Strange Mercy

Before gray hair conferred wisdom …


The path Beryl and Trevor shared was tricky. No, twisty.

Perhaps had he been upfront with her at some point about his dalliance with Lesley the pair’s course of events might’ve progressed clearer and simpler. This likely concluded with him curbside and Beryl going her own way. Instead, what the sophomores shared in March 1979, what they concealed from another, lingered improperly resolved over miles and decades.

Long before hindsight, Trevor decided fate, love, and trust had coincided to his advantage. Rather, Beryl hadn’t used his sidestepping to discomfort or expose him … had she? As he could only see what he presumed then, Beryl’s, um, gesture, as magnanimous as Trevor had ever witnessed in his young life, proved the extent of her affection. Or was it the most elaborate, selfless snare ever?

Had he been less self-absorbed — wait a minute. Strike that. He was a 20-year-old male juggling two women, only one of whom knew about the other. Or at least the one apparently unaware gave off every indication of ignorance about her rival.

See. That was the thing. The nub. Trevor knew two-thirds of the story. He questioned whether Beryl ultimately grasped the full circle. Later, much later, he wondered whether had Beryl confronted him could he have been man enough to confirm her accusations.

Certainly by leaving that allegation adrift, she spared him tenuous denial or hurtful confession. Either way regret, Trevor’s, promised to be crushing. But the unasked question also tortured him. No. That merely vexed him. Complying with Beryl’s request in order to assuage any suspicions, an otherwise pleasant request made arduous from not knowing what truly launched it, though a pleasant satisfying task nonetheless, now that tortured him.

Then, Trevor had achieved what he believed sexual and emotional equilibrium between Beryl and Lesley. His self-justification’s seeming perfection pleased him almost as much as the girls’ actual complementary charms.

An evening visit to the university library precipitated his life’s greatest mystery. Ostensibly together there to help massage one of Beryl’s writing assignments into pristine English, Trevor began using such sessions to bolster his seeming fidelity. There were only so many deceptive hours available to screw around with Lesley until Beryl must’ve guessed something untoward. What better way of keeping those fears grounded than loving proximity?

Approaching that time of semester, Beryl grilled him on how he’d occupied his prior spring break. A fleeting instance of utmost honesty crossed his mind, but common sense overruled.

Trevor hadn’t even confided in his closest friends about Delores. Somehow telling Beryl he’d spent last Spring Break servicing and being serviced by an older woman who once she exhausted whatever they had vanished mightn’t have impressed her. Or worse, she might’ve asked why he’d concealed such an adventure from her.

Rationally thinking, what man informed any woman of another woman with whom he’d enjoyably wallowed in carnal exercises? No way he could’ve made that sound clinical. So Trevor lied.

Instead of telling Beryl anything about Delores, he lolled a drunken week in Mazatlan on the Mexican coast. Having kept it simple, she only asked cursory questions. The kind he swatted easily.

That avoided, Beryl suggested they spend the week taking an excursion along the Pacific Coast Highway, from San Francisco down to Los Angeles. Trevor liked the idea. Over a year in the West and Trevor had yet seen or smelled the Pacific Ocean. The vistas around Carmel and Monterey were said to have been dramatic. More importantly, at least six nights with Beryl.

Unlike the hunger he and Lesley stoked, fed, and sated, sex with Beryl was too regulated. Her mood didn’t strike with his frequency. Her time always needed to be right. The loosely structured imminent vacation week ought have opened opportunity aplenty for them to engage in feckless sex play.

Only after wholeheartedly endorsing the sojourn did Beryl mention Coral. She hadn’t popped his balloon, though rude fingers along its surface sure emitted skin-crawling squeaks.

Coral was one of Beryl’s two suitemates. The decidedly socially awkward one.

Trevor strained keeping as much disappointment out of his voice as possible. “Beryl, baby, why do you want to third-wheel us with Coral?”

“You don’t want her to come along?”

“I see it as a time we can have all to ourselves,” Trevor explained. “We won’t have to be considerate, kowtow, or accommodate anybody else. We can be alone and do what we want, however we wish, and not worry about inconveniencing other people. We can be selfish with other.”

Beryl owned an uncanny knack for shredding his solid reasoning.

“You mean we can stay naked a lot longer after we fool around that much more.”

“Well,” he conceded, “there’s that too.”

She insinuated plaintively. “Please, Trev, do this and I will be grateful. I promise.”

What recourse did he have? Dead-set as he was against it, mollifying Beryl in this instance should’ve lessened any existing pressure she might’ve waited to exert on the Lesley front. That was should she have known about the secret sharer.

Until that night the adjective “grateful” had trafficked little between them. What was Beryl’s ulterior motive? Oh, yes, one must’ve existed. Beryl simply wouldn’t have just dropped Coral between them out of goodness, mercy, and kindness. Coral was clutter. Beryl functioned in a highly calculated and precise manner. Hers was the sort of discipline which ought have been exploited at the track and various table games of chance.

