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Mg10-11, cons, ped, 1st, uncle/niece

Fate brings two damaged people together. A lost uncle and untrusting ten-year-old niece gradually find companionship, then friendship, and finally love.



She came to me a broken little girl.

She came to me a gaunt, quiet, and withdrawn girl with scraggly, unkempt dirty-blonde hair and huge, fearful, dark olive green eyes, and found a broken man incapable of taking care of her.

I had no choice in it.

**********

The long crescent drive leading to the mansion I called home must have given the social worker the wrong idea; expectations of social graces and culture and politesse. Her eyes opened in surprise when I pulled the large front door open, the young girl’s hand in hers.

“Mr. Jackson?” she inquired.

I nodded, scratching the stubble on my chin.

“Noah Jackson?” she asked as if there was some doubt, her eyes taking in my ratty jeans and wrinkled shirt.

I nodded again.

Opening her shoulder bag, she pulled out a sheaf of papers and consulted them. She took her time, eventually commenting, “It says here that the welfare department has inspected your home and found you fit to be Lucy’s guardian.” She looked at me as if expecting an answer, skepticism clear in her expression.

I stared at her. She hadn’t asked a question. Why would she expect an answer?

Frowning at my silence, she shook her head as if amazed that I’d been found fit for anything, let alone looking after a child. I knew how she felt.

“Lucy, this is your uncle.” Looking at me with disapproval, she said, “Mr. Jackson, this is your niece. I’ll get her bag from the car.”

Lucy looked up at me and quickly averted her eyes, studying the interlocked stone front porch at her feet. She was scrawny, clothes cheap and unwashed, and she didn’t look like a ten-year-old. To me she looked like she was eight, or younger.

The social worker returned and handed me a small, beaten-up suitcase. It was very light. She touched Lucy on the shoulder before heading back to her Ford Focus. Lucy shied back from the touch.

I watched her drive out through the open, rusted gates. A chilly autumn gust blew in the dreary twilight. Dried leaves rustled across the cobblestone driveway. Grey clouds scudded overhead threatening a cold rain shower.

“You’d better come in,” I said, turning back to the entrance hall.

She followed silently and stopped. I dropped her suitcase and swung the door shut. A few stray dead leaves blew across the marble floor before it closed, collecting in the corners and joining other dried, crumbling refugees huddling from the cold.

For a second or two I studied her. Her eyes were cast to the floor, hands interlocked tightly, her scraggly dirty-blonde hair hiding her face. Worn and torn jeans with dirty cuffs looked two sizes too big for her; scuffed sneakers and a red anorak. She stood as if trying to make herself invisible.

What was I supposed to do with her? I didn’t need anyone in my futile life. I wasn’t capable of taking care of myself, let alone a child. I didn’t have enough humanity or care left in me.

“Follow me,” I said, turning and walking off. I couldn’t hear her and assumed she’d obey; she seemed like that sort of child. Walking through the large entrance hall, my bare feet slapping on cold black and white marble, I led her past the sweeping circular staircase to a hall, down the hall and into a vast, empty and echoing kitchen.

Shoving empty microwave dinner trays aside to clear space on the kitchen table, I told her to sit, and moved to the large refrigerator, tugging the freezer drawer open. With a Hungry Man meal in hand, I tore the box open, shoved the tray into the microwave, and set the timer. At the sink, I rinsed a used glass and filled it with water from the tap, placing it in front of her. She shied away from my hand.

Microwave humming, I wiped out another small glass, hunted and found a half-empty bottle of Stolichnaya vodka and poured, neat, taking a large gulp. Hot fire burned down my throat; a familiar friend.

“You can take your jacket off,” I suggested.

She didn’t move, didn’t look at me, just continued to study her lap.

Through the kitchen windows I watched rain arrive, feeding the profusion of weeds that had slowly choked real plants out of existence. Leafless bushes struggled for survival. Green scum and dead leaves covered the surface of the large in-ground pool. The unkempt, overgrown garden stretched to old leafless oaks crowding the back of the estate. A wooden swing and play set rotted and tilted precariously. At the sight, I glanced away. I hated that play set.

The microwave beeped.

Taking another gulp of vodka, I set the glass down, pulled the sad-looking tray of supposed barbecue chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes out and set it in front of her. She flinched again. In the sink, I rooted around and found a knife and fork, wiped them with my shirttail, and put them next to the tray.

“It’s all I have,” I informed her. Grabbing my glass of vodka, refilling it and taking it and the bottle over to the table, I sat across from her.

“You can take your jacket off,” I repeated.

A curtain of unwashed, dirty-blonde hair hid her face, head bowed. What was up with her? Was she mute? Deaf? Social services hadn’t mentioned anything. Maybe she was praying.

“Do you talk?” I asked.

With no response, I shrugged, stood, grabbed the bottle and glass and wandered through the chilly mansion back to the study, the coziest room in the house.

Rain pelted the windows. Darkness approached. I turned on the floor lamp, turned on the television - volume off, and sipped vodka. A welcome buzz formed, muting the voices in my head.

Out of habit, I pressed the display button on the remote. The time appeared on the TV; six-fifteen.

LUCY SAT IN THE silent, dark kitchen, the aroma of warm food tugging at her. She was so hungry her stomach hurt.

When Noah left, when she was sure she was alone, she picked up the fork and took a bite of corn. Sweetness popped in her mouth as she chewed. She moaned quietly and shoveled food into her mouth out of habit, rushing to eat it so it wouldn’t be taken away before she was finished.

She thought about Noah and this vast house. He was tall and slender except for the paunch at his waist that swelled over the top of scruffy jeans. His face, thin and gaunt, needed a shave badly, his hair dark and limp and way too long. He’d buttoned his wrinkled shirt badly, the buttons off by one making one shirttail longer than the other, both hanging out.

Lucy had learned to be unobtrusively observant. Never stare or you’d be slapped. She’d learned to read faces - anticipate anger and violence. In Noah she saw no anger, just loneliness and loss. But she was wary. He drank alcohol, too, and she knew what alcohol did to people.

Finishing the food, she wiped the tray with her finger. Based on experience, she might not eat for another day or two. She gulped the water down, then sat at the table waiting patiently, waiting for permission to leave.

An hour later, when Noah hadn’t returned, she stood and moved to the kitchen door, looking out, prepared to run back to the table. The house echoed lonely silence. She heard rain pattering against the windows driven by wind gusts. Should she leave the kitchen? Did she dare?

Slightly nervous, after waiting another ten minutes, she sneaked out trying to be quiet - not get caught, and began a cautious exploration.

The house was huge, room after room, each larger than any she’d ever seen. The dining room was formal, a rich wood table for sixteen, chairs pushed up against the sides, huge floor to ceiling glass and wooden doors on one side, serving tables and wood and glass display cabinets on the other, a huge, intricate chandelier hanging from the ceiling. She passed through into a formal living room with a massive fireplace at one end. Couches and armchairs and side tables filled the room. A large painting hung on one wall covered with a draped sheet, landscape paintings on other walls. Beautiful polished wood side cabinets held small figurines and interesting intricate carved shapes. Wide wooden and glass doors opened out to a messy garden; a fish pond and fountain were visible in the weeds.

Halls led to more rooms, bathrooms, closets. At one end she noticed the blue flicker of a television. Approaching carefully, she peeked in. The room was smaller, still big, lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves jam-packed with books, and a cluttered, big, dark wood desk near the bow windows. A television was on but no sound. Noah was sprawled in an armchair, his legs up on a footstool, a glass of clear alcohol in one hand resting on the arm, an almost empty bottle on the floor at his side.

She tiptoed away and climbed the wide, curving marble staircase.

Carpets lined the hall to the right and left. More paintings filled the hall, the walls painted a soft, pale, yellow color. Doors were closed on both sides. Walking to the left, she tried them, some opening into bedrooms, some into bathrooms bigger than she’d ever seen. At one end of the hall, large double doors were locked. She explored the other wing. More bedrooms and bathrooms, a linen closet. Another locked door.

Descending the stairs quietly, she returned to the living room and sat on a couch. Everywhere was covered in a layer of thick dust. Everywhere! Every room, every bedroom. Even the bathrooms.

The house echoed emptiness. Rooms were chilly. She thought the house was sad; as if it was waiting, holding its breath, hoping for people to return and bring back life, noise, laughter, music.

Exhausted from nerves and a long day, Lucy curled up on the couch. With a full stomach, she fell asleep, her jacket pulled tightly around her.

A HEADACHE GREETED ME when I woke up, slouched in the armchair, the television still on. Head pounding with a hangover, I reached down for the bottle of vodka and shook it. Maybe one sip left. I took it. Bones and muscles complaining, I stood and stumbled to the kitchen. The coffee tin was empty. Searching through the garbage, I retrieved yesterday’s filter, still full of wet grinds, dropped it into the Braun basket, added water, turned the machine on and searched the cupboards for more vodka.

On a cluttered counter in the corner, I found an almost empty bottle and drank, heat searing down to an acidic stomach. Something nagged at me. What?

Sniffing my shirt, I decided my clothes would last another day without offending my sense of smell. I didn’t give a damn, anyway.

Before the coffee machine had finished, I uncovered yesterday’s mug in the sink, rinsed it and poured from the carafe, taking a sip; the weakest coffee I’d ever tasted. Something nagged at me again, something I was supposed to know or remember.

Rain drizzled outside, a singularly unpleasant day. Turning away from the window, I tried to remember. Nothing. Screw it. I’d have to shop for more vodka and coffee today. Maybe when I was feeling better.

Carrying the mug of weak coffee, I headed back to the study and paused in the entrance hall. A small suitcase stood next to the front door. The girl! That’s what I’d forgotten.

Where was she?

Sipping coffee, I searched. Eventually, in the living room, I saw her curled up on the couch, her red anorak pulled tightly around her. Finally I saw her face; small button nose, lush lips, long light brown eyelashes, and pale yellow blotches on her face; old bruises by the looks of them.

Something in me stirred, something I hadn’t felt in years; an emotion - anger that anyone could have hit her. It couldn’t have been my brother. He’d passed away six years ago from an overdose. I hadn’t attended his funeral. Had her mother given her those bruises? Could a mother be capable of hitting her child?

Her dark olive eyes opened. Fear rushed in.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to sleep on your couch!” she said apologetically in a rush, sitting up and huddling back into the corner.

I shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me. Nice to know you can talk. Come with me.”

She rose and followed me back to the kitchen. I assumed she’d need breakfast, even if I didn’t. Opening the freezer drawer, I pulled out a Hungry Man dinner; roast beef, pasta, and green beans. Opened, I shoved the tray into the microwave to heat.

When I turned, she was sitting at the same spot at the kitchen table. At least her face wasn’t hidden. She watched me through the curtain of her hair with dark olive eyes that looked far too old for her, far to knowledgeable.

Refilling my mug, I set it down, checked the fridge in case there was some milk or orange juice. There wasn’t. I filled her glass with water and rinsed her fork and knife off from last night. The microwave beeped.

Pushing the empty black tray from last night’s meal aside to join the others, I put the hot tray down in front of her, noticing how she shied back slightly.

“You can take your jacket off,” I suggested.

She didn’t.

Watching me closely, she ate as if she didn’t taste anything, shoveling food down, eating fast. Sitting across from her, I watched her. She needed a bath, but what the Hell. So did I and I wasn’t going to take one.

Her face was gaunt, her hands bony. What the Hell was I supposed to do with her?

“You don’t have to sleep on the couch. There are plenty of bedrooms upstairs. Pick any one you like. Somewhere you’ll find towels, if you want to shower. It’s up to you. I think there might be soap somewhere. You’ll need to find it.”

She just stared at me, shoving mouthfuls of food in.

“I’m going out this morning,” I added.

With no response from her, I shrugged, stood, topped up my mug with coffee and headed back to the study. I tried to ignore her. I tried to forget her. I really didn’t want responsibility. I wasn't capable of being responsible. I didn’t have enough care left in me. Maybe welfare workers would visit and judge me unfit. That would work.

**********

For three days Lucy and I occupied the same house. She never bothered me, always gone somewhere. When I remembered, I fed her microwave meals. She slept somewhere, I don’t know where, and she wore that red anorak constantly.

Our interaction was limited, conversation non-existent.

Her suitcase remained in the front hall, a visual accusation that I was supposed to look after her every time I passed it.

I drank. I watched the silent television. I tried to ignore her and failed. What little humanity remained in me whispered in my brain, “She’s a child. She’s your niece. Look after her.”

She disturbed my alcohol-induced numbness just by being in the house, making me uncomfortable. Like a gnat buzzing in my ear, I couldn’t swat her away.

On the fourth (or maybe it was the fifth) day, when I woke up to another dreary, rainy fall day, without alcohol numbing my brain, and after checking the time on the television - nine-seventeen - I finally accepted I needed to do something.

Coffee mug in hand, real coffee this time, I went in search, finding her on another couch, curled up asleep in her red anorak. Reaching out, I touched her shoulder.

As if I’d electrocuted her, she woke with a scream and cowered away.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!” she exclaimed, her eyes full of fear.

“Mean to what?” I asked. When she didn’t answer, her face turned down and again hidden by unkempt hair, I shrugged. “Come with me.”

Without waiting for her, I returned to the front hall, grabbed her small suitcase and said, “Follow me,” without checking if she was even behind me.

I climbed the staircase and paused at the top. She stopped four steps down from me. I pointed to the halls. “Go pick a bedroom.”

Cautiously climbing the four steps, she eased around me keeping her distance. Without a word, she walked to the right. As if she knew where she was going, she walked to the end and picked a room overlooking the back garden. I followed, entering the familiar room: large queen bed with a white frame painted with bright small flowers, bedposts at each corner; a colorful brocaded white bedcover with spring flowers; matching white dresser and closet doors; thick pale yellow carpet that matched the walls. With the exception of a layer of dust covering everything, it hadn’t changed since I’d last seen it, eight years ago.

I placed her suitcase on the floor and pointed. “There’s a bathroom through that door. If you can’t find soap, check the other rooms.”

I didn’t see her again until noon. She’d washed and changed, now wearing different jeans but still wearing her red anorak. Her hair, now clean, was blonde streaked with ash brown, thick and almost straight, falling to below her shoulders. Yellow bruises had faded to shadows like badly applied makeup, her dark olive eyes even sharper with her face clean.

Standing in the doorway of the study, she was silent, watching me. What did she want?

“You can take your jacket off,” I suggested.

She didn’t.

I checked the time on the TV; twelve forty-three.

With a sigh, I stood and walked to the kitchen. Lucy followed at a distance. I microwaved another Hungry Man dinner and pulled out a fresh bottle of Stoli, cleaned a glass with my shirttail, and placed both on the kitchen table.

The microwave dinged. Passing by her on the way to the microwave, I paused. “You should take your jacket off,” I suggested, reaching out to help.

Lucy yelped and leaned back, eyes full of fear.

Shrugging, I put the hot meal at the table in front of her, grabbed the vodka and glass, and returned to the study, the television still on and muted. I’d done my best. She had a bed. She was clean. She was fed.

Over the next few days a routine developed. Lucy never talked to me and I gave up trying to talk to her; not that I’d made much of an effort. What did you talk about with a ten-year-old girl?

Then I started noticing small changes. It started in the kitchen. Empty microwave dinner trays disappeared. I found dishes in the drainer, washed and clean. Slowly counters lost the clutter I’d lived with and the kitchen became a kitchen; neat and orderly. Floors were washed and clean.

When I served Lucy another microwave meal at lunch, I commented, “You’re not hired help. You don’t have to clean the kitchen.” The last thing I expected was an answer so it shocked me when it came.

“I’m sorry. It was dirty, so I cleaned it.”

Glancing at her, she had her face downturned avoiding my eyes. “I’m not complaining, Lucy. I’m just saying you don’t have to clean to pay for room and board.”

For the first time, she raised her head and looked me in the eyes. She looked at the glass of vodka in my hand, then looked at me again. “It was dirty, so I cleaned it,” she repeated. Picking up a fork, she inhaled the microwave meal.

Two hours later, standing in the doorway of the study, she said, “You drink too much.”

I nodded and sipped vodka, looked at her and said, “You can take your jacket off.”

She didn’t.

