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Dale’s Women (Chapter 8)
Kathryn M. Burke
By this time, Dale and Gloria had been seeing each other regularly for more than two months. They had fabulous sex, and they spent splendid weekends visiting all manner of places in the area. Dale even took her to the campus of Cambridge College in Ridgefield, showing her all his old stomping-grounds—his dorm room, the student union, his favorite pizza place, and much else besides.
His story of his involvement with Laura had made her pause. She was not nearly as old as Laura, but the twenty-eight-year difference in their ages was an ever-present factor in their relationship. She counted herself lucky that she didn’t have children, for she could imagine what kind of response they might make to this May-December relationship.
But she was very fond of Dale. It was not love, but it was far more than mere sexual satisfaction. She wasn’t entirely over her trepidation about being seen with him in public, but she felt that if some friend of hers did in fact spot them together, she’d be able to deal with it. In fact, it might be rather amusing.
So it was that, while cuddling with him in bed, she said: “There’s a woman I’d like you to meet.”
“What?” Dale exclaimed, puzzled. “Who?”
“She’s an old friend of mine—Lois Jennings.”
“How old is she?” Dale said, suspicious. For an instant he wondered whether Gloria was trying to foist him off on some young woman who she felt would be more “suitable” to him; but that didn’t quite sound like what was in Gloria’s mind.
“I think she just turned fifty. A spring chicken, by your standards,” Gloria teased.
“Very funny. What’s her story?”
“Her story is that her husband died about two years ago, and she’s not been the same ever since. I swear you’ve never seen anybody with such a black cloud over their head. I can’t remember the last time she smiled.”
“The death of a husband is pretty traumatic, don’t you think?”
“Of course, but there are limits.”
I think you’re jaded because your husband didn’t die but ran away from you. But of course Dale couldn’t say anything like that. “Were they married long?”
“About twenty-seven years, I think. She married Ben pretty much right out of college.”
“Two, a boy and a girl. They’re grown, of course.”
“So she’s living all alone?”
“And exactly what,” Dale said with exaggerated precision, “do you want me to do with her?”
Gloria gave him a deadpan look—something a short-tempered schoolteacher would give to a particularly dense schoolboy. “What do you think?”
It took a second or two for the implication to sink in. “You want me to sleep with her?” Dale squawked.
“Of course,” Gloria said matter-of-factly. “Do her a world of good.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Dale cried, his voice rising uncontrollably. “What could possibly lead you to think she’d want something like that? She’s still grieving—probably not giving the faintest thought to something like that. I’m sure she doesn’t even want to go on a date with anyone, much less—”
“Well,” Gloria said flatly, “you seem to be pretty good at sex therapy. All these stories you’ve told me about the wonders you’ve done for us elderly women after you’ve bopped us a couple of times . . .”
“Is that what you think this has all been about?” He seemed to be getting uncharacteristically angry now.
“Look, Dale, I don’t mean to make light of the situation. But I honestly think it would be good for her. Frankly, I doubt that Lois and Ben’s sex life was ever very good. She deserves something better—someone better. I think you’re just the ticket.”
Dale was sullenly silent for some moments. “Are you . . . are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Not on your life!” Gloria said emphatically. “I’ll be blunt and say you’ve got me pretty well addicted to your, um, caresses. I love the time we spent together—in bed and out of bed.”
“So you want me to do her and you?” Dale said, incredulous.
“It’s been done before,” Gloria said blandly. “And God knows you have the stamina. You said so yourself.”
“I’ve never been with more than one woman at a time.”
“Well, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start.”
“But wait a minute,” Dale said with increasing desperation. “What makes you think she’d be open—er, sorry, bad pun—to something like that? There’s no way I’m going to force my attentions on her. I don’t do that—never have.”
“I appreciate that, and no one’s talking about any forcing. Here’s what I’m thinking. We’ll invite her over for dinner one evening, maybe a Saturday. Perhaps I’ll give her just a little too much to drink, and then I’ll say, ‘Oh dear, Lois, I don’t think you can drive home.’ (She lives in Darien, about four miles away.) ‘Why don’t you spend the night here?’ And there you are!”