Beryl had engaged his curiosity. Trevor wondered what the urgency behind Coral’s incipient inclusion. Beryl had to have known his agreeing would make her beholden to him. That was a new development. Usually Beryl exhibited feline qualities. Often she gave off take it or leave it vibes regarding them. Intrigue him as she did, he took it.

Of course she hampered his current train of thought by kneading his wang under the library table. Her groping blurred a lot of angles but sharpened his delight. Absently, his regret becoming vague, Trevor approved.

Nonetheless she had piqued his interest while tenting his pants.

Weeks later. Roomy as Beryl’s car was Trevor couldn’t shake how the traveling trio crowded it. While he drove the lions share through Southwest voids, Beryl and Coral navigated city lanes.

Coral’s was a chirpy presence. She prattled incessantly. Funny thing, Beryl kept pace. Until radio signals faded, ceding the dial to country-western twang or religious bellicosity, her heard them as competition against the worthwhile listening music. Yet once appreciable reception weakened, their vocal diversion became relief.

Listening closely as he did, Trevor still failed making heads or tails of their references. To him, their plain language somehow obscured obvious messages; a simple key which lay maddeningly just beyond his ken.

While miles behind the steering wheel mounted, Beryl started spending more time sprawled in the backseat. His glimpses of her in the rearview mirror became rarer. Maybe if he craned his neck and canted sight he might spy her. Otherwise there was only Coral’s constant being beside him. Whenever his eyes swept the three mirrors (to break any hypnotic asphalt effect), Coral’s sight always seemed leveled on him.

The frequency discounted coincidence. After some several hundred miles, Trevor realized himself her focus. Any more blatantly and she would’ve been staring. On one hand, Coral’s insistence should’ve creeped him out. On the other, Trevor was a 20-year-old man – women making him the loci of their universes was his proper due by dint of everything masculine.

Naturally he didn’t share that last self-serving bit with either woman. Instinctively he knew both would take offense at being mere satellites orbiting his sun.

Since Trevor “endured” hundreds of miles of Coral (most in ¾’s profile), he used the ride to really appraise her. Over miles she became less goggle-eyed. Instead, he gauged an appealing glimmer and liveliness, behind which burned piercing expectation.

Coral’s mouth was small, her lower lip fuller than the top lid. Trevor bet an attentive man might find her lips sweetly responsive slivers. Several times his gaze idled longer than both knew necessary and she blushed lightly, her mouth’s corners twisting into intricate curlicues.

In spite of himself Trevor met Coral’s smiles.

A generally northwestern blaze through Arizona, Las Vegas, the Mojave, and California’s Central Valley intended pouring them into San Francisco.

Spending two nights in Vegas, they indulged in a truncated Rat Pack crawl along the Strip, making poor people’s bets, then endured cheesy lounge acts at the MGM. For true ring-a-ding splendor, they nursed drinks while swapping excitement as the city boldly twinkled below them from atop the Landmarks’ rooftop bar.

To each, Vegas failed lasting long enough.

The Mojave did not broil in March. Indeed, conditions were such that an inversion sealed cool and fog against the desert floor.

Endless verdant fields aside, the Central Valley held no appeal for any of them. None were Aggies, and agriculture bored them. Besides, hadn’t they seen more than their share of companeros in Eloy, a town astride the Interstate between Tucson and Phoenix? Whether the crop cotton, pistachios, or in California, vegetables, Trevor, at least, was aware of the backbreaking, hand-wrenching toil involved as well as knowing the poor compensation those field laborers received.

As a graduate of New York Metropolitan Area elementary and secondary schools, Trevor realized one immense benefit was being hectored by the overly conscientious teachers and administrators staffing them. They spared little guilt illustrating the relative privileges of their suburban students’ lives against those less fortunate in “the other America.” As utmost professional provocateurs, um, educators, most, if at all possible, would’ve intravenously fed him and his fellow lumpen chunks of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Reading The Grapes of Wrath alone was insufficient when a petitioner from Cesar Chavez’ organization could be procured and bolster the lesson by shepherding classes through discussions concerning migrant workers’ plights.

Of course Trevor loved table grapes.

With the girls along in San Francisco there was no visit to the Mitchell Brothers Theater. Also with the girls along there was one unsteadying stroll through the Castro District. Believing himself secure enough in his own manhood, Trevor still lacked exhibiting the total indifference required by being perused, cruised and pursued by gays.

Funny thing was men objectifying him raised his esteem in Beryl’s eyes. Coral chimed in, calling him a “pretty man.” A being of all surface, Coral possessed no sense of wry. Trevor accepted her bald statement for what it was: a bald compliment. Only afterwards did her simple sentence gain outsized and obvious heft.

Aboard an Alcatraz Island tour boat, Coral had snapped several of him and Beryl together. The deep blue of San Francisco Bay further drew warmth from Beryl’s face that morning’s chilly breezes stoked. She grinned contentedly and her eyes sparkled. Frozen in the photograph her wind-whipped hair gained added luster under a bright sun.