For the next few days cleanliness spread like a disease, reaching the downstairs powder room I used, then the front hall. I never saw her cleaning but when I pointed out she wasn't the hired help, she responded with, “I’m sorry. It was dirty, so I cleaned it.”

What was it with her need to clean?

At one point, Lucy hovered silently in the study doorway, her eyes surveying. It struck me she’d never stepped foot inside, as if my study was the lion’s den.

“What is it?” I asked.

Hesitantly, she asked, “Can I borrow a book to read?”

“If you take your jacket off, yes, you can borrow as many as you like.”

“The house is cold,” she said.

“So turn the heat up, if you want.” What did I care? It wasn’t from a lack of money that the house was chilly. Money was the least of my problems.

“How?” Lucy asked.

I told her where to find the thermostats, what to look for, and how to adjust them. She disappeared. Sometime later she reappeared, the jacket gone. Even with the thick, embroidered and tattered sweater, she was a scrawny child. She hovered in the doorway.

“Lucy, you can come in. I’m not going to bite.” Pointing at the bookshelves, I added, “Help yourself.”

As if stepping into the study was stepping through an invisible barrier, our interaction and relationship changed.

Lucy inspected the books. I’d read almost every one. My tastes had been eclectic, with books ranging from technical to fiction to non-fiction. I had books on mathematics, quantum physics, pulp novels from the fifties, contemporary fiction, biographies, and more. Once, books had been a passion, a way to satiate the yearning I had for knowledge; a yearning I’d lost eight years ago.

Lucy took her time, occasionally sliding the attached wooden ladder that ran on rails around the room, climbing and reading titles. With one book in hand, she left.

On a bathroom break, I found her sitting on the floor outside the study, knees up, book resting on them, her head bent and reading in the dim light.

“You’ll hurt your eyes,” I told her. “Go sit in the study.”

She was curled up at the end of the large, worn leather couch when I returned, the book held awkwardly on the armrest to catch the light from the floor lamp beside my armchair.

“Turn the light on,” I suggested, pointing to a second floor lamp.

“It doesn’t work.”

Sighing, I left and hunted down a working light bulb, found one, and fixed the lamp.

She read quietly. I sipped vodka, finding peace in the numbness of alcohol. The television flickered with shows and ads, soundlessly keeping me company.

God knows why, but as I watched her read with intense concentration, I asked, “What book are you reading?”

Without consulting the book cover she said, “A Short History of Nearly Everything.”

I knew the book by Bill Bryson. I’d read it. It seemed an odd choice for a ten-year-old. Shrugging, I turned my attention back to the mind-numbing television.

For the next few days Lucy sat in the study, always reading. I drank. Sometimes I’d ask a question about whatever she was reading and she’d answer. She was a voracious reader. Oddly, I appreciated her silent presence.

Occasionally she’d ask me a question: “Why do you drink so much?” “Do you ever sleep in a bed?” “What’s a quark?”

I’d answer her: “Because,” and “Not often,” and “A sub-atomic particle.”

Somehow, the odd question here and there turned into small conversations.

One evening, as darkness was setting, she brought two Hungry Man meals into the study, handing me one. “You need to eat,” she informed me.

“Not hungry,” I told her, checking the time on the television; seven twenty-three.

“You smell. You need to take a shower,” she observed, studiously not looking at me. “And shave.”

Sniffing my armpits, I had to agree. I was a bit rank. Meal finished, I levered myself out of the armchair and left to shower in the upstairs guest room I occasionally used. Cleaned and shaved, I explored the pile of clothes scattered all over, smelling shirts until I found one that didn’t reek, pulled on jeans and, dressed, returned to the study only to find it straightened up. Litter and garbage and empty bottles were gone. Lucy was reading quietly, playing with the ends of her hair with one hand.

“You didn’t have to clean the room up. I would have gotten around to it sooner or later.”

Lucy shrugged her small shoulders. “It was dirty, so I cleaned it.” She continued reading.

“What are you reading?”

“About James Marsh.”

“Why?”

She shrugged again. “Because it’s interesting.”

Why would she be interested in a man who lived back in the 1800’s? Even if he’d been the first to use forensic science in a murder trial, it wasn’t something I’d have thought a young girl would find interesting. Before I could inquire, she spoke again.

“Why do you watch TV and never listen to it?”

“They never have anything intelligent to say,” I answered, sipping vodka.

“You drink too much.”

“So you’ve said.” I put the glass down on the floor next to me.

Over the next several days I found myself increasingly absorbed by her. We talked about the books she was reading, and I discovered she was exceptionally bright with an intellect bordering on astonishing. She consumed knowledge, no subject too boring.

My curiosity grew to the point that I pulled her file out, the one given to me by social services and promptly ignored. She’d had a hard life. My brother, a fervent, misguided religious man, hounded by demons and drugs, had been an absent father. Her mother, another religious fanatic, had become an alcoholic, explaining why Lucy was sensitive to my drinking. Lucy had been systematically abused; beaten, starved, and withheld from school under the guise of home schooling. She’d been removed from her mother’s care and sent to foster homes only to be abused again and returned to her mother; a cycle that seemed to repeat itself - the government showing its ineptitude.

When her mother had died from a combination of alcohol and falling down the stairs, the government finally sought me out - her only living relative.

Lucy never asked for anything. She read. She’d straighten up the study and kitchen, and took to bringing me microwave meals every time she was hungry, eating hers so fast I was convinced she never actually tasted the food.

Still distanced from me, we had interesting chats and slowly I consumed less vodka.

Another breakthrough came with shopping. I needed more frozen meals and vodka. In an unusual move for me, without understanding why, I asked, “Would you like to come shopping with me?”

Lucy studied me with her dark olive green eyes and nodded.

She was quiet on the drive to Safeway. I was used to it. In the grocery store, I pushed the cart and made for the frozen food section. Noticing her studying the shelves, I suggested, “Pick anything you want.” I had no idea what kids like.

She glanced at me and turned back to the shelves, eventually pointing to a box of chocolate chip cookies. “Can I have one of those?” she asked.

I nodded. “Sure.”

For the first time I saw Lucy smile. Light spread to her eyes. She transformed in front of me, a young girl emerging; a very pretty girl. It was the first expression I’d seen and it warmed me, making me smile, too.

Reaching, she took the box of cookies off the shelf and placed it carefully in the cart, as if it was as delicate as a carton of eggs.

So taken with her unexpected smile, I suggested she pick something else just so I could experience it again. I did. In fact, I urged her to go to town, buy anything she thought we needed and, when she laughed once with delight, I felt it in my chest. She was a sweet girl.

With each item, she’d pick it up and look at me, eyes questioning, seeking permission. I’d nod and she’d smile, warming me.

Lucy surprised me. She bought soap and shampoo and laundry detergent. She picked vegetables and fruit, every time asking me with a look, smiling shyly at my nod.

We had a full cart piled high by the time we returned to the cashier. When emptying it, I brushed against her. She froze for a moment but didn’t jump away like she’d done with any physical contact before.

And then she amused me.

At home, putting the groceries away in the kitchen, she asked, “How do you cook leeks?”

“I thought you knew. You chose them,” I reminded her.

“They looked interesting. That’s why I picked them. I’ve never tasted leeks before.”

I pointed to a shelf of cookbooks that hadn’t been touched in years. “You like reading. Find a recipe.”

LUCY, AFTER HELPING PUT away the groceries, browsed the cookbooks, Noah having left her and gone back to the study. She turned pages looking at the pictures, every one of them making her mouth water. What would they taste like?

She studied the books, finally finding a recipe for potato and leek soup. It looked warm and delicious, perfect for the cold weather. She read the instructions, some unfamiliar and beyond her.

Leaving the open recipe book on the kitchen table, she moved to the refrigerator and opened it. A thrill of excitement hit her. It was full! Full of fruits and vegetables; red apples, green seedless grapes, yellow Asian pears, navel oranges, and dark purple plums. Carrots and broccoli and celery and other interesting veggies filled the crisper drawer. She’d hardly ever had fresh vegetables. The few times she’d sneaked a carrot, she’d loved it.

Reaching in, she grabbed a pear, bringing it to her nose and inhaling its delicate scent. She took a bite, juices erupting in her mouth, sweet and succulent. Closing the fridge, munching on the pear, she wandered into the huge, walk-in pantry and admired the shelves; cereals, pastas, sauces, and more. She smiled. She’d never seen so much food in one place.

Cooking interested her. She thought she might like it, creating dishes and getting to eat them too, without her plate being taken away before she’d finished and leaving her hungry.

Still eating the pear, she wandered out of the kitchen and through the big house, now familiar from her explorations. Entering the study, she noticed the half-filled glass of vodka with satisfaction. It was Noah’s first glass of the day. Usually by now he’d have consumed four or five glasses.

He’d fallen asleep in his chair.

She thought about Noah as she browsed the bookshelves, munching on her pear. He was a strange man. Knowing what to look for in adults, she hadn’t seen anger or violence in him. Not a trace. He just looked lost and lonely most of the time, quiet and soft-spoken. She was slowly relaxing around him, a strange experience.

A book caught her eye: Where Angels Feared to Tread. She pulled it out to read the inside cover: A story about a doctor discovering sickness plaguing a small, poverty-stricken town, the source a mystery, the town forgotten and ignored, his search, a mystery evolving into a thriller, murder and cover-ups. Turning to the back leaf, she was shocked to see Noah’s picture, younger and smiling. Checking the front cover she confirmed it, it was him! Noah Jackson. He’s an author!

Replacing it, she hunted. Fourteen books! She read about the awards he’d won, saw New York Times Bestseller on many of the covers, something called the Edgar Award on a few; all thrillers based on finance, International intrigue, police detectives hunting serial killers. Fascinated, she went back through them, putting her almost finished pear down on a side table. The earliest was 1992, the last 2007. Nothing since. Why?

She picked up the first and carried it over to the couch. Within ten minutes she was lost in the story.

Two hours later, Noah stirred awake. As he reached for the glass of vodka, she asked, “Would you help me cook?”

His hand paused. He looked at her. “Cook what?”

“Potato and leek soup. I found a recipe for it.”

With the remote control, he checked the time on the television. After a moment’s pause, he shrugged his shoulders. “Sure. Why not.”

For the next hour and a half, Noah patiently showed her what to do, his voice calm, giving her an occasional smile that seemed to reach his soft brown eyes. Scents filled the kitchen making her mouth water and stomach grumble and, as darkness fell, they ate.

Thick and rich, creamy and flavorful with small chunks of ham, Lucy inhaled the soup, eating until her stomach hurt. Later, reading in the study, her eyes drooped and she fell asleep.

**********

Noah changed. Lucy noticed it over the next two weeks. He was drinking less and smiling more frequently. As she explored the fun of cooking, he helped, either showing her what to do or sitting at the kitchen table keeping her company.

She noticed he started wearing the clean clothes she’d washed in the laundry machine with her own. And most mornings, but not every one, he shaved.

She’d asked about the books he’d written and he’d told her he lost interest. She’d read all fourteen, not understanding everything, but they were good, really good. She might be young, but she was smart. She could see he’d had real talent and she didn’t think he was telling her the truth. So she set about trying to find out the truth.

She had to wait until he went shopping. Sitting in the desk chair, she watched him drive away. For a moment she wondered if it would snow. It was cold enough. Then she swiveled the chair to the desk and explored. It wasn’t something she could do when he was home. In the bottom drawer, she found a bunch of news clippings and pored over them.

That night, Lucy wondered if she should tell him she knew. Would it help or would he yell at her? Would it upset him? Deciding she didn’t want to hurt him, she stayed silent.

**********

LUCY POKED HER HEAD in the study, looking at me.

“I want to go outside for a walk. Will you come with me?” she asked.

“It looks cold,” I observed, looking out the windows.

“So wear a coat. Please?”

I shivered at the prospect. Montauk was dreary and cold in winter, the Atlantic adding moisture to the cold so it penetrated clothes and chilled bones. It was the price you paid for living on Long Island. With the remote, I checked the time on the TV; two-sixteen. Somewhat reluctantly, I stood. “Okay. Wrap up well.”

Lucy’s definition of wrapping up well was a red anorak, jeans, and sneakers. I shrugged. If she was comfortable, so be it. However, the biting wind that hit when we stepped out made me thankful for my thick cable-knit sweater and coarse, woolen, heavy pea coat.

Lucy led. I followed. She pointed, commented, and questioned:

“There are no fish in the pond. What type did you have?” “That’s strangleweed. It kills flowers. And that,” she added pointing, “is purple loosestrife. It’s the worst.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“You have a gardening book in the kitchen. I read it.”

Once again, she amazed me with her ability to read and retain information and her voracious consumption of knowledge.

We meandered deeper into the unkempt garden. She pointed to the pool and mentioned we’d have mosquitoes next year, “Mosquitoes like standing water to lay their eggs.”

Passing the listing, rotting play set and swing, I looked away and headed towards the old oaks.

We slowly wended our way deeper into the trees. At one point, Lucy, from in front of me, said, “Watch out! There’s a hole there.”

I looked and saw nothing. Probing the deeply covered dry vegetation, I felt a one foot wide hole. How had she seen it?

Twenty minutes later we broke out of the small forest and stopped. Ahead, perhaps a three hundred yards away, grey Atlantic swells rolled towards the wide sandy shore, rising and hunching for their assault, roaring and thundering in, only to hiss in retreat. A storm must have blown up out in the ocean.

A cold, cutting wind blew my hair all over, whipping it in my face. Lucy didn’t seem to mind, her face upturned, breathing in the salty air, her eyes closed.

They opened suddenly and glanced at me. She smiled. “Isn’t this great? What’s it like in the summer?”

I carried that image all the way home. Lucy had a wonderful smile. It was a rare visitor, but when it arrived it was blindingly bright, dimples forming - so bright it set her olive green eyes alight. Despite being underweight and scrawny, Lucy was a very beautiful girl when she was happy.

She wasn’t happy for long.

The next morning when she didn’t appear for breakfast, I went in search of her. I’d become used to her company in the kitchen every morning. Her place at the kitchen table was very empty.

She was in bed, running a fever, shivering, coughing, sneezing and unhappy. She’d caught a cold.

“I don’t feel good, Noah,” she informed me, nose red.

For a moment I panicked. How do you treat a cold? Call a doctor? Take her to the hospital? Then I remembered my mother and how she’d heal my brother and me.

I drew the bedcover over the blanket. “Keep covered.”

“But I’m hot!”

“Keep covered,” I repeated and left.

I had no medications in the house, with the exception of Tylenol for hangovers. The pantry had no chicken soup. At the pharmacy, I consulted with the pharmacist. After describing the symptoms, he informed me Lucy had the flu, not a cold. He suggested Tylenol and plenty of water, recommended a cough syrup but suggested I not use it during the day, if possible, as Lucy would need to cough up the mucus collecting in her lungs. Keep her in bed, and if she worsened, take her to a doctor for anti-viral medication.

It only occurred to me when I drove up the drive that I was worried. Had she kept the cover on? Was she hurting? And I hadn’t felt the gnawing need for alcohol. I cared! I actually cared for her!

Lucy was asleep and uncovered when I entered her bedroom, sweating, her brow wet, hair damp. I rinsed a washcloth in tepid water and laid it on her forehead, then covered her. Pulling a chair over, I sat.

At some point Lucy had cleaned the bedroom. It was dust free. Her meager clothes were put away. She constantly surprised me. Lucy was so unlike what I thought a ten-year-old would be.

When she stirred awake, I gave her Tylenol. The pharmacist had recommended lots of water so I had a jug of ice water on the bedside table.

Lucy, the shy and quiet girl I’d come to know, was a terrible patient. She complained and sneezed and coughed and told me she was bored. Then she fell asleep only to wake up and complain and sneeze and cough and tell me she was bored, sweating profusely and shoving covers off.

During one of her sleep phases, I went and picked out some books to deal with her boredom. Every action I took surprised me. It was so strange for me to care. Yet I liked it. I liked caring for Lucy.

Armed with a selection of books - astrophysics, a study of Greek mythology, Isaac Asimov’s I Robot, and others - I sat in her room and watched her sleep. Flushed cheeks and perspiration didn’t detract from her looks. She really was a pretty girl. How could anyone abuse her?

This time, when she stirred awake, I fed her water, helped her to the bathroom to pee, waited and bundled her up in bed. Pulling a chair close, I showed her the books. Somewhat lethargically, she looked at them.

