It was a thirty-three hour trip from Knoxville to Los Angeles and we’d decided to drive straight through. Spider drove and Manny and Bones switched off and on for shot gun. Becki and I had taken up residence in the back bench seat of Spider’s van. We were on our one of many stretch-your-legs-and-piss stops after hitting traffic heading into Bullhead City, Arizona. Apparently it was their annual River Regatta weekend and we could either sit in highway traffic or pull off into one of their shuttle parking lots and enjoy the festivities and finally grab some food that wasn’t drive-thru crap.
I leaned back against the picnic table I was told to save while everyone got their food. I sucked in a deep breath and took in the view. Becki stood in line at a lemonade stand not more than twenty feet from me. I watched the gentle breeze lift the very bottom of her short strapless sundress. I prayed for gale force winds but none came. Everything about her was gorgeous. From her long golden-brown hair that curled at the ends to her etched collarbones that drew my eyes down to her cleavage. I couldn’t keep my thoughts under control.
Becki and I kissed for the first time the night before we left Knoxville which was well over thirty hours ago and I was dying to kiss her again. But, I was told kissing in the van with the guys around would be in bad taste. So, it was definitely inappropriate for us to do what I wanted to do in the back seat of the van as we made our way west. I wasn’t sure my balls had ever been this shade of blue.
Baseball. Baseball. Baseball.
“Hey, handsome. You look so pensive. What’s going on inside that creative mind of yours?” I glanced up into the sun just as she blocked it with her beautiful face, then sat down on my lap. So much for distracting myself from how attracted I was to her. She wiggled her hips on my thigh, smiled, and seductively slid the straw between her lips.
“I was watching you and thinking about how—“ I wasn’t sure how I was going to finish that sentence when Bones interrupted my thoughts.
“Guys! Guys!” Bones was carrying a tray of food and barreling toward us at a pace that had me concerned he wouldn’t be able to stop. “Look! Gator-on-a-stick! There’s a stand over there by the main stage!” And with that, he tripped and everything on his tray spilled down the front of Becki and all over my legs.
Becki shrieked and shot off my lap. She stood, mouth agape, shaking her head and looking back and forth between the gristle and grease dripping down her chest and Bones.
“Uh, um. Becki. I’m so, so sorry.” He slowly slinked backwards, preparing to use the tray as a shield if he needed to. His eyes were as wide as saucers and his body turned away but he kept a close eye on her over his shoulder as though he was afraid for his life. “I’ll go get you some napkins. Shit. I’m so sorry.” And then he ran. Fast.
The next ten minutes was a flurry of napkins, bottled water and a lot of swearing. Becki was beautiful but she had a mouth like a sailor if you doused her in meat juice. But whether he was holding fresh napkins or bottles of water, every time Bones inched toward her, she’d scream obscenities and he’d slink back toward the picnic table.
“I have to shower. I can’t breathe. Every time I breathe, I smell dead things.” She turned her head and tried to sneak a breath or two that didn’t smell like gator.
“Becki, we are at a festival and our home is a van until we get to LA. You can’t shower.” Spider tried very hard to hold in his laughter so as not to get on Becki’s bad side…ya know, the side Bones was on.
“I don’t care if I have to strip down in the rest room and climb into the sink. I need to get this shit off me! I smell like MEAT!” She stomped a couple times, stuck out her bottom lip and looked up at me with her hands fisted at her sides. She was adorable.
“I have an idea.” I took her by the hand, told the guys to find something she could use as a towel and then head to the place I pointed out when we pulled down the long lane to the lake. Becki grumbled and cursed the whole way. I was sure she was casting spells on Bones.
“Calon, where are we going? There could be snakes in these tall weeds.” She looked around nervously.
“Relax. I’ll protect you.” I said it all goofy-like hoping to see her smile. It worked.
“If you can protect me and find a way to get this sticky stench off me, you will be rewarded generously.” She winked and raised one eyebrow.
“Your bath awaits.” I pushed aside the thin branches of some brush and opened up a space for her to see a deep pool of water hidden within a small grove of trees.
She bounced up and down and clapped then looked around to see if anyone had spied us. She kissed me on the cheek and gripped me by the shoulders. She turned my back to the trees.
“You can’t look.” She grabbed my forearm and pulled it out perpendicular to my body. “Keep your arm like this to hold my clothes. If they hit the ground, I’ll kill you.”
“Got it.” I smiled and rolled my eyes. She hung the strap of her sandals over my fingers. I shook my head. She was about to get naked and she was expecting me not to look. I wanted to be respectable. I wanted her to be able to trust me this much but I so wanted to see what was beneath that sweet little sundress.
