Dust particles floated in the sunbeam that cascaded through the small window. “Terry’s Cleaning” stretched with the dark blue shirt as the wearer stooped and shifted boxes that had sat undisturbed for decades, transferring them down small stairs that protested under the use. At the bottom of the stairs, a dark haired girl opened them.
Some of the dusty boxes went to a large room to await further judgement, and some out by the road, where they joined other discards in a pile with bags of garbage, and a large sign that read “estate sale” and had a smaller “sold” sign across it. Other men in navy shirts stacked wooden pallets between rows of green apple trees dotted with white flowers, similar to a stack behind a red wood barn with a sloped roof.
The sun’s rays, no longer the bright yellows of the mid day, had stretched on to a shade of peach as evening settled on the little farmhouse. The screen door pushed open, spring stretching with metallic twangs, then banging shut again as the girl walked through, fanning herself with a sheath of paper. Grey strands of cobweb tangled in her ponytail, and dark hair clung to the sheen of sweat on her neck. She settled into the swing, and rocked back with flip flopped feet, still fanning herself. Each movement of her wrist caused the ribbon that bound the papers to dance.
She tipped her head back, resting it against the faded wooden slats, and closed her eyes.
She rocked for the space of a few minutes, as the peach sky moved on towards orange, listening to the sharp chitter of the crickets’ song. When the sweat no longer dripped beads along the nape of her neck, she opened her eyes, and with gentle fingers untied the ribbon from the packet. Setting the stack on the swing beside her, she picked up the top sheet and started to read the words on the page.
It seems hard to imagine it was just last week that I stood, my hands clasped to your calloused one, standing with my head on the hard muscles that broaden your shoulders. I feel worlds away from you here. Everything is so different.
Sunday night, Jane and I wandered from the abandoned sitting room through the vacant dining area, up the stairs and fingered the dings and scuff in the doorways to the bedrooms. The open space encouraged us to explore corners and closets.
Monday morning, we dressed with hasty fingers and high pitched giggles. Papa was a long time in the barn, but when I offered to help he shook me off. His face was drawn, and I could see he was picking through the mares tails despite the harness already draped from the solid bodies. Mother stood in the kitchen, her eyes resting on the pine in the side yard. The early morning sun glinted off the moisture dripping down her cheeks.
Once we were loaded, Jane and I scooted against each other on the board in the wagon. Her soft fingers interlaced with mine, warming not just my fingers but my spirits as well. The clip clop of the team’s hooves on the hard pan echoed hollow, seemingly louder for the silence we maintained.
The frame houses we passed were old friends, their faces known, as well as their fringes of laundry and scatters of chicken, dogs and children. I know Papa said moving is the only option, but I wish I were still there in Polk county. At the railway, the Jones boys grabbed the small carpeted bag that Jane and I packed with our things, and Mama’s matching larger bag. They tossed them into a car right behind the growling, belching engine.
Mr. Fendler took the team and wagon. Jane and I pressed lump after lump of sugar to their lips. I never wanted to see Lady leave, but they were already sold. Her velvet lips tickled my neck as I buried my face into the shaggy hair on hers, breathing the scent of the sweet hay she ate, combined with the warm animal scent. It’s still hard to remember that she’s not out in the barn. Papa says we can take out a buggy from the livery sometimes, but it won't be the same.
We were quite early to the depot, by the time the train pulled out with us on board, the sun had slid past its zenith. Jane and I switched from seat to seat, peering through the windows out at the darkening world until all that was visible was our own reflections. Eventually, we slept in our seats, rocked by the motion of the car.
Almost as if we merely blinked, the sun was rosy when the conductor’s voice woke me announcing the City. I could feel the tickle of loosened hair from my ruined braids, and it reminded me of the last time you and I were together. My face heated and I turned it to the window, brushing my hair smooth then returning it to the plait that controlled it.
Jane’s soft hand in mine was a lifeline I clenched as we stared open mouthed at four girls waiting together for the train.They ignored our stares, their chatter unstopped as they waved their hands with animated movements. Short dresses hung from their frames barely brushing their knees, and shivered with each movement they made. The shortest one glanced at me as she released the smoke from her cigarette through perfectly pouted red lips. Like the others in her group, her hair barely brushed the nape of her neck, and was sculpted into waves, at least, that is what was visible beneath her hat.
Mother pointed out that none of them were wearing wedding rings, and from this I was reminded of how you always seem to touch and stroke my hair whenever we are together. I wonder why those girls cut their hair so short.
Jane and I found no end of things to stare at as we walked along the sidewalk, trailing Mama and Papa. The buildings cast shadows: rose high into the sky, blocked the sun. Automobiles spewed out dark smoke that burned the eyes and throat if you breathed in as they went past. Delivery men shook their fists at the autos, and I could hear their shouts when one was cut off by a particularly daring driver, his flapping coat causing the drey horse to toss his head and snort.
We did eventually find our way to our new home. It is a lovely white frame house, with a wrapped porch that joins another, sharing a common frame. The wooden swing that hangs there is my favorite place. When I sit there, I can see down the street, all the other houses shoulder to shoulder with ours.