Her olive eyes turned to me, glassy and feverish. “I’m too tired. Can you read to me? I’ve never had anyone read to me.”

Why did that seem so sad? “Sure. Which book?”

She sorted through them and handed me one, then moved over in the bed. “Sit up here so I can see, too,” she told me.

The depth of her illness was revealed. Lucy, understandably, shunned touch or closeness. I’d become used to her need for distance and been careful not to invade her personal space. Yet, here she was, sick, and wanting closeness. It was a major breakthrough.

I settled on the bed next to her, space between us. Leaning back against the headboard, I opened The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter - a strange but not unexpected choice - and started to read.

““Everyone who was anyone was in the desert that day. An excited crowd had gathered beneath the stark cliffs that rose dramatically behind the two ancient temples. One was dedicated to the soul of Queen Hatshepsut, 1550 BC, and the even older one next to it, Mentuhotep I’s, had stood there in the relentless sun for four thousand years.

It was a place of great desolation and silence. Behind the temples towered the lifeless cliffs; and before them, the blinding white sand stretched endlessly to meet the empty sky. Djeser djeseru, the ancients called it, the holy of holies, the dwelling place of Meretsinger, the cobra goddess: She Who Loves Silence.

And it was here that the noisy crowd descended, chattering, speculating, filled with the nervous restlessness of modernity. In search of sensation, treasure, beauty - how could the goddess bear them as she watched from her barren heights?”“

Ten minutes in, Lucy edged closer to me. Not long after, she fell asleep, feverish, flushed, snoring, and utterly adorable. I didn’t move. She moaned and tossed and turned, eventually rolling into my side, finding comfort and quieting.

I didn’t move. I found peace, a strange and pleasant experience.

Almost an hour later, she spoke, breaking the silence. “Don’t stop.”

Smiling, I continued reading to her and she fell asleep again. For the rest of the day I sat on her bed. Every time she woke up she complained about me having stopped reading, unaware she’d fallen asleep, and I plied her with water before continuing. She charmed me. Then, early evening, she struggled suddenly trying to sit up.

“You have to go,” she insisted feverishly. “Leave me alone. Go!”

“Rest,” I said softly, pressing her back and wiping her sweaty face with a cool cloth.

She was asleep. She’d talked in her sleep. Who was she talking to?

A long, quiet night passed. It didn’t bother me. I was used to being quiet. But this time, my mind was full of Lucy - a welcome change.

In the morning she was still battling a fever. She refused to eat so I fed her cold grapes, shoving one into her mouth every time she opened it to complain. She was a mini furnace next to me, radiating heat through the covers. Weight she couldn’t afford to lose seemed to melt off her face.

Mid-afternoon the room felt stuffy and hot. I opened a window and breathed a sigh of relief at the cold breeze washing over us. By nightfall I was beginning to worry. Should I take her to a doctor?

Her fever broke just after eleven and she fell into a soundless sleep. Her room, despite the open window, was stifling.

By early morning, Lucy was well on her way to recovery, weak but cooler, giving me a small smile. Lucky her. By mid-afternoon I was sweating, coughing, sneezing and hurting like my body was on an Inquisition rack.

Lucy convinced me to go to bed, then changed her mind as soon as she saw the guest room I used infrequently, announcing, “It’s dirty in here!”

Too weak to protest, she guided me to her bed.

“Get me some vodka,” I told her. It was a lack of alcohol that had left me open to her virus, I explained. “Alcohol will kill the germs.”

Lucy disagreed. For the next two days I slept in her bed, tended by her with ice cold water, cool washcloths, and she sat on the bed reading Howard Carter’s book to me and adding color commentary. My life was her bed and her bathroom. Through it all I had the scent of her in my nose, her pillow emanating floral soap and sweetness.

**********

I never recovered.

Physically I did, but emotionally I was never the same. Waking up to find Lucy, a girl too physically small and too intellectually mature for her age, a quiet girl who feared physical contact, sleeping in bed cuddled close to me with my arms around her, brought on a warm flush of love. It was an emotion I thought long dead in me. That she trusted me enough to cuddle was amazing. And she emitted the most wonderful aroma of sleeping girl and sweetness.

I was utterly charmed by her.

Many things changed. She woke in my arms and didn’t jerk or shy away, but simply smiled and observed “You’re better.”

Her smile broadened when I kissed her cheek.

“Thanks for taking care of me.”

“You’re welcome,” she answered, perfectly seriously.

While I gathered my clothes, Lucy searched through the dresser for something to wear and, not for the first time, I noticed how all her clothes were threadbare and worn, all carefully cleaned and folded. Given her history, I wondered how she had developed such care for them. Maybe that’s what happens when one has so little - cherish what you have, control what you can.

Before leaving her room, I made a decision. “We’re going shopping today.”

Still searching her dresser drawer, she nodded. “Kay.”

I found the guest room neat and orderly. Lucy had straightened up and dusted while I was sick, my clothes all neatly folded. She was unquestionably a strange and complex young girl.

I drove us to Bridgehampton, a small community with a selection of chain fashion stores and small upscale boutiques. Lucy’s dark olive eyes opened wide, sparking with excitement when I told her we were buying her a new wardrobe.

I was reminded of how little she’d had growing up. Each item, no matter how small, no matter the price, was cherished by her, her reaction one of shy delight. She graced me with smiles, dimples and all, and absolute pleasure in her eyes. This girl was the child in her, not the intellectual older girl. I could tell from her selections; fun colors, clashing skirts, embroidered jeans, printed cotton panties and frilly ankle socks. She chose neon pink sneakers with flowers on the sides and pink winter boots. In her choices she was showing a girlie side long uncatered to. We bought and bought, money not an issue.

And then, when we finally returned home, Lucy tugged my arm. I bent and she kissed my cheek, whispering a heart-felt, “Thank you.”

That night, feeling very pleased with myself, I read a book into the late evening. Early November was chilly. Sleet had been forecast, turning into heavy rain by late morning tomorrow. I sat in the study without a drink, the television off; yet another first for me.

Lucy, in lavender cotton pajama bottoms and a white printed top with lavender trim, walked in, barefoot. She looked at me.

“What?” I asked, resting the book on my lap.

She looked at the floor, her blonde and ash brown hair falling forward. “I can’t sleep. Would you keep me company?” she asked in almost a whisper. “Read to me?”

I didn’t hesitate. Nodding, I stood.

That night I slept in her bed and found peace and comfort. I slept deeply and woke rested and refreshed, my mood bright despite the sleet pelting down. I felt good.

LUCY PLACED THE FRYING pan onto the stove and turned on the gas burner. She pulled butter out of the fridge along with a carton of eggs, dropped a pat of butter into the pan and let it sizzle. She cracked two eggs into it, one yolk breaking, and went to the toaster to start it.

Every so often she’d glance at Noah sitting at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and reading a book, and it pleased her. She loved his company. It was strange for her, too. She’d never been relaxed with an adult around, yet Noah wasn’t the same. He was gentle and kind. Occasionally he was thoughtful - like buying her all those new clothes. His smiles were unthreatening and reached his soft brown eyes, displacing some of the sadness in them.

Once again she wondered if she should tell him she knew. It felt like she was lying by not telling. But he was getting better every day, sometimes even laughing.

It must have hurt a lot, Lucy thought. No wonder the house was empty and uncared for.

Those newspaper articles had explained how his wife had been kidnapped and held for ransom. They said she was six months pregnant at the time. Just over eight years ago, according to the dates, despite the ransom being paid, she’d been raped and killed, dismembered and dumped behind a strip mall. The killers were caught, but what comfort was that?

The articles said Marissa Jackson had been his high school sweetheart and the picture of her in the paper showed a beautiful blonde woman. Lucy had peeked under the cloth draped over the painting in the living room and seen it was her, Marissa.

She thought the locked upstairs bedroom at the end of the hall was probably the master bedroom, and the one at the other end maybe a nursery for the baby. She wasn’t sure, but it made sense.

And that’s why his last book was over eight years ago, too. He’d lost too much. He’d lost his life.

Sliding the fried eggs out onto two plates, she added toast and took Noah’s over to him, returning for her own plate.

Noah put the book down, stood and went to the fridge. He returned with a glass of orange juice, placing it in front of her, sat and started eating.

Lucy smiled. No. She wasn’t going to tell him she knew. She didn’t want him to be sad again.

“I’m going to dust the living room today. Will you help?” she asked.

Noah looked startled. “Why?”

“Because it’s big and I could use some help,” Lucy answered.

He smiled slightly. “No. Why dust it?”

“It’s sad. It wants to shine and feel good. It wants people in it, Noah.”

“The room has feelings?”

Lucy nodded. “Uh-huh.” Secretly, she wanted Noah to exercise. He’d lost most of his gut with the flu and looked better for it but needed to lose more. Not eating junk food and not drinking alcohol helped, too. In a book she’d read on heart health and diabetes, it had talked about weight being critical to health. She wanted Noah to be healthy.

As November slipped by, more of the downstairs of the mansion was slowly restored to its glory, clean and sparkling, bright. Light bulbs were replaced adding character to the rooms in the dark winter days. The one painting remained covered and she didn’t comment on it.

Every night, after reading in the study, Noah would come up with her and sleep in her bed. And every night she slept peacefully. She no longer bothered to change in the bathroom. Noah either didn’t notice or didn’t care if she undressed. He had no problem stripping down to his boxers and getting into bed.

Most nights she’d cuddle to him, inhaling his scent. Sometimes he’d read a book to her; something she loved.

And early in December, with the first snow forecast, she felt it. Noah, asleep and hugging her, got an erection. She felt it against her bum, big and thick.

She knew all about erections. She’d researched it after Mr. Nobleton, the foster parent, had made her feel his over his pants, leering at her and telling her how it was going to be her best friend. She’d made a point to read about sex and reproduction and molesting in the local library. She’d read about how sensitive guys testicles were, too. So the next time Mr. Nobleton took her hand and rubbed it on his erection, she’d hit him in his testicles. The beating she got was one of the worst, almost as bad as Mum’s drunken beatings.

Lucy knew arousal began in the mind. She wondered if Noah was dreaming of Marissa. And for some reason, she didn’t mind Noah’s erection pressed against her. It felt kinda nice.

It happened again a few days later, then again, and she did nothing, liking it.

Every day, she urged Noah to come with her, walking and exploring outside. Her favorite was walking to the beach and watching the ocean. She liked the cold winds. With a new down jacket she felt warm. The noise of waves hitting the beach was either loud, crashing and throwing up foamy spray, or soft, rolling in and with a crump sound, slapping on the sand.

One thing she didn’t do was ask Noah many questions. She’d noticed how he avoided looking at the rotting wooden slide and play set in the back garden, and thought it might have been put there for their child. Why hadn’t he taken it down? Why did he have his wife’s painting on the wall and leave it covered? Maybe someday she’d ask, but not now. Everyone has secrets. Even she had them.

One thing she did know was that somewhere in the last almost three months, she’d grown to really, really like Noah. He was so different from anyone she’d ever known.

**********

TUGGING ON MY PEA coat, I yelled, “I’m going out. Want me to get anything?”

From the kitchen, Lucy ran out, dark olive eyes wide. “Don’t go yet! Wait!”

“Okay. Wait for what?”

“Just wait. Promise me.”

How odd. “Okay.”

She returned to the kitchen. I followed and found her hunting through the cupboards. “What are you looking for?”

“A slow cooker. Do you have one?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” I informed her.

She stopped hunting and looked at me. “Can we buy one?”

“Sure. Why?”

Walking over to the kitchen table, she turned a page in a cookbook. Her finger pointed to the page. “Slow cooked baked beans with ham hock. It looks so good.” Glancing up at me, she smiled. “And it’s easy! Do you like baked beans?”

I nodded.

“Will you buy one today?” she asked.

“Okay.”

“We need pinto beans and a ham hock, whatever that is, and some brown sugar. Everything else we have.”

“Okay. I’ll get them. Want to come with me?”

Lucy shook her head and glanced at the kitchen clock on the wall. “Don’t go yet.”

It was strange behavior. After half an hour, she seemed satisfied and let me go. I soon forgot about it, occupied with finding a slow cooker along with everything else I needed to do. Mid-morning traffic was snarled up, bumper-to-bumper, when I headed home, forcing me to make a long detour.

By one o’clock, we were happily distracted by a slow cooker. Lucy studied the instructions while I pushed buttons and watched the electronic display.

Together, we prepared everything and put it in. I pushed a button.

“That’s the wrong one,” Lucy told me.

I pushed another, the display blinking.

“That’s still not the right one,” Lucy observed, the user manual in her hand.

I gave up. “You do it.”

In short order, she pushed several buttons, the slow cooker beeped and started.

“Easy. See?”

As the afternoon passed, we sat in the study. Snow had arrived. We could be in for a white Christmas in ten days. I read a book, a fiction novel, and then became distracted by Lucy.

Sitting on the leather couch with her feet up on the cushion, Lucy had a magazine on her knees, her brow slightly furrowed as she read.

Intrigued, I asked, “What are you reading?”

With a finger pointing to the title as if I could see, she said, “Predictive Analysis of Crowd Movements Under Varying States of Panic.”

I remembered reading that article long ago for research.

“It’s interesting,” she continued, still studying the magazine. “They’ve used computational fluid dynamics, linking the levels of panic to the strength of the flow of water.” She paused, then observed, “That’s smart.”

The picture was strange, to say the least. Lucy, a ten, almost eleven-year-old, with neon sneakers, frilly pink and white ankle socks, a multi-layered short pink skirt, and a hot pink sweater that looked like it was having a bad hair day, with blonde and ash brown hair falling over her shoulders, commenting on an article I’d struggled to understand, was just weird. How smart was she?

I shook my head in amazement; then noticed, with her knees up and feet on the cushion, her yellow cotton panties were exposed.

The immediate thrill that hit me reminded me of my youth and getting an illicit glimpse of a girl’s panties. I was transported back and felt the same excitement seeing a small pudendum coddled by soft cotton, the way it almost bulged at her crotch, suggestive and sexy; a forbidden and erotic sight.

Turning to the book in my lap, I tried to concentrate and failed. I didn’t get angry at myself; I had such distinct memories from my youth, all of them good. A quick glance again and a familiar yet long missed reaction occurred; a stir of arousal, pulse jumping.

I didn’t question why I reacted. It just was. Nevertheless, I’d have to be careful not to let Lucy know. She’d suffered enough in her short life. An adult she now trusted responding sexually to her could be traumatic.

That night, when we went to bed, when Lucy, in her pajamas, slipped into bed and cuddled up to me, I held her gently, waited until she fell asleep, and carefully left the bed, settling in the guest bedroom I’d used before.

The night was restless. I tossed and turned chasing sleep and briefly thought about going down for a quick drink. It would help me, I tried to convince myself. Only shame at Lucy finding out stopped me.

Early morning I woke at the sound of the bedroom door opening. Lucy stood in the doorway looking at me, eyes sad.

“Did I do something?” she asked, adding quickly, “I’m sorry if I did. I didn’t mean to.”

“You did nothing,” I told her, now feeling bad at hurting her.

She stared at me, turned and left.

I found her sitting at the breakfast table in a familiar pose; head down, hair falling forward, hands in her lap - withdrawn. Sighing in frustration at myself, I served cereal, milk, and coffee for myself. Her silence was loud.

Halfway through her bowl, eaten lethargically, she said, “It’s because of erections, isn’t it?”

I paused, spoon partway to my mouth, and nodded. “I’m worried I might get one.” The least I could do is be honest with her. “It wouldn’t be right. I think it would be best if we don’t sleep in the same bed.”

In a quieter voice, Lucy said, “You get them all the time.” She peeked up at me finally making eye contact. “It doesn’t bother me. I read that it’s normal when you dream.”

Slightly unsettled at her news, I asked, “How often?” I couldn’t remember feeling an erection in bed with her.

Lucy shrugged her shoulders. “Every day or two.” In a stronger voice, she said, “I don’t mind, Noah. I sleep better when you’re with me. I don’t get nightmares.”

While digesting that news, I mentioned, “Tomorrow morning you’re being tested.”

Lucy tilted her head slightly. “Why?”

“To understand what schooling you need.”

