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This Too Shall Pass

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Grieving friends find something needed in each other.

It's a little dark, I suppose. I'm not sure where it came from but it demanded to be written. There's redemption and healing too, eventually, and I hope you find it interesting. Let me know, okay?

It was the right kind of day, chilly and gray, miserable, the sky low and sullen and spitting a few icy snowflakes which whipped around in the stiff wind. The kind of day that’s wholly appropriate for burying your best friend.

The funeral had ended, and the small crowd had quickly dispersed, looking for warmth and a more cheerful setting, and now I stood alone at the side of Ryan’s open grave, looking down at his casket. Picking up a handful of dirt from the graveside mound I sprinkled it over the lid, the rich walnut of which, despite its brilliant gloss finish, seemed to absorb the gray light of the sky rather than reflect it.

I’d stayed back by a big, barren hickory while Jenny, Ryan’s wife, had her final private moments with him, but even from there, I could hear her crying. When she’d returned to the waiting limo, I’d given the cemetery crew forty bucks, all I had in my wallet, and asked them to wait in the warmth of their truck and give me a few minutes alone before they closed the grave.

They’d seemed only too happy to have an excuse to get out of the cold wind and had told me to take as long as I needed. I didn’t know how long I’d need, only that it would be a long time, and that it wouldn’t all be spent standing beside his grave, loving and hating him. For the moment, hatred and anger won out and I picked up a second handful of dirt, squeezing it into a hard-packed lump before hurling it as hard as I could at his casket.

“Goddamn you, Ryan. Goddamn you, you selfish, motherfucking bastard. You son of a bitch…”

And then, finally, the tears came in wracking sobs and I struggled to breathe, overcome with the soul-crushing loss of my friend, someone that had been so important to my life and so close to me since we’d been small children. It didn’t seem possible that he was gone but the cold grayness and the desolate cemetery and the open grave, his casket at the bottom, made it all too real.

The weight of my grief seemed to crush me, too heavy to stand up under, and I sat down on the fake-grass carpeting they’d used to cover the raw, barren edges of the pit and let my legs dangle into the grave above my friend’s casket. When the tears finally ran out, I talked to him. I told him how much I loved him, and what he’d meant to me. I talked about some of the good times we’d had, the way we’d laughed together, dumb shit we’d done as kids. The way we’d lived life so fully, now and when we were young, so absent forethought or worries.

I cursed him again, swearing at him and telling him I hated him, but then no, that I loved him. And missed him. Already. After a while the words dried up like the tears had and I just sat there with him, too weak to face facts, unwilling – or perhaps unable - to put that final period at the end of our sentence and move on.

I caught a faint trace of Jenny’s cologne in the breeze just moments before she put her hand on my shoulder – a good thing, or, thinking myself alone in a gray and desolate graveyard, I might have leapt into the pit at the unexpected touch.

“Alex, are you okay?”

I put my hand over hers. “Jenny. No, I’m not, but I should be asking you that.”

“You knew him far longer than I did, maybe better. We both loved him. Why wasn’t it enough?”

“I’ve been sitting here asking myself that same question. Well, that and telling him what a fucking selfish bastard he is. Or was…”

“I may have mentioned that as well, before, when I was saying goodbye." She sighed. "I told him that to his face several times too, over the last couple of years.”

“Same.”

"Did we do everything we could, Alex? Please tell me that we did everything we could." She put her other hand on my other shoulder and leaned into me so that her knees and thighs pressed against my upper back.

I squeezed her hand. “Jenny, stop. Yes, we did everything we could. I have to believe that. It’s like the counselors said, you can’t make an alcoholic stop drinking. First, he had to want to stop; without that nobody could help him.”

“He did stop, several times. Each time I’d get my hopes up and each time, eventually, he’d crawl back in the bottle. He’d feel good, past the worst of it, stay clean for weeks, almost six months the one time, then he’d do it again. I feel like I failed him…”

“Jenny!” It came out more sharply than I’d intended; I felt her stiffen and quickly apologized. “I’m sorry. But you gotta quit; don’t beat yourself up. You did more than anyone should ever have to, certainly more than any other woman would have. Any other woman would have left him a long time ago.”

“God, we loved each other so much. We were so happy. He was such a good, good man once, before this…”

“I know. Believe me, I know.” She was right. Ryan had been an incredible man, an incredible friend, an incredible husband to Jenny. Brilliant, kind, funny, loving, generous to a fault, he’d loved her more than life itself. Unfortunately, although it had been a long slide, he’d also come to love alcohol more than life itself. Literally, as it had turned out. “I thought you’d left before, in the limo.”

“I sent it on. I saw you out here and you looked so alone, so sad. I had to come back, and I figured I could catch a ride with you.”

“Of course; anywhere you want to go.” That was Jenny. She’d just lost the love of her life and was undoubtedly consumed by her grief, but she’d been worried about me. Her strength was often a wonder to me, and while I’d been thrilled for them when she and Ryan had found each other and tied the knot, I’d come to believe, over these last couple of years, that she was far better than he deserved.