Dale was appalled. “You want me to sleep with her güvenilir bahis while she’s drunk? That’s pretty close to—”
“No, no, nothing like that. I’m not saying she should be totally passed out. We just want to get her to spend the night here. You just slip into her bedroom and ask. That’s all you have to do. If she says no, that’s the end of it. But from what I can tell, you have great powers of persuasion where women are concerned.”
Dale was so horrified at the whole idea that he got up from the bed and began pacing around the room. “I think this is horrible,” he muttered, more to himself than to Gloria. “You’re putting her in a very untenable position. It’s pretty much—”
“Look,” Gloria said flatly, “let’s be blunt: I’m not saying you should rape her. That’s the farthest thing from my mind. She’s a dear friend, and I don’t want any harm to come to her. But I do think it will help if she . . . gets a little enjoyment out of life again.”
Dale was shaking his head over and over. “I don’t think anything good can come of this. I don’t like it.”
“Just come back to bed,” Gloria coaxed. “We’ll give it some more thought in the morning.”
Somehow Gloria managed to persuade Dale to go along.
Lois was invited over for dinner on a Friday evening. The day wasn’t really that important, because she didn’t work anymore, so she had no need to get up early on a weekday. But Gloria felt that Lois might be uneasy to be left alone with Dale on a weekday morning—if, assuming everything went according to plan, she stayed the night.
As it was, it was pretty hard to persuade Lois even to accept the dinner invitation, for she had lapsed into a lugubrious hermitry that led her to avoid almost all gatherings, even with old friends. To Gloria, who had no patience with this almost masochistic wallowing in grief and misery, such a glum devotion to solitude was almost insupportable.
But Lois at last agreed to come. Part of her hesitation may have rested in the very fact of Dale’s presence. She knew something of Gloria’s new “boyfriend,” but didn’t seem at all keen on meeting him. It would be one thing to let her hair down to a familiar face like Gloria; but to have to put on the usual social niceties for a stranger was something she now found unutterably wearying.
When Lois came over, Dale didn’t know what to make of her.
As she trudged into the house, giving Gloria a token air kiss on the cheek, Dale did not gain a very favorable first impression. She was quite petite—barely five feet tall—and slim to the point of gauntness. Dale wondered whether she was even eating properly, for she seemed to have lost a fair amount of weight. She was wearing a shapeless long sweater and billowing knee-length skirt—an outfit that seemed to go out of its way to conceal whatever curves she might have.
But it was her face that struck Dale most acutely. It was delicate and oval, with very small, softly chiseled features—but the perpetual droopy frown and wrinkled brow made her seem both older than her years and far less attractive than she could have been. She shuffled into the living room as if afraid of being punished for some inscrutable dereliction, and she kept her eyes glued to the floor to avoid looking anyone in the face, even Gloria.
Then she saw Dale, standing with shuffling feet in the middle of the room. Her eyes enlarged alarmingly, and her mouth dropped into an unappealing gape.
“Lois,” Gloria said, “this is Dale.”
For several seconds Lois stood stock-still, as if she’d looked into the face of Medusa. Then, looking nervously at Gloria, she said, “This is your boyfriend?”
Obviously, Gloria had neglected to clarify to her friend the minor point about Dale’s age.
“Yes, dear,” Gloria said blandly.
“But—” Lois stammered, still talking to Gloria as if Dale wasn’t even present, “but he’s so—young!”
“I’m not as young as I look,” Dale said resentfully, extending a hand that Lois seemed frightened to take.
“Don’t listen to him,” Gloria said in her deadpan way. “He’s younger than he looks—barely out of grammar school.”
“Gloria!” Dale expostulated.
Lois seemed unsure what to make of this unseemly bantering. She ambled weakly and a little unsteadily over to the sofa, sitting down so hard that she startled herself. She looked up at Dale, who felt unbelievably foolish and humiliated, as if he were a vampire.
And this, Dale thought bitterly, is the woman who Gloria thinks is going to invite me into her bed tonight? Hah! She seems to think I’m Frankenstein’s monster.
“I guess we need some drinks,” Gloria said wryly, taking in the situation with cynical amusement.
Dale went over to the sideboard, nominally to help her. “What are you trying to do?” he hissed at her un an undertone. “Scare the bejesus out of her? Why didn’t you tell her how old I was, so that she’d be prepared? She looks as if she’s going to faint with terror!”