Brightness jumped into her eyes. She sat up. “I get to go to school?”

I nodded.

“Every day?”

Smiling at her enthusiasm, I nodded, “Except for Saturday and Sunday.”

“I know that! School,” she added wistfully, smiling. “When can I start?”

“January.”

“Which school will I go to?” Lucy asked, enthusiasm and brightness in her face.

“That’s what the tests are for.”

“Kay.”

**********

I sat for three hours in a small, comfortable reception room. Somewhere, Lucy was being subjected to a barrage of tests by a child psychologist with a specialty in education and learning, a nice, mid-thirties lady.

While I waited, I thought about last night. I’d debated with myself through the day; sleep in her bed or not. In the end, even though I convinced myself it was for her sake, I knew the truth. It was a selfish decision to sleep together. It was a desire to smell her beautiful and calming sleepy scent, to feel another person comforting me, to have a peaceful night’s rest. The call of vodka I’d felt when in bed on my own was an indication of how close I was to sliding back and I didn't want to go back. I was feeling alive now. I didn’t want to feel dead again.

It was a decision I liked, too. I loved this quiet, smart girl who had entered my life and saved me.

A door opened. Lucy emerged, smiling slightly.

“Mrs. Hammond wants to talk to you,” she informed me.

“How was it?” I asked.

Lucy shrugged. “Okay.”

Mrs. Hammond’s office was neat and decorated for comfort; walls a soft cream color, comfortable cushioned wooden chairs, ferns and a palm, a watercolor painting on the wall behind her.

She smiled, removing reading glasses. A file folder was open on her desk, papers spread out.

I sat across from her.

“Lucy’s a remarkable girl,” Mrs. Hammond said. “You must be proud of her.”

“She’s special,” I agreed.

Consulting her notes, Mrs. Hammond spoke.

“Lucy is unusual. She’s very intelligent . . .“

“How intelligent?” I asked, curiosity making me interrupt her.

She looked at me. “On an intellectual scale, she has an IQ of 158. That puts her close to the Einstein level.”

Holy cow! The news shocked me. I knew Lucy was smart, but that smart?

Mrs. Hammond continued. “IQ is not the only measure we use. Almost always, when I see children like her, I find other offsetting weaknesses. I measured Lucy’s emotional intelligence and she scored at the norm. That’s unusual when combined with a high intellect.”

Suddenly I felt quite proud, even though I’d had nothing to do with it.

Putting her reading glasses on again, Mrs. Hammond consulted her notes and continued. “Lucy demonstrates weakness in several areas that concern me. She’s quite ignorant about current affairs in the world. She has no computer literacy, and is completely unaware of social media. These weaknesses might cause problems for her in socializing and hinder her further education.”

Mrs. Hammond looked up from the papers she was consulting. “Lucy presents a special problem. It’s unlikely a normal school will provide enough mental stimulation. If she doesn’t exercise her mind, we could see her behavior change; anger, frustration, bitterness, and other destructive emotions emerging. However, if you put her in an advanced class she might struggle with having older girls and boys around her. That would negatively impact her socialization.

“There are a couple of academies I can recommend that specialize in educating gifted children; one in New Hampshire and another near Boston.”

A sudden vision of an empty house filled me with sadness. Somewhat selfishly, I asked, “Are there any other options?”

Mrs. Hammond nodded. “There are. You could place Lucy in one of the private schools near you and supplement her education with tutoring. Unfortunately, that’s very expensive.”

We chatted for a while longer. I thanked her, and on the drive home I kept glancing at the girl next to me. In every way she looked just like a young girl, yet hidden inside her head was an intelligence I couldn’t even comprehend.

Snow covered the road. Three days of constant snowfall had accumulated. The sides were piled high from plows, the streets slushy.

I knew what I wanted for Lucy, but in fairness, it should be her decision; local private school with tutoring or an academy far away.

“Mrs. Hammond suggested . . .”

Before I could finish, Lucy sat up, eyes wide, and grabbed my arm. “Stop the car!” she yelled.

She said it with such suddenness and force, I jammed the brakes on. The Range Rover jittered as anti-lock brakes kicked in. The car slewed sideways, hitting the snow bank and coming to rest, my heart racing.

Turning to ask what the Hell was going on, a huge semi skidded through the intersection not thirty feet ahead, the cab sliding, the trailer swinging broadside. It slipped through the intersection and the cab smashed into the traffic light post with a loud crash, sparks flying, the rig coming to a grinding halt.

Jumping out, I raced to the cab, climbed up and found the driver slumped over the steering wheel, blood flowing from a cut at his temple. I checked for a pulse and found one. For the first time I wished I had a cell phone.

Other cars had stopped. I ran to one. “Call an ambulance and the police!” I yelled.

An hour and a half later, after taking our statements, the local police let us go.

“That was lucky,” I observed. “How did you know the truck was coming?”

Lucy, watching the passing scenery, responded, “I saw it.”

There was a problem with her comment. High snow banks and a hedge prevented any view of the crossing street. You couldn’t see anything until you were at the intersection.

At home, Lucy followed me into the kitchen. I made her hot chocolate and coffee for myself. Lunch could wait. I had questions. Sitting at the kitchen table, I asked, “Tell me the truth, Lucy. How did you know?”

The last thing I expected was her reaction. Sitting in a pose I knew all too well, her head bowed and hands in her lap, I waited, finally repeating, “Tell me, Lucy.”

When she looked up at me, tears were welling in her eyes!

“I can’t tell you,” she whispered.

“Of course you can,” I countered, now very concerned.

Large tears welled and slipped down her cheeks. She looked haunted. Her head fell, a curtain of hair hiding her face. “You’ll hate me,” she whispered.

My heart ached, chest tight. She said it with such desolation.

Moving to the seat next to her, I tilted her chin up until tear-filled eyes were looking directly at me. “I could never hate you, Lucy. Tell me.”

With tears tumbling, Lucy told me about visions she’d get. How they came out of the blue, flashes, short and unpredictable. She told me how her mother thought she was possessed by the devil and had to be punished, the devil beaten out of her, how her mother hated her, was scared of her, and of being locked in closets if she spoke about a vision, denied food and forbidden to go to school lest she infect other good Christian children. She cried quietly telling me about her mother calling her Lucy-fer, and claiming, “You’re an evil child!”

I’d never understood my brother’s deep religious beliefs, and couldn’t understand a mother like Lucy’s. And as she talked with such sorrow, I was reminded, despite her intellect, Lucy was just a little girl at heart, wanting love and affection and comfort and safety - just wanting to be accepted; something she’d been denied. It hurt me deeply.

Then the odd occurrences I’d had with her came back to me. I asked, “You’ve had those visions here, too, haven’t you?”

Lucy nodded. “I’m sorry! I can't help it!”

As a flood of tears arrived, I drew her onto my lap and hugged her. “Don’t be sorry. I think it’s fascinating. What visions did you have?”

In a quiet voice, she told me about seeing me break my ankle by stepping into a hole as we walked through the forest. She told me about trying to warn me I’d get the flu too if I stayed with her. She told me about my having an accident when shopping for a slow cooker and ending up in hospital. She mentioned seeing me burn myself at the stove when reaching for a cast iron pan. As she talked, I remembered each time she stopped me, and I was convinced she actually saw something. There are strange, unexplainable things in this world, so why not this?

“Amazing,” I informed her when she paused. “Can you see future winning lotto numbers if you concentrate? Or see the outcome of sports matches? We could clean up!”

Lucy laughed softly and brushed the tears from her cheeks. She looked at me. “You really don’t mind, do you?”

Smiling, I assured her I didn’t. “It’s fascinating.”

Her million watt smile blossomed, gorgeous, eyes sparkling. “It doesn’t scare you that I have the devil in me?”

“Don’t believe that rubbish! There’s no devil in you. And why would it scare me? So, can you see the lotto numbers?”

With a small giggle, she shook her head. “It doesn’t work like that. I don’t have control of it.”

“What a shame.”

And then, intending to kiss her cheek, Lucy turned her face up to look at me at the wrong moment and my lips brushed hers lightly and paused. Lucy’s eyes studied me as our lips touched, then she smiled, her lips curling against mine and we kissed. It was such a sweet kiss. I loved it.

I hugged her when it ended and observed, “Your hot chocolate’s going cold.”

“So’s your coffee,” she retorted.

With a final squeeze, I eased her off my lap.

**********

Our relationship changed completely with that one kiss. It wasn’t discussed. We didn’t dissect it. We just changed.

Frequent hugs became the norm; Lucy seeking the affection she’d lacked in her life. Excuses were found for a chaste kiss. Then excuses weren’t found. We just enjoyed kissing each other. And once, when distracted by the joy she was giving me, I touched her lips with my tongue and a whole, wonderful world opened up to me; the sensual excitement of young love.

I was fully cognizant of how inappropriate it was and I didn’t care. Lucy blossomed, smiling frequently, brighter and happier than I’d seen her, and before I knew it, our kisses became sensual, tongues playing, teasing, then her small mouth opening to me and we’d fall into a deep sexy kiss. Every time, I felt that wonderful flush of arousal, body tingling, pulse quickening, and penis stirring.

Waking up in bed with her and finding my erection pressed against her felt great. She’d wake up and some sexy cuddling and kissing would ensue before we’d get up. I was enchanted by her.

We slipped towards Christmas and Lucy’s eleventh birthday; both on the same day. Lucy told me it was another reason her mother thought she was possessed. Clearly, Christmas and her birthday was not a day that Lucy associated with good memories. So I set about changing them. With great fanfare, we bought a huge Douglas fir and began shopping for decorations.

Lucy insisted the tree had to be in the living room. “It’s lonely and wants company,” she advised me, quite serious, too. I believed her. Thus, the living room became Christmas central. Decorations and bright multi-colored lights made for a festive feel. Lucy selected random festive decorations and placed them around the room, studying the effect of each, smiling to herself in satisfaction, and turning to me every time to see my reaction.

In the meantime, I spent several hours on the phone arranging for presents. Taking the advice I’d been given on Lucy’s education, I decided this Christmas/birthday would be an digital one. It was time for me to re-enter the world, too.

Three days before Christmas, I woke up suddenly with a raging erection, thick and pulsing, straining on the edge of cumming. I woke up to olive green eyes studying me intently, and Lucy’s hand under the covers gently stroking my erection where it poked out from my boxers.

My immediate instinct was to reach down and stop her but, before I could, I came, erection swelling, semen pulsing up, pleasure erupting as I spurted. Lucy watched me intently, stroking me under the covers and I came again, a hard, hard pulse, cum exploding with exquisite release. Pressure peaked and eased as I spurted over and over, slowing, sweet pleasure flooding me until my orgasm passed, my erection softening in her cum-covered hand.

Lucy smiled.

“Why?” I asked, still breathing hard.

“Because it’s supposed to feel good. Did it?”

I nodded. It had; incredibly good.

Lucy, removing her hand, asked, “What does a climax feel like?” She withdrew her hand from under the covers and studied my thick semen. “That’s your semen. It has sperm in it. Did you know you shoot almost two hundred and fifty million sperm every time you ejaculate? Two hundred and fifty million! Amazing, huh?”

Somewhat confused and really charmed by her, I asked, to clarify, “Haven’t you experienced an orgasm?”

“I don’t think so. I tried to play with my clitoris like the books say and felt nice tingles, but nothing else. Are the nice tingles a climax?”

I was stumped. “I don’t know. I have no idea how old you have to be to reach an orgasm. You could look it up.”

“Or . . . You could help me,” Lucy suggested, studying her fingers as she rubbed semen. “I read that sexual arousal isn’t possible when you’re under stress and that it starts in the mind. Maybe I was too stressed to really have one.”

She looked at me again, shy eagerness in her eyes. “Can we try?”

Despite being drained, even with a now-clear mind not befuddled by arousal, I discovered a truth about me. I wanted to help her. I wanted to participate in her sexual development. I’d never considered how a girl explores and grows sexually and, with Lucy, I had that chance.

With a smile, I kissed her lightly. “Okay. Tonight.”

Lucy smiled. “Why not now?”

“I have to shower and clean up.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Carefully lifting the covers, I eased out of bed. Lucy got out and followed me into the bathroom.

“Did you know the penis is just muscles? Blood flows and expands the muscles making it stiff,” she commented from behind me. “But I never expected it to be that stiff. In girls, blood flows to the vagina and makes it swell and grow longer. The clitoris swells, too. Did you know that?”

I chuckled to myself. Lucy was a constant surprise. “Is that what the book said?” I asked.

“Uh-huh. And did you know a guy’s testicles are sensitive? I don’t know what that feels like but I know when you hit them hard it hurts.”

“How do you know that?” I asked, reaching in to turn the shower on.

“I tried it on a foster dad once. He didn’t like it much.”

As steam slowly covered the ceiling, I shoved boxers off and stepped into the shower. From the other side of the opaque glass, Lucy continued with my sexual education and I had to smile. To her, this was all an interesting topic, not intimate or suggestive or inappropriate, just fascinating.

For a change, the day was busy. Lucy actually asked me for some money, something she’d never done before. In fact, thinking about it, Lucy had never asked for anything for herself. She’d asked for foods and a kitchen appliance - the slow cooker - and that was all.

I was fascinated. It was a new aspect to her behavior. Responding to her, I informed her she would get a weekly allowance; thirty dollars. It seemed like an appropriate amount given her age, maybe too much. I had no point of reference. She could use it to buy her own clothes.

Making me laugh, Lucy advised me, very seriously, “You owe me two hundred and seventy dollars.”

“Why?” I asked, trying not to smile.

“You haven’t paid my allowance since I’ve been here. Nine weeks. Two hundred and seventy dollars.” Her dark olive eyes stared, a newfound determination in her expression.

Keeping a straight face - something that was hard to do - I nodded. “Okay.”

Again, I was charmed by the dichotomy of her; a still-scrawny small girl arguing logic with me. I loved it.

Late morning was spent taking her shopping. I was not allowed to accompany her, so we hit a mall and I sat and waited. She wouldn’t let me see her purchases and, proving she was no slouch in the intrigue department, had brought a shopping bag with her so I couldn’t even tell what store she’d been to.

However, I noticed how excited she was, her joy at having money and being able to go anywhere, buy anything. I think it was a first for her, too, and it made me wonder what other simple pleasures she’d missed in life. I decided to introduce her to any I could think of.

After lunch, when I retreated to the study and picked up a book I was part way through, Lucy came in, browsed the shelves, picked a book and paused, looking around.

“Can we sit in the Christmas room?” she asked. “It’s happier when we’re there.”

The living room wasn’t my favorite room, Christmas decorations or not. The covered portrait on the wall brought sadness and loss; feelings that were still too close to the surface. I couldn’t look at it and was unwilling to remove it, so I’d covered it.

Lucy’s love of Christmas, a new excitement for her, swayed me. “Sure. If you want.”

We settled in the living room. Lucy turned on all the Christmas lights and took her time to inspect all the decorations, smiling to herself with pleasure. I sat with my back to the covered painting. A fire crackled and popped in the hearth. The fragrant scent of the Douglas fir Christmas tree filled the air. Lucy read quietly at the opposite end of the couch, sitting with legs crossed and facing me. As had become my habit, I asked, “What are you reading?”

“Chaos theory,” she answered without looking up at me. “The butterfly effect,” she added as if I didn't know what the chaos theory was.

Smiling and shaking my head in amusement, I said, “When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

Lucy glanced up from the book in surprise. “Edward Lorenz said that. How do you know it?”

“Believe it or not, I’ve read all those books in the study. I used chaos theory in one of the novels I wrote.”

She nodded and went back to reading. Not ten minutes later, she said, without looking up, “You should start writing again.”

Oddly, I thought she might be right. A tickle of creativity and desire, another thing I’d lost years ago, gave me pause. Lucy was having a profound impact on me, and I loved her for it.

That night, Lucy slipped into bed wearing cotton panties and nothing else; her white panties with blue elastic, printed with Minnie Mouse.

“What happened to your pajamas?”

Lucy, moving to my side, conversationally said, “They’ll get in the way. You promised to give me a climax, remember?” She looked up at me. “Well? Go on.”

I laughed. Couldn’t help it. She was adorable. I snapped my fingers. “How was it?” I asked.

“Huh?” Her eyes widened, and then narrowed, a frown forming. “That’s not funny.”