We stayed there for a long time without speaking, sharing our grief, the light growing dim as the clouds thickened, temperature dropping, snow starting in earnest now. She eventually broke the silence.

“Thirty-four is so young. Way too young to be put in the cold, wet ground.”

“It is. It’s also too young to freeze your ass off in a cemetery, crying for the past and wishing for things that are never going to happen.” All three of us were the same age, within a few months; only the two of us would be getting any older.

I craned my neck to look up at her and could see that her face was streaked with fresh tears and speckled with melting snowflakes. I struggled to my feet, my ass numb from the cold ground, and brushed my hands off on my pants before taking her in my arms. We held each other for a time, finding comfort in our shared love for Ryan, until I said, “C’mon, let’s go find a nice warm bar somewhere and lift a glass to him; I think he’d appreciate the irony of that.”

I heard her half-snort, half-sob, stifling a quick laugh before she looked up into my face. “He always said you were the most cynical son of a bitch he'd ever known, but for some reason, everyone loved you anyway. I know he did.”

“It was mutual. I don’t take myself too seriously, Jen, so people that know me don’t either. That helps.”

“I’m sure. You’re right, though; he would have appreciated the sick humor of us sharing a drink in his honor.”

We turned toward my car as I waved at the guys in their truck, giving them the all-clear to proceed. They climbed reluctantly out of the warmth of the truck cab and fired up the backhoe as we walked slowly across the rapidly whitening ground, my arm over her shoulders and hers around my waist, leaning on each other both physically and emotionally.

We stayed while the car warmed up, watching as they lowered the heavy lid onto the concrete vault that contained my best friend’s casket, her husband’s remains. When they began to push the dirt back into Ryan’s grave she sobbed once, and I took her hand in mine as I navigated one-handed out of the cemetery.

 

 