I have spent many an hour since we arrived sitting and daydreaming of you walking up the sidewalk with your lips smiling at me. Mama is not impressed with this use of my time, and every time she sees me woolgathering, she assigns me floors to sweep, or dusting. But even those chores are not enough to drive thoughts of you from my mind.
I await your response with bated breath,
My Dearest Stella,
I cannot tell you the joy I felt today when I received your letter. It was all I could do to keep from opening it right there, but I decided to wait so that I could sit on the bank of our favorite pond while I read the words you had written. It must be very exciting for you to be in the City but I know you must miss being home.
It's very hot today and I'm sorely tempted to go for a swim. I remember with more than just a happy thought our time together in that pond. Hearing your lilting laughter echo from the rocks and feeling your hands in mine are memories I will cherish forever. You mention that the girls in the city wear their hair short. I do hope you do not cut yours. I believe the sight of your long, dark hair flowing over your wet shoulders in this pond will always be the most beautiful I've ever beheld. I miss you terribly, Stella.
I know I should not commit such thoughts to paper, but the one memory I have that makes your absence bearable is the memory of what we shared that last day. That one special moment on the edge of this pond, or when we kissed in the tall grasses of Father’s South Field were the happiest of my life. I can still taste the sweetness of your lips and hear your soft whimpers as we shared our bodies in that last, fleeting moment. Those are memories of you that will forever keep me warm, even in the coldest of nights.
Father says I should be looking for a wife soon, but the thought of spending my life with any woman but you is impossible for me to imagine. I spend my days working on the farm, trying to dull the ache your absence has left in my heart. At night, I can only gaze at the stars and wonder if you see them too.
How wicked of you to mention our last time together! Yet, how I ache to be there in your arms again. I wouldn’t change a thing, even though I know it was a terrible sin.
Papa has gotten a job working for the grocer. He climbs the steps slowly when he returns home, immediately sits down in his chair, his head tipped back and eyes closed. Despite this, you can see that he and Mother spend less time heads bent together over the account book, lips and eyebrows drawn. He gave Jane and I each ten cents the other day. Imagine that, we had twenty cents between us to do whatever we wanted. We went to the store and bought some penny candy. Later I looked at the selection of books, but settled on a copy of Harper’s Weekly.
I try not to, but I wish for you to be here and put your arms around me. Your letter hurt me though. I cannot imagine you marrying someone else. How ever would I be able to handle the idea of you loving another girl? Would you take her to our pond, too?
At night I lay here in my bed, listening to the sounds of the house. I can’t stop myself from thinking of you, your strong shoulders, muscled from work. The way your back felt warm under my fingers. How you looked down at me, the green leaves of the apple trees over your shoulder in monochromatic agreement with your eyes. The fresh scent of the crushed grass we laid on.
As I think of these things, my skin feels heated, and I am aware of every movement. If I cross my legs, I get a rush through my core. The cotton of my nightdress drifting across my breasts as I breathe feels like sandpaper, but it also pleases me.
I have no desire to cut my hair, but I do get jealous of the girls in the short skirts. They look so carefree, and I would like to feel that way.
your loving Stella
My lovely Stella,
I am sincerely glad to hear your father has found gainful employment. He has always been a good man. I should be very happy for you and your family to be doing so well.
If I were to bare my heart though, I cannot summon the joy I know I should feel for you. I am lost without you near me and every morning I feel empty knowing you are no longer just down the road. My days are spent alone now, but my thoughts are filled with your memory.
You should have your mother make you one of those short skirts. You are far too lovely to remain hidden behind the long dresses of the common girls of our small town. You are in the city now and like a butterfly, you should be proud of your beauty
Yesterday, I walked through the meadow below Pine Bluff where we used to picnic. It was as green and beautiful as it was that first time we kissed. I remember every moment so vividly and as that memory once again became alive within me, my body responded in ways no true gentleman would admit, especially to the woman he loves. It was as if I could again feel your body against mine and I longed to once again hold you in my arms. Even then, Stella, I desired to have you right there in those lush fields.
Oh, I know I should not say such things. We are told that it's a sin to love so thoroughly before marriage, but am I supposed to deny my true feelings and to pretend my love and desire for you are less than they truly are? I'm glad you do not regret that last day by the pond. I do not, and I cannot believe that sharing our love as we did that day could possibly be wrong. If I could, I would surely choose to do it again.
I dreamed last night of just that. I once again saw your shy smile as I lowered your dress, and felt my body stir just as it had when I finally saw the true beauty of your body uncovered by clothing, finally freed from a girl’s innocence. As those thoughts consumed me, I felt the same arousal and breathless need I felt for you on that day and my body reacted as any man's would when he is in the embrace of his woman.
If such a beautiful release must mean I am weak of morals, then consider me damned because I feel no shame for reliving that single most glorious moment of my life. I only wish I could live it again, with you in my bed.
Please know, I have no love or desire for another and that pond will remain ours alone, forever.
You, Stella, have my love and my devotion, always.
My dearest Joshua,
I did it! Mother doesn't know, I used the sewing machine and made myself a dress like my new friend's.
