Morning Mist

This scene is inspired by a photo posted as part of a Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge, 

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/04/03/flash-fiction-challenge-share-an-image-write-a-story/

——

The morning mist was like a passageway into a fairytale, except Dawneva wasn’t a princess, not even close. The massive trees that lined Locke’s street guided her through the light fog. The scene was magical, surreal, and helped to blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

morning-mist

http://7-themes.com/6939771-morning-mist.html

As she parked and let herself in the back door she felt more like a villain. She slipped her shoes off at the door, then hesitated in his family’s kitchen only long enough to pull off her coat and carefully set down her purse and keys without a disturbance. Down the hall to the bedroom he shared with Rita, she knew she’d find him asleep and alone. He was still and quiet under the sheets, golden curls framing his gorgeous face.

He doesn’t know just how beautiful he is, she considered. Boyish, naive, almost innocent, yet breaking all the rules of love by wanting to be with her. She knew this was wrong. She would never want to put a family in danger, but she loved being loved by this man, her rescuer, her knight. So she put her trust in his arguments that others would never find out.

She let her clothes drop to the foot of the bed and carefully slid next to him. Beauty would awaken her prince.

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Loving Touch

Adult content. You must be 18 or older to continue reading.

* * * * *

This week I’m participating in another of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. This time the exercise is to write — 2000 words or less — something Clean Reader censors would edit. This is my first attempt at erotic fiction. I found it fun to explore the words I might use and how far I might go to describe Dawneva’s experiences. I thank you in advance for honest feedback.

Loving Touch – Dawneva’s – Massage

Dawneva had parked in front of the Asian market down the street to avoid being seen at the studio. She’d read about this place through online reviews that were of questionable legitimacy; she wasn’t sure what to anticipate. The waiting room was dark. The only challenges to client confidentiality, it seemed, were natural daylight from the sheer-covered windows and a lamp on the desk. Her eyes adjusted from the brightness outside. She seemed to be alone. The reception desk was positioned near the door and the middle aged woman with artificially large breasts asked for payment upfront. New age music played in the background, but the space was sparse and not particularly welcoming. Chrome and vinyl chairs, like you’d have found in a medical office in the 70’s, lined the rectangular room.

“”Brandon or Carter? Brandon on the left, Carter on the right.” The woman waved towards two men who sat in chairs at the edge of the room furthest from the door.

The first was leaning his head against the wall with his arms folded across his chest and his eyes closed. He wore shorts to his knees and was bare chested, tanned, muscular, blonde. His bare feet were shoved into unlaced Converse high tops. He looked to be about 20 years old, baby faced, much too young to do his own laundry properly, let alone know how to touch a woman.

Carter on the right was the older of the two. He had brown, wavy hair, a stubbly beard, baggy white medical scrubs, and flip flops. He looked up from his smart phone and smiled at Dawneva.

Definitely Carter, she thought.

“Shall we go, Sweetheart?”

She nodded, relieved at not having to voice her preference, and followed Carter down a short hallway to a private room. He closed the door and quickly explained his service. She was to undress to as little clothing as she was comfortable with and could then drape her body with towels he provided, as she preferred. If she wanted to touch him there would be additional fees, paid in cash directly to him. He seemed kind, professional, and direct.

This will be OK, she convinced herself.

“I’ll leave while you get settled.” He smiled and exited.

Dawneva slipped out of her suit jacket, patent pumps, and skirt while she took in the small room. It was sparse, but cozy. On the walls hung sea grass wallpaper. There was a full length mirror and a decorative fountain babbled on tiny table in the corner. Acoustic guitar music rose from a player on the credenza and next to that was a stack of fresh, white towels of various sizes, a few folded sheets, and a basket filled with an assortment of bottled lotions. There was a large mattress on the floor wrapped with a crisp sheet.

If nothing else, this place is nice and clean, she thought.

Her black lace bra and panties came off next, a set that was one of many no one but Dawneva had ever seen. Each item she folded and placed on the chair. She fingered the clip in her hair and hesitated before opting to keep it tied up. She positioned herself in the centre of the mattress, laying on her belly, and then placed a folded towel across her buttock. Carter knocked and let himself in when she called back to him.