 

~~~~~

 

I drove a few miles through the falling snow to Pine's. It was an old-style tavern, the kind of dark and private place where lovers would meet up for a nerve-calming drink before sneaking off to a nearby seedy motel, a place for secret trysts and serious drinkers. There was nothing fancy about it, nothing froufrou, and you'd never see a fern or a family in the place. It smelled of old cigarette smoke and beer and bourbon, and maybe a hint of desperation and sadness, suitable for our mood.

It wasn’t named for a forest; Gerry Pine was the owner, had been for over a quarter-century since taking it over from his father. Gerry was a taciturn fireplug of a man, no hint of joviality or humor, but he took care of his clientele, tended a good bar, and knew when to grunt in acknowledgment and when to keep his mouth shut. Ryan had been a regular, and he knew me from the few times I’d lifted a glass with my friend and the many times he’d taken Ryan’s keys away and called me to come fetch him. He’d always looked out for his customers in that way.

On occasions that he couldn’t reach me, Jenny had always been his second call, so he knew her as well and when he saw us walk in and take a dark corner booth, he waved Didi, his waitress, away and a minute or so later crossed to our booth himself, carrying three glasses. I knew what they contained; a couple of fingers of Maker’s Mark bourbon and a splash, Ryan’s drink of choice. He set them on the table in front of us.

“You two doin’ okay?”

I nodded at him. “As well as can be expected, Gerry. Thanks.”

“Funeral today, right?”

I nodded again. “We just came from the cemetery. Miserable fucking day.”

“Yeah. Hey, condolences, all right?

Jenny looked up at him. “Thanks, Gerry.”

He indicated the glasses with a wave. “I thought maybe we’d have one in his honor, hey? On the house.”

“Sure.” I touched a glass, then slid it to Jenny before picking up another.

Gerry took the third, raising it before saying, “To a good guy who died too young.”

We tilted our glasses toward each other and then each slammed the drink without tasting it, a farewell without fanfare or finesse, Jenny gasping slightly at the burn, her eyes watering. He took the empty glasses from our fingers. “Keep ‘em comin’?”

I nodded, but Jenny shook her head. “How about a vodka martini instead.”

“You got it. Anything else I can get you two?”

I shook my head. “Thanks, Gerry, I think we’re good. We sure appreciate the thought though, and the way you always looked out for Ryan.”

He nodded. “Least I could do. Tough deal, hey?”

Jenny stared at his back as he walked away. “Do you suppose he feels any remorse about Ryan?”

“Serving him, you mean? No, I wouldn’t think so. He’s a businessman, Jen; he serves the customer or they go someplace else. Ryan was an adult; he made his own decisions, his own mistakes.”

“I suppose.” I could see that she still bore a nugget of resentment toward Gerry; understandable, given how often Ryan had gotten drunk at Pine’s.

“Jen, he did what he could do. He always kept him from getting in his car and killing someone else, maybe even a whole family. Some other place, some other owner or bartender might not have been so understanding, so concerned.”

She sighed. “You’re right, and I know that; I just keep trying to blame someone other than Ryan, I think.”

“I know. I do the same. I’ve wondered if you blamed me, or at least resented me since I was so often the one that dragged him home to you, drunk out of his gourd. Seemed like you did, sometimes.”

She shook her head. “No…” She hesitated, then put her hand over mine. “Maybe I did sometimes, Alex, I don’t know. I know you were just helping out, trying to do what you could do, just like me. I appreciate you being there for him, for us; you’re a good friend. I’m sorry if I never told you that.”

“No, it’s okay. I just wish I could have done more.” A sudden memory hit me, and I laughed. “He ever puke in your car as you were hauling him home?”

She smiled wanly. “Close a few times; I always managed to pull over and stop. He left a lot of booze and burgers in the gutters around town. You?”

“Same, except one time I was on the highway and couldn’t stop. He got his head out the window, but he painted the whole side of my car.”

“Gross.”

“Very. I went straight to the carwash and made him pay. Halfway through the wash, those big rotating brush things beating on my car, he opens the window and sticks his face out because he’d caught some of his own blowback.” I started laughing. “Sorry, I guess it wasn’t really funny, but that thing beat the shit out of him. Drenched the inside of my car with suds and water too, but we were laughing so hard it didn’t matter at the time.”

Jenny was laughing too. “That’s why he came in dripping wet and smelling like detergent. I remember that night.” She paused and took a tremulous breath. “That was Ryan, always doing crazy stuff.”

“Yeah.”

We sat together in silence for a while, each lost in our own memories. There were a lot of bad ones over the last couple of years, but a few good ones even then and many happier ones from earlier. Ryan and I had been through so much together, from childhood trials and tribulations to puberty, high school athletics, romances and lost loves, and then college, where we’d both excelled, him earning his MBA while I earned my degrees in architectural engineering.

We’d started a company together as developers, setting our sights on commercial work, from office buildings and medical centers to shopping centers, hotels, and public buildings, Ryan handling the business end while I worked design, logistics, and oversight of the various contractors. We’d struggled and had lean times together early, but when success eventually came it had made us, if not truly wealthy, definitely more than comfortable.

Speaking of which… “You know you and I are business partners now, right?” We’d owned our business as fifty-fifty partners, and I knew that Ryan’s will left his share to Jenny. She’d worked with us since shortly after their nuptials, her role increasing as Ryan’s had been reduced by his alcoholism, and I had almost no qualms about her as a partner.

“I know; is that going to be a problem for you?”

“For me? No, not at all. Hell, Jen, you’ve been carrying more of the weight than he has for quite a while now. You know the business, and, frankly, I think some of the guys we deal with are much happier working with you. Ryan was good, but you have other attributes that men appreciate."

“What a terribly sexist thing to say!”

I laughed. “I know, right? But I’m a realist; pragmatism over warm, fuzzy idealism. What Ryan did with expensive dinners, drinks, and a pair of baseball or football tickets you do with a smile, a touch on the shoulder, and pure sincerity. They believe you because you’re beautiful; they want to, and you don’t have to schmooze.”

“Still… it sounded like you expect me to sleep with them or something.”

I frowned. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean that at all. I just meant that we all work with the tools we have. You’re gorgeous, bright, have beautiful eyes, a great smile, and a certain earnest, honest attitude that you bring to the game. Don’t ever, ever feel like you have to fuck someone to close a deal. Please.”

“How about if I want to?”

My jaw may have dropped, but then I saw her sly smile and realized she was yanking my chain. “Okay then, but only if it’s a really big deal, because you’re worth it – and I don’t think you can write off condoms as a business expense.”

“Damn. Well, forget it then.”

We again shared a companionable silence, each grateful the other was there to share the burden of our grief. We agreed on one final round, our third, and that then we’d leave. We nursed our drinks and talked about minutiae; Ryan, life, death, friends, business concerns, and tried to avoid wallowing in self-pity.

 

 

 

~~~~~~

Gerry wouldn’t let us pay him for the drinks, telling us again how sorry he was, and to be careful. When we stepped outside, we saw the reason for his cautionary words; the light snowfall had morphed into an all-out blizzard, fat flakes by the millions passing by in white streaks almost parallel to the ground, which had already collected several inches.

“Well, that complicates getting you home. The roads have to be pretty bad by now and getting worse by the minute.” Their home was about seventeen miles from Pine’s; I’d made the trip too many times to not know. It was doable, but it would be a slow and nerve-wracking trip. My condo was less than five.

“You don’t have to drive me way out there, just take me to a hotel.”

“There’s nothing anywhere near here that I’d let you stay in, Jen, even if a lonely, shitty, depressing hotel room wasn’t a horrible place to end up on the day you buried your husband.” I hesitated, but common sense won out. “My spare bedroom is all made up if you don't mind staying at my place for tonight."

“Well… are you sure it’s no trouble?”

“Zero. I’d be glad for the company.”

“Me too. I wasn’t looking forward to going home to an empty house, knowing I’d never see him walk in again.”

