You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Summer woke very late the next morning. Generally waking didn’t come easily to Summer, who loathed arriving at work by 8:30 am, a time she had not seen for years while out of the workforce. Squinting against the glare of fully-risen sunlight streaming in her west-facing window, she pulled the digital clock close enough to see the digits without glare. The numbers, though bleary, clearly read 3:44.
“Uggghhh,” Summer cleverly commented as she debated rolling back over and pretending the clock had lied. Somehow, to Summer’s 10-pm-to-6-am trained biological clock, twelve hours of sleep didn’t actually feel as restful if the started at 3 am.
Groggily she ran her hand through disheveled hair and attempted to lay out the pros and cons of dragging herself out of bed. Lance always told her to look at everything logically, systematically, and decisions would become perfectly clear. Summer wondered if he had systematically considered the costs and benefits of staying with her versus running away with his secretary. Pros: She could sleep another fifteen hours and wake up at a decent hour, possibly even in time for church on Sunday. Cons: Were there any? Surely Summer sleeping for an entire Saturday wouldn’t upset the balance of the universe; who would miss her if she slept for an entire day? With no Lance, the repercussions looked minimal from her perspective. She felt pretty confident that Lance would never have allowed her to stay in bed this late, and he certainly would not have allowed her to sleep even later. Then again, she wouldn’t have been out at 3 am base jumping, or doing anything else. Friday nights they ate a nice dinner, watched a movie, made love, and slept.
Continue reading.By the time she had woken enough to think in detailed, coherent thoughts, Summer’s full bladder and empty stomach began asserting themselves. Much more than twelve hours had passed since she had last eaten, and Summer rarely missed a meal. Stumbling out of the bedroom and across the hall into the bathroom, she caught a dim reflection of herself in the mirror.
Flicking the overhead fluorescent lights on didn’t improve her self-esteem. Summer stood fairly tall—perhaps a little too tall for most men to find her attractive—and she enjoyed eating enough that nobody had ever described her as “slender,” either. She vividly remembered high school proms, wishing that a nice, tall boy would ask her to dance. Only pimply little Benny Holmgren had ever asked, her though, a trend that had continued through college until she met Lance. How lucky she had felt when he asked her out! And she had done everything in her power, including but not limited to compromising her values a bit, to keep him interested in her.
Now, daily jogs maintained her legs, producing well-shaped calves and firm, muscular thighs that led up to her well-formed posterior. At least, Summer always told herself it looked OK, even if Lance had never complimented her on her body since they dated. He only ever suggested that she slim down a bit, as if all her jogging didn’t mean anything. He didn’t like having a size 16 wife, even if she did have running-sculpted legs and knew how to dress to accentuate the positive. Speaking of positive… the reflection-Summer cupped her breasts in her hands, bouncing them thoughtfully. Not as perky as they had been 15 years ago, but still pert and attractive, with forward-facing nipples. Not having children had allowed her to maintain breasts and stomach free from the stretch lines that plagued other women her age. Regular toning with free weights, in addition to jogging, had kept Summer fit enough, even if she never lived up to Lance’s ideal woman. Still, it kind of sucked that Charmin appeared to have filled that niche.
Summer sighed. Even all this positive self-talk about jogging and toning couldn’t truly convince her that she looked good. She envied Chastity, her fashion-model looks and eye catching body, accentuated by slightly-too-small shirts, barely-too-short skirts, and heels Summer couldn’t justify buying for herself. Staring in the mirror, Summer asked herself if she would ever be able to look like Chastity. She certainly wouldn’t if she didn’t go for a run this morning, but her ankle—Summer glanced down in surprise. She had walked on it just fine, and if it ached some even standing on it, she felt confident it wasn’t broken. Thank goodness for small mercies.
“Maybe if I starve myself totally for a while I’ll start looking like Chastity,” Summer muttered to herself as she flushed and stepped into the shower. No running on that ankle, even if it hadn’t broken in last night’s craziness. If she only lost some weight, Hunter would definitely call her back.