Looking back, it was the loveliest Trevor had ever seen her. He ought’ve told Beryl that instant. Then after seeing Coral’s result, he should’ve again. Yet weighted against the trip’s later phantasmagoria he reluctantly withheld his effusion. Emotion and an unspoken though nonetheless strangely imposed feeling of obligation might’ve transformed his simple declaration into some ambivalent claim of love.

He wasn’t prepared for that … yet.

Then, Trevor could not speak those words because he did not believe them. Having Lesley on the sly proved that. Still, in his later years when the chosen path ceased seeming so sure, Trevor unearthed and gazed upon the receding perfect frozen moment; the one before he succumbed to utmost male gluttony.

Venturing south they only considered the Pacific Coast Highway. Sure blasting along Interstate 5 would’ve been less consuming, but Coral wanted to see Pebble Beach – who knew her a golf fan? – Beryl a winery, while Trevor’s goal waited halfway down the coast.

Sleeping arrangements were tolerable until San Simeon. Seeing themselves worldly enough, Trevor and Beryl has shared hotel beds while Coral sprawled in the other. The expectation behind America’s hospitality industry assured the rooms provided two racks, and these queen-sized, and the gap between them ample enough to muddle the couple’s bundling or frottage.

Often Beryl’s palms and fingers completed soft circuits of his tensed shoulders and torso. Through this contact along his contours she subtly directed him. Give her this: Beryl knew how to manipulate him.

In San Simeon, their motel sat near the beach just off the highway. They heard the waves before seeing them. Ebb and flow didn’t crash, the early evening’s waves too gentle. Instead these calls and responses lapped with slow steady rhythms.

Beryl introduced one wholly unexpected variable. At first, Trevor saw it a nefarious device by which she hoped exposing his more passionate on-the-side ramping with Lesley.

Later he chalked this up to feelings of guilt. His. Honest as it proved.

Only one bed in San Simeon. Querying her about this circumstance never occurred to Trevor. After all, Beryl’s credit card financed this trip’s lodging. He simply assumed the dull lodgung had exhausted its supply of accommodations with dual beds.

The inevitability of Trevor ceding the bed to the girls and pulling up some floor didn’t bother him. Previous road trips had required his stretching out on carpet. Better to crowd as many travelers on the floor in as few rooms as necessary in order to put those savings towards beer.

That night, Hearst Castle having been partially toured during the day, resulting in his merrily riffing on Citizen Kane, the bits of dialogue confusing Beryl and Coral, Trevor believed he couldn’t have been more chipper. When Beryl broke out one of her winery purchases, then her stash, well, an already fine moment couldn’t have been improved upon, could it?

Coral supplied rolling papers.

Anticipation raising conviviality, they chatted amiably while Coral combed and cleaned a small mound of weed. Her long nimble fingers eliminated stalks and seeds in no time. She rolled three tight bones whose perfection reflected a Cheech & Chong artistry.

Golf, now her own-rolled craftsmanship? Was there any end to the surprises Coral yielded?

Before sparking up, Beryl uncorked the Zinfandel. He grinned to himself at the memory of Burgundy from a year ago. Beryl decanted into plastic cups, not glassware. The girls effused about the vintage.

That serving swigged, Beryl poured refills while Coral lit the first bone and took a huge toke. Seconds later she expelled one stoner-sized plume. She passed the dutchie to Beryl, whose own indulgence came across as comparatively lady-like. Trevor’s own drag wasn’t greedy at all. Coral smoked what remained down to a roach.

Only dope etiquette kept Trevor from remarking on Coral’s bogarting the joint. Besides, a certain lassitude overcame him.

After expelling another mushroom cloud, Coral pinched the remainder against his lips. Trevor puckered up and drew until she deposited gray crumbs in an ashtray.

He complimented Beryl on her cheeba. She informed him of its provenance. Apparently she, Coral, other members of her dorm, had hooked up a reliable source whose wares were commensurate with their budgets. The way Beryl spoke, and Coral backed her, affirmed frequency never mind familiarity.

Man! What didn’t Trevor know about Beryl? Between classes, library, labs, him, when did she find time to kick back and mellow out? And her dealer, what did she, any of them, really know about that dude? Yes, it nagged him. It was all too pat, no? He smelled entrapment. Not campus cops, but TPD or DPS.

Trevor got ahold of himself. He tamped down mounting paranoia. Strange. Many guys in his dorm had similar connections yet their circumstances never led to him channeling the Gestapo.

Maybe because this time it was his girl. If he ever worried about dormmates getting busted, it was news to him. This and Lesley. Perhaps Beryl found time to get recreationally high because during those same periods he likely laid two buildings apart fucking Lesley. Did one craving permit the other?

Coral sparked up another bone. She hit that joint hard then passed it around to Trevor. He declined.

“Sometimes it’s a troublesome thing doin’ a doob with your girl,” he said.