She sat in the car as it warmed up while I cleared the snow off, and then we completed the slow, nervous crawl uneventfully. Once in, I took her coat and scarf and accompanied her to the living room. She’d been there many times before, always with Ryan, so having her there alone struck an odd note.

“Sit anywhere, Jen. Can I get you something, a drink, maybe a snack? How about some coffee to warm us up?” I lit the fireplace; gas burner, so a click of the remote was all it took.

“I’m not much of a coffee drinker.”

I knew that; guess I’d forgotten. “Tea, then? I think I have hot chocolate mix.”

“Mmm, hot chocolate would be nice – as long as it’s not too much trouble.”

“It’s a powdered mix, Jen; even I can boil water.” She laughed. “You want it fortified or straight?”

“Like with booze, you mean?”

“Sure. I have a few suitable things; Schnapps, that kind of thing.”

“I don’t know…”

"I have a bottle of Bailey's Chocolate Mint hanging around here somewhere; a former girlfriend liked it, but I'll never finish it without help."

“Ooohh, that sounds interesting.”

So that’s what I did. When I returned with the two appropriately fortified drinks on a tray with a plate of not-quite-stale brownies, she was staring pensively into the fire. She took the steaming mug from my hand. “Thanks, Alex. Tell me something; how come, except for the few times we’ve double-dated, whenever you mention a girlfriend it’s always a ‘former’, never a current?”

I grinned. “Curious, isn’t it? I don’t know, maybe I’m an asshole or something. Maybe I’m lousy in the sack, you think?”

She smiled and touched my arm. “Just stop; I don’t believe that’s it.”

“Which one?”

She laughed softly. “Either.”

I’d had similar thoughts on occasion, wondering why things always crumbled. The only thing I’d ever been able to come up with was that I inevitably compared my dates to Jenny, and the way my date and I related to each other to what Ryan and Jenny had, back when they were happy. I always seemed to find something lacking, which eventually doomed any relationship.

“I honestly don’t know, Jen. I’ve always hoped to find someone with whom I could have what you and Ryan have.”

“Had.”

“Of course; sorry.”

“I don’t mean because he died, Alex. Our marriage went to shit long before that.”

“Yeah, I guess. I’m sorry about that, too.” That had always been one of the most puzzling things to me, that he’d thrown away a life with an incredible woman like Jenny in favor of booze and hangovers and misery.

“Don’t, okay? You did all you could.” She paused, then continued, "Despite everything, I never cheated on him. I want you to know that."

"I never imagined that you did; that doesn't seem like you. It just drives me nuts though, Jen, the drinking himself into oblivion. I thought I knew him.”

“Me too.” She sighed. “Why would he do it, knowing it made him feel like crap, being hungover and sick, or so drunk he was puking in the gutter… the humiliation of it. Why, when he’d go through hell to get straight, did he always go back to it?”

“I asked him that same thing once, when he was sober.”

“And…?”

I told her what he’d told me; first, that he didn't have the answer himself, but that, relative to detox and getting straight, the hangovers were a walk in the park. A bottle of water the next morning – or afternoon - a handful of aspirin, a healthy shot of Maalox and he was, if not better, at least good enough to start drinking again.

Detox – withdrawal - he'd said, was a screaming, torturous hell by comparison. At times, with demons clawing at his mind, he'd wanted to die – or drink - but he'd held out several times. As he slowly quieted the screaming demons, he’d likened the next stage to a severe sunburn of his entire nervous system that went on for days, just a constant, gnawing pain that you couldn’t touch.

Silent tears ran down her cheeks as I talked, and I reached over and covered her hand, where it rested on her knee, with mine. She sniffled once and reached for a Kleenex. “And yet, despite putting himself through that, before long he’d fall off the wagon and go right back to it.”

“Yeah, I pointed that out too. He said that he never intended to, but the longing was always there and sometimes the strength wasn’t. He’d see a bar, or smell the booze, see someone on TV enjoying a drink. ‘Just one,’ he’d tell himself, but when the one went down so smooth and didn’t affect him, he’d figure he could have another, he could control it. Then the third, same rationale, and after that, it was a rocket to hell."

“Jesus…”

“He had snakes in his head, Jen. I can’t begin to figure why, or what, but he did. I told him once that if he was going to drink, he needed to count his drinks and quit after three or four, max. He promised he would. The very next day, Gerry called me to come pick him up, totally wasted. I was pissed; I asked him if he’d counted his drinks, like I’d said.”

“What did he say?”

“He said he did, but that he’d lost count somewhere around eleven, maybe twelve. He said he was sorry, but it was all just a fucking joke to him. I could tell.”

“Try not to hate him, Alex. It was an addiction.”

“I know, and I don’t hate him… well, sometimes I do, but then, next minute, I love him and miss him.”

She nodded. “I get that. Me too.”

We sat in silence then, each alone, but together. Our grief was our own, but sharing this time eased the burden for both of us, I think. We'd finished our drinks sometime before, and the brownies sat untouched. I think we were both putting off going to bed, not willing to find out what our dreams might bring, but eventually, Jenny yawned and blew out a big, cleansing breath.