“Do you prefer music or would you like to talk?” he asked.

“The music is nice.” It had been a trying day at the office, what with the union issues and whatnot, so she was happy for the opportunity to escape into the experience ahead of her. Not to mention that she wasn’t wanting to speak about herself; anonymity was a good thing for her first time. She hoped she could turn off the sound of her own thoughts. She was very aware that no other man had touched her since she’d been married.

Carter turned the music up, knelt at her feet and filled his hands with oil.

Just breathe. She felt herself sink into the mattress as she exhaled.

Dawneva closed her eyes and took a deep breath as lavender filled her sinuses. Carter rubbed her feet firmly, one at a time. It was heavenly. She imagined the masseur was Locke.

Dawneva had fallen in love with Locke.

Bill was her husband of ten years.

Neither man would touch her in the way she needed to be, Locke out of respect for her marriage, Bill out of self-absorption and neglect.

Dawneva looked forward to this indulgence and hoped it would be everything she’d read about online, maybe more, but despite the two glasses of Chardonnay she’d just tossed back, she was nagged by the thought she might be doing something wrong.

Carter moved his hands up her left leg, adding more oil. First her calf, then her upper thigh, stroking her with skill. On her right leg, his hands inched up a little further than they had before. She wanted him to rub her backside, so as the towel slipped, she didn’t adjust it. Instead, she pressed her buttocks up towards him and he complied by gently grabbing her cheeks with his hands. He added more warm oil, his thumbs pressing deep into her softness as she felt her pussy start to throb and oisten. He kissed her tailbone then, and pulled her cheeks open, tenderly licking her anus and she shivered. She felt his tongue reach towards her pussy and she ached for him but the kisses teased their way back up to her spine. She sighed and relaxed. Any feelings of guilt she’d had before were melting away, along with her stress.

Oh, Locke. Sighs.

Gently, Carter pushed her legs further open. He kneeled between them and massaged her hips and lower back. Dawneva could feel his cotton covered groin brushing against her backside as he reached up her torso. Again her bare backside lifted to meet him. He pressed against her and they moved together to the rhythm of the guitar. Carter’s cock was hard and her pussy quivered.

He moved away and she fell to the mattress again, exhaling completely as he straddled her back and rubbed her shoulders, then neck. Carter removed the clip from Dawneva’s hair. Her long, brown waves tumbled every which way.

He grinned and combed her hair to one side with his fingers. The gentle swirling of Carter’s finger tips on her head aroused a moan from her. It was surreal.

“Roll over?”

She complied, not bothering to hold in place the towel drape he offered.

Carter knelt behind her head, continuing to massage her shoulders and neck.

Dawneva opened her eyes. He was staring right into hers. His eyes were blue, not unlike her own and she was brought out of her fantasy for a moment.

“Hello, Beautiful,” Carter smiled. Her face hardened for a moment and she closed her eyes again, hoping he’d stop speaking, and desperately trying to regain the fantasy.

He stretched his arms to rub each of hers and as he leaned forward he kissed her forehead, tenderly. Then he stroked her face.

Perfection.

Dawneva reached behind her to rub Carter’s thighs and hard bulge. He returned her sighs.

Carter moved to kneel beside her. He drizzled the scented oil across her breasts and then caught it with his hands as it dripped to her sides. Gently he rubbed one breast at a time. Then he bent to kiss a nipple and Dawneva ran her fingers through his hair, keeping his mouth close to her chest. The kisses became teasing flicks of his tongue, quick, gentle, teasing. Then the other nipple. Kisses, then flicks. She wanted him to suck her breasts but he moved his head between them and kissed there, instead. Then licked, down her body to her belly button, his beard tickling a path of tingles down her body.

He nuzzled her soft tummy a while, gently kissing around her belly button, then licking and sucking as if to sip sweet liqueur from it. Carter blew on her belly button, sending cool shivers up her body. Next hot breath as again, he moved lower and parted her legs.

