Romance Fiction posted February 14, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
a contest entry


by AlvinTEthington

I was surprised at how lithe she was when I first saw her. Nearly six feet tall, she moved with the grace of a gazelle my wife, Lenore, and I had seen on safari in Africa.

Lenore! My sister Carole had told me it was time to move on since the death of my wife. I simply didn't want to. Then why had Carole talked me into coming to this resort in Palm Springs during high season? I longed to be back home by the fireplace with the snow falling down sofly outside instead of almost naked here by the pool in 70 degrees Fahrenheit weather in Feburary. But Carole had insisted with all three hundred pounds of her body, and one simply didn't say no to her, not even over the phone--at least I didn't.

I saw the Amazon gazelle speak to the effeminate manboy in the Speedo lounging with his feet in the pool. Calling her an Amazon depersonalized her, so I could ignore the unwanted stirring in my loins. I had thought the manboy was gay until she spoke to him. She addressed him as Sean and asked him if he wanted to come back inside with her to her and apparently his room. Odd, I always thought of Sean as a masculine Irish name, which didn't fit this young actor/model/dancer I associated with Los Angeles and Hollywood. They disappeared inside.

"Are you having fun, Sandy?" Carole had come out of her villa and was now standing over me, blocking my sun.

"Loads, Carole, just loads."

"Well, I say from the look of it, Jasmine did have an effect on you."

I automatically crossed my legs. It would be wrong if I cheated on Lenore.

"Only animalistically speaking. You know my heart will always belong to Lenore." Good Lord, that sounded corny.

"Look, Sanford. It's been five years. It's time to move on. You stay cooped up in that high rise on Lake Michigan, order your groceries from the market, and never go out. You even arranged it so you could work out of home. What is it they call it--telecommuting? You would never see another soul if I didn't drag you outside once in a while."

"Carole, you're a good sister. But I'm fine, really just fine. I like being alone."

"Then how do you explain that tent in your trunks?"

"You really need to learn to express yourself more fully. You hold way too much back." I jumped into the pool.

"How did you know her name was Jasmine, Carole?"

"I don't. That's just her stage name. She's in the industry."

Carole and all her West Coast lingo. In the industry meant Jasmine was in the entertainment field and that could mean anything. With her height, she probably was a character actor.

"She works with Sean, Sandy."

"Sean? You mean the skinny, scrawny kid?"

"Yeah, I met him a while back at a party. It was a theme party--Cougars meet Studs."

I didn't know what was funnier--thinking of Carole with her linebacker build as a cougar or the emaciated Sean as a stud. I hadn't laughed, even inside, in a long time. It felt good.

"What were you doing at that party?"

"I don't know what you think of me, but Carlos left me very well off. Money talks here in California. I think Sean likes me."

Ah, here comes the lonely rich widow act. Carole was anything but lonely. She was the stereotype of the lady who lunches. I was the lonely one. Oddly enough, I didn't feel lonely now. I wanted to see Jasmine again, but what would Lenore think?

"And you're not worried about the thirty year age difference?"

"Shut your mouth, big brother. I am just fine. I can train him right."

"And I thought he was gay..."

Carole giggled. She shook like a bowl full of...what was wrong with me? I usually don't think this giddily.

"Well, you're sort of right, he's bisexual. He's an adult film star."

"You want to date a hustler." I come out of the water and dry myself off.

"I didn't say a hustler; I said an actor."

"In adult films?" I am scrubbing myself furiously with a towel.

Jasmine and Sean reappear with a bong. They sit down in lounge chairs on the opposite side of the pool and start getting high on marijuana.

"Carole, it's time for me to leave. This isn't for me." I need to be back on the next plane to Chicago. Now.

"Relax, Sandy. No one cares here. Besides, I thought you were sweet on Jasmine."

It just hit me. What kind of a name is Jasmine? Who names their daughter Jasmine? Oh, that's's a STAGE name.

"Uh, Carole, what does, er, Jasmine, do?"

"Sandy, that's a loaded question in California. One you definitely don't ask. Or, if you prefer, you can ask her."

Carole saunters over to the other side of the pool and then, to my total surprise, takes a hit on the bong which is proferred by Sean. The two of them converse for a while, then go back to Carole's villa. I imagine her on top of him and shudder. I quickly put that thought out of my mind.

