The character arrived without clothes and after a polite, if excited, chat with host Daun, was accompanied by, not her girl friends, but Jacques Marc, a local hair stylist, to probably a bedroom where she dressed or was dressed. She returned fully covered and in charge, in a classic off-white linen skirt and jacket over a conservative raw silk blouse in the palest of lavender. Robert, who was not supposed to be there exactly, admired this spectacle, mostly over the crystal rim of his glass of gin and tonic which he had mixed for himself. At twenty feet, and with eight or nine women between them, he was purely a spectator or, thanks to her initial nakedness, a voyeur, both roles fitting his not so much shyness but disinclination toward drama.
“What are you looking at?” A gleam in the eyes, a pursed smile, a whiff of perfume, an invitation to intercourse in her invasion of space. He returned a friendly smile, but if he did not respond verbally, he could not but sniff the bait.
“She’s here until Sunday. You have time.”
“Why?” He asked.
Amber moved closer. “We are an isolated community, my friend. She came to test the waters. Also, she’s from here — a little bit.
“And you, boy, are giving her a ride to dinner at the cabin this evening. And if she chooses to return to the Iris Hotel — back. Thank me!”
He shifted his weight so that it opened the gap an inch or two.
“Thank you, Amber. What time?”
“What about you?”
“I will already be there.”
“Will you ride back too?”
Amber hesitated. “I think you are sort of the backup, Robert, if that’s alright?”
“No. That’s fine. I just…”
“If the stars align, everyone will stay. If not, it’ll be a normal soiree, and you are the backup for that.”
“Yes. That’s fine.”
At that point Jacques came alongside and Amber gave way, absorbed by the women.
“I guess we are the only men here,” he said, over-emphasizing ‘men’.
Robert shrugged. After an unruffled pause, he said, “Did I see you disappear with the naked guest a while ago, Jacques.” He pronounced it Jack.
“Her name is Ambiguity, and it should be Almighty, sweet kitty.”
“She is the first person I’ve seen show up at a meeting nude,” his voice momentarily losing its tenor.
“Well now you know how she looks, Robert. That is out of the way for you.”
“Au contraire, pseudomorph. The whole impression, yes. But there are details…”
Jacques’s face broke into a warm smile. “That is where the devil lives!”
Robert’s topper was cut short by the roar of a chain saw. It swallowed the sound of his voice and reminded the two self-anointed sophisticates where they were: in a very redneck town where people cut firewood on their lawn sometimes.
Host Daun scurried to the windows, closed them, pulled the curtains, and sent one of the younger women to check how much chain-sawing neighbor man planned to do. When she returned with the word that he was already done, Daun summoned her guests to gather ‘round for the business of today’s June meeting of the Women Writers of Celate County, Idaho. By this point, Jacques had left. Nobody had asked Robert to leave for some reason.Until they do, I shall remain, he thought.
“Ambiguity has come from far San Francisco to tell us something about her life as a self-published writer. In the erotic category,” she added breathing in deeply. “And to see her aunt, who most of you know as Mrs. Marilyn Moore. Ambiguity was not raised here, although she spent the summer with Marilyn when she was fourteen. Some of you may have met her that summer. And, believe it or not, Ambiguity was not always called Ambiguity.”
Ambiguity, of whom nothing remained of her nude debut except a deep v-neck patch of skin that complemented the blouse in hue, walked confidently to the oak podium, sat on the high stool, and asked the women, too, to sit. “I think I’ll save the bio stuff for the questions afterwards,” she said. “I have two things I want to cover. First, that the market in erotic fiction is strong and growing, but we suppliers have begun to proliferate like fleas on a dog, and it will become harder and harder to make money in this business. And second, I wanted to talk a little about erotica itself or what I find interesting when writing it down.”
In fact, Robert was all ears. He had finally figured out who Ambiguity was. He, too, was fourteen that summer in 1988. His mom told him Mrs. Moore’s niece had come, and that he should say Hello. An ignorant fool, he never did. But that was something he could remedy now.