Dawneva’s pussy was dripping, swollen and aching for love. She continued to run her fingers through his luscious hair as he admired her lady bits and carefully ran a finger around her labia causing more shivers for Dawneva. He put his finger inside, then another as she moaned.

A becoming motion of Carter’s fingers stroked her g-spot as Dawneva quivered uncontrollably. His other hand moved back to a breast and he squeezed her nipple til she cried out and shuddered with sweet release.

Locke and Bill disappeared.

Carter tasted her wetness on his fingers then pressed his face to her pussy to bring her happiness again.

“No.”

He looked up.

Dawneva sat. She wanted a turn.

She reached for Carter’s shirt and he helped her pull it over his head. Then he stood, untied the drawstring on his pants, and let them fall to the floor. The loose fabric had concealed a tight body, firm and athletic. His skin was fair and smooth, with a sprinkling of freckles across his shoulders. His penis was fully erect and a drop glistened on the tip.

Dawneva licked the pre-cum off of Carter’s cock, then took him all into her mouth, slow and deep as he let out a big sigh. She grabbed the back of his thighs and slowly moved him in and out of her mouth, teasing the tip with her tongue on each stroke. Now Carter was throbbing. His thighs and buttocks were firm.

“I don’t want to come yet. Stop, Sweety.”

She wasnt ready for this to end, either.

She held his manliness in her hand and let him slide out of her mouth. Carter sighed again, this time with relief. He pushed her back onto the mattress and then moved on top of her.

He kissed her neck and her cheek before finding her lips. Her lips. His lips. He tasted like the peppermint candies shed seen on the reception desk. Delicious, wet heat flooded Dawneva. From her head, to her ears, heart and pussy, every part of her was hot and pounding. She couldn’t remember ever being kissed like this. Like she was being given life. She reached for his cock and teased her clit with it a few times before he thrust inside of her, the two of them simultaneously letting out a moan. This is what she wanted.

This. Yes.

Carter grinded deep inside of Dawneva, caressing her cervix and her clit with his motions. Her insides were full of him. Every inch consumed by his throbbing cock. They shared each other’s breaths as she felt her pleasure build again.

“Let me on top.”

Before she knew it, Carter was flipping her petite body on top of his, their throbbing bits still firmly attached. She couldn’t help but giggle or stare

Dawneva’s hair fell around Carter’s face as she bent to kiss him. Her hips moved up and down on his shaft and he winced with his own pleasure.

Then he sucked on her breasts, one at a time, ever so gently at first and then stronger as Dawneva moaned loudly, grinding her wet pussy against his pubic bone, tgen, suddenly, she felt every bit of air and tension escape her body.

I haven’t forgotten how, she smiled to herself.

Carter’s hips continued thrusting upwards as he, too, joined her in ecstasy, fulfilling her frantic need to feel seed inside her. She collapsed against Carter, inhaling the remnants of his cologne mixed with musky sweat. Dawneva was abundantly satisfied and he was panting with relief. They were both exhausted.

Perhaps she’d be impregnated. The timing was perfect. And Carter was so… virile.

She looked up at him and giggled again, “best massage ever.”

A short time later, Carter gently moved out from under Dawneva’s sleepy body. He tossed the used towels in a basket along with his scrubs and then donned a fresh outfit from a drawer in the credenza. She’d watched him wipe himself off and then cover his body methodically.

He stated his price, told her to leave cash on the chair and then he slipped out the door.

As she walked towards the market, the emptiness inside her returned. Dawneva wondered what, if anything, would develop in the weeks to come and if the people closest to her would notice what she’d done. What kind of woman pays for sex?

— Dandi Johnson

What works? What doesn’t?

Are the characters believable?

Do you sense what Dawneva wants? Her conflict?

Is there potential for a story without this scene?

Beryl

“What brings you back today?”

“I’m not doing well. I’m struggling.”

Beryl sets the water next to Dawneva.

“I…haven’t told you everything yet. … There’s more I need to bounce off of you.”

Dawneva rearranges her charm bracelet, glancing at the cross in the collection. “I had an affair. … I think it’s over… but there’s more.”