Was it intimation on Beryl’s face or his imagination? He had nothing solid on which to base either impression. Even when stone, cold, sober, straight, Beryl could be mysterious into inscrutability.

Beryl took the bone from Coral and toked thoughtfully. Her gesture erased his contemplation. He was grateful.

Another reason he ought have loved Beryl then, that moment.

His organic intake, meager as it was, the wine, that day’s driving miles, the exhilarating tour of Hearst Castle, all suddenly fell upon him. Trevor needed to crash. They quickly rebuffed his selection of floor space. Both insisted he repose in bed.

Had his mind been clear, Trevor’s modesty still would’ve sounded odd. Trevor saw that the sleeping arrangement might’ve been “awkward.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Coral said.

He required little prompting. Trevor grabbed a pair of loose gym shorts from his suitcase and entered the bathroom. He changed clothes mechanically. Stepping back into the room, sneakers in one hand, clothes in the other, Coral and Beryl eyed him. Especially the former. Her first reaction upon spying him shirtless and lightly girded neared incandescence.

Trevor wondered whether Coral were ever capable of smoldering. Ever?

Rolling on an undershirt, and stowing clothes and footwear, Trevor kissed Beryl goodnight. Spoken words sufficed for Coral. Easing onto the mattress, the girls’ mild chatter, the aroma of okay, not primo, dope graying his mind as well as the room, he slid off into sleep.

Some restful time later, Beryl awoke him. Actually she coaxed him from restorative slumber. He figured his snoring must’ve irritated one or the other or both.

A low-set lamp on the bedsit lit the room dimly. Beryl perched now on the bed edge. She leaned closed into him. Beneath his t-short, her fingers ruffled his chest hair or circled and flicked his nipples.

Senses revived, Trevor felt Coral’s back and butt pressed against his side. Hers wasn’t much of a presence. That was compared to Beryl’s … or Lesley’s. He focused on Beryl.

She was dressed as if for an excursion. Both the bedside clock and the lack of light around the closed window curtains confirmed many hours yet before dawn. He became alarmed, worried an emergency had occurred. Whatever slight lethargy remained in him fled. They conversed in low urgent voices.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Beryl answered.

“What did you do?” he asked. “Sleep dress?”

Beryl’s face conveyed purpose. Trevor liked it when she needed sharing a crucial matter. Her features became pointed, eyes unwavering. Her voice excavated a timbre which compelled obedience.

She spoke directly. If Beryl were capable of artifice, she seldom expended the effort on him. She leaned into conspirator range, whispering into his ear away from Coral.

“Trev, this is complicated, maybe even confusing. I need you to do something for us.”

If he read her expression correctly, Trevor agreed almost too readily for her liking. She continued.

“No, not just us, you and me us, but ‘us’ including Coral.”

Until Beryl mentioned it, he hadn’t known any “us” also consisted of Coral. Beryl’s forthcoming succinctness, her explanation, had the clipped swiftness of someone who’d not only rehearsed – exhaustively – but had foreseen all the sharp objections and had already sanded them off.

Beryl pitched one simple premise: Coral was infatuated with him; her gaga boundless.

While hearing that further inflated his ego, Trevor wondered why it necessary to rouse and tell him at so early an hour. By the way, what was Beryl doing dressed? She looked ready to tour the remaining 2/3’s of Hearst Castle.

The fraught pause before launching her explanation should’ve served as the sole clue he needed. Beryl used this moment to gather herself, make certain her convictions were pure, then assure herself she possessed sufficient sustaining thrust.

“Trev, she adores you. She talks about you all the time. She talks about you like I wish I could. If it weren’t for me, she’d be on the way to loving you. I almost can’t stand it.”

Awake now, Beryl’s fast and furious revelations knocked him off-kilter. For all the girls’ chatter, their sidelong glances, the longing stares, they’d done a great job of burying him in the dark.

Then Trevor stepped back. Suspicion crowded out his astonishment. He wondered if it all just a set-up. A lure designed to make him tumble, to admit to Lesley. His misgivings fermented.

“What can’t you stand?” he asked.

“I hate to say this,” Beryl hissed, “but how she nearly worships you. My god, it disgusts me! Oh, if she could, Trev, Coral would fawn all over you.”

“I could stand the extra adulation,” he joked.

“You’d be damned insufferable,” Beryl said. “Two women attending you would make you impossible.”

An instant lengthened between them. He thought she held him in her gaze longer than usual. Or had his circumstances elongated time; even creating her intent behind it?

Difficult to gauge her in that light, Trevor decided he hadn’t spied an accusatory flicker crossing Beryl’s face. He let a moment stretch before answering.

“You might think that.”

“Oh,” Beryl snapped, “I know so.”

One slow nod from Trevor acknowledged her declaration. “I can only hope we never find out.”

