicted to her pussy and its smells and its tastes.

While her flesh was weak, her legs were weaker. She couldn’t stand, literally, this much longer.

“Bedroom.”

He rose and stepped back. She unclasped her bra and her tits drooped. She was embarrassed for their size and sag, but he put his hands below each and lifted each to kiss it. Saying, “spectacular” as she pulled back. She led him to the bedroom and pulled the shades before going into the bathroom to brush her teeth and get ready for him. She dabbed perfume behind her ears and in her pussy. When she entered the bedroom, he was naked and on his back and very, very hard. She had a moment of disappointment. He’d placed a condom on. He must have grabbed it, the presumptuous bastard, when he left his place. Happily, his hard dick seemed even more presumptuous.

Unsure whether to straddle him, he patted the bed next to him. She lay down. There was only one light on and it was neither too soft nor too hard. But it was enough that he could admire her. And he did. She tried to cower beneath the covers, suggesting that they might “do it” in the dark, but he would not hear of it. Instead, his left hand caressed her boobs and her stomach in a way she’d never been caressed before. Ever. Suddenly he leaned in so he could kiss her neck. She’d entered the bedroom thinking she might get fucked, and she was good with that with this man. They’d crossed some invisible barrier. He had little interest in fucking her. He was a man so there was, of course, some interest. He wanted to make love to her.

Slowly she rolled on her back. His hand ran down to her pussy, testing it. She whispered, “in” and he inserted his middle finger, pulsing it in and out slightly and she’d gone from moist to damp.

“Now him.”

He rose above her. She reached, locking her eyes in his, and directed his dick into her entrance as he lowered himself. He slowly slid it in and held it as his mouth dropped to hers. In that moment everything that came before evaporated. He turned his head to the right and she turned hers slightly to the right and their lips met, his dick safely cradled in her pussy.

After a quick tongue insertion, he pulled his head up so he could drown in her. He began to slowly rock his hips, sliding his dick out and back. Soon they were not just making love. They were fucking, gloriously fucking as they couldn’t help themselves. It was too quick for both of them, but they didn’t care. This was modern dance, not Balanchine, and as Cheryl started to spasm, he came, several bursts landing harmlessly in the condom, but she felt each of them and savored each of them.

*          *          *

Cheryl woke up at about four. She couldn’t believe he was in her bed. More she couldn’t believe he was in her bed and snoring like a freight train. She turned to look at his heaving chest and pushed him off his back. With an “I’m sorry” he was soon on his side and fast asleep.

She felt a little guilty about it in the morning, but Cheryl, as naked as he was, reached around to spoon him and her hand slid down to touch what she assumed would be his flaccid dick. It was slightly erect and her touch caused it to be more so. Again, she felt guilty but she wanted to touch him and her hand moved as it grew and then it was almost fully erect and she wanted it fully erect and she began pumping it and before she knew it she was jerking her sleeping lover off.

He was soon half awake and then wide awake. He placed his hand over hers, urging her on as she pumped him. She didn’t recall ever doing that, certainly not like this, and suddenly his hand was quickening the pace of hers and with a grunt he came all over her sheets. “Oh, shit” he said as he jumped up to get a towel and did the best he could to clean himself and the bed up.

“Fuck. I shouldn’t have.”

The top sheet was now damp. They turned on the light to change it, both oblivious to their nakedness.

When they got back into bed, he got on his back. He pulled her so she was above him and then adjusted her so she her legs crossed his left leg. His hand went around her ass so his middle finger could reach her pussy and her clit and its hood. Giving her a few kisses, he chided her for being naughty and his finger ran up and down her folds. Soon she was breathing quickly as she again went from moist to damp. He gently entered her with his finger, lifting his leg slightly so she could rub herself against his thigh.

Soon she was getting herself off on his leg and on his finger. “More,” and a second finger entered her, and the dam broke and she was over it and with a “thank you” she turned onto her side so she could put his arm around her. “Let’s hope now you won’t snore.” He kissed the back of her neck and whether he again snored she never knew since she was long gone to her pleasant dreamland.