Doris lives in the house connected to ours, and has helped me by loaning me a dress I could use as a pattern. I worked on them in the evenings when Mother was at her church circle. Those dimes Papa gave me have stopped going to candy, but rather they go to for cloth. I traced the parts of the lent dress and added a little for a seam allowance. I treadled the Singer whistling until all the pieces were assembled and the seams hemmed.
Every morning I duck over to my new friend’s house. I unbutton the country dress and push it down, revealing the short skirts of my new dress. The early morning air chills as it nips my calves with its sharp teeth, sending the tremors through me, and my step feels bouncier as I walk up the street, the hem frolicking with my spirits. Doris presented me with a new hat, its sloping shoulders hang low over, slouching over my head, and emphasizing my brown eyes. But it is a bit large to go my braid; Doris has very short strands. She marcels them into waves. I long to feel the fingers of the wind ruffle through my hair. But as long as it currently is, that is not a possibility. I must say that it makes me very glad that you are not sharing our pond with another girl. I have been tormented as I work, and at night while I sleep with images of you with Elizabeth Bennett. I could see her blond hair tumbling down her shoulders as you drew her dress down, and I felt both a rage and great sorrow to think that you would be embracing her with those arms that I wanted wrapped around me.
I know she is a great girl, she won the spelling bee every year, and her father has that large farm. But you have my heart, and I do not wish to share your affections with another girl. Please don't think poorly of me; you must think I am a jealous and selfish person. After all, you are so far away, and yet, I still don't want to think of you spending time with someone else. I wish you were close. So close in fact, that I could have those arms around me. I remember you pulling the pins from my hair, so that it fell from its knot in curls. Your lips were on mine, hard yet smooth, leaving me breathless. I held tight to you, the only thing that I noticed, for the rest of the world, the crickets humming, the grass moving in the breeze, even the pond itself, had all receded.
There was just you and my need to be possessed by you. I could taste the salt on your neck, and I remember sliding my hands under your shirt, tugging at it to free you from its restraints. Your skin was golden in the sun, your hair dark and curling. I didn't realize that it trailed all the way down your chest. But it invited me to touch it, and to keep touching all the way down its trail, till I was reaching under your trousers. I’m sure I acted like the harlot; I ran my fingers across your chest, up to your hair. Burying them within the soft strands, I pulled your face to mine, and pressed my lips against yours. I found that I was consumed with a need to touch you, and to have you touch me. Now, I know what the fires of hell feel like for I burn nightly to feel your touch again.
When your fingers grazed my skin, you branded me as your own. I long to be yours, in fact as well as in memory. I imagine you; I see you on the streets of the city and I laugh aloud and rush to greet you, only to find that it is your memory that I rush towards.
Longing to see you,
It warms my heart to think of you wearing such a dress. How beautiful and free you must seem! I would be so proud to walk the city streets with you at my arm wearing your skirt and hat. I am sure the boys are sneaking glances at your legs when they believe you are unaware.
You must not worry yourself over Elizabeth Bennett. Have you forgotten the annoying pitch of her laugh? Being close to her would be akin to damning myself to a lifetime of listening to chalk squeak on the board! Besides, Andrew Bailey has asked her to the Fourth of July Dance this year. I truly hope they are happy together.
I could go on about this year’s harvest or about the sale of father’s pigs, but I honestly hate to waste the few, precious words I may share with you on such paltry matters. What I would wish is to see you in your short skirt and to kiss your smiling face again.
I have relived that last day with you a hundred times, Stella. So much so, that I have taken to spending my few free hours by our pond, skinny dipping as we did that day. I close my eyes and I can still see the wonderfully pure radiance of your skin and hear you sigh as my hands touched you in places that no one ever had before. You were as beautiful as the sunrise, Stella. I could never tire of seeing you that way any more than I could become weary of seeing the full moon in the sky.
I should be ashamed to admit such things, but as I lay, naked, by the water’s edge, I felt the excitement of your touch again. I could see you under me, with fear and longing in your eyes as you gazed up at me. It was a magical moment when we became one and even the tears you shed were as much in joy as they were from the brief pain. I do hope you remember that as fondly as I.
As I lay there, Stella, my touch became yours on my body again. I could feel my heart beating so strongly, just as it had then and my manhood became convinced I was once again within you. I could so clearly feel the warmth of your body and sense the deep cadence of your breath. Forgive me for living it again without you, my love, but that memory is all that I have left. I will cherish it always.
Your loving man,
How I love my short skirts, now that I have been wearing them everywhere. My one irritation is I still have to hide when I leave the house. Mother surely must notice that my waist looks thicker when I leave, a skirt and blouse under my dress will do that. So far she hasn't commented on it, or the time I have put in at the sewing machine. I have a small stash of cloth that I bought on sale at the Ben Franklin store. My favorite is still the navy gabardine, a stretchy cloth that clings to my hips, but is cut to swing when I move.
The first week I wore my short skirts, I felt my face burn every time I passed people on the street. Every new set of eyes seemed to be drawn to my bared knees. I had to stop myself from turning around a rushing back to change back to my country dress.