How Beryl replied would establish their future; that was whether they’d enjoy one. He prepared for confrontation. Should she accuse him, and worse, provide evidence, Trevor was ready to confess. Yes, that guaranteed pain. However painful admission was, he understood denying and lying two more painful options. Like most men’s minds, his could hold opposing views. As did other men who shared his catbird seat. To the uncomprehending and altogether obtuse any weaseling might’ve sounded rational. In a selfish indulgent way.

Pure and simple, Lesley just served as great sex. Beyond that his concerns for or about her were negligible. Trevor esteemed Beryl. Her character, her quirks, these attractions kept him interested. She had a challenging clarity. At no time during their relationship did he ever feel she depended on him. Of course she too was drawn to him, though not cloyingly so. The bargain required his contending with her whole person, especially the obstinate parts. Unlike other girls, Beryl wasn’t going to submerge any portion of her being to retain him.

Frankly if she hadn’t been such a powerful woman, mightn’t he have consciously or unconsciously tried putting her under his thumb? Whatever its manifestation, Trevor respected strength.

He readied himself for her blow. He expected lacerating words. Anger, hers, entirely justified, would shame and stain him. Yet Beryl was far stronger than he imagined.

“I can’t stand it!” Beryl said. “She actually aches for you! Trev, that should be me. It should be me going through those contortions. Forgive me.”

Trevor’s topsy-turvy was genuine. “What do you have to be sorry for?”

“Because I’m not like that. I can’t be like that. I won’t be like that. I care the world for you. I will go any lengths for you. Ones I’d deny myself. But Trev I just can’t get caught up and lost in you like Coral.”

Relieved at Beryl’s “failing,” and accepting himself off any hooks, that his trysting with Lesley remained beyond Beryl’s view, Trevor turned to subduing her regret. A two-prong problem, he first sought to dispel her contention of insufficient passion. However, Beryl jumped to the second matter before he could make the appropriate cooing sounds about the first.

Coral.

Oh, didn’t Beryl already have it all doped out? For the three of them. A solution so slick it came wrapped in Y-chromosomes. Had Beryl been a guy, Trevor ought have congratulation him on reducing one tricky, sticky, twisty question to its basic swerve.

Trevor gathered Beryl had something to prove. To herself. Beryl must’ve also believed it necessary to fulfill Coral’s canyon-deep desire. What the former intended he implement tonight absolutely confirmed to Trevor how infinitely stronger females were than males.

“You want me to – ?” Trevor started.

Beryl finished. “—Yes! Sleep with Coral.”

Her plea was too pat. In the wild he would’ve perked up his ears and sniffed the wind. Fortunately, Beryl misread his caginess for reluctance. She lowered his guard.

“We’ve talked about it,” Beryl said, meaning she’d discussed the possibility with Coral. “You cannot imagine the understatement behind my saying she’s all for it. These last few days I’m surprised she managed to stay in her skin.”

Which of course explained why Coral eyed him like a hungry dog would a plate of pork chops. Should he have been indignant? His cool reckoning erased such foolishness.

Wouldn’t his refusal have likely strengthened suspicions he presumed Beryl possessed? And should he comply, mightn’t that surely confirm her worst about him? Sliding himself into a woman’s mind, Trevor found she’d constructed a trap impossible to escape.

After all, what man would turn down a piece of strange? A piece condoned, if not altogether endorsed, by his steady?
There were conundrums, then there were situations akin to scrotum skin caught in fly zippers; i.e., determining the best way of release resulting in the least amount of pain.

Damned if he did. Damned if he didn’t. So if damnation unavoidable, might as well add further transgression along the way.

Trevor also doubled down on his road through a warped genius’ stroke of chutzpah.

“Don’t you think you should’ve consulted me? What if I say no? What if I don’t feel right about it?”

His feigned annoyance almost made him laugh. Beryl teased his phony earnestness. Through one of the leg openings, she reached up into his gym shorts, found and tugged his member.

“You’re right,” she pled. “I ignored your say-so in this. But let me be selfish and impose on you. This will be one of the most significant things I’ll ever ask you. Do it, and we both know I can depend on you for anything. Besides, afterwards when Coral tells me how good you were to her, it’ll remind me how great I have it.”

Trevor didn’t know which the more convincing, Beryl’s reasoning or her grip. He couldn’t decide which best fueled his vanity.

Not wanting to overplay “Mister Sensitive Male,” Trevor simply agreed. Deal sealed, Beryl gave him what he hoped a playfully reassuring squeeze and withdrew her hand, then kissed his cheek. She stood, her impetus also lifting him off the bed. They huddled at the room door.

Pressed tight there, Beryl’s voice took on an urgency.

“Trev, this is just a one-shot. I swear I will never again loan you out to service needy women.”

She could’ve been joking. Or she could’ve been serious. He answered ruefully.

“I’ll be all yours.”

    All

mine,” she emphasized.

Beryl tilted her face upwards. Embracing, they kissed. Separating, Beryl cast her eyes upon the floor. Before fumbling with the doorknob, she glanced back up at him.

“Oh, yeah, Trev, two important things – I left rubbers by the phone and no giving her ‘this.’ Got it?”