Laughing, I asked, “So how exactly should I do it?”

She lectured me!

“You’re supposed to kiss me and get me in the mood and hug me and stuff like that.”

“And stuff like that, huh?”

Staring at me with large dark green eyes, she nodded. Too charming by far! I rolled to face her and drew her into my arms. At just over four feet tall and still underweight, she was delicate, and cute, and I felt desire unfurl, pulse quickening, excitement growing.

With a smile, I kissed her cheek, then burrowed down to kiss her neck, my nose full of her sweet scent. Lucy giggled softly, my kiss tickling her. I loved holding her slender body, so young, and when I cupped her petite bottom, arousal arrived.

Fondling the remarkable shape of her buttocks, I kissed Lucy gently, brushing my lips against hers. Her eyes twinkled. Her lips smiled against mine.

It seemed so natural, even if it wasn’t. It was far too easy to slip into a passionate, sensual kiss, my tongue teasing her lips, her enchanting eyes blinking out, her mouth opening. I grew erect against her. Caressing her small cotton-covered bum, I marveled at how sexy it was.

Slipping my hand down her thigh, I raised her knee over my leg and edged my hand back down, finally touching her pantied crotch. Lucy’s pudendum was so small, yet its shape all female, excitingly female, a petite, succulent mound. Still kissing her slowly, I explored. Steep sides formed a full vulva and, under my light touch, I traced her short cleft, my arousal rising.

When I rubbed her cleft, Lucy murmured quietly. Unable to resist, I eased my hand inside her soft cotton panties and cupped her bare buttocks. Why was it so exciting?

The kiss ended. Lucy opened her eyes and smiled slightly. “Kissing works,” she said softy. Then her smile faded, eyes lost focus and narrowed.

Easing my hand deeper, I’d touched her bare pubis, soft and silken, followed her closed cleft and touched her clit, a very small bead. My erection pressed up. Easing back, it popped up fully and, when I pulled Lucy to me, her body pressed against me, a wonderful, exciting experience.

With gentle motions, I rubbed her clit, watching her face as her eyes closed, face relaxed. Kissing her cheek, I whispered, “Does it feel good?”

She nodded. “Uh-huh.”

Slowly, very carefully, I brought her higher, following the signs on her pretty face: nostrils flaring as she breathed deeper; a small furrow of the brows; a quiet moan.

Then she moved, edging her pussy up and down slightly, joining me. Her lips parted. She breathed through her mouth, hips now undulating slowly. Against my fingertip I felt silken moisture - Lucy aroused - and it heightened my excitement. This was thrilling; seeing a young girl experience pleasure for the first time was amazing. Touching her small pussy aroused me so damn much, my erection straining.

Then a frown emerged on her face. She held her breath, hips moving.

“I’ve gotta pee,” she said suddenly, eyes opening.

“No. Just go with it,” I murmured, kissing her cheek.

Her eyes closed, a frown returning. I rubbed her slippery cleft against my finger and Lucy started trembling like a frightened fawn, her whole body shaking lightly. She gasped quietly, hips frozen, shook again, cumming gently and finally melted. It was without a doubt the sweetest climax I’d ever seen.

I brought my hand back to cup her gorgeous little buttocks.

After a couple of minutes of silence, Lucy stirred, her eyes opened. She smiled shyly, so incredibly beautiful. I kissed her smile.

“How was it?”

“Reeeealy good,” she sighed, her smile returning and broadening into a million watt radiance. “We’ll do it again. Later. I’m tired.”

I fell asleep with an erection and an almost naked ten-year-old girl cuddled to me. Could life be any better?

It could.

Morning was struggling to break through cloud cover when a gentle caress woke me. Lucy had pulled the covers down and fished my erection out, stroking it gently. She saw my eyes open and smiled.

“It wasn’t fair. I didn’t give you one last night,” she asserted.

“I didn’t need one,” I assured her. “You gave me more than enough pleasure.”

Lucy calmly informed me, “You had an erection almost all night. You kept poking me with it.”

Her small hand stroked, my erection straining at the sight; her fingers unable to encompass my shaft. She turned her attention to her hand and studied it. “I didn’t get to see last time.” Glancing at me, she added, “I want to see how you ejaculate.”

Lord help me! “You’re about to.”

With the most delicate touch, this complex, adorable girl stroked me until, with a surge of pleasure, my erection swelled, the tip red and swollen, and opalescent semen spurted onto my stomach. Another even harder wave of bliss hit and a huge rope of cum launched out, sweet relief washing through me. Lucy stroked me, semen spurting with each stroke, pleasure hitting me hard, until, with a deep groan, I passed the peak and slowed, white semen oozing out, erection softening.

**********

Our first sexual experience didn’t change Lucy in the slightest. At breakfast, as she microwaved precooked bacon (a recent discovery by her, announcing bacon was her new favorite food) she chatted away:

“Did you know that Percy Spencer accidentally discovered how microwaves heat food?” she asked, peering into the microwave oven. “He was working at Raytheon on radars when a chocolate bar melted in his pocket. Amazing, huh?”

The microwave beeped. She opened it and extracted the brown strips, inhaling their aroma. “Yum. I love bacon,” she said to herself.

Dressed in another short skirt, frilly blue this time, with pink ankle socks and a fuchsia T-shirt, showing no fashion sense at all and looking exactly like the young girl she was, spouting random trivia even I didn’t know, she was utterly lovable.

She didn’t offer me any bacon. To make it healthy, she ate a banana afterwards. That’s it. Bacon and banana for breakfast. Carrying her plate and banana peel to the sink, she rinsed the plate, turned and left the kitchen.

“I’m going to keep the living room company and read,” she called back to me.

I had to smile. I adored her.

With a refilled mug of coffee, I followed, passing by the study to pick up the book I’d started reading; a thriller. I joined her in the living room, all the Christmas light on, and sat on the couch next to her.

Lucy edged aside to give me room and, reading her book, calmly said, “You should let Marissa see the Christmas decorations. She’d like them.”

I was stunned. How did Lucy know about my wife? How did she know her name?

“This was her favorite room and Christmas was her favorite holiday,” Lucy added, still reading.

What the heck?! “How could you possibly know that?” I asked, hairs on my arms rising.

Lucy shrugged. “I just know.”

“How?” I asked more firmly.

Lucy finally looked up. “I dunno. I just feel it.”

For many minutes I sat silently, wrestling. Christmas had actually been Marissa’s favorite holiday. I looked at the cloth-draped painting feeling fearful, steeled myself, stood and walked over to it. My heart was racing. Taking a deep breath, I tugged the cloth off.

Marissa smiled down at me, her sharp blue eyes looking into me. Sadness washed over me and tears welled, distorting her face. Memories rushed back; high school, stolen kisses, plans, a future together.

A lump choked me and tears fell as I remembered Hell arriving, my life torn apart, my love taken so violently. My chest hurt again as I relived the ugly, horrifying details, unable to stop imagining my wife’s pain and fear, alone on her own, so scared. Fog hovered at the edges of my vision as if I was fading, air hard to inhale. I wobbled on my feet.

A small hand slipped into mine and squeezed.

Slowly, my vision cleared. “I’ve mourned for her for so long,” I whispered.

“I know.”

With a gentle tug, Lucy led me back to the couch. She sat pressed to my side not saying a word, just providing comfort, holding my hand and reading her book.

It felt like a long time passed. I stared at the portrait of my wife and slowly I saw her beauty again. Slowly I remembered the better times; laughter and excitement, mischief, love, loving, her presence filling my universe.

“She likes the decorations,” Lucy said.

I laughed weakly. “Yes . . . I think she does.”

The afternoon was spent outside, hiking through accumulated, pristine white snow. I talked. Lucy listened. I breathed in crisp, clean air and slowly felt sorrow find a place to finally rest in my soul, peace, acceptance.

That night, Lucy, instead of running into bed, strolled out of the bathroom in yet another pair of cotton panties; pale pink with frilly dark pink elastic. For the first time I noticed she wasn’t flat-chested. Very small buds were just beginning to form under her areolae; the imminent sign of puberty about to storm her body. I found the sight inordinately sexy.

She crawled onto the bed, slipped under the covers and into my arms. With a perfectly serious expression, she said, “Do you want to do it again? Like last night?”

I grinned and kissed her, tasting minty toothpaste.

When the kiss ended, a chaste but sexy kiss, she added, “And you should have one, too. That way you won’t poke me all night.”

“Only if you let me kiss you,” I countered.

“You did already.”

Easing her onto her back, I clarified, “I mean kiss you here,” and bent to kiss her little bud. It was so small, just mounding off her chest, firm and erotic. I sucked gently and moved to the other, kissing it. “And here,” I murmured, kissing her soft stomach, edging the covers down.

In the corner of my eye, I saw Lucy watching me intently.

“And here,” I said, exposing her sexy cotton panties, pressing my mouth to her beautiful, petite mons. It yielded under my lips, supple and lush, and I grew erect at the intimate act.

Looking up at her, she smiled slightly, dark olive eyes observant. With care and growing excitement, I eased her panties down. She lifted her bum. Unable to wait, I watched as her hairless mons was exposed, a sexy mound rising from her tummy, then the beautiful, arousing sight of the top of her cleft and, as I pulled her panties off, her immature pudendum was revealed in all its glory.

Completely hairless, it was small, yet on her it looked full and as ripe as a peach. Her labia were tightly closed, lips lush and round, curving down to fill the gap at the top of her thighs, her cleft meeting the crack formed by two small buttocks pressed to the bed.

I kissed her bare mons, as soft as satin, warm and excitingly supple, then kissed the top of her cleft. My erection strained, pulsing and rigid.

Making the journey back up, I paused to kiss each prominent little hip, her navel, and once again her gorgeous buds, sucking and caressing them with my tongue, and finally, kissing her chin. Smiling at her, I kissed one cheek, then the other, and whispered, “You’re delicious,” before kissing her lips.

Olive eyes twinkled at me. She smiled against my kiss. Then the tip of her tongue teased me, a light brush, retreating before I could respond.

Reaching down, I pushed my boxers off and rolled Lucy to me, once again loving how petite and delicate she felt in my arms. But this time, skin touched skin. My erection pressed against her. When I kissed her again, her tongue met mine and we fell into a sexy, passionate kiss that threatened disorientation. Cupping her wonderful bottom, I pulled her tighter against me and it felt fantastic.

For the next few minutes we kissed and rubbed against each other, her warm soft skin caressing my erection. Then precum leaked and another altogether new world of sensations opened up, the tip gliding up and down warm silken skin as I held her tightly.

Very slowly, Lucy started moving, rubbing her pussy against my shaft. I could have continued. I could have easily cum, the sensation of her naked body so exciting. But I stopped.

Lucy’s eyes opened full of questions.

Holding her, I rolled onto my back, Lucy on top. “Sit up,” I suggested.

She did, straddling me, and together we looked down. It was a thrilling sight, a sight that had my pulse jumping. Lucy’s small pussy was pressed against my shaft, her hairless labia spread, hugging me. I could see her little clit flattened and pressing on me. The sight made my erection swell and a clear bead of precum leaked. I couldn’t get over how erotic it was; Lucy’s young pussy so snug against my adult erection. I’d never have believed how arousing it was, either. But it was; intensely arousing.

“That’s seminal fluid, isn’t it?” Lucy observed.

“Precum, yes. It’s slippery.”

She touched it and rubbed her fingertips together.

“Lift up,” I said, holding her hips and urging her up.

With her up on her knees, I grasped my shaft and swiped the tip along her small cleft and almost came. Her labia bulged slightly, forming around the tip. Clear precum glistened.

Guiding her back down, she settled on my shaft. A look of surprise hit her when she moved, her pussy slipping easily along my erection.

“Now we rub against each other. This way we both get to cum.”

“To what?” she asked, still staring down at her pussy.

“Cum. It’s a slang word for climax or orgasm.”

Leaning forward, she put her hands on my stomach. I held her small hips. She moved and made me smile.

“This feels amazing,” she whispered, easing her pussy up my shaft.

The head almost disappeared, sandwiched by her cleft, then emerged as she reversed, sliding her pussy down so far my crown rose off my stomach. I throbbed. Another bead of precum oozed out. Then she drew her pussy up, her clit kissing my shaft. A shudder hit her. I felt it through her hips.

Without words, Lucy slowly humped me, each stroke slow, a shudder of pleasure. My erection strained at the sight and sensation. Being caressed by her small pussy was so exciting, so erotic. Watching her pleasure herself on me was thrilling! I loved her concentration, how she stared at my erection appearing and disappearing, her little shudders of pleasure each time her clit rubbed against me.

She humped me slowly at first. But gradually, as she rubbed her clit along my erection, her movement gained urgency, moving faster. I saw the signs in her face, a cute brow furrowed, nostrils flaring with heavier breathing, eyes locked on my erection. As she stroked me, my arousal grew, my erection rigid and throbbing, precum pooling on my stomach. The first tendrils of an orgasm began, tightness in my groin, pulse racing, heaviness, erection straining as if ready to burst.

Lucy quietly snorted, her body trembled, thighs shaking. She inhaled sharply and climaxed, scrubbing her cleft on my erection. An almost silent moan of pleasure escaped, her head falling, streaked blonde hair a curtain hiding her face, her hips churning. Then her arms gave out and she collapsed on top of me.

Wrapping her in a hug, I held her delicate body. Caressed by her sexy, hairless little pudendum and experiencing her sweet climax was enough. With a groan of sweet pleasure, my erection swelled, ached, and ecstasy hit, semen erupting between us, hot and thick and slippery, Lucy trembled. I thrust up and exploded, another wave of pleasure. Gripping her sweet bottom, I hunched and came, semen spurting wet between out bodies. I came hard, rubbing my erection against her, spurting, cumming, bliss arriving.

**********

LUCY WOKE UP ON Christmas Eve day excited.

She’d never been excited about Christmas. Mum had beaten the joy out of her when she was very young.

But today!

With Noah still asleep, she dressed, brushed her teeth, and headed to the kitchen.

She’d had an ongoing serious debate about the Christmas meal with Noah for the past two weeks. He wanted a beef rib roast. Lucy, while agreeing that a rib roast would taste great, disagreed with him.

“Christmas dinner is a turkey with bread stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh veggies,” she insisted. “It’s tradition. It’s in all the books, Noah!” Besides, she’d never had a real turkey dinner.

He’d countered with, “Tradition is what you make it, and I want to make a roast.”

The debate had gone on for days, coming out every time they were in the supermarket. Lucy thought she was persuasive, but Noah hit on a better argument.

His counter proposal was, since a turkey dinner was so time-consuming, they’d have it on Christmas Eve. That way, they could celebrate her birthday with a delicious beef rib roast on Christmas day.

Her eyes had lit up. Two great meals! With a bright “Kay!” she dropped her opposition.

Today, Christmas Eve day, was going to be spent in the kitchen. She loved to cook and this was another new experience - roasted turkey! Would it taste like the frozen meals?

She turned the coffee machine on and got herself a bowl of Cheerios. Noah, unshaven, ambled in giving her a smile. Warmth flushed through her.

“You’re my assistant today. You get to clean and cut the potatoes, wash the vegetables, and cut the bread for the stuffing,” she told him.

He grunted and sipped coffee. But she saw a twinkle of pleasure in his warm brown eyes.

After studying the recipe book, she wrestled with the turkey, made the stuffing, stuffed the turkey, and announced her satisfaction when Noah put it into the oven.

She sat in the living room while dinner cooked, reading another fascinating book on the search for proof of the Higgs boson particle. Several times through the day, the front doorbell rang. Packages were delivered, and Lucy was not pleased when Noah wouldn’t tell her what they were. He let a cable guy in at one point to work in the study.

“What’s the cable guy doing?” she asked, and Noah told her he was upgrading to digital TV. Why? He never listened to it or paid any attention to it.

He kept disappearing somewhere in the huge house. Every time she saw him he was disheveled, still unshaven, and she thought she saw dust in his hair.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

When she next saw him, he was even dustier. Curious, she stood to follow him.

He turned and pointed at the couch. “Sit. Stay. No following me.”

“I have to check the turkey!”

“Okay. Living room, kitchen and bathroom. Nowhere else.”