The very worst were the boys. They are very sly about it, pretending to gaze at other things, but their gaze sliding over you, burns through whatever clothing you might be wearing leaving you stripped. If you look at their eyes, you can catch the movement as they stare.
After the first week, though, I noticed I stopped feeling exposed, and I started meeting the eyes of those I had previously avoided. Many times they blush a deep red and look quickly away, but there are a few boys who look straight back into my eyes and grin back. Just the other day I saw one of these boys. He didn't even try to hide what he was doing.
These boys here in town can be very forward and I am glad you are not so. I am sure they would not look quite so intently if you were walking with me as my skirts swished against my stockings.
A most unusual thing happens when I am wearing my skirts though, and it particularly happens when I run across these unpleasant boys. It must happen because I am so embarrassed by their looks, or perhaps its from my brisk walking. I’m not sure the cause, but I seem to be sweating. Or at least that is the only explanation I can come come up with for my panties appear to be wet.
It is rather embarrassing to admit. I come home and quickly take them off, pushing the old sodden pair deep into the dirty linen pile. I am very wicked, because I don’t put a clean pair on right away. But the fresh air rushing in to bathe my heated parts feels lovely.
Josh, I am truly glad to know that Elizabeth Winslow doesn't attract your attention and that you still think of me. But I don’t understand; how can my touch and yours be the same? We are separated by hundreds of miles now. If only it could be. I would like nothing better than to hold your hand as we walk along the sidewalk, me showing you off to all the girls.
I hear Mama coming home from the store. I must hurry to mail this.
All my love,
My beautiful Stella,
I can only imagine how radiant you must be these days. To have such freedom to wear such clothes, even if only away from home. It must be truly exhilarating.
I am torn though by the thought of other boys seeing you so. I find my stomach aches at the thought of their leering glares, but part of me cannot truly blame them. If only I could be walking with you on those streets. Then they would not dare to be so bold. Not if they knew what was good for them anyway.
I would never let anyone bring harm or shame to you, Stella. For one of them to even attempt such in my presence would be extremely unwise.
I do know that the blush in your face when they look is as beautiful as the sunrise though. Did you know your brown eyes sparkle when you blush? They are enchanting to behold.
I have thought about you cutting your hair and I hope you do not. I think of how it moves like a living thing in the breeze or how silky it felt against my skin when your head rested on my chest. It would be an awful shame for you to trim it away. One does not throw away a bolt of silk because it is out of fashion.
I haven't had time for our pond of late. A summer storm blew in last Tuesday and the roof of Mr. Holland’s barn fell in. Father and I, along with Jimmy Baxter have been working from sun up to dusk with him to make the repairs.
The oppressive heat doesn't make it any easier and both Jimmy and I have been working without our shirts on. Father and Mr. Holland gave us that look, but we both just laughed. I think Father wanted to laugh as well, but he's far too serious to let me know he actually approved of me being in such a state.
I'm writing this by candlelight tonight. It has gone from being a blistering hot day to a still dreadfully warm night, and even though I am nearly exhausted, I cannot sleep. I have stripped down to my skivvies, yet my skin still is moistened by the constant sweat. Yet, I don't think this is the same moisture you spoke of. I remember so clearly that day when I removed your panties and felt that same moisture. Your womanhood was so perfect, so intoxicatingly beautiful, and it was so very wet that day as well.
I remember how your face lit up when I touched you. It was but a gentle caress, but it caused you to whimper in a way that I had never heard before. Do you remember us lying by the shore while I kissed you? When my fingers were touching you there?
You felt so soft and wet and your hips rolled slightly toward my touch, as if you wanted so much more. Even thinking of it now causes the same reaction in me as you did that day. I've become even hotter than the night can explain.
Stella, I am almost breathless as I write this. My skin tingles with something I can only describe as my desire to be with you again. I've grown hard in my hand and know there is but one way for me to sate my need, one way save having you with me at least.
This is how my touch can be like yours on my body. It doesn't have the pleasant warmth of your hand or the soft, enveloping wetness you had when we made love, but here and alone on my bed, I am still able to feel that glorious moment of our union.
I may be consigning myself to hell, Stella, but I just cannot help myself without you here. Every day reminds me of how much I miss you.
With all my love,
Don't be angry with me, but I cut my hair.You know I have long wanted the marceled waves.
It happened last week, before your letter arrived. Doris and I sat hips touching on the swing, rocking, feet swinging. Hidden, slipped between our brushing thighs was the shine of the silver flask she normally carried in her garter. The first sip of the gin it is filled with burns, and tastes vile, but the by the second or third sip, I found you don't notice.
Taking turns, we sipped, while I fanned myself. “It’s so hot, my neck sweat has neck sweat.”
Her response sealed the fate for my locks. “My neck is never hot, the breeze blows on it. You should cut your hair like I do. You’ll like it. Its easy. I can show you how.”
I thought of how you looked when you ran your hands through my hair. As the heavy waves fell down, and I kept one for you. You probably already noticed it when you opened the letter.
The air feels so cool now on the back of my neck. My fingers are in constant motion, ruffling the fringe that now brushes my nape. The few inches that are left feel very foreign after the arm’s length my hand used to travel. I know you will miss it, but don't be mad, my dearest. It is just hair and it always will grow back.