Using a marvelously vulgar gesture, Beryl demonstrated the forbidden. Spreading index and middle fingers and turning the tips up, then raising them to her mouth, she flicked her tongue wildly between this gap.

Unsurprisingly both failed suppressing laughter. She opened the door. He heard car keys jingling over the incessant surf outside. She slid out into the night. The door secure behind him, Trevor turned to ponder Coral’s recumbent in t-shirt and shorts form.

Had he ever desired Coral, this opportunity never would’ve arrived. Since he wanted no part of her, there she was all his. Figured. Several days ago back in Vegas she’d inadvertently tweaked his lust.

Coral had just emerged from showering. A thin, floral-patterned robe sheathed her. Despite toweling off, enough condensation adhered the slight material against her skin. Beneficiary of good eyesight, her condition failed taxing his imagination.

Now thoroughly informed and reviewing the scene, Trevor wondered if hers had been a contrivance.

The garment clinging to her as such, Coral somehow performed a great deal of calisthenics around him. Her activity was impossible to avoid. One particular memory from this encounter: when Coral bent over in front of him, her robe glued against her hindquarters, flora collecting at her coccyx neatly bisected her narrow behind.

For an idle instant, Trevor envisioned himself dropping on all fours and biting her “offer.” He recognized but did not yield to instinct. That was one Wild Kingdom move he let pass. Good thing or else maybe Beryl might’ve accused him of anticipatory favor-skinning; prematurely acting before being properly bidden.

Reverie ended, Trevor walked to the bed. There, he settled on it across from where Coral reclined. What was the protocol this matter demanded? Who knew? He winged it. Trevor used his normal speaking voice.

“We tried talking as quietly as possible. How much did you hear?”

Coral rolled over and opened her eyes. The orbs were luminous, lighting her entire face.

“Everything. Until you went to the door.”

Trevor said, “Let me be truthful – this is awkward.”

Coral sat up on her knees and leaned into him. “Trevor, uh, Trev, if I really thought about my behavior, I’d probably be embarrassed. The only thing keeping me from being ashamed is that you are such a pretty man. If I have to pay with humiliation, I say I’m getting off cheap. It’s one thing to lust after boys. I don’t know how many times I’ve done that just walking between classes. Very involved daydreaming, I guess.”

“Who doesn’t have those, uh, oh, let’s say fancies?” Trevor asked.

Coral said, “Nobody else I know turns around and says, ‘I will do what I must to get him.’ Or ‘her.’ That’s psychotic, isn’t it?”

He laughed. “Maybe a little excessive. Psychotic, though? No. Unless you have a knife hidden over there somewhere?”

His stab at humor missed. Painful honesty inflamed Coral.

“You know I don’t love you. Not like Beryl does. She must. She must love and trust you. I can’t imagine being her and have someone like me come up with something as nuts as this – and agreeing to it! That’s crazy! Unbelievable! Fantastic!”

“I know,” Trevor said. “All that and more.”

“I don’t love you,” Coral said. “I expected to have these overwhelming feelings for the man I will someday love. Trevor, Trev, excuse my blibbering like some lovelorn high school kid with a crush, but, man, this is a chance for the skinny girl to get the fox! And no way I’m ashamed to grab him!”

The giddiness in Coral’s voice almost infected him, too. On some above and beyond level, what Coral and Beryl agreed upon was brave. A woman less confident than Beryl could’ve found the idea mortifying. What if she’d refused? Then what? Might Coral become irrational?

Trevor reached across to her. He caressed Coral’s cheek. She swooned into his touch.

Speaking softly, he said, “It’s good you took the chance. And you’re not skinny. You’re slender.”
They came together in the bed’s center. His exploratory pecks succumbed to her enervating soul kisses. The girl had a hard greedy mouth.

Ropy fingers ran under his t-shirt, along his upper torso. Trevor’s musculature fascinated her tactile sense. His arms, shoulders, chest, back, all taut, all firm and packed, enjoyed skipping visits from Coral’s lively fingertips. She even dared playing with his nipples. That these stippled beneath her curiosity heightened her delight.

Coral’s hands were bonier than either Beryl’s or Lesley’s. Those of the former were wider and softer; the latter’s reminded him of articulated vises. The third’s grip was nowhere on par with the others’.

Since it was her fantasy come to life, Coral decided Trevor should undress first. Accustomed to simultaneous disrobing, her command, given merrily as it was, slightly wobbled him.

“But not in bed,” Coral said vaguely. “Um, over there.”

She pointed to clearer-view acreage on his side of the bed. He complied without knowing why.

Trevor rolled off his t-shirt and tossed it at her. She swatted cotton away. He inched down his gym shorts. His laborious descent increased Coral’s obviously increasing anticipation. His tease and her reaction amused him. Yet no cascade around his ankles occurred. He lowered the waistband to where pubic hair sprouted and stopped.