Now she was very curious. Every half hour she went to the kitchen to baste the turkey, inhale the wonderful aroma, and report its progress to Noah when he appeared. She was quite pleased with the new digital thermometer’s performance.

Noah, messy with shirt tails hanging out, finally sat next to her. Darkness had fallen, the Christmas lights now bright and twinkling.

“When’s the turkey ready?” he asked.

“Half an hour, maybe. I don’t really know.”

“Go change. Dress up,” he said.

“Why?”

“It’s Christmas dinner. You dress up for it.”

Lucy went to change. She thought her clothes were pretty already, but since he asked, she hunted through her clothes. The blue and white cotton skirt was nice. She liked the lace hems. A long sleeved green cotton shirt looked festive. Pink socks and sneakers. She looked at herself in the mirror and smiled. All colors! Nice!

Noah, showered, shaved, and wearing tan pants and a powder blue shirt, looked odd as he waited for her at the bottom of the stairs. She’d never seen him in anything other than jeans.

He smiled. “Nice outfit. Love the colors.”

Lucy smiled with pleasure. Taking her hand, he led her to the dining room and she discovered why he was covered in dust. The dining room sparkled, clean and bright! The massive chandelier was on; the huge dining table had candles lit and crystal centerpieces. On the sideboard were covered dishes steaming and the golden turkey scenting the air making her stomach growl.

He led her to the head of the table, pulling the chair out for her.

“Your seat my lady,” he said, smiling, his soft brown eyes twinkling.

At the side board, he carved and piled two plates high with food, bringing one to her. Then he went all the way to the other end and sat. Lucy had to lean to the side just to see him!

“This is silly,” she informed him. “Why are you all the way down there? I can’t even see you!”

Noah grinned. “Formal dinner. That’s how it’s done.”

“It’s stupid,” she observed, getting up. With her plate and cutlery - polished silver she noticed - she walked down the long, long table and sat next to him. “This is better.”

“You’re no fun,” he commented, taking a bite of turkey. “Mmmm. At least you can cook.”

Lucy smiled, very pleased with his compliment. She tasted the turkey. Wow! Nothing like the frozen meals! This was yummy! And the bread stuffing? Heaven!

Concentrating, she started eating.

Noah said, “Slow down. Nobody’s going to take your food away. You need to work on overcoming your fears, Lucy.”

“I have. I’ve changed,” Lucy claimed, convinced she was fine.

Consciously controlling herself, she chewed slower. Then Noah leaned over and grabbed her plate, shocking her. Suddenly, she was back at home with Mum, hungry and fearful of being slapped if she spoke up. She was mute, frozen, stomach clenching. Without realizing it, she bowed her head and sat silently. Her automatic reaction.

“Lucy?” Noah looked at her gently when she glanced up. “You have to learn to fight for what you want, not accept what happens.”

Determined, she grabbed the plate. “Give it back!”

He nodded with a satisfied smile. “Better.”

Eating again, she asked, “Why did you do that? It scared me.”

Noah took his time answering, eating slowly, his eyes on her. “To prove a point. Just wanting to change isn’t enough. You never ask for anything for yourself. It’s time for you to be selfish. It’s okay to want things just because you want them.”

“I do,” she claimed. “I wanted that slow cooker and the Christmas decorations.”

“Lucy, those were things for the house. I’m talking about things for you, things you’ve dreamed about having but never had. It’s okay to want them and ask for them. I might not always give them to you and that’s okay, too. When that happens, you’ll understand why. It’s your life. You should take charge; live it the way you want, not the way other people think you should. Until you do, you’re never going to be free of what happened to you.”

Lucy disagreed. “I wanted the clothes we bought.”

“No. You didn’t. I forced you to buy them and you asked permission for each one.”

“I ask you to go outside with me all the time,” Lucy said.

“That’s not what I’m talking about. You know what I mean.”

Lucy mulled it over, eating slower and savoring each bite. Even the carrots were delicious. Maybe Noah was right. But he didn’t understand how hard it is! Mum had scolded her every time she’d asked for anything, warning her only the Satan coveted things. Eventually, she’d stopped asking.

“It’s not easy,” she told him.

Noah, with such kindness in his eyes, in a soft voice, said, “I know it isn’t. Promise me you’ll try.”

Lucy nodded, not sure if she really could.

With dinner over, they both cleared the dining room. Lucy carefully put away the leftovers, planning to eat them again. You never waste food.

Still pondering what he said at dinner, she asked, “So I can ask for anything?”

Noah nodded.

At bedtime, brushing her teeth, she decided. She wanted another climax. In the shower she’d tried to give herself one and it hadn’t worked. She wanted to feel that incredible release, as if her body was floating away on a cloud, relaxed and at peace; the best feeling in the world!

Remembering how Noah had looked at her when she was naked, the pleasure in his eyes, Lucy smiled and spit toothpaste out, rinsing her mouth. She liked Noah horny. She liked his erection, too. It was fascinating how hard it would get, so much bigger. And when he’d ejaculate, his erection pulsed and swelled like it was alive. Lucy grinned. He’d make such a funny face, too!

She shoved her panties off, kicking them away, and left the bathroom.

“So, not even panties anymore?” Noah commented, looking at her.

“Nope. I want another orgasm.” She slipped into bed. “See? I’m asking for something.” She couldn’t stop herself adding, “Is it okay to ask for one?”

Noah chuckled, drawing her to him. “Absolutely.”

He wrapped her in a hug. She sighed to herself. She loved being held. She loved Noah’s affection, the warmth and smile in his eyes. Inhaling deeply, she felt calmness and warmth settle over her. She was home. This was perfect. She smiled. She was so happy.

When he kissed her, his lips gently settling on hers, his hand holding her bum, she sighed again. Against her legs, Noah’s penis started growing and she loved it.

Closing her eyes, she let herself go, losing herself in his kiss, liking how their tongues teased. Warmth arrived, her pussy responding, a tickle of pleasure. She knew what was happening scientifically, but that came nowhere close to describing how good it actually felt. Horniness washed through her, desire, her body needing.

Noah’s erection pressed against her legs. Shifting up slightly, it settled along her thighs, her legs closed, and Lucy sighed with pleasure when the tip nudged against her pussy, touching her clit. He felt so big.

Hugging Noah, facing him on her side, she pressed her pussy against the tip, a spark of pleasure hitting her.

He ended the kiss.

“How does this feel?” he asked in a whisper.

“Goooood,” she sighed, hunching her pussy again, pressing it against him.

Noah, holding her bum, moved slightly, his erection easing away; then he pushed along her thighs to nudge against her clit. Another pulse of pleasure hit her. She murmured her pleasure, holding him tighter, moving her hips, desire waking up.

Suddenly she felt slipperiness when his erection pressed again; precum. A whole new world of sensations hit her, his tip slipping along her slit, easing back, slipping between her thighs again, stroking her pussy, caressing her clit.

Tingles grew stronger, her pussy throbbing. Then Noah nuzzled her neck, hugging her, his large erection slipping against her thighs, her legs closed. It started; the pressure in her pussy, the feeling like she had to pee. Moving her hips faster, Noah held her tighter, the tip of his erection sliding against her pussy, back, then along her slit, tickling her clit. It built, built, and with a burst of ecstasy, her orgasm erupted, bliss rushing up, blossoming, so good. She gasped quietly as another beautiful wave took her even higher. Suddenly, she felt hot wetness against her pussy. Noah was cumming!

Gasping quietly, body trembling, she felt every hot spurt, his semen soaking her pussy, his erection pulsing. She held him tight and climaxed hard, loving the feel of him spurting, his groan of pleasure and, as he slowed, her body released her from the hold, peace and warmth rushing in, sleepy, so sleepy.

I COULDN’T BELIEVE HOW hard I’d cum. The feeling of my erection pressing against Lucy’s hairless pussy felt as if we were having intercourse. And as I’d exploded against her little cleft with gut-wrenching pleasure, holding her slender, young body, I felt every hard, almost desperate spurt, my semen flooding her crotch. It was an exquisite orgasm, an unbelievable orgasm, and God, I wanted to repeat it.

Lucy murmured a complaint when I eased away from her, reaching for my boxers. I cleaned her crotch and myself, and she snuggled into me when I settled; a cute girl seeking affection, closeness, love. I adored her so.

**********

Christmas Day.

Waking up with Lucy sleeping quietly next to me was my present. Watching her face, relaxed and so sweetly innocent, made me smile. Then memory of last night aroused me, an erection forming. Damn it had felt amazing, incredible.

As if hearing me, her eyes opened. Beautiful dark olive eyes studied me. Slowly, a wonderful smile emerged that affected me deeply.

“Merry Christmas,” I said, bending to kiss her cheek. “And happy birthday. Want to go open presents?”

Pleasure was displaced by excitement. She nodded and moved suddenly, dashing for the bathroom, her busy little naked bum distracting me.

“Breakfast first,” I called out to her.

We didn’t eat breakfast. Lucy made a bee-line to the living room and stopped dead in her tracks, staring at the bundle of festive, multi-colored wrapped presents under the tree that I’d sneaked out of bed and placed there last night.

I was standing behind her when she whispered, “Presents. So many,” with awe in her voice. She approached the tree slowly. I plugged in the Christmas lights and sat to watch her.

Down on her knees, she looked at them. Just looked. Glancing at me, she asked, “Can I open one?” her expression so full of hope.

It was just wrong. It was wrong that she’d never experienced the joy of tearing into a pile of presents, the excitement of discovery.

I nodded. “They’re all yours.”

Lucy, reminding me of that first box of cookies she’d picked in the supermarket, gingerly lifted one present. She caressed the wrapping paper, then carefully opened it, easing the tape up, unfolding it in reverse of how I’d wrapped it. The paper was so pristine I could have used it again. She set it aside and stared at the box; a laptop computer.

“Open another,” I encouraged her.

Lucy repeated her careful unwrapping, and carefully placed the iPhone box next to the laptop box. One by one she opened presents, each treated like delicate china; headphones, some colorful clothes, a Sony Playstation, and selection of games. And when she opened the last present, a simple, soft, dark brown teddy bear I’d seen and thought she might like, she shocked me.

Tears welled and dripped down her cheeks. She hugged the teddy bear, looked at me and whispered, “How did you know?”

“Know what?” I asked, wondering if I’d inadvertently made a mistake.

Still hugging it, she rose and sat next to me, curled up and cuddled to my side. “Mum took mine the first time I told her about my visions. I never got him back.” She glanced up at me. “He was the only stuffed toy I ever had. He was my best friend.” She looked at the teddy bear and hugged him. “Hello, Ferocious. I’ve missed you so much.”

It broke my heart. I said nothing. We sat quietly, my arm around her.

Eventually she returned to the presents and, in typical Lucy fashion, opened one, inspected the contents with a big smile, and removed only the operating instructions, sitting and reading.

I shook my head and went to make coffee and breakfast. What an odd girl she was; quirky and lovable, so smart yet so sweet.

For most of the morning she frustrated the guy in me. I wanted her to dive in and play, but no. The iPhone instructions were devoured before she even lifted the phone up. I informed her we had a WiFi network (installed by the cable guy) and she lost herself in connecting to the network. Lucy wouldn’t let me help. She had to do it herself.

She followed the same routine with the laptop; slow and deliberate, with Ferocious on the floor sitting next to her. I began to dread her Playstation.

Before she got to it, Lucy jumped up. “I forgot!”

She raced out of the living room before I could ask. Two minutes later she returned, walking, her hands behind her back.

“Close your eyes,” she instructed, adding when I close them, “I didn’t have wrapping paper. Sorry.”

Lucy placed a small box in my hand. “Merry Christmas.”

Two thoughts went through my mind when I opened my eyes. First, I hadn’t expected a present from her and second, opening the box, seeing a beautiful, expensive Tissot Tradition Chronograph Quartz watch, I wondered how much she’d spent.

“I noticed how you don’t have a watch and always look at clocks or turn the time on the TV,” Lucy said, standing in front of me. “Do you like it?”

I nodded. Clearing my throat, I asked, “You bought this with your allowance?”

She nodded, studying me carefully.

“How much did you spend?”

“All of it. It was on sale. Do you like it?”

To say I was stunned was an understatement. I was overwhelmed. Reaching for her, I hugged her so hard, so hard. “I love it,” I whispered.

Lucy let loose with her million watt smile. “Are you going to put it on?”

As I did, Lucy commented, “It’s Swiss. They’re supposed to make the best watches. And this one is waterproof to 3 bars; that’s three hundred thousand Pascals, the equivalent of one hundred feet underwater! It has a chronograph and date and . . .”

I stopped her with a kiss. Her olive eyes twinkled at me. She was very pleased.

The morning went by in a blur: I kept looking at the watch on my wrist finding it hard to believe that this young girl had spent the first money she’d ever had on me and not herself; Lucy became absorbed in the world of apps on the iPhone.

I introduced her to the turkey, stuffing, mayo, and cranberry sandwich at lunch and thought she might be experiencing a foodgasm at her moan of pleasure.

Playstation occupied the afternoon between putting the beef rib roast in to cook at a low setting. Demonstrating the adaptability of youth, Lucy demolished me in every game, and apologized after every win. She utterly charmed me when she insisted on calling the house phone and talking to me and, like a kid, she wandered through the house chatting to me in the study.

Throughout the day, Lucy would ask out of the blue, “What time is it?” and smile slightly, satisfied, when I’d look at the watch on my wrist.

Dinner was served; a sumptuous roast beef with roasted potatoes and crispy green beans. It finished with a simple birthday cake. Despite it being store bought, Lucy loved it. She loved blowing out the candles - another new experience for her - and insisted I relight them so she could blow them out again.

Other small things stuck with me. Lucy had carefully folded the wrapping papers so they could be reused. She never left a present scattered on the floor, always carefully putting it away. And to me, perhaps saddest of all was the way she kept a close hold on the teddy bear; a glimpse of the lost little girl she’d been.

After dinner, sitting in the living room, I handed her two more presents.

Her eyes opened wide. “More?”

“Happy Birthday!”

They were simple presents. A delicate gold necklace and a gold bracelet, girlish stuff. Her hug of appreciation was tight.

She went to bed a tired and happy girl after carefully putting her new jewelry away, cuddling close with a final whisper, “Thanks for the best day ever!”

**********

For the next few days life resumed. Sleet attacked and beat the snow into submission. Lucy spent hours on her laptop finding her way on her own. With my help, she discovered the Internet and it was like manna from Heaven. Books were left behind, forgotten. She’d pepper me with interesting things she learned and her interests seemed to multiply exponentially. I couldn’t keep up with her and didn’t try.

One unforeseen aspect occurred. Lucy, sitting on the couch in her usual spot studying the laptop, out of the blue said, “There’s sex on the Internet!”

She glanced up at me, surprised. “Look,” she said, turning the laptop. “People having sex!”

“Don’t watch it,” I suggested.

“Why not? It’s interesting.”

I tried to explain that she’d learn everything eventually without the misrepresentation of sex on the Internet, and how sex was different from making love with a partner.

But . . .

As days passed and we neared New Years Eve, Lucy would drop comments. It was very Lucy. One minute she’d be telling me about the amazing way dolphins had learned to catch fish in Florida by using their tails to create walls of bubbles forcing fish to leap out of the water, “Right into their mouths! Amazing, huh?” The next minute she’d follow it with a completely different observation, “Look, he’s kissing her privates like you did with me.” Then silence as she moved on.

At one point she asked, “How big is your erection?” with a scientific expression; a simple inquiry.

I shrugged. “I never measured it. About normal, I think.”

Five minutes later she announced, without raising her eyes from the laptop, “Five point six inches is average. I think yours is bigger. What’s the circumference of yours?”

I laughed quietly. “I have no idea.” It was so damn odd to listen to her talk as an adult yet see this eleven-year-old girl sitting in her colorful, clashing clothes.

“I'll measure it later.”

“Why are you asking?”

Lucy finally looked at me. “I saw two people having intercourse and wondered if we could try it together.”

“We can’t. Trust me. You’re still too small.”

She was, too. The doctor I’d taken her to for a check-up had informed me that Lucy, despite showing signs of the onset of puberty, was lagging behind in growth, currently about as tall as an eight-year-old - four inches shy of where she should be. He attributed it to malnutrition or genetics. One would correct itself over time, the other not. He also commented on the scars on her back, faint but visible, attributing them to abuse, and stared at me accusingly until I explained her situation.