“She’ll be türkçe bahis all right,” Gloria said carelessly. “I’m sure you’ll charm her as you’ve charmed so many other ladies of a certain age.”
“You stop that!” Dale spat. “Don’t make fun of me!”
Gloria stroked Dale’s cheek—a gesture that was at once soothing and condescending. “I’m sorry, dear—I can’t help having a little fun.”
The drinks did help a bit. Lois took hers—Scotch on the rocks—in both hands like a little girl dutifully drinking her milk, and after a while her shoulders seemed to relax as she got used to the odd situation. She of course didn’t know what she was in for, but for now she felt she could deal with Gloria and her man-child boyfriend for a few hours.
Dale, for his part, was intent on getting to know Lois better, but Gloria had told him that questions about her past—especially about her marriage to Ben—were totally off-limits: any discussion of that subject would no doubt result in a cascade of tears or general wretchedness, and therefore make her less amenable to the sex therapy she had in mind. Even talking about her children, Joel and Charlotte—both of them reasonably successful and safely married, but not living anywhere close by to lend her any sort of comfort or support—was, in Gloria’s mind, inadvisable.
And yet, somehow the conversation progressed adequately over the course of the dinner. Gloria made sure to ply Lois repeatedly with red wine, topping off her glass when it was barely half-full and overriding Lois’s protests. By the time she had drunk three glasses or so, the protests had vanished altogether. She was getting definitely tipsy—the more so because she was only playing with her full plate of food and eating very little of it.
After dinner, Gloria insisted on Lois having some amaretto. Lois, her defenses now worn down, agreed with a faint, bleary-eyed nod. By this time it was already close to 10 p.m., and Gloria felt it was time to let out her bombshell.
“Lois, dear,” she said in a voice that radiated tender concern, “I think you’ve had a little too much to drink. It’s not safe for you to drive back home. You’d better stay here for the night.”
Lois, doing her best to summon her self-control, said with slurred tones, “No—no, I don’t need to do that.”
“Yes, you do, dear. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you.”
Something is going to happen to you! Dale thought, watching Gloria at work.
Lois relented with surprising ease. She was pretty much falling asleep already. Dale thought that might be a good thing: if she just conked out, there was no way she could give consent for him to do anything. He repeated his mantra to himself over and over: I’m not going to force her . . .
Gloria, suddenly becoming briskly businesslike, said, “Okay, maybe you’d best get to bed.” She began leading her up to the master bedroom.
“I—I don’t have anything to wear,” Lois protested weakly.
“I’ll lend you a nightgown—and some fresh underwear tomorrow.”
Gloria bundled Lois into the bedroom. She still had some clothes there, even though most of her wardrobe had been moved elsewhere so that she needn’t enter, more than was necessary, a room that now had distasteful implications for her. Out of a dresser she fished out a nightgown—a baby-doll thing, because Lois was so small that a full-length gown would be much too long and drag on the floor.
As Lois stood unsteadily in the middle of the room, Gloria systematically undressed her. The sweater came off, then the skirt. Without hesitation, she unclasped the bra and, over Lois’s clumsy objections, peeled her panties off. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Lois naked, but she thought to herself: Well, you’re really not a bad specimen of middle-aged womanhood. Dale ought to love getting his hands on you. She briskly draped the nightgown over Lois’s head. It came down a little below the knees and seemed just right for her.
“You can wash up in the bathroom over there if you feel like it,” Gloria said, gesturing to the room off to the left.
Lois nodded incoherently, but her main objective seemed to be to collapse onto the bed and seek oblivion as quickly as possible.
When Gloria entered her own bedroom, she found Dale already there. He was still fully dressed.
“Better get your things off,” she snapped. “It’s getting to be time to do your bit.”
“Gloria,” Dale pleaded, “I really don’t want to do this. I’m sure she doesn’t want me. She hardly said a word to me all evening.”
“You just do whatever she feels like doing. That’s all I ask.”
“What if she’s passed out?”
“Well, then, come back here. I’m not asking you to—you know . . .”
“You’re damn right you’re not,” he said with almost vicious emphasis.
Dale undressed slowly while Gloria slipped out of her own clothes and got into one of her long nightgowns.
Now he found another objection. “Um, I don’t even have any nightclothes. I sleep in güvenilir bahis siteleri my underwear.”
“So what?” Gloria snapped. “Just go in there like that.”