“I refuse to do your dirty work,” Trevor said. “You come over here and pull them down yourself.”

The goofy smile first seen in the Student Union revisited her face. Only Coral heard the starter’s pistol that launched her across the bed. Leaning over and hands raised ready to yank, or rend if needed, she clutched his waistband. She tugged but his own grip stayed the elastic’s descent.

He admonished her. “You must do it slowly. Some things are better savored than gulped.”

Ravenous as she appeared, Coral heeded his instruction. His waistband crawled at a measured pace. One he hoped she found excruciating. When she’d uncovered his sex, Trevor released his shorts. While he stepped out of the material gathered around his insteps and heels, Coral stepped back. She appraised him baldly and thoroughly, well on the road to devour.

Coral muttered, “Oh … my.”

As exclamations went, hers was nowhere near Beryl’s “Whoa!”

Coral drank in so much of him he thought she might drown. Such responses were what Rubirosa must’ve often heard. Hamming it up, Trevor egged her on.

“You know, until this moment I’ve never felt so naked before a girl as I do you, Coral.”

Straightening and aghast, she said, “Was I staring!? I’m sorry – !”

Being playful, he hadn’t expected her shock. He relaxed and pacified her. “Joking, Coral. Just joking. But here’s something serious. Your clothes have got to come off!”

“Mine?” she asked meekly.

Trevor stepped towards her. She actually turned skittish during his advance. He gestured for her faded t-shirt to rise, then motioned for worn-out shorts to drop. Sudden renewed nerves, hers, lent both tasks Houdini-like degrees of difficulty.

Standing in the altogether, Coral’s eyes struggled to meet his. Though compared against arms unsure whether to cover her small breasts, angling to meet his own gaze was defiance itself.

Coral was one of those lanky girls he knew had gone through life being reminded to “stand straight.” Even now she fought instincts to cringe and shrink.

A-cup breasts poked above an impossibly flat midriff that swiveled on a reed-width waist and boyish hips. Two dainty pink buds crowned her carriage. A manicured briar two shades darker than the unkempt thistle atop her head empasized Coral’s paleness. Nudity lengthened her already long legs.

After Beryl and Lesley, Coral seemed insubstantial. An educated man might’ve seen her as a gangly sylph.

Before pressure derailed the moment, Trevor joined her. Their fingers clasped and he guided her into bed. There, she sidled against him. Aware of their mass discrepancy, he did all he could to ease his bearing upon her.

In his embrace, calmed now, Coral accommodated herself. Stroking his thick arms and wide chest, she smiled contentedly. Trevor had done such a good job of mollifying her, she drew a leg higher and draped it over one of his thighs.

The thatch hiding her secret rubbed pleasingly upon his own leg.

While she assessed, he licked and sucked upon Coral’s thin lips. His little impertinences gave her the giggles. Trevor palmed and gently obliterated her girlish breasts. Her nipples hardened beneath these light touches.

Coral’s breathing was a shallow bellows. Beryl and Lesley each chuffed along steadily. Perhaps Coral needed ramping up before her respiration became noticeable. Or maybe she was just one of those aerobic chicks.

Fully aware she clutched “the prize,” Coral burrowed her head into his chest. She exulted. Her joy made him laugh. Glancing up from the nest of his chest, her smile as goofy as it had been during their introduction, Coral reached up and carefully let fingers trace the outline of his face. She stopped on his plump lips momentarily, paring them slightly, then continued onto his chin, throat, finally ending her mapping where clavicles, neck and pectorals converged.

Happy incredulousness gradually left her face. Replacing that mien, an enormity sex with a relative stranger never warranted.

“I can’t believe we’re here,” Coral said.

Her solemnity struck him as melodramatic.

“This is what you wanted, no?”

“Girls like me never get guys like you.”

He responded drily. “That sounds like one of those bad life lessons taught on made for TV movies. Let’s turn that around. Maybe it guys like me who aren’t lucky enough to value girls like you.”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

Trevor had hoped she’d have found his gratuitous yanked from his ass comment charming. Either Coral was intentionally thick or she angled for a bigger haul of flattery. If it the second, she was smarter than he thought.

“Because you desired something,” Trevor said. “Rather than mope around an drop hints, pine, yearn, and generally make a nuisance of yourself, you had courage enough to level with Beryl. In that respect you got lucky. One, because she doesn’t scare easy. Two, because she accepted your plight and didn’t tell you to fuck off. We both know other girls would’ve turned you into a pariah faster than you can say ‘Why did I fuck that guy?’”

“You have Beryl, Trev. Maybe you’re the lucky one.”

“Yeah. I don’t need to be reminded.”

“Then this is what you need to hear,” Coral said. “You are one pretty man. From your lashes to your lips, your whole body, you are the most beautiful thing I have ever and will ever see. I’m sorry I don’t love you. Especially now. Especially here. But if I did I’d be going nuts right this instance. I don’t wanna go nuts, Trev. I wanna ….”