But, oh, I hope you like it, for I love it. Mother hates it, she says that my hair was my "crowning jewel" and that I shall never never get married now. I tremble to think of what she would say if she saw the dresses, or the way I smile in the boys’ eyes now when I am walking.
I do not think they are leering at me, for they meet my eyes when I look straight at them. The taller boy with the dark hair always grins and gives me a wink. Surely that is not leering.
It is blistering hot here in the city as well. The heat rises from the streets, giving everything a shimmery sort of glow. It is almost like seeing a fantasy. Sometimes, I tell myself that it really is a dream and that you will come walking down the road to meet me.
I imagine us arm in arm going to the theater; Black Oxen is playing there, with a new actress, called Clara Bow, that I hear is the bee's knees. We could sit in the dark watching, my hand on your leg. In my mind, I can feel your muscles taut under your slacks and my hand as we sit there. Would they jump like they did that day by the pond? I like to think they might.
Just the thought of sitting there with you in the dark makes my body break out in a sweat. My chemise is clinging to my chest, and I find that thin cotton suddenly feels scratchy. I find I have to rub at the chemise. This both soothes the itch and makes me want to scratch more.
I am restless in my discomfort, and move my legs, seeking relief. Somehow that makes me more uneasy; all I can think of is the boy who kissed me and helped me to the ground, his arms around me and though I blush to think of it, his weight as he rested over me. I was uncomfortable then too, but you were there to comfort me, and ease my worries.
I am writing from my bed as well. The night air here is still and hot, although very bright with Mr. Edison's light. I miss the sounds of crickets through the windows. Here I hear the sounds of the city going to sleep: automobiles roaring along the main drag, the call of horses heading home, shouts from the factory boys as they depart ways from the drugstore. None are as soothing as the grass rustling while the cows low. It makes me feel very homesick for the farm and the boy I left there.
Wishing I were with you always,
My lovely Stella,
Whether your hair is as long as fabled Rapunzel's or as short as Clara Bow's, you would be beautiful to any man's eyes. I have seen no other woman nor wonder of nature I would rather gaze upon. You are my moon filled night and my morning sunrise.
I have the lock of your hair in my hand. I swear I can still smell the fresh scent it had when you were in my arms. So soft and silky it is. I tell you, my love, that my skin feels like St. Elmo's fire as I let it brush over my chest. Earlier tonight, I sat on my porch, gazing at its shimmering beauty and even the lightning bugs, dancing in the darkened fields, must have been shamed by their failure to compare with its radiance.
Tonight, as I write by candlelight, the lock rests over my heart and even this small part of you makes me feel alive again. I would envy you having electric light, but tonight the shadows cast by this tiny, flickering flame seem to capture your silhouette. Perhaps I am a fool to think it so, but I'd like to believe that in some magical way, you are here by my side.
Tell me, my beloved Stella. Can you not feel me there with you? Can you not feel my lips on your cheek and my hand upon your breast? Please, do not blush. The touch you feel is mine, just as I feel the warmth of your body next to me tonight. When you extinguish your light, you will see the truth of my words.
You will feel my sweet kiss on your full lips, and my touch caressing your belly. I will slide my hand under your chemise, for tonight I cannot resist the longing I feel to once again touch your flawless skin. When the light is out, my love, you will feel the warmth of my touch and sigh as my hand descends toward the very center of your womanhood.
Once before, I touched you there and the sudden gasp and slow, aching moan that flowed from your breast has never left my mind. Even now, I grow hard as a man does when he is in the presence of his woman, and I can feel your trembling hand as it caresses me. These touches, mine on your body and yours upon mine, can bring us both back to that singular, glorious moment of bliss we once shared.
I gaze into your brown eyes as I feel the hurried passion of your hand straining to bring me there, and if you allow yourself, you will again feel the strength of my arm as it lies across your body, and the gentle but unrelenting caresses of my fingers as they part your shores and delve into the liquid depths of your body.
I feel a growing heat within me, a satisfying burn that no sip of gin could equal. It is the heat of my passion for you that drives me this night and this I share with you as the midnight stroke grows near. It is my hope, my beloved girl, that you too feel the stroke of midnight with me, and together we can experience the crashing birth of a new and glorious day.
I have no shame for my love and desire, I hope you can see the truth in this and forgive my lurid thoughts. You have my love and devotion, always.
My dearest Josh,
I have lain here in bed all night since I received your letter, tossing and turning. My bed but a wasteland that seems so empty without you here. The sheet winds around my legs as I turn.
I finally shut the door to the hall, so the light would not bother Father. Now I lie here in bed, writing to you under by the lamp light. What I wouldn't give to have you here, your broad shoulder to lean against. If I close my eyes, it’s almost as if you are here with me. I lean back against the pillow, and pretend that its fluffy surface is your solid chest. My arms creep around me and it is you I feel.
Yes, Josh, I too can feel you, and yes, I burn for you.
My longing for you crushes my chest, making me swallow against the ache. It makes me desire your touch. I long to feel your kisses on my skin again. Just to think of the brush of your rough stubble against my neck, as your hands buried and twisted in my hair, is to leave my skin inflamed, heated as though by a thousand suns.