The bottom line of Ambiguity’s first topic was that it is a very tough row to hoe, writing for pay; it requires several non-writing skills, and the warm tutelage of lady luck, a hard woo in any event. Her take on the second topic, erotica itself, was not so simple. Across space and time, it has been an accepted part of human culture, manifest in various ways, she reminded the women. Only to the hard core, the hair triggered, sex-besotted anti-libertine elements in society was it absolutely shunned and vehemently eschewed. Robert ventured to question her premise here with the example of serious religious acolytes, monks and nuns. And Ambiguity delighted him by seemingly submitting to his objection saying that, indeed, the intercourse between the sensual and spiritual was the crux of the matter or, as she put it, the nubbin where the rubber meets the lode.
The others, too, had a good time, the discussion became especially heated when exploring the contradiction between erotica’s love of bad boy stuff and the strongly-advocated behavioral constraints that real boys must follow in the motherland today. The role of explosive violence in the wars overseas, the killing and maiming of infants, children, and old people alike, in mitigating the negative effects in some males of the inability to live comfortably with that contradiction was kindly pointed out by host Daun. Some were not quite sure she had it right, but all enjoyed the sharing. Even Amber warmed to the occasion by suggesting, near the end when things were getting a little testy, that, Well, it is all fantasy, right?. Although Ambiguity, Robert, Daun, and others silently disagreed, they all agreed pro forma, and the talk ended with everyone muttering in harmonious agreement.
Robert picked up Ambiguity at the Hotel Iris at six. The dinner was set for seven, the drive to the cabin took thirty minutes, so they had time for a drink at the Bar Iris before leaving. Virtually no one else was in the bar. The young couple and the singleton might as well have been shadows of large plants. This was par for the course at Bar Iris, with a few exceptions during certain holidays and during the Rocky Mountain Oyster Eating festival once a year. The monthly meeting of the Women Writers of Celate County usually brought no one to the hotel and no one to the bar.
In fact, they had two drinks which thanks to empty stomachs, infused both of them with a degree of loquaciousness normally constrained, especially in Robert. They had started telling each other minor secrets before leaving the bar, a theme that burgeoned within the privacy of the car. Suffice to say that by the time they arrived at the cabin, they had agreed to spend time together in the bedroom there, if it worked out, where they could swap more secrets, big and small.
They talked about that summer when they were both fourteen. For him, too, it was a reclusive summer. He spent it mostly out of town at his aunt’s place. He’d had the bunkhouse and its resident pack rats to himself because Joe, aunt Jessie’s boyfriend of thirty years stayed in the big house with her. There were only forty acres of the old ranch left. Jessie and his mom had sold the other twelve hundred and forty acres to pay off the bank. When Jessie died she had given her half to his mom, and when his mom died last year, he had inherited what was left of it, all the old log out buildings, the big house, and twenty acres. His mom had sold the other twenty to pay back taxes and medical bills. Once both women were gone, Joe had taken over the bunkhouse, expelled the pack rats, fixed it up, and stayed.
For Robert it was simply de rigueur to relinquish any claim on Ambiguity’s conversation during dinner. But this evening such selfless concern for others was greatly facilitated by anticipation of the tryst they had made. With that to look forward to, he could afford to concentrate on the others, including Amber who sat beside him, and who more than once let her right hand secretly wander somewhere on his inner thigh.
A couple of hours after dinner, Ambiguity announced that she and Robert were going to follow up on some ideas they’d had on the ride out. They would huddle for a bit on a possible project, but she would be happy to continue discussing everybody’s writing questions the next day. Knowing smiles were exchanged but Robert betrayed not the slightest prurient interest as, ten minutes after Ambiguity had left, he also made his way, with poise and innocence, up the stairs. He barely acknowledged Amber’s meaningful stare.
When Robert thought about it later, it was what did not happen that valorized what did.
First, there was no foreplay. None. Ambiguity did not kiss Robert. Robert did not kiss Ambiguity, nor did they embrace. They did not stroke each other on the neck, on the checks, or anywhere else. Second, without verbiage, they undressed themselves, and they both did what they wanted with their clothes which was the same thing: they folded them neatly and placed them on the two available chairs. The only difference was that Ambiguity kept her panties on, whereas Robert took his shorts off.