I notice there is no one else but Jasmine and me at the pool. I walk over to, er, Jasmine.

"Hi. Looks like we're the only two here." Will Lenore ever forgive me?

"Yes, I'm Jasmine. Like the perfume, not the musician. Would you like a hit?"

"No, I wouldn't." I am such a charmer.

"That's okay. I'll put it away." She gets up and heads in the direction of her room.

"No, you don't have to go. It's just that I'm uncomfortable with people. My wife died and I haven't..." Go ahead, Sandy, pour your heart on.

"Oh, I understand. Gosh, I'm sorry. Yeah, I'm raising Trevor on my own. It's really hard to be a single parent. A good friend of mine in L A is watching him this weekend."

"So your husband? Did he...uh...pass on?"

"Oh, you are sweet. No, I don't know who Trevor's father is."

Oh boy. I could catch all sorts of venereal diseases here. Lenore would never forgive me if I brought back something. Wait a minute..she's dead!

"So are there a lot of men in your life?" Now that definitely was a stupid question.

"I suppose you could say that. No one that matters, though. Sean does, I guess, but I don't mix work and play."

"So you work with Sean? He doesn't seem your type."

"Oh, you mean how girlish he is? You'd be surprised at the amount of pain he can take."

Where is this going? And why am I not leaving?

"My sister told me Sean was an actor."

"Actor? He's more like an know, sex for money. A hustler."

I wonder if Carole knows this. I think she probably does...Did she set me up with Jasmine?

"And you...?" For some strange reason, I don't want my heart broken by someone I just met...and how is that possible?

"Yes, I do adult films. I am a dominatrix. I also escort. It's been nice talking to you, Sandy."

"How do you know my name?"

"Carole told me. She thought I would be good for you. She didn't tell me what a jerk you were."


"I can see that moral look in your eyes. She's a whore, she doesn't know who the father of her child is, and her real name probably isn't Jasmine. Well, it isn't."

"So what is your real name?"

"What do you care? If you must know, it's Mary. You know, like the Virgin Mary, not Mary Magdalene. My mother was a devout Catholic. She died when I was twelve. Then my father took to boozing and raping me every night. When I was old enough to run away, I did. I lived on the streets of Hollywood until some pimp/producer found me and put me in adult films. Since then I've had a good life and a wonderful son whom I love."

I want to jump in the water and bury my face. I look up to Heaven instead, wondering if there is a God.

"Well, like I said, it's been nice talking to you...Jerk."

"Wait a minute...I'm not like that."

"I'm listening. It's Carole's dime, anyway. She paid me." Jasmine bitterly spat the words out.

"Look, I'm a widower. I'm still in love with my wife. But my sister tells me it's time to move on."

I pause and take in a deep breath.

"I don't know what Lenore would think. Carole keeps telling me she would want me to be happy. But I just don't know."

Jasmine's/Mary's voice became soft, almost quiet. "What do you want, Sandy?"

"I want to be with a woman because she wants to be with me, not because my sister paid her to."

"That's really sweet."

"Yeah, right."

She gave me a half-smile. " No, I mean it."

"So the money doesn't mean that much to you?"

"No, Carole actually drove a bargain with me. She's rather tight with her late husband's money. I'll bet Sean'll be surprised when he finds out how, ahem, tight."

We both laugh.

"Jasmine, would you do something for me?"

"What is it? Kink costs extra." And she smiled again, this time a full smile.

"Would you return the money to Carole?"

"Now why would I do that, Sanford?"

"Well, I'd like us to start afresh."

"I always knew you were fresh," Jasmine/Mary said.

"Will you do it?"

"Sure, why not? I could enjoy spending time with you just for the hell of it."

"I have one other favor to ask."


"I want to ditch Carole tonight...She'll have fun with Sean, I'm sure. Would you have dinner with me? But please leave the whips and chains in your room."

"Oh, that's just an act. That's not really me. I usually work on Valentine's Day, but you were my john tonight. I think you taking me out for dinner is worth more than Carole was going to pay me."

"You really know how to turn on a guy."

"Well, I suppose you'll find that out after dinner tonight, big guy."

I felt happy for the first time since Lenore died.

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