Half an hour later, Summer emerged from her steamy bathroom, a towel turban wrapped around her head and a howling hunger gnawing at her stomach. This starving idea sucked, she decided, as she made her way through the living room to the kitchen. She’d start the foodless diet another day; today she wanted pancakes with blueberries. No, with chocolate chips. And a nice big glass of milk. Coffee was for weekdays and waking up too fast.
Passing through the living room, Summer glanced automatically at the answering machine, expecting nothing new. The light remained lit all the time now, maintained by the round dozen Deal With Later messages Summer had saved. But to Summer’s surprise, she saw that the light was blinking red—a new message awaited.
“I’m sure I would’ve woken up,” she told the phone. Although Lance had mostly broken her of the habit of talking to herself, Summer still did revert to it occasionally, more often in the last few weeks since she’d been on her own. Nobody shot her angry glares when she talked to the air, or the computer, or kitchen implements.
Pressing the Play button, Summer wondered who and when the mysterious caller(s) had tried to reach her. The emotionless female answering machine voice announced, “Two new messages. First new message received—today—at—two fifty-nine am.” Then a mellifluous, radio-trained voice, rich but with a tenor’s timbre, said, “Hi, this is Hunter… Guess maybe it’s tacky to call right away like this, but I wanted to hear your voice… Oh, and see if you wanted to do lunch tomorrow. Let me know. My number is—” Summer scrabbled for a pencil and paper, finding them as he concluded, “OK, well, let me know. Hope to see you tomorrow.”
Without any consideration for Summer’s feelings—which she could not have sorted out at that moment anyway; something about excitement, giddiness, disappointment at missing lunch, and a thick vein of hope—the answering machine continued.
“Second new message received—today—at—one o’clock pm.” Then Chastity’s familiar voice, high yet smoky and feminine, came across the speaker. “Hey this is Chastity. So, did I win our bet? I’m so totally sure I did, ’cause your probably out with him right now, and that’s why you didn’t answer this call. Anywho, don’t keep me in suspense, call me back and tell me the whole story.”
“End of new messages. Fourteen saved messages. First saved message received…” Summer cut of the endless recitation and replayed Hunter’s message. Twice, because although she got the phone number right the first time, Summer felt oddly nervous and wanted to hear his confident, friendly voice again. Then she screwed up her courage and called the number he had left.
Nobody answered and Summer, in a sudden inexplicable shit of shyness, hu
ng up as his voicemail cut in. “What the heck?” She chastised herself, glaring ferociously at the thriving palm tree in a corner. “Who does that?” For a moment she stared at the phone indecisively, at which point the phone’s ringing made the choice for her.
“Hello, Summer Robertson speaking.” Years answering the obituary line phones had bred the greeting into her until Summer couldn’t not answer the phone that way.
“Very professional,” came the hoped-for smooth tenor. He had called back right away. “I saw you’d called—this is my cell—and figured I might as well call you right back.”
“Um, yeah,” Summer stuttered, kicking herself for the lame response. “I have to answer the phone at work that way and it’s just a habit.” Why had she reminded him of her lame greeting? He’d give her an out and she kept on the same Make Summer Look Lame track.
“So,” Hunter finally said, breaking the awkward silence that had begun to develop, “Guess it’s a little late for lunch, huh?”
“Heh,” Summer said, and wanted to stuff her foot into her mouth for reals. As if she hadn’t already done that with her responses.
“Did you just get up?”
“Like half an hour ago,” she admitted. “I don’t usually sleep so late” (Don’t think I’m lazy, too! She prayed) “but I guess I was really wiped from last night.”
“It was a good time, huh?” He sounded genuinely enthusiastic, and that raised Summer’s hopes. Maybe the conversation wasn’t going as badly as it seemed like.
“Yeah, like nothing I’ve ever done before, that’s for sure,” she agreed.
“Cool, cool.” Summer reassessed her hopefulness. He didn’t sound so interested now. Dang. But he continued, “Well I was wondering, I’m going to this party tonight, and I thought maybe you’d like to come with me.”
“Sure!” Summer enthused, without thinking that she’d never gone to a party like the ones Hunter probably went to. “What time?”
“Can you meet me at my place at 7:30?”