When she was awake, he was gone. She panicked for a moment but smelled coffee. Grabbing her phone, she saw it was 7:32. She went to the bathroom, then put a robe on and went into the living room. He sat on a chair by the windows with a coffee and her tablet.

“I’m just reading The Times. I hope that’s OK.”

“Of course,” and she went to get coffee. While she was in the kitchen and getting cereal, he called if she had anything planned for the day. To her “no,” he said, “Good. You’re meeting my ex.” She stepped into the living room.

He explained that a few times a year he, the kids, and his ex, now with her newer-model husband, met for brunch. He wanted her to come. Cheryl thought it was a bit early in the relationship, which was going very fast. She turned to get her coffee, leaving the cereal for the moment, and went to sit with him in the living room. He said he knew it was early, but it’d be nice.

*          *          *

When Cheryl went to the ladies’, Cam followed her in. “I think she likes you.” She explained that her father had only brought someone to these brunches once, a few years earlier. Her mom didn’t like her. “Dad values her opinion and she gave it to him. She didn’t last much longer.”

She said her mother didn’t have a veto. Just that he trusted her. “And I think she likes you.” She added that as far as she could tell her younger sister, Joan, liked her, too. In fact, Cheryl was not a blank slate for either Cam’s mom or her sister. Cam had fed them what slight intel she had on her, all good, and the actual meeting confirmed what they were told. Cheryl, for her part, found Don’s ex and Joan what she expected from Cam’s descriptions. More importantly, she felt neither threatened by nor threatening to them. When she returned with Don to his place, he thanked her for coming and echoed Cam’s view that she passed the “family test” that had defeated a prior prospect. They agreed that the new husband was a bit bland but seemed to keep his ex happy enough.

With his two daughters staying with their mom and stepdad, Cheryl and Don naturally ended up in his bed. It was the first time they made love there. A thunderstorm came through at about four, the rain battering the apartment’s windows. They took their first shower together. His shower was large and he soaped her up and rinsed her off and she did the same to him. She could not resist running her hand over his extended dick and relished his “Ahhhh” when she brought the shower nozzle near it, turning it to pulse. He was saved from falling by grasping her hips. He forced himself against her and she dropped the nozzle, shower spray flailing about until he could turn the water off.

They got out, the showerhead left on the tiles where it fell, and after toweling off they were in his bed. They wanted nothing but good sex. She lay on her back with her legs spread as he rolled a condom down his dick.

“I’m wet enough” and his knees were inside hers as he dropped down to let her guide him in. It was natural. That was a good word for it. “Natural.” As his dick entered her pussy, he felt it was the one place it was always meant to be. She felt it too. He was slow and languid with his movements, and her hips moved only slightly until she could no longer hold back her moans.

He’d been on his elbows looking down at her, and she up at him. He lowered his lips to her and their tongues danced with each other as he increased his tempo and her hands grabbed his ass and soon the slowness and lanquidity were forgotten in their passion until she began to come and within seconds of her starting he too burst, filling his condom.

He turned onto his back after he came out of her. She rolled so she could place her head on his chest. As they chilled in the air conditioning, he reached over and covered them with the blanket and that was the last thing either of them recalled. When she awoke, it was dark, the room lit only by a bit of Manhattan’s ambient light. His arm was around her as she heard his sleepish breathing. She pulled away slightly so she could study his face in the low light.

He was a handsome man. Maybe not to the world, but to her. She admired his sharp nose and the way his eyelids fluttered as he slept, which she could just make out. She got up to pee, and when she returned he asked where she’d gone. He got up to discard the condom and take care of himself, before returning to their bed. He again got on his back so he could embrace her across his chest.