If there was a single moment of confusion in this dance of twenty minutes, it was in the next move. They were sitting side-by-side on the edge of the bed. As Robert turned toward Ambiguity, Ambiguity turned away slightly from Robert. She had meant to turn toward him. Robert however did not skip a beat, but embraced her lightly from the back. She understood: doggie style. She continued her pivot away from him, crawled a little toward the other side of the bed, and pulled the pillow under her head. He thought she wanted to move away, and offered no resistance. But, with her head on the pillow and her butt in the air, he grasped the situation and sallied up behind her, standing, bare feet on the floor.
Without hesitation, Robert laid his winsome accomplice upon the silk-like material of her undergarment, perhaps estimating relative size. Judging the difference to be noteworthy, he proceeded with care, but steadily onward, nonetheless. He pulled the bottom of the panties to the left, revealing the external reaches of the vulva in its entirety. Briefly, with the fingers of his left hand he tested viscidity within the inner reaches, arriving at a rough, but adequate, judgment of the coefficient of viscosity, and went ahead, manually encouraging his accomplice to breech the main entrance. Slowly, with studied decorum, he entered, only to defer and hurriedly withdraw, but not entirely. Never entirely. On the fourth repetition of this, she snuggled up toward him, pressing her butt checks firmly against his mons pubis, or mons veneris if he were a woman. In other words, she encouraged all of him, to come fully within the palace proper. In near automatic response, he quickly withdrew but, feeling fully welcome now, inexorably, he returned. And that continued, with slightly escalating urgency (him) and want (her), for twelve or thirteen minutes. There were no slaps on the buttocks, no man-handling of the torso, no ejaculations of foul language, no violent acceleration in rhythm, no sudden halts, no pinching of nipples, and at the end, no sudden extraction, no random deposit, but whatever was lost or gained, was buried deep within, and almost traceless without.
Ambiguity would be hard-pressed to make anything of the whole thing in one of her erotica pieces, but both would remember it as one of the most amazing coituses of the twenty odd years in which they had been sexually active. It was straight and to the point, compassionate, and because there were no distractions, complex, and ultimately satisfying.
Amber was just leaving the upstairs bathroom when she met Ambiguity, in a robe, coming in.
“Is he done?” Amber asked.
Ambiguity immediately saw the double entendre but quickly realized Amber did not.
“Yes, we had our tete-a-tete,” Ambiguity said.
“Well, I’d kinda like to get back.”
Ambiguity nodded toward the bedroom.
Robert,”Amber raised her voice. “Robert. Can we leave?”
“Yes. Posthaste,” he said through the door, his voice a little hoarse.
On the ride home, Amber wanted to talk, whereas Robert would have preferred silence.
“Could I tell you a secret?”
“Sure, Amber. Go ahead.”
“Everyone except you was in on it.”
“Ambiguity coming naked.”
“It was kinda Ambiguity’s idea, but Daun’s the one that said you should be the guinea pig.”
“So, how did I do?”
“You did so well nobody liked it. You just took it in stride, young man.”
Robert let that sit for a while, then, at barely audible volume said, “Well, inside it was different.”
When they got to Amber’s house, she asked Robert to come in, but he said how about in a few days.
“It has been a long time already, you know,” she said in plaintive tone.
“Would Tuesday work?”
“No, but okay.”
Robert did not see Ambiguity again. They exchanged email messages once in a while. He had started reading her stories and essays, and would let her know if something was especially well-written or insightful, but that stopped after three or four years. He married Amber in the spring of 2015, and with Amber’s money they rebuilt the big house. It was seven years and almost on the same day in June, when Amber returned from a run to town with the news that Ambiguity was coming to the July 2016 meeting of the Women Writers of Celate County.
“I told Daun that Ambiguity could plan on staying here, if it’s okay. We’ll have the dinner here, too.”
“Sure,” he said and stood up for no reason.