Tick… tick… tick…tick… tick…

What the hell am I paying for?

“That was a big step. Take a deep breath with me.” She hands Dawneva a tissue, but it’s not needed.

She thinks she’s Barbara Effing Walters.

“Tell me about that relationship.”

— Dandi Johnson

With thanks to Chuck Wendig and his weekly Flash Fiction Challenge http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/03/20/flash-fiction-challenge-100-words-only/

EDITED:

Dawneva rearranged her charm bracelet, glancing at the cross in the collection. “I…haven’t told you everything …”

Tick… tick… tick…

That clock is damned loud.

Beryl set the water next to Dawneva.

“I had an affair. It’s over… but I cant stop thinking about him.”

Tick… tick… tick…

Beryl is still silent, listening.

“I’m not doing well. I’m struggling.”

What the hell am I paying for?

Tick… tick… tick…

“That was a big step.” She handed Dawneva a tissue, but it’s not needed. “Tell me about him.”

She thinks she’s Barbara Effing Walters.

“I think he might be dead.”

Tick… tick… tick…

— Dandi Johnson

Ch. 1 – Breezy Point – draft 2

Thank you to Chuck Wendig for inspiring the name of the place where Dawneva and Locke meet. I’ve recently started following this writer’s blog and my first crack at his Flash Fiction Challenge came just in time for me.I appreciate feedback.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/03/13/flash-fiction-challenge-random-cocktail-challenge

* * * * *

Dawneva was halfway out the door. She had hoped to slip out without waking Bill but he bellowed in her direction from the living room sofa, “Hey! Where are you going?!” It was Sunday evening and just about suppertime. Bill didn’t necessarily expect her to serve up a pot roast dinner, but he did expect her to be at home with him. She’d spent the first half of the day away at church, after all. Bill had been watching a vampire movie on Netflix and his leg brace was on the coffee table. He hadn’t noticed that Dawneva had changed her clothes and freshened her makeup. She straightened her spine, clenched her teeth and firmed her grip on the door handle. “I’ve told you twice already.” She had. ”I’m going to Jeanette’s for a cosmetics party. I won’t be home late.” She was unapologetic and cold. She slammed the door.

The home that disappeared behind her was an adorable Victorian cottage enveloped by an English-style garden of roses and apple trees. Dawneva’s dogs waved their tails goodbye from behind the white picket fence.

Jeanette, one of her coworkers, lived in a converted warehouse east of downtown. Dawneva headed west towards Breezy Point, her hand changing gears on the Mini Cooper not quite as steadily as usual. Yet she was purposeful.

Dawneva downshifted as she turned onto the gravel road that took her to the bottom of the steep river valley hill. She parked, her car one of only a handful in the lot. Summer had come to an end, but it was a beautiful September evening and a few locals were enjoying one of the last weekends that summer had to offer by spending some time at park. She didn’t recognize any of the vehicles or people, though. That gave her momentary relief.

She checked her hair and makeup in the sunshade mirror, looked at the clock again, then grabbed her phone to see Locke’s most recent message one last time. He confirmed he was on time and that he’d arrive at 6pm. She checked her hair again. Damn, she thought, noticing the hair around her shoulders starting to frizz from the heat in the air and the moisture on the back of her neck. As she debated sweater, or no sweater, his car pulled up. This isn’t a date, she reminded herself.

She knew it was his car from the description he’d provided. Locke removed his sunglasses and left them on his dash before stepping out of his vehicle. His smile was bright like his Dodge Charger’s white paint. My goodness, he was stunning! Cowboy boots. Damn. They were shiny, too. He was tall, trim and everything about him was clean, new and impeccably groomed. Dawneva decided he belonged in a night club, not this out-of-the way picnic site. I’ve under dressed, she thought, smoothing invisible wrinkles from the blue cotton blouse with her sweaty palms.

Locke was the fourth person she’d asked to meet, but the first who’d followed through.