And they talked. They talked about sex. About what they liked and what they didn’t. It was a free and easy conversation between two naked middle-aged people after a post-coital nap. After they’d established the parameters of their future love-making, Don got into something casual while Cheryl watched him. He went into Cam’s room and got Cheryl sweatpants and a t-shirt. “I’m afraid you’ll have to go commando,” he said as he watched her get dressed. “Next time you come, bring a supply of stuff. It’ll make things easier.”

With that, he turned to see what there was for dinner.

She sat to put Cam’s socks on. She hoped he meant a double entendre with his next-time-you-come phrase. And before she got too far down that rabbit hole, he called to find out what she wanted to eat.

*          *          *

Rosalind looked closely at her friend. The four of them spent a fall weekend at Rosalind and Paul’s place in Lenox and were now heading on the parkway home. The two orthopedists were in the front of the Range Rover, and Cheryl had nodded off shortly after they reached the parkway. Her head leaned against the SUV’s side pillar and her head was rocking slowly as she slept.

Rosalind thought her neither pretty nor unattractive. She was a woman. Her closest and dearest friend. As she looked, for the first time she felt happy for her. Things had gone quickly.

Cheryl and Don spent most weekends at his apartment—where she’d quickly brought things, including a fair amount of lace lingerie—but some at hers. Twice he awoke to her engulfing his hardening dick, which she’d freed from his pajama bottoms, in her mouth, without a word bringing him to an orgasm, standing and walking to the bathroom, still without a word.

He never thought her blowjobs were just for him. It was strange, but he was right. She did it because she wanted to please him. When he was in her mouth, she cared nothing for herself. Only him and she relished his reaction to what she was doing to and for him.

Though he offered to return the favor, she declined, requiring nothing for herself. She just finished in the bathroom and went to make coffee. She did not then know that he enjoyed going down on her as much as she enjoyed doing it to him. That she found out when she was awakened with him contentedly between her legs one Sunday morning a few weeks later.

On the following Saturday, when Don went through his door with groceries, he got virtually no acknowledgment from Cheryl or Cam. They were on the sofa, Cheryl sitting and Cam lying with her feet on the older woman’s lap. Cam came up from Philly unexpectedly and Don gave the two women some privacy to talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. Cam had come to look at Cheryl as a favored aunt, speaking to her about things she would never speak to him about and that she was uncomfortable speaking to her mother about. Usually men, according to the cryptic reports Cheryl gave him.

Presumably this was one of the situations.

In fact, it was.

Neither woman understood the significance of their little chat. It was the nonchalant “hi dad” from Cam and the “hi hon” from Cheryl that did it. After Don put the groceries away, he stood in the doorway looking out. It wasn’t what they were talking about; he barely made it out. It was how they were talking. As if they’d been doing it for years, and not the mere months that it had been.

He returned to the kitchen, asking if either of them wanted anything. Cheryl called out, “coffee please” followed by Cam’s “Me too.” Then, after a pause, “Please.”

As he measured the coffee and put the water on, he made his decision and when he brought them their coffees and sat with them they changed the subject of what they’d been speaking of.

For her part, Cheryl felt she was being too hard on Cam. There was a guy at work she sorta/kinda liked. Cheryl was blunt. If it might become love, stick with him. But if it’s just a sorta/kinda-like thing, move on. Cheryl told her enough of her past to establish that she spoke from experience. In one of her more unguarded moments, Cheryl confessed that she’d lost love and didn’t think she would find it again until she met her father. It was, she realized after the words were out, the first time she told anyone that she loved him.

And she did. The mundaneness of the days at Rosalind and Paul’s place over that earlier weekend sealed it for her. The joy of that combined with the intensity of their love-making made clear that what she’d once given up searching for was in front of her. She could never let him know, lest he reject her. She hoped, though, to ride the emotions for as long as she could. Although were she honest with herself, she hoped he wanted her to be his wife.

It was a normal Saturday night the week later. Things were moving very quickly. They ate at a place on Columbus Avenue where the staff knew their names. And it was a perfectly enjoyable dinner. Over coffee (decaf) and a shared tiramisu, he simply asked her if she’d marry him and she simply said “yes” and they finished the coffee and the dessert and went to her place.