“I’m sorry, Jen; you must be exhausted, and here I sit like a useless lump.”

“I’m tired… maybe more weary and depressed than tired, but I guess I should go to bed. Thanks for bringing me here, Alex, it would have been miserable to be alone tonight.”

“For me too. C’mon, I’ll get you a toothbrush and some toothpaste. I’ve got a drawer full; my dentist always gives me a bunch of that crap even though she knows I use an electric and prefer my brand of toothpaste."

“Must come in handy for all your women visitors…”

“If that was true, I wouldn’t have a drawer full, would I?”

She smiled. “I suppose not. Do you have a t-shirt or something I can borrow to sleep in?”

“Of course.” While she opened the toothbrush package, I went and found a t-shirt that I knew was slightly big on me, which meant it would be a very roomy, oversized nightshirt on her. It was white, with an “Ames Plumbing” logo on the front framed by an elaborate, Escherian labyrinth of pipes. One of our suppliers had given it to me a few years ago and I’d barely worn it.

When I returned, the bathroom door was open and she was at the sink, brushing her teeth. “Here you go. Let me know if you need anything else, okay?” She nodded, and I went on, “There are extra towels in that cabinet if you decide to shower. I put one on the towel bar, but I know you women always need lots of towels.”

She grinned around the toothbrush and flipped me off with her other hand. I laughed and stepped forward, giving her a quick hug, one arm around her shoulders as I pulled her against me. “You know where to find me if you need anything. Seriously, Jen, anything at all.”

She pulled the toothbrush from her mouth and spit into the sink. “Thanks, Alex, really. For everything.”

I shrugged. “That’s what friends are for. Try to get some sleep, okay?”

“You too. Goodnight.”

I told her goodnight and headed off to bed, only to lay awake for the next hour. I saw one a.m. go by on my clock but eventually drifted into a fitful sleep, my sorrow over my friend constantly gnawing at the edges of my consciousness.

A small sound woke me, and I opened my eyes to see Jenny framed in the doorway, backlit by the small nightlight in the hall; it was only a tiny light, but I could see the outline of her body through the white shirt, her curves and planes, and the bottom hem on her thighs, high on her long legs.

“Jen? You okay?”

“Alex, I’m sorry I woke you.”

“No, it’s okay. You all right?”

“Not really, no. Will you hold me for a while?”

“Oh sure, of course.” I was about to ask her to leave so that I could grab some pants, planning to go hold her maybe in the living room, on the sofa, but she crossed to the bed and lifted a corner of the covers.

“May I?”

“Umm, yeah, sure. I guess…” The problem was, I had no pants on at all. Nothing. I sleep in a t-shirt because I like my chest and shoulders out of the covers but shorts or pants always seem to wrap around with my movements and bind up in the crotch, so I don’t wear them. Normally that’s not an issue; alone it makes no difference and if I have female company, we’re likely both naked anyway. I tried to subtly angle myself on the bed so that my lower body was away from Jenny as she crawled in.

She came into my arms, turning so that her back was against my chest, and I held her. If she had any inkling that I was nude from the waist down, she gave no sign, but soon she began to cry softly, and it changed to deep, wracking sobs before too long. I knew there were no words, so I simply held her.

I felt like crying too, but I knew my tears would come later, unexpectedly, catching me off guard at a quiet moment when my mind wasn’t otherwise occupied. A memory or an image of Ryan might flash through my mind, as kids on our bikes, each trying to out-dare the other, or just his smiling face, something he’d said, or we’d done together. Perhaps a thought of him sitting at his desk, a small frown of concentration on his face as he held the phone to his ear, absent-mindedly tapping a pencil on a pad as he worked on the best deal he could make. It would catch me off-guard, and my tears would come.

For now, Jenny needed me, and for everything that Ryan and I had together and everything we’d meant to each other, the two of them had shared more. So, I held her as her sobs slowly changed to quiet crying, and then from that to small, exhausted whimpers, and those gradually to silence and the slow, even breathing of sleep. My heart was breaking for her, and she seemed so small and helpless in my arms. I suppose my protective instincts kicked in, and I was glad to be able to be there for her, as she’d been for me in the cemetery.

I didn’t intend to notice how good she felt in my arms, or how small, and I didn’t want to acknowledge her subtle but powerfully attractive scent, which was nothing more than that of her warm, healthy female body, perhaps some floral shampoo and a faint trace of the cologne she’d applied hours ago. I tried not to marvel at how a body could feel so soft and compliant and yet so firm and lithe all at the same time. I wanted to scoot up and spoon her, to feel her warm, perfect ass pressed to my groin and let her body mold itself to mine, but I didn’t, maintaining contact only down to my stomach, my hips and legs angled away.

I played mind games with myself, thinking of anything but how beautiful she is, or how amazing she felt in my arms, concentrating on anything else and not allowing myself to become aroused. My mind flitted here, there, everywhere as I lay awake holding her, and after a while, maybe an hour of listening to her breathe, my scattered, darting thoughts slowed, dimmed, and winked out as I drifted into sleep.