Josh, I feel the cloth rub against my skin, and I imagine it is your fingers. I lie here, my hands tracing across my skin, remembering the taste of your lips on mine, the sweet and spicy licorice of your Beecham’s. I can feel the rasp of your calloused fingers as they cross my stomach, sliding up to my chest.
Thoughts of you torment me, and I toss about, my blankets wadded in a ball at my feet. It is good that Jane does not share my little room here in this new house as she once did. Surely she would question why my slumber is disturbed night after night.
My friend, Doris, has invited me to go with her to a petting party next week. I’m not certain what a petting party is yet, but it will keep me from lying here, dreaming of you.
This place still does not feel like home, and I suspect it never will. For my home is forever with you, lying in the green velvet of the grassy bed, watching the bees dance amongst the apple blossoms.
Yours with all my heart,
I sat on the fence rail in front of your old house for over an hour this morning. I hoped just being there would ease the ache my heart at your absence, but it did nothing to lessen the terrible loneliness I feel. The place is still empty, and I was sorely tempted to to pry a board from the window of your room, just so I could be where you once slept.
I couldn't bring myself to do it though. I felt somehow that it would be better to leave it undisturbed. Instead, I took the time to fix that squeaky board on the back porch. It seems silly to do it now that your family is gone, but I know it would make your mother happy to know it was finally done.
I imagine often how beautiful you must look under electric light. I’m certain it makes your skin glow with a pale radiance, much like the sun does when you are bathed in its warmth. You are so very beautiful, Stella. As much as it hurts me to say it, you belong in the viverent life of the city. It's exuberance and joy are well suited for a girl with the love of life you possess. Please don't pine for our backward little town. It is I who should long to come to you, and I do, Stella. Every waking moment of my day.
I feel that I should not have been so forward in my last letter to you. I said things a man ought not say to the woman he loves. Though I feel a burning desire for you, my base thoughts were unworthy of a woman who is as proper and respectable as you. Please know that my love is pure, even if my flesh is weak and filled with temptation. I would smile brightly and be filled with joy if I could so much as hold your hand again.
Your new friend, Doris, does sound like a wonderful girl. I am relieved that you've met someone with whom you can share your time. It's good for you to be with someone who can introduce you to the society of the city. I don't know what a petting party is either, but I suspect she intends to give you a puppy. I have to laugh when I think of what your mother would say to that.
I should tell you that Andrew Bailey proposed to Elizabeth Winslow shortly after the dance. He found a job in dry goods over in Clarksville and they will be moving there after their wedding in early October. The whole town was in an uproar over the news, but I could find no joy in it.
How I wish I could provide a home for you, Stella. Then, perhaps, your father might have consented to giving me your hand. I will never stop trying to be the man you deserve, my love. Maybe, someday, I'll be able to prove it to him.
I may walk down to your old home again tomorrow and mend the east fence. I just cannot stand the thought of it being in disrepair.
I love you, Stella, and miss you terribly.
Dearest, sweet Josh,
I think of you sitting on the fence at my old home, and I want to cry. I miss you so much sometimes it is a palpable thing. Why am I not there with you? Why did Papa have to move to the city? Why can’t I see you as I like?
Don’t think ill of me Josh. I went to the petting party with Doris. It wasn't like I thought at all.
I dressed in my short dress, the purple one that I imagine you would like; it sets off the chestnut highlights in my hair so well and I know how you feel about that. The fringe along the bottom hem grazes my knees and every time I wear it I think of your fingers touching me there.
When Doris picked me up, I was so excited. I haven’t been to a party since that birthday party for Elizabeth. I remembered the lemonade, and hoped there might be little squares of cake at this party too. I didn't expect the lemonade, as I suspected that we would be drinking from Doris’ little flask of gin.
I was not wrong, as soon as we were out of sight of my mother she pulled her flask out of her garter and passed it to me. I could tell from her glittering eyes and the stretch of her red lips in a wide smile that she had been drinking already without me. Still I could see no reason not to. It was just a little gin before the party, so I had a drink, and then a second, myself.
Have you tried gin, Josh? That first swallow burns on the way down, leaves a heated trail to the core of you. But then a second drink follows and it cools. It makes all the colors seem brighter, and to listen to the musicians play their jazz while a little high after a couple of sips is to be immersed in the music. It surrounds and invades you.
So by the time we got to the party, I was a rather high, having caught up with Doris. Her little silver flask was quite light now as she hid it from sight by sliding it under her garter to lie flat high on that creamy thigh. I have several times wished that I was as bold as she, but I dare not. If my father caught me with a flask, I am certain he would switch me.
Up the boards of the stairs we went with the deliberate walk of those who have perhaps had a few too many sips. It was a lovely place to be. The sun was setting golden around us, giving a glow to everything it touched, and we felt divine. Nothing could hurt us, nothing could stop us. I giggled with every word. Our shoes sounded loud on the stairs, garish against the music that could be heard through the windows.
I wasn't sure what to expect; would there be a pile of kittens? Perhaps puppies like you mentioned. But there were no cute animals in the front room. I assumed maybe they were in a back room waiting for everyone to get there.