“Your generous reward is void should you steal a glance.” Her voice was sultry. She stood behind me and pressed her body into my back. “Promise me you won’t look.”
“I promise.” I was surprised by her adamant request because the Becki I’d been accustomed to seemed brazen and daring. But over the last couple days, something had changed between us and she was more private and even a little shy which was incredibly sexy.
“Thanks.” She laid something across my arm. I heard her take a couple steps and then there was a splash. She giggled and squealed at the cool temperature of her own little hidden oasis.
When I looked down and saw her tiny little sundress hanging over my arm goosebumps raised all over my body. And that’s when it hit me. I was only holding shoes and a dress. Nothing. Else. Holy Hell, she was going commando under that short dress. I closed my eyes and talked myself into remaining honorable and not peeking. I took a couple deep breaths but kept my eyes closed as a means to help with my resolve. I lost track of time as I stood and listened to her quiet moans and splashes as she cooled off and scrubbed away the stench of what Bones spilled on her.
“Oh shit, Cal.” Bones spoke slowly.
My eyes flew open and caught Bones gawking. My hands shot out in front of me and made contact with his chest and he and Becki’s dress and shoes hit the ground.
“CALON! Did you just let my dress touch the ground?!”
“You did NOT just sneak a peek at Becki naked!” I glared at him as he stood back up and brushed the dirt from his ass. I was ready to throttle him for the first time in our lengthy friendship.
“Shit, Cal! No! I didn’t get to see her knockers… but they did!”
I heard movement in the water and a gasp that came from what sounded like multiple people, not just one Becki. I turned and saw a bunch of shirtless guys standing on a berm just beyond the deep pool Becki had been bathing in. I yelled her name so she would be aware of her onlookers as well.
“CALON! You promised! BONES!” Becki’s voice was shrill and her annoyance was palpable. She only saw me and Bones but not her peeping Toms.
“Becki! I didn’t peek! I swear!” I tipped my head back so she could see I was diverting my gaze. I really didn’t see anything. I didn’t have time to. I was stunned by the number of guys silently gawking, my eyes hadn’t left their shit-eating grins.
“Oh, he looked Becks. He looked you all up and down. I saw it with my own eyes.” Bones nodded.
“I did not! Come on, man!” I turned back around so Becki didn’t think I was trying to steal a wayward glance.
Bones chuckled and took off running toward the guys staring at Becki. “Hey! Get outta here you assholes! This isn’t a peep show! This was a private viewing! Go! Git! Go get your own naked girl. This one’s ours!”
“Bones! Man, she’s gonna kill you.” I squeezed my eyes closed. I was trying my damnedest to keep my word. But it was so difficult knowing she was naked and wet right behind me. Dripping. Wet.
“No, you’re gonna kill me.” I wasn’t sure what Bones meant by that but I didn’t even have time to question him. His hands hit my chest and I was falling backwards. My back hit the water with a loud slap and I quickly sucked in a deep breath before I went under. I flailed a little, got my feet under me and stood, all the while keeping my eyes closed like a perfect gentleman.
“Funny, Bones. Nice one.” I waited for a comeback. Bones always had a comeback.
“Becks?” I spun slowly and tried to get a feel for where she was.
I peeked out of one eye and found myself alone in the little pool of water. I scrambled to the bank and pulled myself up with the exposed roots of the trees that had parted for our entrance to what was a private little hideaway. Bones and a fully-clothed Becki were headed back to the festivities. He carried a towel and her soiled dress.
“HEY! Wait! Bones! Did you see her naked?” I shook the water from my hair and wrung out my t-shirt. “Becki! How did you get your clothes without him seeing you? Wait! Guys! Wait up!”
“Now, who’s the gentleman, Cal? Huh? Looks like you might have some competition. Looks like your girl may be diggin’ some Bones.” Bones threw his arm in the air and flipped me the bird. He chortled and dropped his arm across Becki’s shoulders.
Becki turned to me, flashed me a smile that stole my breath. She winked, blew me a kiss, but kept walking.
Earning her Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in Art Education and then marrying her very own “Jake,” she moved to Binghamton, NY where she taught high school. After having two children she quit work and finished her Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Binghamton University.The Brownlow family of four moved to Michelle’s hometown of Morgantown, PA while the children were still quite young. A few years after moving, her family grew by one when they welcomed a baby into their home through the gift of adoption. The family still resides in PA, just miles from where that high school cheer bus was parked.
Michelle has been an artist for as long as she can remember, always choosing pencils and crayons over toys and puzzles. As a freelance illustrator, her simple characters play the starring roles in numerous emergent reader books published by Reading Reading Books.