When next I awoke, I found myself flat on my back, Jenny cuddled to my left side, her head on my shoulder. I think what had awoken me was her placing her left hand on my chest, where it still lay; a glance at the clock showed me it was just after three a.m., and I tried not to think about the way her breasts felt, warm and soft against my ribs.

I’d awoken with a raging erection – not unusual, just one of those innocent night-time erections that happen randomly to millions of men millions of times per night around the world – and normally no big deal as far as that goes. Might have been an erotic dream of some sort, but if so, I had no recollection of it; might also have been simply my body doing maintenance, flushing blood through my system during the downtime, running hardware diagnostics on my hydraulic systems. I knew it would subside in a few minutes if I could just ignore it, something easier said than done with a very soft, very female form pressed against me.

I was doing okay, it may have even been fading a bit, but then she shifted again, sliding her left leg on top of me, bent at the knee but across my hips, which placed the warm, supple flesh of her inner thigh, about a foot above her knee, directly atop my hard cock. I lay very still, my cock trapped between her leg and my stomach, silently throbbing in misery and wishing I didn’t feel like such a perv.

There was no chance of my erection subsiding on its own now, none. Not with her scent, her warmth, her leg resting on me; if anything, it got bigger and harder. I listened to Jenny’s slow, even breathing and watched the minutes flit by one after another on my digital clock. I willed her to move, to roll back the other way, to slide her leg off me, and continue to sleep. She didn’t though; instead, when she did finally move twenty-three minutes later, it was to snuggle more tightly to me, her leg moving up slightly and rubbing on my throbbing shaft.

Her hand moved down at the same time, sliding off my sternum, down my stomach, past the hem of my slightly bunched up t-shirt, and on down until it encountered the swollen head of my erection at about navel level. Her fingers formed around it as if it were all comfortingly familiar and she settled back into slumber; I tried not to groan aloud at her touch.

I knew she would wake up and be shocked and embarrassed to find herself like this – as would I. I knew something would awaken her, perhaps the pounding of my heart, or my accelerated breathing, the throbbing of my cock in her hand and against her leg… something. It didn’t though, not right away. All that changed was me sweating as her fingers moved softly and subtly on my hardness, seeming to delight, in her sleep, at the sensation of soft, silky penis skin stretched over the hot hardness beneath.

Then her breathing changed. The regular evenness of it paused and there was a sudden intake, a soft gasp. Then the movement of her fingers changed, from random light touches to moving with intent, exploring, probing, encircling my hardness, and exploring my length as she slid her leg off my erection but kept it across my thighs. Next, she slid her hand down and cupped my balls, gently fondling, feeling their weight and heat, and I couldn't suppress a gasp of pleasure.

“Alex?”

“Yeah…”

“You’re awake.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re also huge. And very hard…” She continued to stroke me as she spoke, her hand not quite able to encircle my shaft as she moved it up and down my length

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? Why are you sorry?”

“Why? Because it’s wildly inappropriate, Jen.”

“Why?”

“Why? For God’s sake, Jenny, we just buried your husband today.”

“Technically, that was yesterday.”

“Oh… well, in that case, damn the torpedoes and all ahead full! C’mon, you know what I mean, same thing. It’s just wrong.”

“Ryan hadn’t been a husband to me for a long time, Alex; not like that.”

I didn’t know what to say to that, and she continued to stroke and fondle me as I lay there silently, knowing I should stop her… but God, it felt so good! “It’s still wrong.”

“It doesn’t feel wrong. I woke up very aroused, just so you know, even before I felt you in my hand. Now… well, now, even more so.”

“Jen…”

“Alex, ssshhh…” She stretched up and kissed me, her lips soft and tentative, then more demanding as her tongue parted my lips and entered my mouth. Without another word she swung her leg the rest of the way across my body and sat up, straddling me. Raising up, she reached down and found me and held me upright as she lowered herself, rubbing me forward and back between her lips, making me slippery and ready. She’d been truthful about her arousal.

I should have stopped her, I knew that but I didn't have the strength, either physically or strength of character, and when she lowered herself onto me, the head of my cock and an inch or so of my shaft spreading and entering her, she gasped and said, "Ohh, my God…”

She stared into my eyes as she took more of me, and I stared back, astonished at how good it felt but hating myself, and when I was about halfway inside of her, she paused and said “God, Alex, you’re big… you feel so good.”

She felt good too, tight and hot and slippery, her velvet pussy slowly enveloping my cock and squeezing me, and I sighed, an expression of both pleasure and resignation. This was going to happen, there was no denying that now, and I could only wonder how we’d feel about each other after.

I held her hips and thrust up into her, causing her to cry out and buck against me as she took most of my length; what she didn’t get on that thrust she took for herself soon after, sliding up and down on me until she’d adapted and taken all I had, resting for a moment fully impaled on my length as she stripped my T-shirt over her head.