“If you give me your address I can,” she agreed, privately wondering why he didn’t come pick her up himself. It hardly mattered, though. In three hours she would see him again, and he had called her before noon. Way before noon. “Oh, is there a dress code?”
A laugh flowed through the speaker, bringing a blush to her cheeks. “What kind of parties do you go to? No dress code, just look like your beautiful self.”
“No problem,” Summer agreed, feeling a glow of satisfaction that he had already complimented her on her looks, having only seen her by flashlight the night before. She tried to think about the kind of parties she had gone to, formal sit-down dinner parties with Lance’s business associates and delicate ladies’ teas with the associates’ wives. Before that her party experience had been limited to board games at her parents’ house and rallies for causes. Not exactly a wide range of experience to choose from; certainly no help in choosing what to wear. The red dress? Or the one from the last Christmas party? No, both too dressy. Maybe a black skirt with one of her nicer tops. She would have some serious work cut out for her even just choosing what to wear, no thanks to Hunter’s mannish if gratifying response.
“OK, cool. See you in a few hours then.” And he disengaged himself from the conversation as gracefully as Summer could have asked for.
She immediately dialed Chastity. “Chastity, this is an emergency.”
“Your ankle really is broken?” Her friend sounded, if anything, slightly drunk. At 4:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday?
“No, I need help choosing clothes. Hunter’s asked me to a party tonight, and I have no idea what to wear!” Was that a hubbub of voices Summer could make out in the background, or was it only the TV? What was Chastity doing?
“That red dress,” came the definitive, prompt reply. “It makes you look totally sexy and whatever the party it’ll be perfect.”
“I thought it might be too dressy.”
“No way. It’s perfect. Be sure to wear those heels we bought like two months ago, and I’d do your hair up with some coming down to emphasize your neck. It’s very slender and if I was Hunter I wouldn’t be able to resist you.”
“Well…” Summer had long ago realized that Chastity saw with a man’s eye, which was why Summer’s friend was always able to grab male attention. Seeing what men liked had served Chastity well, and Summer knew her advice would probably work out. “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.”
“Good girl,” came the encouraging response, “Let me know how it goes. Got condoms?”
“Whaaaat?” Summer, while hardly naive, didn’t measure success on Chastity’s scale. “I’m just having a good time tonight, Chas, not looking to get laid.”
“Your loss. Listen,” and there was a definite sound of slurping that suggested a deep drink. “I’ve gotta go. I’m pre-partying with a few friends and I intend to be very buzzed by the time we leave.”
“Er, OK.” Summer couldn’t imagine drinking to prepare for more drinking, but Chastity had proven time and again her amazing alcohol tolerance. From Summer’s almost-teetotaler perspective, the ability must have come from years of drinking like a fish all weekend. “I’ll let you get back to that then. Thanks, and I’ll let you know how it goes.”
After hanging up, Summer whirled into action. The dress, a clinging length of strapless red fabric that angled up from just above her knee to well above the top half of Summer’s thigh, certainly did draw attention to her breasts and legs. Adding the tall heels, which curved Summer’s calves out and converted her walk into a sensuous sway, and hair pulled up and back, with strands teased out and hanging curled down around her face, Summer felt gorgeous. Chastity was right: She did look sexy in this outfit.
Leaving her apartment, Summer felt a little silly, as if she had donned a costume that hid her real self. More, though, she felt excitement and confidence as she drove back to Hunter’s apartment. She would dazzle him, be witty and charming at the party the way she hadn’t on the phone, and win Hunter’s heart totally. Zipping up the freeway, Summer sang along at the top of her lungs: “Man, I feel like a woman!”
When she pulled up, Hunter was waiting. He wore a black sports jacket and pants and a red shirt with a black tie. Red socks and black loafers completed his outfit. Summer parked and stepped out of the car, smiling and extending her hands. Friday’s frustrations vanished totally in the warmth of Hunter’s admiring stare.
He took her hands and appraised her frankly, a head-to-toes gaze that brought goose bumps of anticipation to Summer’s arms and wetness between her legs. No man’s gaze had ever aroused her before, but Hunter’s certainly did.
All he said was, “Wow.” Summer smiled. Life was good. Or: My NaNoWriMo profile.