I looked around for petite fours, but found only more gin. I felt that I should drink some so that I was not being rude to the host. I noticed there were many groups of both boys and girls clustered around the room, but I didn't see many chaperones. Parties here in the city are very different from those at home, although I was just starting to notice the differences.
Amongst the groups of boys, I saw the tall dark haired boy I've smiled at on my walks. It was a bit of a comfort to see another familiar face in the crowd, even if I didn't actually know his name. I trailed Doris like a car on a train as we went about the room. She introduced me to person after person. So many names, and I couldn't hold onto any of them. I was quite dazzled by the lights, the drinks, and the people I was meeting.
As I followed Doris around the room, I noticed that the boys and girls were not simply split into two groups anymore, but mingled. This surprised me; remember Elizabeth’s party? That was the first boy-girl party I can remember attending, and the boys stayed over on the back wall, until they wandered outside towards the barn. But at this one, the boys were approaching girls, talking to them already.
I’m afraid I started to follow Doris even closer, close enough we were practically holding hands, so lost did I feel. I was simply unprepared for this and I drank glass after glass that was pressed to my hand. The room had built up quite a haze as we all smoked. It all lent to a dreamy feeling and I almost imagined it was someone else that was there at the party.
The glasses of hooch had left me slightly dazed, so I found myself searching out and finding a seat. It was by the window, and a bit apart from the others. I was congratulating myself on holding myself together, and in general, acting with good decorum. I sat there with my forehead leaning against the cool glass, letting the calm fill me.
I could hear Doris’s voice across the room talking to someone, she must have been discussing me, because what I heard was, “It’s her first petting. She’s lead such a sheltered life, the poor dear. I'll bet she’s not even sure what this is.” I closed my eyes and let the sounds of the party— the crazy syncopation of Ethel Water’s recording, all the people talking, the sounds of heeled shoes on the floor—all wash over me.
I don’t know how long I sat there, but it was long enough that my head stopped spinning as it had been. I started to perk up a little. So when Doris came over and sat down beside me, I smiled back at her. She put her hand on my leg, just above my knee, and I was reminded again of your fingers there.
On my other side, the tall boy with grass in his eyes sat, his leg pressing close to mine. I felt a bit hemmed in, but still pleasantly woozy from my drink. I simply leaned against Doris, resting my back against her chest, feeling the way her small breasts rubbed against my back, as her fingers moved along the soft skin inside my knee.
Josh, dear, I felt so light headed, almost as if I were floating. I know that’s no excuse for what followed, but trust me, I was not myself.
The boy put his hand on my other knee, and looking at me with his green eyes smiled. “Thomas.”
It was the first I had heard his name, and I smiled back, startled by how much his eyes looked like yours. They had those brown flecks in the center, and the outer rings were darkly green, just as yours were that day when you pierced my heart.
I stared into his eyes in what I'm certain was a very unseeming way. Doris’s hand on my knee and your eyes gazing at me added to the buzzed feeling to make me feel as if you were truly here.
I bit my lip, thinking of you lying beside me that last day, pushing my skirts up. Only this time my skirt was already high, and those fingers touched and teased my knee without hesitation. We both knew what it was that would happen and there was none of the scared fumbling from the last time. I stared into the green eyes, transported to another day, another time. Different arms were holding me and I reached out with hesitant fingers, touched the face below the hypnotic eyes.
“Do you like my short hair?” I whispered to your shadow, forgetting you weren't there to answer.
“Oh, yes.” His voice sounded startlingly wrong against the backdrop my dreams were providing. Fingers grew bold at my words, and now they stroked the stocking farther up my thigh, tickling me as I squirmed there on the seat between them. I wanted to break away, run, but my muscles were lax with the warmth spread by the gin, their touch, and most of all his eyes. So I remained, head lolling back against Doris shoulder, breaking my gaze with those confusing eyes.
Believe me, my love, I would not have let him touch me so if I hadn't missed you so much. It is a palpable thing, this longing I have felt. I was desperate to feel you as I did that day. I thought of you, your chest bared to the wind, and beautiful over me, concern in your features as you took care to leave me unhurt.
When I looked back at his eyes, I saw they were slightly different now, not the kind eyes you showed me, but a bit crueler: still green as moss, but a little pinched around the edges. His fingers touched my bare skin above my garter and I jumped a little, shocked at how familiar his touch felt.
Doris was pressed up against my back, and her small soft hands left my knee, to stroke along my neck, as if I were a puppy. I think it was at that moment I realized there were no cute fuzzy animals at this party. I might have left, but the surreal feeling surrounded me in its haze. I shuddered slightly, feeling chills along my spine, despite the July heat. They seemed to trace down to my very core, and I could feel wetness in my underthings.
My head rolled to the side, and those green eyes, so like yours were burning into me. My lips parted and I ran a tongue out to dampen their sudden dryness. Those mesmerizing eyes seared into me, and I felt my knees open as I stared into your green depths. Your fingers moved farther up my thigh, draping across the sensitive skin, making me shudder.