He reached for a hug as he approached her. “Hi,” she said, with an awkward and uncharacteristic giggle, “it’s so good to finally meet you.” His cologne was intoxicating. As she pulled away, Locke was still smiling. And he was looking right at her eyes. His were green. She had to look away, as if by doing so it would make her less visible. Then she pulled her hair into a ponytail with her hands and let it and her arms fall back down again. She was smiling, too, and still giggling. Like a teenager. A stupid teenager. This is ridiculous, why am I reacting this way? We’ll get this over with, talk things out, both be superficially pleasant, go our separate ways, and never talk, let alone see each other again, she decided, which would really be too bad because he’s gorgeous. But this is won’t work.

She was the first to speak again, suggesting they walk toward the shore and look for a place to sit down, a bench, perhaps. They ended up along the shore, passing dog walkers and rock skippers and coming to a small assembly of university students with a campfire and cases of cheap beer. They walked in virtual silence except their nods and hellos to other strangers along the way.

Then Locke tripped on uneven ground and Dawneva gasped as he recovered his step.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine, but I would have been really embarrassed if I hit the rocks.”

“You’re limping.”

“Not to worry, it’s an old injury,” he explained. “I always have a bit of a limp.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Not anymore.”

They’d said so much in their emails over the past three weeks, but they were still strangers in many ways. They’d come to an agreement earlier in the week. Discretion was assured. Today they met to see if the deal was worth signing.

“You know, I usually go to the casino to play poker on Sunday evenings, but I wanted to meet you, instead.” He had to meet her. And he was still smiling. Unbelievable. Her cheeks hurt, perhaps from trying to restrain her own grin.

———-

They’d met online. Her inquiry was bold. She told him what she wanted and invited a reply if Locke thought they could come to an agreement. His first letter was unlike the others she’d received. There had been at least four others, all disappearing when a meeting seemed imminent. Except Rory, the prison guard. He cut their dialogue off with the assessment that their needs were not mutually agreeable.

Locke seemed to want to know Dawneva beyond the practical details of what they were agreeing to and how they’d meet. Why? She knew she put herself at risk by opening up. They shared weeks of questions and answers, a private window on each other’s devices. His everpresence felt both reassuring and unsettling. She knew what it was like for a man to want her close all the time, but not the warm inquiries that went along with Locke’s gentle insistence. Her alarm was ready to ring, but it hadn’t gone off …yet.

A week prior she asked for a meeting. It was time. This day was set. Sunday evening. Six. At Breezy Point. Yes, he knew how to get there.

Then, Friday was unusually quiet day in her office. Dawneva had too much time to think. She hung her head over her laptop and pounded out an email for Locke.

“I’m sorry for wasting your time. As you know, I’ve been through a lot recently and, to be honest, I’m not myself. I never should have written to you. This isn’t a good idea right now. I can’t meet you”

The email she received in reply was not at all what she expected.

“This isn’t wrong. Not to me, it isn’t….”

He wanted her to know why he was offering what he did, and how he justified it to himself and to God.

“I’d still really like to meet you, please, and sooner, not later. Forget what we’ve discussed before. I offer you friendship, an escape, a soft place to land. I think you can provide the same. I promise not to pressure you for anything else. You will decide what happens next.”

Already this has gone too far, Dawneva thought, as she pushed herself away from her laptop as if it was an extra-large slice of cheesecake. This could get really complicated. Her heart was pounding in her ears and her face was hot. She needed a walk.

Outside her downtown office, she crossed the street to a green space that overlooked the valley. There was a picnic table under a grove of trees and she sat there with her head in her hands, her hair falling over her shoulders, when her phone rang. It was Locke. He had a kind but deep and compelling voice. She’d heard it a few times before.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” she sighed into the phone.

“How are you?”

“I’m confused. I’m messed up. What have I done?”

“What have we done? I really want to see you. Meet me on Sunday, please?”

She heard herself saying yes, against her better judgement. She wanted to say yes and she did.

———-

Now here they were.

They walked from the shore back towards their vehicles, their obligatory meeting was over. They could both be home by dark.

“Would you like to go somewhere and get a drink?”

Again, Dawneva heard herself going against her conscience and saying yes.