After that, she fucked me. I touched her, her hips, her stomach, her breasts, squeezing and rolling her hard nipples between my fingertips, her breasts every bit as beautiful as I’d imagined them. She rode up and down on me, sometimes taking me deep and other times shallow in a series of short, fast plunges; she took me deep for a moment and held it, rotating her hips and grinding her clit to my pubic bone, her ass to my balls.

She lost herself in the sensations and the pleasure; maybe that was all she’d wanted in the first place, temporary escape, a mindless haven from the devastating death of her husband. Redemption, perhaps, an acknowledgment of life over death.

Her focus now was on her body and the sensations we were creating together, and all else want away. That was good, it was a catharsis, a purging of the pain and emotions of the prior day, and when she came it was unlike any other woman I’ve ever known.

Jennifer’s orgasm came like a wave on the beach, her body slowly tightening as the wave rolled in, her cunt down tight around the base of my shaft as she pressed herself into my pubic mound, her clit grinding against me as she used only her hips to pump herself onto me. Her movements skillfully used my cock deep inside of her to touch everything she needed to be touched, her sensitive clit stimulated by my hard bone and coarse hairs.

When the wave broke, the sizzle of it foaming and rolling up the sand was almost a real thing, seen rather than heard in the reactions of my best friend’s wife as it washed over her, engulfing her.

She cried out and her body spasmed as though with an electric shock at the peak of it, and then that orgasm slid slowly back down the beach and into the sea as the next one broke over it, giving her only a few seconds to repeat the same motions, the same responses, the same sounds; she came again, and then another, gasping and crying out, keeping me deep inside of her to prolong her escape, her pleasure, her desire for oblivion which seemed to have no end.

Her orgasms came and went, as regular and inexorable as ocean waves, and I think she might have gone on and on – and I wanted her to, I wanted her unawareness of her pain and loss as much as she did, and she was so incredibly fucking beautiful as she came. Six times? Eight? I don’t know, only that I wanted to go on and on, I wanted to hold back, to keep the pain and memories away as long as I could but she was so tight, so hot, so sensual and sexual in the throes of orgasm that I couldn’t help it. I felt it, and I knew.

I grabbed her hips and held her tight to me, my cock fully embedded in her heat as I came, crying out with the intensity of it. I pumped and spurted into her, deep inside her body, my pain momentarily abating as I lost myself in her, feeling her pussy milk me. She came again as I filled her, one last powerful orgasm before she collapsed on my chest, both of us gasping for air.

We lay like that for a while, not speaking, until my slowly softening cock, still thick and heavy with blood but semi-flaccid now, slipped out of her grasp. She moaned with loss as I left her, then rolled off me to lay alongside again, both of us flat on our backs, silently stunned with what we’d just done.

She spoke first. “My God, Alex…”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry? Damn you. Alex, don’t apologize! It was what I wanted, what I needed.”

“No, I know. I think I understand that now, Jen, what it was. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it last and last.”

“Oh, well…”’

“It seemed like you might have gone on and on, the way you came.”

“I might have at that, but you were amazing. It felt so perfect, so right… so good. I think I can state unequivocally that you’re not lacking a girlfriend because you’re lousy in the sack.”

I smiled, remembering what I’d joked about earlier. “Thanks. Could you have, kept on coming like that? It was incredible.”

“Probably, yes, at least for a while longer. Ryan used to care enough to do that for me.”

“Used to?”

"He didn't pay much attention to me the last couple of years, not in that way, anyhow. For the last year, he was basically impotent; alcohol will do that."

“I don’t think he’d want you telling me that.”

“But he was.”

“Okay, but that’s the kind of information most men – especially young guys like him - would just as soon take to their graves.”

"It was his fault, Alex. Usually, he couldn't get it up at all on the rare occasions he bothered to try, and when he did, he'd lose it just as we were getting started. It was so damn frustrating for both of us. He'd act embarrassed, but fuck, another drink cures all, right?"

“I’m sorry, Jen.” I’d raised up on one elbow so that I could look at her as she spoke, and now I leaned in and kissed her right nipple. When she reacted with a soft moan, I kissed her left, then nibbled at it and she moaned again. I kissed her breastbone between her perfect breasts and then trailed soft kisses down her tummy.

She put her hand on my head. “Alex, what are you doing?”

I kissed below her navel before I answered. “I’m curious how many more of those orgasms you have in there.” I continued my slow journey and was kissing her mound when she wrapped her fingers in my hair and pulled my head up.

“Now, like this?”

“Sure, why not?” I kissed her mound again, right at the front of her cleft.

“But you just came in me.”

“I know.”

“But that’s so… Ohh, fuck!”

I’d interrupted her words with a quick flick of my tongue over her sensitized clit. I looked up at her. “I’m sorry, what were you saying?”

“Nothing important, don’t let me interrupt you.”