Coral got him hard, fast, and often. Should Coral have deserved greater consideration, it never occurred to Trevor.

Beryl must’ve returned around dawn. Through indifferent consciousness, Trevor saw the room had brightened. Her dull voice cajoled him into sliding over. In providing bed space for a third body, his jostling tightened Coral against him.

When he awoke for good, Coral splayed across his chest. Their legs were twined. Peace had embedded itself on her face.

On Trevor’s right, her back to them, Beryl asleep. He saw her facing away fortuitous. Because if she were awake, he intuited that maybe her eyes might’ve incinerated the others’ minor idyll.

Beryl talked a good game. She doubtlessly started off believing her sacrifice/his contribution somehow necessary. Nevertheless wonder if jealously willed out? There’d be no greasing the rest of this morning/day/trip/semester/relationship, only weathering.

The bedsit clock indicated nigh eleven. Straining flesh reared upward between his legs. Ah, the hellacious impossible to conceal morning wood.

Coral stirred awake. Happiness crinkled around her eyes and flooded her face.

Although technically a one-night stand, their special circumstances allowed leeway aplenty. They kissed with meaning. After ceasing lip lock, she grinned shyly and ruffled hairy forest on his chest. Only then did she notice his blood-gorged ugly stick. Precociousness grabbed her, and she clutched a big handful of him.

How easy would it have been for Coral to mount him and ride? Well, not very. Trevor tilted his head towards Beryl. Impishly, Coral mouthed the question, “So?”

To reiterate, Trevor shook his head.

Coral regarded the bed’s third form. She faked pouting, sighed quietly, while letting an active hand nearly uncork his morning dilemma. The possibility struck silly grins on both actors’ faces. She barely suppressed a whoop.

Reluctantly, Coral uncoiled her warm fingers and rosy palm. Trevor slurred from the bed through its foot. Ensconced in the bathroom away from such explosive stimulation, tension dissipated as well as interest.

He showered, sloughing off Coral. Nozzle spray also diluted their night’s romp.

The toweling off he’d begun in the bathroom he continued in the room itself. By now both girls were awake. One or the other had drawn back the window curtains. If the brilliance flooding their room any indication, then this day had prospects as one of those golden California perfectos.

Grumpy and rumpled, Beryl wore a commemorative Beach Boys t-shirt he’d received by working security at a campus concert they’d headlined. A pair of raggedy shorts he’d bequeathed her completed her sleepwear. Hunched over, sitting crossed-legged on the bed, Coral ran through television channels with the remote.

Naked in daylight revealed Coral’s tan. Slight as it was. Artificial light had obscured her shoulders and limbs richer tones. Of course until this morning Trevor had never seen her bare being under either illumination.

Trevor hardly noticed Beryl’s expression. Had he been more of the moment perhaps he could’ve recognized her increasing ire.

Showering had reinvigorated Trevor. Entering the drier room finished his revitalization.

Her inspection of TV programing finished, Coral hopped off the bed and skirted past Trevor into the bathroom. They exchanged tiny full of knowing smiles. One barely heard water running off her body into the tub from the bathroom.

When his attention finally fell on Beryl, her distress erupted. She yelled.

“Will you put on some fucking clothes!”

Until Beryl’s command Trevor didn’t know how naked he was. Certainly he knew his condition, but given all which had transpired his state seemed quite natural.

Thus his first indication Beryl’s proprietary nature started eclipsing her benevolent one. Trevor dug out boxers from his suitcase, and hurriedly rolled chinos over them. For good measure he even threw on a polo shirt.

Presentable as he made himself it did nothing to soothe Beryl’s temper. When Coral traipsed out of the bathroom pink as sin, she immediately channeled the heavy non-verbal signal Beryl emitted. In doing her utmost to become less naked fast, Coral slowly picked through her suitcase to find the proper outfit for the day. Beryl seethed all through the other’s careful selection.

Everybody being fully dressed somewhat eased Beryl’s visual discomfort. She charged into the bathroom. Once the shower started running, Coral looked at Trevor.

“I bet she isn’t using hot water this morning,” she said.

Whether intentionally flip or not, Trevor snickered after her aside.

Showering only slightly lessened Beryl’s anger. At lunch she remained a bear. On the ride south to Los Angeles, whose miles she rode shotgun, there were gradual outbreaks of humanity. By chance or caution Coral avoided sitting in the rearview mirror’s sightlines.

When the Pacific Coast Highway became the Ventura Freeway and Shakytown within sight, Beryl had forgiven all three of them. She even stroked his thigh. They cut eyes at one another, their understanding, their reconciliation, silent yet complete.

“This is LA, all right,” Beryl said. “See how brown the sky is above the city; how blue it is over the ocean?”

Happy to pursue a line of small talk, Coral rattled off chatter which Beryl matched. Hearing the previous night absolutely erased, and each relationship properly restored, Trevor tuned out the girls’ conversation.

“The darkness never seems so rich in promise as it does when you’re in your 20s.” – Jay McInerney

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