Sexually, Lucy and I enjoyed ourselves. Some nights would lead to kissing and cuddling. Some nights we’d get naked and cuddle, me bringing Lucy to a climax by hand, her stroking me to a climax. Sometimes we’d repeat that incredible position, on our sides facing each other, my erection aligned against her closed legs, the tip gently pressing against her pussy until precum was released, and the amazing sensation afterwards, almost as if we were having intercourse. It was my personal favorite.

Yet, other nights we just cuddled, at peace with each other’s company.

I was treated to frequent peeks of her cotton panties when she’d wear her skirt and always felt a visceral response to the sight of her small, plump pudendum pressing against her childish undies, sometimes tight enough to outline her little cleft, sometimes loose enough to teasingly hint at her privates.

Given Lucy’s intellect, I should have been more aware. But I was taken in by my eyes. She was a sweet and quiet girl who occasionally amused or stunned me with her smarts, not the other way around.

Two days before the New Year, Lucy got into bed and said, “You told me to be selfish. Did you really mean it?”

I nodded. “I did. I want you to be independent and strong.”

Lucy nodded, deep in thought. She looked at me. “I want us to try intercourse. It looks like it feels really good. Does it?”

My body answered with an immediate stir of excitement, blood rushing down. My brain countered the response. “You’re still too young, Lucy. There are lots of things we can do until you’re old enough.”

Lucy, on her side, head propped up on her hand, her elbow on the bed, nodded. “Like fellatio. That’s oral sex, giving head, sucking off, or a blow job. Or cunnilingus. That’s you going down on me. Cunnilingus is derived from the Neo-Latin words for the vulva and the tongue; cunnus and lingua.”

I couldn’t hold back and laughed. Lucy was such a strange and enchanting girl. Every time the dichotomy in her surprised me.

“We can try all of those,” I assured her.

“I don’t want to. I want to try intercourse. Does intercourse feel better than oral sex?”

After taking a moment to frame my answer, I told her, “Think of it as grapes are intercourse and strawberries are oral sex. Both taste great, just different.” I was rather pleased with my answer until Lucy spoke.

“That’s it, then. I like grapes more than strawberries.”

I laughed again. “It’s not that simple, Lucy. I’m really too big for you without it hurting.”

“How do you know unless we try?” She stared at me, perfectly serious. “We can stop if it hurts.” When I didn’t immediately reply, she added, “I experimented with the handle of my hairbrush, like I read on the Internet. It went in.”

My problem was my body’s reaction. It was giving me the answer logic and common sense was trying to deny. I was actually turned on at the prospect of having sex with Lucy. Still, she was way too young.

“It doesn’t work like that. Both partners have to want to,” I countered - not one of my better arguments as I found out.

Lucy moved her hand under the covers and felt my erection gently. “You have an erection. That means you want to, too.”

God help me!

“Okay. We’ll try.”

“Good.” Lucy rolled onto her back. “Well? Go on.”

Grinning, I snapped my fingers. “How was it for you?”

Her brow furrowed. She frowned. “You’re making fun of me.”

It took some snuggling and kisses on her cheek to get her to forgive me. But in the process, bare skin touched bare skin. Lucy became all cuddly and kisses slowly became sexy. I fondled her scrumptious little ass and grew evermore aroused by her petite body, evermore excited at the prospect of actual intercourse with her. What would it be like to have sex with such a young girl?

When her tongue touched my lips and retreated, her eyes smiling, I slipped my hand inside her cotton panties and fondled her smooth, cool naked buttocks, each a perfect handful.

Easing her panties down her legs was such an erotic experience; a teasing prelude to greater intimacy. As I reached down to tug them off her feet, I took a moment to kiss and suck on her new buds; so small, a firm little pad promising the glory of puberty in the near future.

With my boxers shoved off, I rolled to face her, gathered her slight body in my arms, and my erection naturally pressed to her closed thighs, the tip gently nudging against her pussy.

Our kisses became sensual, tongues playing, her mouth opening, and my excitement hit that point where precum leaks, where the tip of my erection slides, where subtle fucking motions stimulate and ramp up desire. And as my excitement grew, my worry faded. This felt so good.

When enough precum had leaked and my crown slipped down along her cleft, such a sensual caress, I rolled her, lifting myself over her, hovering on knees and hands.

Lucy watched me, with a small smile turning up the corners of her mouth. Underneath me, with me above, it hit home how young she was, so petite, just a child; yet, so very, very sexy. I didn’t try to understand why she affected me so, just relished the desire within me, my erection straining.

Looking lower, I inhaled sharply at the sight of two small hip bones, prominent peaks, and God, the only real curve on her front; her lush pudendum rising like an appendage from her stomach, hairless and perfect, narrowing sensually and plunging between her thighs. Beautiful rounded labia formed a tightly closed cleft, hiding the treasures within; so unbelievably sexy.

And then, seeing my erection jutting out, almost as thick as her pussy, a storm of conflicting emotions hit me. There was no way in the world she could take me. But, God, how tight would she be? And I so wanted to find out. I so wanted her. I wanted to feel myself inside her sexy little body. I wanted. I wanted!

When I finally tore my eyes away and looked at her, Lucy was watching me.

“I’m so much bigger than you,” I said.

She opened her mouth, protest in her eyes. “But . . .”

Before she could say another word, I continued, “So I’m going to go very slowly. Okay?”

Lucy relaxed. “Kay.”

As I rose and sat back on my heels, Lucy continued, “Most first times are not very good. More females are disappointed than males. I couldn’t find out why. But, if this time isn’t good, we should try again. According to research . . .”

Leaning over, I kissed her to shut her up, smiling against her lips. Her personality hit me just so. Her dark olive eyes twinkled at me. She smiled into the kiss, too.

When I straightened, she continued right where she left off, “. . . it’s better when one of the partners has experience.”

And, despite a raging erection and severe arousal, I laughed, my erection bobbing up and down.

“What are you laughing at?” she asked.

“You’re too much, Lucy. I love you,” I told her, smiling.

Lucy, still serious, commented, “I don’t know if I love you. What does love feel like? How do you know?”

“One day you’ll find out,” I assured her, spreading my knees and drawing her legs over my thighs, pulling her body down, her pussy closer.

Her tightly closed, hairless little cleft opened only slightly to expose her clitoral hood and the small bump of her clit. Below, her slit glistened, and the dark, incredibly small opening to her vagina was just visible. The bottom of her small, sexy buttocks swelled where they pressed to the bed. I compared her short, immature cleft to my erection and shuddered. There was no way in Heaven she’d be able to take me.

My crown was wider than her vulva, red and straining up, clear precum slowly leaking. I was almost as big as her entire cleft, as wide as the gap between her thighs. Shaft in hand, I pushed the tip down to touch her pussy, a shudder of pleasure hitting me. Sliding it along her slit, precum spread, her labia glistening, my erection pulsing as excitement thrummed through me.

Easing back, I rubbed her now slippery pussy with the pad of my thumb; her cleft so silken, labia soft and supple. I stroked her clit with a gentle touch and watched Lucy relax, her eyes watchful. Arousal slowly entered them, dark olive green intensifying. She returned my smile, and then looked down as I moved again.

Holding my shaft, I pressed the tip of my large crown against her small pussy and rubbed her clit, precum adding more lubrication. It was obvious I’d never actually penetrate her. Lucy’s pussy was too small, but I loved the sight; my tip pressing against her hairless labia, the way they bulged slightly. The sight was intense, an adult erection touching a prepubescent pussy and it titillated an illicit part of my brain.

Pressing harder, erection rigid, and rubbing up and down her short slit, Lucy’s labia oozed apart to spread around the helmet, and God it looked sexy! Her clit dipped and kissed the crown. My shaft swelled strongly, more precum leaking. How deep could I go without hurting her? Could I touch my erection to her entrance? If I did, could I actually cum directly into her? Actually fill her small pussy with semen?

More thoughts raged through my aroused brain. What would it look like to see my adult shaft pulsing against her hairless pussy, watch it throb with every hard spurt? What would it feel like? And, Lord, what would it look like to see adult semen flowing out of her - thick white cum oozing out of her immature cleft and pooling between her buttocks?

A powerful, almost disorienting surge of arousal hit me. I couldn’t stop myself from thrusting, my body’s reaction to my excitement, and Lucy’s small cleft spread even wider, impossibly wider, stretching, her supple, hairless labia slipping over my helmet to cradle it fully. My pulse raced. It actually looked like I was penetrating her! I wasn’t, but the sight!

I had to back off. I had to or I’d cum. I was so close already. Easing back, Lucy’s cleft stayed open, exposing the dark entrance to her vagina. It looked bigger to me. Then her plump little labia closed, partially hiding her.

Caressing her clit gently with my thumb, I asked, “Are you okay?”

Lucy nodded. “You didn’t go in.”

Still fondling her small clit, I nodded, my erection bobbing up and down.

“You have to push harder,” Lucy informed me.

“You’re too small, honey.” But, even as I said it, out of curiosity, I slipped my thumb down her slit and pressed it against her entrance. Unbelievably, my thumb oozed into her to the first knuckle! Lucy’s pussy gripped my thumb, warm and sensual.

Glancing at her, Lucy smiled slightly. “That feels better than the hairbrush.” She struggled up onto her elbows, looking down.

My heart was racing. Extreme excitement had my body almost trembling. And then I had an idea, a visual image, something that would give us both pleasure.

Easing my thumb out, I gripped my shaft and guided it, the tip touching then pressing against her hairless labia. With a side-to-side motion, I pried her lips apart, easing my crown in until, with her small cleft stretched, I was lodged at her entrance. My erection swelled rhythmically, so hard.

Lucy watched as I caressed her clit with my thumb, stimulating her. She sighed and melted back to the bed. Unbelievably, it got better.

Lucy responded to my caress, gently moving her pussy. I felt it on the tip of my erection, a little tease. I throbbed in response. I couldn’t remember being so hard. Hands-free, all I did was press against her small pussy and stare at the astonishing sight.

Lucy undulated her pussy, up and down. She sighed quietly, “This feels really good, Noah.”

“Amazing,” I agreed.

I don’t know how it happened. I couldn’t understand how it was physically possible. But Lucy’s tiny entrance seemed to stretch as she undulated. Still caressing her clit, Lucy tightened her legs, pulling herself against me.

Suddenly sensations inundated me. Lucy’s opening dilated and seemed to slip over my crown to snap tightly against my shaft. Still caressing her clit, she gasped quietly and her body shook. Her vagina gently convulsed, gripping and relaxing, milking me. Lucy was climaxing! Fists curled, she was breathing faster, lips parted, eyes tightly shut.

I glanced down and lost control. Seeing my thick erection actually penetrating her little pussy, her cleft massively stretched around my shaft, my orgasm slammed into me. With a gut-wrenching pulse, my shaft swelled and throbbed. I came with just the head inside her, a huge, almost painful pulse, semen erupting, pleasure crashing through me.

Gasping, another hard surge hit, erection swelling, pulsing, and I came again, semen exploding in an exquisite burst of ecstasy. Pulse racing, Lucy’s vagina contracting, tightening, relaxing, and tightening again, I came, an agonizing eruption, bliss crashing in, semen spurting. Not moving, not thrusting, only intensified the experience. Seeing my thick erection stiffening with each exquisite release was so damn erotic. I came hard, pulsing, spurting, sweet ecstasy washing through me, stunned that I was cumming in her small pussy.

LUCY WONDERED IF HER body would ever find strength again. She cuddled closely to Noah, listening to his steady breathing as he slept, loving his arms holding her.

It had been the first time she’d had a vision that wasn’t bad, wasn’t someone being hurt. Earlier today she’d seen her and Noah trying intercourse. But her vision hadn’t come close to reality. It hadn’t let her feel the incredible sensation of Noah inside her, the blinding power of her climax as he’d rubbed her clit, nor the amazing feeling of him cumming in her; his erection swelling, hot wetness flooding inside her.

She cuddled closer. Finally she understood what love felt like; someone more important than herself, someone else’s pleasure and happiness more important, and the ache inside when she looked at his face. She loved Noah.

Smiling to herself, she drifted off to sleep after reaching out to grab her teddy bear, Ferocious, and hugging him. She loved him, too, because Noah had given him to her. More than all the presents she’d gotten, Ferocious was the best.

**********

MY LIFE SETTLED. LUCY started school. She thrived and blossomed. Two tutors challenged her intellect every week, pushing her as hard as they could. Both had trouble keeping up with her. Lucy’s ability to learn, process, and retain information was astounding. She never showed a preference in subjects; her brain restlessly seeking knowledge.

Lucy charmed me. I couldn’t adjust to this beautiful little girl running mental circles around me. She was quiet, unassuming, and full of quirky traits. She’d cook because she loved it. She couldn’t stand mess and disorder, but never complained, simply setting her world straight and neat. I was convinced it had to do with her need for control and the lack of it she’d experienced as a child.

Following a short flirtation with social media, Lucy lost interest. She returned to books, using the Internet as a resource for additional information. She also informed me very seriously that information on the Internet was wrong as often as it was right.

Invariably, Lucy, while deep in some subject, would throw out an aside, “You should start writing.”

I adored her.

I also started writing, nothing serious, just experiencing the joy of the creative process.

Our intimacy followed no pattern. Lucy quickly discovered how a glimpse of her panties could distract me and used that knowledge ruthlessly to tease me. For a couple of months I wasn’t aware she knew, just suffered. She was an expert at keeping a straight face when giving me a peek, too.

Sex, surprising me, didn’t dominate out relationship. In fact, we didn’t try intercourse for a couple of weeks after that first time. Lucy was too young for full penetrative sex, but the little she could handle was always intensely enjoyable. That changed slowly. Over time she took more and more of me inside until two thirds of my erection would be held in an exquisitely tight grip, Lucy showing no signs of discomfort. Our love-making was always in bed, soft and loving, slow and pleasurable.

I let her lead our intimate relationship until mid-summer when things changed yet again.

It was her fault, although she disagreed. She’d developed two gorgeous little breasts, very small mounds that were half areolae. On her small body they looked spectacular; young yet not. However, in August, I lost all my restraint.

Lucy had, in her gentle way, dropped comments throughout winter about restoring the estate gardens to their former glory: “I like flowers. Maybe we could plant some;” “What’s it like to swim in a pool?” “Did you hear about the West Nile virus carried by mosquitoes?” “The front gates are rusting and sad.”

Thus, spring arrived and a landscaping company was retained to restore the estate, which they did over a six week period. It was a huge task involving several workers and carefully observed by
Lucy.

By early summer Lucy was swimming and she loved it, spending hours in the pool or at the beach. Her choice of swimsuits reflected the lost child in her; pink or yellow, frilly, one-piece suits that stuck to her body so tightly I was treated to the sight of little breasts forming and a lush pudendum, camel toe and all. She was very cute, and inevitably, I’d feel a stir of desire at the sight.

However, it was the arrival of soft, sparse, ash brown pubic hairs that had a profound impact on me.

It happened one night when I eased her cotton panties off while kissing her little breasts, and moved down. In the soft glow of the bedside lamp, as I settled between her legs, the oblique light highlighted her mons. And for the first time, I noticed her soft body hair was changing. Small hairs had begun the transition to pubic hairs, changing color. They’d arrived at the top of her cleft and even smaller hairs had changed color on her lush labia.

My reaction to seeing them was immediate; a surge of arousal. To me, Lucy was ever more desirable. I knew why, too. Lucy, still small for her age, with the beautiful face of a child, and her body yet to show mature curves, was a sexy dichotomy. She was a pubescent child, almost adolescent yet not, a sexy sprite.

When I kissed her mons, silky pubes tickled my lips. When I kissed her cleft, tiny, silky pubes tickled my lips, and my erection surged, desire slamming into me.

With Lucy watching me, I probed her cleft with my tongue and tasted her familiar flavor; clean and sweet with just the faintest trace of arousal; a flavor I’d come to adore.

Her clit moved under my oral caress. Below, two small, undeveloped inner lips hovered like wings over her urethra and vaginal opening, the inside of her slit glassy smooth and warm. I tasted her deeply, easing the tip of my tongue into her. I loved, absolutely loved how her baby-soft pubes felt against my face. And this time, rather than bringing her to an oral climax, my desire for her was too powerful and demanding.