I smiled, and then I followed orders and didn’t let her interrupt me. Not the first time she came, nor the second. By the third, she had the fingers of both hands gripping my hair and was holding my face to her pussy as she bucked and thrust herself against my lips, crying out, once again on the beach with the waves washing over her, the rest of the cruel, painful world far away.

She was gloriously messy, which is why she’d been hesitant when I’d headed south, but I was fine with it. I was a little amazed at the sheer volume of cum I’d spilled inside of her but have always felt that sex should be wet and warm and sticky and fun, so I was in no way put off. Besides, I thought we tasted quite good together, and the results, for her, were worth anything I might have to endure.

By the time she was becoming exhausted and begging me to stop, I was hard again, aroused by the scent, taste, and sounds, throbbing and wanting to be in her. I raised my head, my face smeared with cum, and said, “Hang in there, just one more.”

"Oh Alex, no. My god..."

I then set about giving her that one more, and when she came, swearing at me for torturing her, I quickly moved up over her and entered her, balls deep.

“Fuck, Alex! Ohhh, fuck you, oh, my god…” Her body was spasming, bucking against me, shocked by my sudden incursion but demanding every bit of my cock. That orgasm crashed over her like a huge breaker, surf-worthy, no more gentle waves, and she slammed her lithe body into mine as the throes of it took her. I smothered her mouth with mine, and she licked and sucked at my cum- streaked lips and chin, wanting it all, wanting everything.

After, when she collapsed, I slowed and just stayed inside of her, holding her pinned beneath me, the advantage of lagging behind her on the climb to orgasm now allowing me to let her rest for a moment while I remained erect. When her breathing settled and the spasms stopped rocking her, I made love to her.

It was slow and gentle, and I wanted it to convey all the things I’m too inarticulate to put into words. I needed her to know I cared about her, not just about Ryan, and that she mattered to me. I moved slowly in and out of her, and she wrapped her legs around me and clung to my body, wanting to be as close to me as I did to her.

She had a couple more orgasms before I came, but they were small and gentle aftershocks, and she simply held me, biting my shoulder as I came into her again, spurting helplessly as she moved her hips, encouraging me to empty myself inside her sweet body.

After, we slept in each other's arms. For me, it was deep and dreamless, and she said later it was for her too. I could hear the wind howling outside when I woke up around five, and when I touched her and explored her intimate places and she felt my cock hot and hard against her thigh, she rolled onto her belly and raised her ass in the air, face and shoulders down in her pillow.

“Take me, Alex. I want you in me.”

Unknowingly, she’d hit on my favorite position. Hers too, as I found out later. And take her I did. She was wet and sloppy with cum, ready to be taken, and the feeling when I slid deeply into her is indescribable. I held her and fucked her, and she fucked me right back, and when I teased her little star with my thumb she groaned with pleasure and demanded it inside of her.

She was already wet and slippery there too, and I pushed into her to the base of my thumb, her body taking all the cock and all the digit I had to give, and she came, clamping down on both. It was wild and violent and filthy, a totally different kind of catharsis than earlier, but no less pleasurable, no less important. I'd have never guessed that Jennifer had these desires, that she could be so filthy and wanton and slutty, but I was elated to discover it, and I fucked her hard, our bodies slapping together wetly, and I eventually again spilled a load deep in her pussy.

We slept some more, then looked outside. It was a fucking blizzard. Officially, they said we had eighteen inches of snow, and it was still falling heavily. The reality was that forty to fifty mile per hour winds had swept some areas bare and piled four-foot drifts in others. The roads were impassable; hell, I don’t think I could have gotten out of my garage, and maintenance hadn’t plowed yet.

We made coffee - hot chocolate again for her - had breakfast, fucked again, and then showered together. After our shower, lazing on the sofa, she said. "That was an interesting night."

I nodded. “Memorable.”

“Thanks. Alex, I needed that.”

“My pleasure. Very much so, in fact. But it was still wrong.”

She laughed. “God. You’re right, of course. Did you ever want me, before?”

“No.”

“What?” She looked shocked. “Thanks a lot!”

“That’s the wrong question, Jen. I noticed you, of course, how beautiful and sexy you are. I may have even fantasized about you a time or thirty. But I couldn’t let myself want you; you were my best friend’s wife.”

She smiled. “Oh. Well, I guess it’s good to know that my new partner has ethics.”

“Some, anyhow; maybe not much, as it turns out. I’d keep an eye on me if I were you.”

“At least an eye; I have other parts I want to keep on you too.”

“That’s probably a good business move.”

She laughed. “So, Alex, where are we now. Friends with benefits?”

“Partners with benefits – and I’m not talking about insurance and a 401K.”

“I like the sound of that. For now.”

“Me too. For now.”

I was fairly sure I wanted more, that maybe I’d marry this amazing woman one day. I’d thought that about other women before, of course. This time it just seemed more real, more powerful, as if she was already a part of my life – and she was, in a way. She’d resided in my mind for some time, although I’d refused to acknowledge it. I could feel her slipping lower now, looking to take up residence in my heart.

I didn’t plan to rush it. I also didn’t plan to fight it.

 

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