I could feel Doris against my back, and the wetness of her lips pressing against my neck. Josh, I wasn't sure if I should say something. or not. Part of me cried out to stop, but yet, as I looked into your eyes, I could feel the ache of missing you. She is my friend too, and somehow, it felt right.
Her lips were warm and soft against my neck as she kissed down to the shoulder. I think my lips fell open with a moan at the combined touch of her lips at my shoulder, her teeth grazing across my heated skin, and his fingers caressing along the inside of my thighs. My skin felt lit by a thousand candles.
Dear Josh, I know you are getting angry with me. You think I am playing you for a sap. But I'm not! I swear. I can't blame my actions on being hopped up. I was a rub and I know it.
I miss you so much Josh, I’m just goofy about you. Hear me out, for I must confess my sins to you. I’ll level with you, but you must forgive me.
Doris ran her hands down below the neck of my dress, pushing it over my shoulder. I should have been quite ashamed, but the air felt good against my hot skin. Her touch was flint, touching off sparks everywhere her fingers danced. She stroked the edges under my chemise, and teased the line of my clavicle.
I didn't look at her, just kept my eyes locked on your eyes. I told myself that if I pretended that it was you, it would be okay. Of course, I knew that to be a lie, but I sold it to myself. I was wrong Josh, please forgive me. But I didn't stop the indiscretions. Those fingers slid under my chemise, and his ran farther along my thigh, until he was reaching under my skirt, and touching the silk of my underclothes.
I was panting by this point; his fingers crossed the soft mound of my sex, and I moaned loudly. Josh, this was so different from the time you and I shared. That was special, sweet: an expression of our love. But this, this was wild, crazy, and I knew it was wrong. But oh, Josh, I can't tell you how I wanted it.
It was an aching burning in me, a hysterical need to have his fingers touch me. To have those green eyes that were so like yours burn into me with that look that yours get sometimes, where they widen and grow dark, the color of a stormy sky, the kind that sends people scurrying for cover.
His fingers were tracing across the silk, I could feel moisture gathering there to my embarrassment. My cheeks burned, and I sought to drop my gaze. But his green eyes remained locked on mine and refused to let me duck and hide. I squirmed on my seat, tension building through my muscles.
Doris’s fingers grew bolder under my chemise now. They reached farther down my chest, to touch the buds under the lace there. They touched them lightly at first, just feather touches, so light I could have pretended they were my blouse. But as I wiggled, her touch hardened. Her palms caressed me, and pressed hard against the nubs that became pinched and protruded. They rasped across the surface and I arched my back, pressing harder to them.
His fingers strummed across the silk of my drawers, my pulse hammered with them. I felt my lungs burn, but still I felt I couldn't breathe. I grasped my breaths in with short pants. Josh, I throbbed with the need to have you touch me harder. I had an itch and I needed to have it scratched.
I remembered how it felt when you were over me, and oh, how I ached for your weight again. I twisted on the seat, unable to remain still. I was as restless as the cat when she is broody. All of my muscles were clenching tight, tighter than I would have believed possible; my heart was pounding so hard I thought the fire horses were racing up the street.
The touch of his fingers was insistent on my most secret of places, and yet he never tried to reach under my drawers. I am certain I would have stopped that. Doris had my little rosebuds in her fingers, twisting and tugging them in a manner that could be called cruel. But, I had an ache and the pinch filled it somehow. I can’t explain it to you, but, it just felt right.
Josh, I was strung tight, just like the high wire that circus brought. Every tendon, every sinew pulled between the two poles, the depthless green eyes on my left and Doris’s presence behind. Both relentless in their demands, until I thought I would snap. It was the most exquisite feeling, Josh. I was balanced on a precipice.
And then I crashed down, tumbling head first into your green eyes. I sobbed in fear, in pain, in the most amazing moment of grace you can imagine. I cried out to God, called out to you, wailed for all to hear, to my intense embarrassment after. It was a blessed relief; the high wire snapped and sent me flying high into the sky. I closed my eyes and let the heavens sing to me.
When my heart slowed, reality seeped in. I saw myself. I was spread on the window seat, within easy sight of a number of people. Several people within easy sight were doing the same thing, but it didn't change my broken promise to you. Face burning, shaking fingers jerked my top straight and smoothed my skirt. Then keeping my head held high with as much dignity as I could summon, I fled from the room, refusing to look at Doris. I ran out the door, and down the sidewalk, till I got to the corner. The burn in my side stopped my flight, but I walked as fast as I could the rest of the way home.
Josh, I have cried in my room the past day. Please please forgive me. I’ll never go to a petting party again.
Forgive me, my love? Please?
Her slender fingers turned the letter over, placing the yellowed page on top of the stack on the swing. The dark-haired girl looked up at the darkened sky. Beyond the glow from the porch light, speckles of light danced amongst the tall grass under the apple trees as the lightning bugs flirted in their timeless ballet. Her eyes glistened as she gathered the letters in their two stacks and carried them in through the wooden screen. The light in the kitchen framed her against the windows as she set the letters on the kitchen table, beside a worn framed photo of a girl in a flapper dress. The light clicked off as she walked out.
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/syncopation-part-1.aspx">Syncopation, Part 1</a>