He’d thought of giving her the ring at dinner, but that was too showy for both of them. So as they walked to her apartment, he removed the box from his coat and handed it to her. She stopped. She handed the box back to him.

“At least do this part properly.”

“Knee?”

“You’re too old and brittle. No knee.”

With that, he slipped the ring on her finger and again asked her to marry him as he did and she again said yes.

*          *          *

They had made love many times. And had fucked often too. Given their ages, they were surprisingly adventurous. A few times in one of the examination rooms in his office while everyone was at lunch. She gave him a blowjob on a cab going across the Park one night, though the trip was too short for him to come. The cabbie got a nice tip.

Once in a bathroom on Acela going to visit Cam in Philly and again on the way back.

But this was the first time they made love as husband and wife.

It was a small ceremony in early December at St. Paul’s Chapel, a small, brick chapel at Columbia University, where Don went to Medical School. It was an Episcopal service. Rosalind was Cheryl’s Maid of Honor and Paul was Don’s best man. Cam and her sister, Joan, as well as Don’s ex and her husband. Cheryl invited a few people from work, including Yvette, who came with her husband, Steve. The two had again become comfortable with one another, having lunch together occasionally, particularly in light of how well Terry and Marilyn were doing. Cheryl thought of asking Terry and Marilyn, but decided against it. She expected that Yvette would let them know how things turned out. There were a fair share of doctors and dates, including Dick and Sam.

The reception was at a loft in the West Village and the bride and groom left directly for JFK to catch Air France flight 7, which got them to Paris at around eight the next morning. It was her first time there. Still largely on New York time, the couple were wide awake when they returned to their room after dinner. She wore a sapphire-blue dress. He was in his favorite blue suit. At dinner, she’d excused herself and when she returned to the table she handed him, quite brazenly, her panties. Which were damp as she anticipated what she knew they would soon be doing.

They lazed over their dessert, both becoming increasingly aroused. When they made it back to the hotel after walking, they both shook slightly as they rode the elevator to their floor.

Once in their room, they clutched and soon Don had his hands on her ass cheeks, bare beneath the blue dress, kneading them as he learned she loved him to do. She’d long since lost any nervousness about her body around him. He had often examined it and found it wanting in no detail.

Her body had long since overwhelmed him with its perfection. With his wife’s ass secured, he bent to secure her lips and when their tongues met both knew they could not last long.

There was passion. And there was this. Soon they were naked on the bed, their clothes randomly strewn about the room. She returned from the bathroom after reapplying perfume, hesitating before she left to twist the band newly on her finger. A ring to rule her all.

He was on his side, already hard. He turned on his back, and she straddled his head, her back to the headboard. They’d become adept at this as she lowered her pussy to his mouth. To him, the sight of her pussy—her folds and her clit—moving down to him was divine. He greeted her with his tongue, licking her nether lips and sucking on her exposed clit. She moved slightly up so his tongue could reach her hole and he pushed it into her, generating a moan.

She briefly humped his face, her hips gyrating, reaching down with her hand to caress his throbbing dick, running her hand up and down. But she knew she couldn’t do that for long. He would explode. Her hand could not have that.

She released him, and pulled her left leg away to cross him so she could stand. She picked up the condom he left on a side table and opened its container. She turned and kissed the head of his dick. She knew she shouldn’t, but she could not resist putting it completely in her mouth. Oh, how she loved the feel of his pulsing between her lips.

But she had other lips to consider and she pulled off him and gave him a light tap and then a kiss on its tip. She rolled the condom down and told him to move over. When he did, she lay on her back, her legs wide.

She looked over. “You’re my husband. Why are you over there?”

He needed no repetition. He was atop her.

He stared down at her, seeing the beads of sweat collect on her forehead, sliding down the side of her head, her lower teeth clutching at her upper lip as she tried to maintain control. He was in her. He thought how much he’d enjoy stripping her of all control, not realizing that he would then be at her mercy.