It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
They didn’t actually go out for drinks that night. Instead, Chastity arrived moments after Summer gasped out her thoughtless but extremely sincere invitation. Hunter had sat there looking at her, his hand almost touching hers—she noticed their proximity and tingled at even the thought of his warm flesh against hers—and hadn’t had a chance to even say anything. But Summer had a feeling, a very good feeling, that he would have come home with her that night if Chastity wasn’t also there. Then Chastity hopped out of her car, tongue running at maximum RPMs almost before she alighted, forcing Summer and Hunter to pretend that nothing had happened. As if Summer’s flushed cheeks, visible in the glare of the headlights, had come from the excitement of her first jump.
They loaded everything into Chastity’s 1998 Honda Civic, joking about how to explain their unusual getup and Summer’s ankle if Chastity got pulled over. Summer found that she could walk without too much pain, so long as she leaned on somebody—and she also learned that Hunter’s body felt like stone, his stomach a washboard. Wow. A vivid image flashed into her mind of him shirtless, pale hair lightly furring his deliciously well-defined chest muscles and abs to make a model envious. It felt like he could pick her up with one arm, with strength to spare.
The trio made it out of Seattle, across the bridge, and to 405 with no untoward police attention, with Chastity driving slightly more conservatively than she usually did. Anybody out driving around at 2:00 am tended to draw attention, so she drove extremely soberly, although the atmosphere in side the vehicle was anything but sober. Hilarity echoed off the windows as they bantered about this and that, all three feeling increasingly relaxed and convinced that they had gotten away totally scot-free from their adventure. Chastity and Summer chattered excitedly about Summer’s first successful base-jumping experience.
Continue reading.“So you’ll do it again, right?” Chastity asked excitedly. She loved to make unsupported assumptions, and Summer found it difficult to deny her sometimes. This time, though, Summer didn’t need to agonize.
“Heck yeah,” she agreed, nearly hopping in her seat. “It was freakin’ awesome. Just so long as I don’t break my ankle in the future…”
“If you’d practiced rolling more—”
“You know,” Hunter put in, “I actually broke my leg the first time I base-jumped.” His face assumed a modest expression that practically begged the girls to ask for details. They obliged, and he elaborated. “Well, this was when I lived in St. Louis, and of course they have pretty much the ideal base-jumping site…”
“Ohmygod,” Chastity gasped, “You jumped the arch?” By the light of the car’s controls, Summer thought her friend actually looked envious.
“In fact, I did—four times. But the first time was also my first jump, totally a stupid thing to do, almost as dumb as the Alaska Way Viaduct for your first time,” here he looked directly at Summer and she saw his straight, white teeth flash in the dark, a grin that wrapped tendrils of longing around her heart. “Anyway, my buddy and I were up there at the top, and then we saw this cop down there. We weren’t gonna do it, but the cop got this bull-horn out and started shouting at us. Of course we couldn’t hear him, but while we were deciding what to do—’cause even being up there will get you arrested—he started coming up. So we jumped, only I didn’t pull my chute quite early enough, and I hit the ground with serious velocity.”
“Did it hurt?” Summer asked, then realized what a stupid question that was. He had broken his leg, after all. It seemed that she had lost all her logical faculties around this man from her past.
“Hell, yeah,” he replied, but casually, as if a broken leg felt no worse than a splinter in your finger. “The worst part of it was my friend took off running, and there I was all chuted up and everything, when the cops came. I got arrested for that one, but they were pretty lenient.”
Summer didn’t even ask what counted as lenient in his book, or how many times he had gotten arrested. She had the feeling that his record would show not so many harmful activities and a fair pile of “sounded like a good idea at the time” infractions.
“So what were you doing in St. Louis?” Chastity queried, clearly working to break the moment that had started developing between her friend and this stranger in her car.
“I was at school. Getting my Master’s in mycology, on my way to a PhD. Transferred to the UW last year to work with Jeff Grant, one of the premier mycologists in the country.”
“Um…” Chastity sounded slightly hesitant. “And what is, er, mycology?”
“Heh, everybody asks that.” Hunter glanced at Summer. “Want to take a guess?”
“No clue. Study of…the thyroid system?”
“No, believe it or not that’s actually thyroidology. It’s the study of fungi.”
“You mean MOLD?!” Chastity squealed, incredulous, and Summer turned around in the passenger seat to look more fully at Hunter. “You’re kidding, right?” Chastity demanded.
“Nope. Although I prefer people to call it fungi, ’cause I’m a pretty fun guy myself.” Which drew a snort from Summer and giggles from Chastity, who might not have ever heard that pun before.
“That is so totally weird.” Privately, Summer agreed with Chastity’s assessment. It certainly seemed a strange choice of occupation for a man who’d marched in protests and routinely jumped off tall buildings illegally.
“It suits me. You wouldn’t actually believe how complicated mushrooms are. Did you know some mushrooms can span over 10 miles and live over 100 years?” He sounded professorial then, interested and intelligent in a way that drew Summer’s attention and admiration.
“So what do you do while you’re getting your degree?”
“Oh, I teach baby bio at Cascadia. Hence Bothell.” That did explain much; Summer and Chastity both had wondered about his choice of living location, given his prediction for excitement. Bothell didn’t exactly rate on the list of Exciting Northwest Cities.
The conversation wandered from there into old trees, to all the trees in Washington, to their origins, and on into trivia that even Summer, who cherished every one of Hunter’s words like a precious jewel, didn’t remember. The drive to Bothell seemed to take the blink of an eye to Summer, who glanced back from her shotgun seat often to see Hunter sprawled as comfortably as he could in the back of the Civic.