The pub next to the university campus was quiet and dark. The chalkboard sign over the bar advertised the drink special, a cocktail named for the park they’d left in separate vehicles.

“Breezy Point: strawberry daiquiri with a shot of blackberry schnapps”

As the sun set beyond the pub’s windows, their conversation became a continuation of the words they’d shared online. Talk was back to being easy between them, this time face-to-face. Locke’s next question hit her in the throat, but she didn’t hesitate. He asked her to repeat a story she’d shared before. Few people asked her about Abby. Why did he want to hear it again?

Dandi Johnson

Ch. 1 – Breezy Point – draft 1

Dawneva was halfway out the door. She had hoped to slip out without waking Bill but he bellowed in her direction from the living room sofa, “hey! Where are you going?!” It was Sunday evening and just about suppertime. Bill didn’t necessarily expect her to serve up a pot roast dinner, but he did expect her to be at home with him. She’d spent the first half of the day away at church, after all. Bill was watching the tail end of a vampire movie on Netflix and his leg brace was on the coffee table. He hadn’t noticed that Dawneva had changed her clothes and refreshed her makeup. She straightened her spine, clenched her teeth and firmed her grip on the door handle. “I’ve told you twice already.” She had.”I’m going to Jeanette’s for a cosmetic party. I won’t be home late.” She was brief, unapologetic, cold, and annoyed. She slammed the door.

The home that disappeared behind her was an adorable Victorian cottage, practically a dollhouse, enveloped by an English-style garden of fragrant roses and tasty apple trees. Dawneva’s dogs waved their tails goodbye from behind the picket fence with riverstone pillars.

Jeanette, one of Dawneva’s coworkers, lived in a converted warehouse east of downtown. Dawneva headed west towards Breezy Point, her hand changing gears on the Mazda not quite as steadily as usual. Yet she was purposeful.

Dawneva downshifted as she turned onto the gravel road that took her down the steep river valley hill. She parked, her car one of only a handful in the lot. Tourist season had come to an end, but it was a beautiful September evening and a few locals were enjoying one of the last weekends that summer had to offer by spending some time at park. She didn’t recognize any of the vehicles or people, though. That gave her momentary relief.

She checked her hair and makeup in the sunshade mirror, looked at the clock again, then grabbed her phone to see Locke’s most recent message one last time. He confirmed he was on time and that he’d arrive at 6pm. She checked her hair again. Long, brown, thick. Some were envious of her natural waves, but Dawneva struggled with hair that had a mind of its own most days, more so when the heat and humidity coming off the back of her neck caused the time she spent straightening to become a waste. Damn, she thought, noticing the hair around her shoulders starting to frizz. That said, knew she was blessed not to have to worry about greys at her age. Then, as she debated sweater, or no sweater, his car pulled up. This isn’t a date she reminded herself.

She knew it was his car from the description he’d provided. Locke removed his sunglasses and left them on his dash before stepping out of his vehicle. His smile was bright as the sports car’s white paint. My goodness, he was stunning! Cowboy boots. Damn. They were shiny, too. So was the diamond on his left ear and the ring on his left hand. He was tall, trim and everything about him was clean and new: shaved head, impeccably groomed black beard, crisp black shirt with matching jeans. Dawneva decided he belonged in a downtown night club, not this out-of-the way picnic site. I’ve under dressed, she thought, smoothing wrinkles from the blue cotton peasant blouse with her sweaty palms.

Locke was the fourth person she’d asked to meet, but the first who’d followed through.

He reached for a hug as he approached her.

Hi, she said, with an awkward and uncharacteristic giggle, it’s so good to finally meet you.

He smelled amazing. As she pulled away she realized Locke was still smiling. And he was looking right at her eyes. His were green. She had to look away, as if by doing so it would make her less visible. Then she pulled her hair into a ponytail with her hands and let it and her arms fall back down again. She was smiling, too, and still giggling. Like a teenager. A stupid teenager. This is ridiculous, why am I reacting this way? We’ll get this over with, talk things out, both be superficially pleasant, go our separate ways, and never talk, let alone see each other again, she decided, which would really be too bad because he’s gorgeous. But this is all wrong.