“Are you crazy?” he almost shouted, earning a frantic “Shhhh!” from his girlfriend. “That’s pretty damn provocative, isn’t it?”
“It’s kind of the idea, isn’t it, dear?” she said sweetly.
Dale just shook his head. I’ve given up understanding women—at least this woman. He was now standing in his briefs and feeling incredibly silly. All Gloria did was to gesture peremptorily with her head toward the master bedroom.
Dale slunk off in that direction.
He opened the door of the bedroom as if he were a burglar planning a daring heist, and closed the door equally carefully. Lois looked comatose, lying flat on her stomach on the immense bed, her face so engulfed in the pillow that Dale wondered if she could even breathe.
He bent down on his knees in front of the bed. Gazing at the woman in front of him, he now realized she was really quite striking. Soft brown hair had fallen over part of her face, and he gently lifted it away and said, almost into her ear:
“Lois? Lois, are you awake?”
At his words, Lois’s eyes popped open. The moment she saw who was in her bedroom, she let out a squeal that wrung Dale’s heart. Omigod, this is not going to go well at all. She must think I’m going to—
She managed to say, “Dale! Wh-what are you doing here?”
Okay, here goes the spiel. “Lois, I just hate to see a woman be so sad. I can’t tell you how much it hurts me.” He was, in fact, speaking the literal truth.
“What?” she whispered, uncomprehending.
“I was just wondering,” Dale said mildly, “if I could do something to make you feel better.”
A shudder seemed to pass through her. “Do . . . what?”
Fixing his gaze directly on her face, he said, “May I hold you?”
Her eyes widened, and only now did she seem to notice that he was wearing hardly any clothes. She could only see him from the chest up, but his naked torso made her cling to the bedsheet even more tightly than before.
She managed to say weakly, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
Well, that’s not a total rejection. “Would you prefer that I go?”
To Dale’s surprise, Lois said nothing—she just continued to gaze at him. She licked dry lips and swallowed hard.
Then she said, “Does Gloria know you’re here?”
Dale figured he might as well come out with the truth. “She sent me here.”
“She sent you here?” she said quite loudly.
“She thought I could . . . cheer you up.”
Lois didn’t know what to make of all this. There was still a look of fear in her eyes that pained Dale to the depths of his being.
“Maybe I’d better go,” he said lugubriously, getting ready to get to his feet and leave the room.
But then Lois did something he never expected. She slid backwards on the bed and said, “You don’t have to do that.”
Lois couldn’t believe the words had left her lips. But amidst her general alarm and confusion, she had to admit one overriding factor: Dale was kind of cute.
The very reason why she hadn’t said much to him during dinner was that she found something about him irresistibly attractive. His modest height, gentle bearing, and readiness with a smile made him not only unthreatening, but more and more appealing. She may not have expressed it outwardly, but she did find herself shedding some of her gloom in the warmth of his personality. But, of course, he was Gloria’s boyfriend.
She couldn’t even bring herself to think of what that really meant. The thought of this boy—and, really, he was not much more than a boy—actually in bed with the self-assured, splendidly mature Gloria created such cognitive dissonance in Lois that she just pushed the whole matter out of her mind. She could easily envision having Dale as a friend—but because he was a man (even if a young man barely out of college) and she a woman (even if a widow who didn’t think there was much left in her life), she couldn’t prevent the all-but-forbidden issue of sexual intimacy from infiltrating her mind.
All through that evening, she had not failed to notice Dale’s covert glances in her direction. Was he really debating in his mind her worthiness for physical intimacy? When was the last time a man had done that? She wasn’t a spring chicken anymore—and yet, here was this fine-looking young man sizing her up for a session between the sheets! It was disconcerting, it was even a bit frightening—but it was also flattering, and an immense bolstering of her self-esteem.
And so she made way for him to enter her bed.
She really didn’t think anything would really happen—that was a fantasy beyond anything she could imagine. But, as he wrapped her in a gentle embrace, she had to admit that it felt really nice to be held by a man. She had always felt warm and loved in Ben’s arms. He hadn’t been the world’s greatest lover—but then, neither was she. But they fitted together well. And now, with Dale encircling her with his strong arms, she felt a sense of peace even amidst her continuing alarm.
A large part of that alarm rested in the fact that Dale was nearly naked.
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