As they pulled up to Hunter’s apartment complex, Chastity caught Summer slipping a ripped corner of paper to Hunter under the guise of handing him his wadded parachute.
“Call me,” Summer whispered, then blushed at her secretiveness and harder forwardness. She thanked her lucky stars the car shadowed her face, hiding the red on her cheeks. Here Lance was hardly out of her life—or not even quite out—and she already was asking men to call her. Summer quashed her guilt, telling herself that this was just an old friend from college, a familiar face in this city of strangers. It wasn’t as if she were vamping him or something. And her hands did sweat sometimes naturally. Really.
“OK,” he replied, and Summer hoped he hadn’t felt the clamminess of her palms when he grabbed his chute. She watched his small, trim ass fade int
o the gloom of the entryway without realizing she’d been staring blatantly. Hunter turned in the doorway. “See ya, girls. Thanks for the ride, Chastity!” He blew a kiss in their general direction and Summer blushed even harder, while Chastity returned the kiss with vigor.
“Chastity!” Summer scolded as the door closed behind him, “You don’t even know him.” Chastity only grinned roguishly as she slammed the car unmercifully into reverse and accelerated out of the parking lot. A crash of garbage cans sounded behind them.
“More fun that way,” Summer’s friend replied. “Besides, it’s not like you know him that well, either.” She glanced sideways at her passenger.
“Sure I do,” Summer protested, perhaps a tad more vehemently than the situation called for. “I knew him in college when he was a lowly Bio major practically failing his classes. And now here he is, almost a full fledged…” she paused, dredging the word up. “…manologist? Micrologist? Whatever. Professor.”
“Oh good one,” Chastity teased. “You don’t even remember what it is he does.”
“Sure, you do?”
“Mycologist,” pronounced the younger woman proudly. She flaunted her excellent memory whenever she could—along with the rest of her, so Summer thought.
“Fine. Whatever. I still know him and you don’t.”
“You only know that because he told us on the ride back,” Chastity argued. “If you know him so well, what did he do before coming to teach at Cascadia? I’m pretty sure even a PhD doesn’t take twelve years.”
“St. Louis, remember?”
“Yeah, but he told us that in the car too. It doesn’t count. Before that?” Chastity pressed Summer, who felt very awkward all of a sudden.
She blustered, “Well, he talked about the Peace Corps when we were seniors…”
“Yeah, see?” A triumphant tone from the driver made resentment well up in Summer’s stomach. Who cared if she didn’t know what he’d been up to lately? She knew him from before, and that counted. Chastity continued, “You don’t actually know jack about him—”
“OK,” Summer admitted, “But he’s still an old friend.”
“Fine. Whatever. But whatever the case, I guess he’s still off-limits for me until you say so, huh?” Chastity, with her small waist, large breasts and rear, flowing brown hair, and well-shaped legs, drew male attention easily and tended to enjoy it to its fullest.
“If you don’t mind keeping your hot little hands off, I’d appreciate it.” Summer forced her tone to lightness, but she thought that if Chastity involved herself in the wrong way, Summer wouldn’t be responsible for her actions. Summer knew her friend’s taste in men tended towards tall, pale, slender, even tragic—nearly the exact opposite of Chastity’s own body type—and that Hunter fit that mold almost perfectly.
But as she, Summer, thought about Hunter’s strong, sure hands, his sensitive lips, his expressive eyes and delicately chiseled face, she knew she could love him. An hour of friendly banter and her college-aged daydreams flooded back: Her and Hunter, making agonizingly passionate love on a living room floor. Two children with sensitive eyes and expressive lips romping with a puppy in a big, green backyard. Candlelit dinners, suffused with the comfortable, broken-in feeling of lifelong love and commitment. Hunter, tousle-haired, with smoldering desire in his eyes, running his hands down Summer’s soapy, slick thighs as they showered together. His tongue, probing…
With a jolt, Summer realized that they had driven all the way to her apartment. Chastity’s words had petered into silence as they sat parked in the darkness, lit by the far-away glow of streetlights and porch lights. Chastity stared at Summer with an amused, patient, expectant look on her elven face.
“Daydreaming?” she asked, sounding sympathetic. Chastity spent plenty of her time daydreaming about handsome coworkers—the ones she hadn’t already seduced—and would support Summer in her flights of fantasy.
“Uh, no,” Summer lied. “Just tired, I guess. Zoning out. 2:30 is a little past my bedtime.”
“Uh-huh,” came Chastity’s sarcastic, knowing reply. “Sleep well, Juliet, and let me know when he calls. I bet tomorrow by noon.”
Summer paused, her head still in the car, her hand on the handle. “Naw,” Summer demurred, but her heart leaped with secret hope. “Some time next week, I say. He’s in no hurry.”
“You wanna bet?” Chastity bet on anything, and her predictions in the realm of love rarely failed.
“Oh, sure. A buck he calls me some time next week.”
“No way. One drink at The Q says he calls by tomorrow. High noon.”
“That’s like five bucks! Or more!” Chastity’s taste in drinks tended to run towards the expensive end of the spectrum, while Summer preferred simpler, cheaper drinks.
“What, you wussin’ out?”
“No, fine, I’ll call you. One drink at The Q says he won’t call ’till Tuesday at the earliest.” Summer pulled her head out of the car, dragging her things with her, and slammed the door before Chastity could raise the bid. “’Night,” she called as her friend backed recklessly out without looking behind her. “I sure hope I’ll be buying next time we’re at The Q,” Summer muttered to herself.
Then she let herself into the dark apartment, immediately barking her shin on the coffee table and trying thereafter to limp on both legs at once. She stripped to her underwear, dropped her clothes in a pile on the floor, and fell into bed without noticing the red message light blinking on her phone. She dreamed of Hunter in golden sunlight. Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.