She was the first to speak again, suggesting they walk toward the shore and look for a place to sit down, a picnic table, perhaps. They ended up along the shore, passing dog walkers and rock skippers and coming to a small assembly of university students with a campfire and cases of cheap beer. They walked in silence except their nods and hellos to other strangers along the way.

Then Locke tripped on uneven ground and Dawneva gasped as he recovered his step.

Are you ok?

I’m fine, but I would have been really embarrassed if I hit the rocks.

You’re limping.

Not to worry, it’s an old injury, he explained. I always have a bit of a limp.

Does it hurt?

Not anymore.

They’d said so much in their emails over the past three weeks, but they were still strangers in many ways. They’d come to an agreement earlier in the week. Discretion was assured. Today they met to see if the deal was worth signing.

He told her that it was his usual night to go to the casino. He came to meet her, instead. It was important to him that he meet her. And he was still smiling. Unbelievable. Her cheeks hurt, perhaps from trying to restrain her own grin.

They’d met online. Her inquiry was bold. She told him what she wanted and invited a reply if Locke thought they could come to an understanding. His first letter was unlike the others she’d received. There had been at least four others, all disappearing when a meeting seemed imminent. Except Rory, the prison guard. He cut their dialogue off with the assessment that their needs were not mutually agreeable.

Locke seemed to want to know Dawneva beyond the practical details of how they’d meet and what they were agreeing to. Why? She knew she put herself and her family life at risk by opening up. They shared weeks of questions and answers, a private window on each others’ devices. His everpresence felt both reassuring and unsettling. She knew what it was like for a man to want her close all the time, but not the warm inquiries that went along with Locke’s gentle insistence. Her alarm was ready to ring, but it hadn’t gone off…yet.

A week prior she asked for a meeting. It was time. This day was set. Sunday evening. Six. At Breezy Point. Yes, he knew how to get there.

Then, on Friday, an unusually quiet day in her office, Dawneva had too much time to think. She hung her head over her laptop and pounded out an email for Locke.

I’m sorry for wasting your time. As you know, I’ve been through a lot recently and, to be honest, I’m not myself. I never should have written to you. This isn’t a good idea right now. I can’t meet you.

The email she received in reply was not at all what she expected. He wanted her to know what had brought him to this place, why he was offering what he had, and how he justified it to himself and to God.

This isn’t wrong, he explained. Not to me, it isn’t. I’d still really like to meet you. Please. Soon. Forget what we’ve discussed before. I offer you friendship, an escape, a soft place to land. I think you can provide the same. Nothing more. I promise. Yes, let’s meet soon.

Already this has gone too far, Dawneva thought. This could get really complicated. Her heart was pounding in her ears and her face was hot. She needed a walk. Outside her downtown office, she crossed the street to a green space that overlooked the valley and Breezy Point. There was a picnic table under a grove of trees and she sat there with her head in her hands, her hair falling over her shoulders, when her phone rang.

It was Locke. He had a kind but deep voice. It was made for radio, she thought. Every instance of this man was becoming more and more like she’d invented him from her fantasies.

Hi.

Hi.

How are you?

I’m confused. I’m messed up. What have I done?

What have we done? I really want to see you. Meet me on Sunday?

She heard herself saying yes, against her better judgement. And here they were.

They walked from the shore back towards their vehicles in the parking lot, their obligatory meeting was over. They could both be home by dark.

Would you like to go somewhere and get a drink?

Again Dawneva heard herself going against her conscience and saying yes.

The pub next to the university campus was quiet and dark. The beer was cold. The chalkboard sign over the bar advertised the drink special, a cocktail named for the park they’d left in separate vehicles,

Breezy Point: strawberry daiquiri with a shot of blackberry schnapps

As the sun set their conversation became a continuation of the words they’d shared online. Talk was easy between them. Locke’s next question hit her in the throat, but she didn’t hesitate. He asked her to repeat a story she’d shared before. Few people asked her about Abby. Why did he want to hear it again?