Rising, I moved up over her, my erection jutting out. Below me, Lucy was so petite. Her soft smile, green eyes twinkling, touched me. I studied her developing breasts and trailed my eyes down to study her lush pudendum, a sexy, sexy mound rising from her stomach. Once again the sight of ash brown body hair, new pubes, thrilled me and, unable to wait, hovering over her, I reached down, held my shaft, and guided the tip to her pussy. The sharp size difference excited me: me, so large; Lucy’s pussy so deliciously small. And as I pressed against her short cleft, her labia bulged and slowly, ever so slowly oozed apart to cradle my crown, her clit kissing my head.

Selfish desire drove me for the first time. I wanted Lucy desperately. With gentle thrusts, her cleft spread and the tip of my weeping erection snuggled down to touch the entrance to her vagina.

Pulse racing, I watched as I penetrated her little pussy, supple labia slowly edging lower. Her entrance yielded reluctantly, a tight, tight ring easing over the flared head until, with a sigh of pleasure, I penetrated her. My thick erection looked so damn big, her pussy so utterly sexy. My crown was gripped snugly by a warm velvet sheath, my shaft swelling with each pulse of pleasure.

Finally, glancing up, Lucy observed, “Did you know that most women prefer girth to length? I know why. I like the stretchy, full feeling. Do you?”

When I laughed, my erection swelled making her even tighter. I adored her.

Reaching down, I gathered Lucy in my arms and, with ease, lifted her, sitting up to rest on my heels.

Sensations bombarded me: Lucy was so damn small in my arms, so light, still a child; her arms wrapping around my neck and legs wrapping around my waist felt good; my heart responded to her shy smile, beating harder; and, dear God, Lucy’s sexy little pussy slipped down my shaft, half buried. She moved up and then let her weight down and three quarters of me was gripped very, very tightly. With her shy smile, her olive eyes watching me, she ease up and let herself down again and I was buried inside her, completely, fully, my entire erection in her young body!

I shuddered at the experience, erection straining, and kissed her softly.

Lucy responded with a murmur, a tilt of her head, her eyes winking out, and a small tongue emerging, her mouth opening. Holding her gorgeous little buttocks in my hands, I kissed my sexy lover deeply, passionately, hugging her young body to me.

For several minutes we did no more than kiss. I drowned in the sensation of penetrating her, my erection deep inside her, the tip pressing against her end. I thought I could feel her rubbery cervix against me and wondered if I’d cum directly into her womb, the thought lighting the fire of my desire.

Shuddering, I lifted her buttocks, her vagina gripping me, reluctant to release me. Halfway out, I let her settle and penetrated her completely once again, a wave of excitement hitting me. I didn’t want this to end. I didn’t want to cum. I wanted to experience this incredible experience forever, hold her in my arms, feel her young body against me, feel my erection penetrating her so damn deeply. I was in a world of my own, selfish, internally focused.

Then Lucy leaned back. “You’re all the way inside this time,” she observed. “Now I know what a turkey feels like at Christmas. Speaking of turkey, are you hungry, too?”

I burst out laughing. Lucy grinned.

“Are you seriously thinking about food?”

She nodded. “We could get something and come back and continue.”

Grinning, I informed her, “I’m not taking it out. It feels too good being inside you. We can eat afterwards.”

“But I’m hungry now.”

Her eyes opened wide when I shuffled backwards, found the edge of the bed and stood, her legs wrapped more tightly around me, arms still holding my neck.

“Hold on,” I told her.

I’d never experienced anything like it. It wouldn’t have been possible with a mature woman. I walked out of the bedroom, my erection buried inside her. And then we hit the grand, curving staircase.

Each step made her bounce despite me holding her small bottom in my hands. Each step I took felt like she was fucking me, her pussy bouncing. I’d never been so hard, my erection rigid and aching. It was a phenomenal experience.

Then three-quarters of the way down, I stopped suddenly. My orgasm slammed into me, erection swelling and semen exploding like a rapid-fire rifle. I had no control. I came hard and fast, swelling and spurting in her tight little pussy. I couldn’t breathe, my body clenching and cramping. Ecstasy hit, erection pulsing fast, and I finally groaned deeply, eyes closed as bliss arrived, swelling and exploding, swelling and exploding, a rapid-fire climax.

It passed too fast leaving me breathless, pulse racing, and feeling slightly unsteady on my feet. I finally opened my eyes.

Lucy leaned back, her eyes wide in surprise. “You came!”

Dear God!

Amazing me, while my erection had lost its rigid ache, I was still tumescent and mentally aroused! I nodded, taking a cautious step; slightly weak-kneed.

“That was fast,” Lucy commented as I reached the hall.

And walking to the kitchen, another utterly unique experience hit me. Lucy’s tight little pussy felt different. It was my semen! My partial erection slipped and slid inside her, silky, hot and very wet, yet no semen leaked. Lucy was full of my cum!

So distracted by the incredible sensation, I missed what she’d said.

“What?”

She pointed to the fridge. “Over there. I want grapes.”

Cold air washed over us when I opened the door. Lucy’s legs tightened around me and she leaned away, holding onto my neck with one hand, her other reaching.

“Bend more,” she instructed. “The grapes are on the bottom shelf.”

When she leaned even farther, her little pussy pressed firmly to my groin, the tip of my penis lodged against her end tightly and, stunning me, I started growing again! A wash of horniness returned. I’d never recovered so fast before.

Pulling my neck, Lucy brought herself up with a bunch of grapes in her hand, smiling. She shoved the door closed.

Backing up, I reached for a chair and turned it, sitting, Lucy now astride me. She settled with a delicious, teasing wiggle and popped a grape into her mouth. “Mmmm. Good.”

About to comment, she shoved a grape into my mouth. “Try it. They’re goooood.”

As I ate, Lucy squirmed with pleasure, her pussy rubbing my erection with a strange, hot, wet, and slippery caress, yet still so tight. Hands holding her sexy buttocks, I moved her back and forth.

She ate grapes. I grew fully erect.

For the next few minutes, Lucy seemed happy enough to munch grapes while I moved her back and forth. Then she sighed, reached around me to put the bunch of grapes on the table, settled her cheek on my shoulder, and started humping me, her small body undulating.

Releasing her cute buttocks, I held her naked body, hugging her, loving how she felt in my arms, so sweet and young.

Lucy started murmuring with pleasure, humping me faster, now rising slightly and settling down with each hunch. She stroked my erection and semen finally leaked making us very messy. Slowly Lucy’s excitement grew, her warm breath brushing my shoulder as she panted. And then she climaxed with quiet grunts, her tight pussy clenching and massaging me, her body shuddering lightly. She humped and stroked herself on my erection until, with a final deep sigh, she relaxed, her body limp.

I, on the other hand, had a raging erection again. Rising, holding her, I turned and laid her on the kitchen table, reached for her ankles and moved her legs up my torso, her ankles on each side of my neck. The table was the perfect height.

Lucy lay quietly, a slight smile on her face, relaxed, watching me and letting me move her.

I edged her bottom close to the edge of the table and looked where we were joined. It was, perhaps, the sexiest sight ever. Despite the hint of pubic hair emerging, Lucy’s pussy was bare, her labia bulging out around my thick erection. It looked like I was as wide as her pussy, filling her cleft, and when I withdrew slowly, my shaft glistened with white semen. Before the crown breached, I stroked back into her, her pussy bulging sensuously, her cleft collecting semen. She was very, very wet, very slippery, yet still tight, an erotic caress on my erection.

I fucked her slowly. Sucking and squishing sounds filled the air as I stared in wonder at the intensely erotic view of my erection plunging into her small body. Gripping her thighs, I fucked her deeply and the familiar sensations of an orgasm stirred. White cum collected, messy and wet, and pressure built in me. I thrust and withdrew, thrust and withdrew, stroking faster, chasing my orgasm to no avail. And just as agony arrived in my groin, Heaven blossomed, my climax released. It felt like I was firing blanks, my erection swelling and pulsing in agony, her pussy so slippery. I thrust and pulsed, drowning in pleasure until, with an almost painful heave, my orgasm passed.

I was exhausted. We were a mess. And all I wanted to do was crawl into bed and sleep. My erection faded fast. When it popped out of her small cleft, a flood of semen followed, dripping between her buttocks and falling to the floor. With the last of my strength, I leaned over and gathered Lucy in my arms, lifting and carrying her limp body upstairs.

**********

My life changed. I couldn’t help it. I wanted Lucy all the time. Like an adolescent teenager, I couldn’t get enough sex with her.

Lucy didn’t exhibit the same sexual needs but with small, shy yet pleased smiles, she succumbed to me often enough. We had sex in the pool when I eased the crotch of her bathing suit aside. We had sex in the kitchen several times.

We passed through summer and into fall, one year since she’d entered my life. Her body continued its journey through puberty as her twelfth birthday hovered on the horizon. She developed gorgeous little breasts, her nipples responsive. Body hair continued its transition into pubic hair and she was now the proud owner of a very, very light ash brown dusting on her pudendum which I adored.

One Saturday afternoon, while Lucy was kneeling on the floor, bent over the coffee table in the living room reading a textbook while I kept her company reading a novel, her cute little bottom caught my attention.

Wearing a frilly white and yellow short skirt, her rump had such a sweet shape. Then, as if knowing I was leering, she wiggled it. Game over.

Kneeling behind her, I leaned over and asked, “What are you reading?”

Quantum Transport. It’s about non-equilibrium statistical mechanics. I’m reading the chapter on nanostructures.”

She didn’t pause when I groped her gorgeous little ass, or when I edged the back of her skirt up, or when I fondled her soft cotton panties and explored the remarkable shape or her pussy from behind.

She was telling me about a unified model for quantum transport as I eased her panties down to mid-thigh and touched her sexy pussy.

Lucy didn’t react when I fondled her and caressed her clit. She was still explaining how conductors evolve from the atomic to the ohmic regime as they get larger when I unzipped my pants, fished out my hard erection and rubbed the tip along her cleft leaving a trail of precum.

Lucy just shuffled her legs apart as much as the panties would allow and sighed, lowering her cheek to the table when I worked my erection into her, carefully edging deeper until her sweet little buttocks nudged into my groin, her tight little pussy gripping me.

”What else does the book say?” I asked, leaning over her.

“You don’t care,” she murmured.

Straightening, I pushed her skirt up and admired her naked butt, then became distracted at the sight of my erection penetrating her, withdrawing slowly, her lightly-dusted labia inverting, then squeezed in as I stroked into her. Gripping her beautiful bum, I fucked her slowly. It was delicious, perfect.

Lucy murmured, “I don’t care either,” and sighed.

I fucked her slowly, enjoying every second, and my pace gradually increased as desire and arousal built, still so aroused by sex with this young girl and, with a burst of pleasure, I came, thrusting and spurting deeply into her, finding release, cumming hard and completely, each spurt bringing joy and relief.

Lucy was still lying on the coffee table as I eased out of her tight little pussy, cum flowing suddenly from her cleft. I cleaned her and tugged her cotton panties up, smoothed down her skirt, and bent and kissed her cheek.

“I feel used,” she observed.

Her comment shocked me. When she saw my expression, she assured me she was kidding, but it didn’t help. As if emerging from a fog, I realized that’s what I’d been doing for months - being selfish in seeking out sexual satisfaction with her. I thought back and recognized I’d been the one initiating sex every time. I felt awful and ashamed of my behavior.

I stopped making advances. I stopped groping and grabbing. I stopped.

**********

LUCY WISHED SHE COULD take back her comment. She’d been joking, but joking wasn’t something she did well. Noah had changed immediately. She saw it in his expression; shock and shame. She saw it in his behavior; slightly withdrawn and very careful how he touched her.

She tried to explain it was a joke but it made no difference. Why didn’t he understand how happy he’d made her? How wonderful it was to be wanted, to be hugged, for someone to love her and desire her, not hate her?

Noah smiled, but his smiles lacked something she couldn’t figure out. She tried to cuddle and let him know through actions how much he meant to her, but he was slipping away. Even when she got him to make love with her, he was too gentle, too cautious, and she knew he wasn’t enjoying himself as much as he used to; as if he didn't love her as much anymore.

Lucy was scared she was losing him and didn’t know what to do. And then, when she went looking for him to let him know dinner was almost ready, she found him in the study, in his armchair, with a glass of vodka in his hand, the television on, no sound.

Worry turned to fury in an instant. No! Not alcohol! Never alcohol!

As if watching herself, she screamed, “NO!!!” and rushed over, grabbing the glass of vodka and throwing it across the room. The glass shattered against the bookcase.

Noah’s eyes opened wide. He stood suddenly and Lucy hit him with her fist, his chest hurting her hand. “YOU CAN’T DRINK!!” she yelled, tears welling.

“Lucy!”

“NO!” she yelled, tears falling. “You can’t drink! Please don’t drink!”

His arms wrapped around her. She struggled to escape and he tightened his hug. Rage and anger burned inside her driven by fear and loss. Everything she’d had was vanishing, all because of one stupid comment! Her breath hitched, breathing was hard, her heart racing. She struggled to escape. And through the roaring in her ears, she heard Noah.

“Calm down, Lucy. Calm down.”

Slowly she calmed, tears still dripping. Noah sat in the armchair pulling her onto his lap. For minutes they sat, Noah’s hand stroking her back.

Eventually, he asked, “What happened?”

In a small voice, Lucy whispered, “You were drinking vodka again.”

“Huh? It was water, not vodka!”

Lucy raised her head in astonishment. “Water?”

Noah nodded, his warm brown eyes concerned.

“I thought you’d gone back to drinking vodka.”

“Why would I?” he asked.

“Because you don’t love me as much anymore. I disappointed you.”

His eyes opened wide. “Is that what you think?” he asked in astonishment.

Lucy nodded.

Noah smiled gently. “You’re so smart. How can you be so wrong? I love you. But I was taking advantage of you and I shouldn’t have.”

Lucy, at his comment, let herself relax against him, wiping the tears from her cheeks.

Noah explained how much he wanted her, how much he loved making love or just having sex with her, how she filled his life with meaning and joy, how she'd saved him and brought him back to life. He explained how he’d understood he shouldn’t be the one taking the initiative, that it should be her decision, her desires, her needs, not his, and how he was trying to adapt.

Lucy tried to express her feelings again. She tried to tell him how much she loved him, how much she loved being wanted for the first time in her life, how she adored being chased and their sexy play. She tried to explain how wonderful his hugs were, how much she loved cuddling, kissing, being held.

“I want it back like it was, Noah,” she pleaded.

He smiled gently. “It seems I can be very wrong, too.”

When he kissed her, his lips brushing against hers, her nose full of his scent, Lucy sighed. His kiss was like it used to be; soft and loving with a tingling promise of more. When the kiss ended, she sighed quietly. Noah was a great kisser.

“The lips are called the Labium superius oris and Labium inferius oris. It’s the same name used for Labia - that’s the plural of Labium, the lips on a pudendum. A woman’s lips are a visible indication of her fertility. Did you know estrogen levels during puberty and development help maintain a childlike and youthful facial structure? And the more estrogen a woman has, the bigger her eyes and lusher her lips are. That’s what guys react to as sexy. Amazing, huh?”

“Jesus, Lucy!” Noah laughed, hugging her tightly. “You’re one-of-a-kind. I adore you.”

“Thanks. Oh! I came to tell you dinner is ready. It’s probably burnt by now.”


Epilogue

LUCY AND I FOUND BALANCE. She pursued me as often as I did her and confidence blossomed in her. Never boisterous or silly, she developed a wry sense of humor that tickled me pink.

Good nutrition helped her body. She sprouted vertically. Puberty did its magic and, as she passed fourteen years old, she developed subtle curves. Her hair grew even thicker, still blonde with ash brown highlights. And her intellect showed no bounds. At fifteen she was on her way to graduate from university.

At the same time, giving in to Lucy’s constant asides, I resumed writing and published two novels, one successful, the other not so much.

Lucy changed, too. She still had her visions, albeit rarely. But her visions, as if tied to her mental happiness, became visions of pleasurable events, not dangerous events. She told me about them every time, explaining how they showed we should do something or try something new. I had a sneaking suspicion she was fibbing some of the time, but I never let on. Invariably her visions brought both of us pleasure.

One very significant event took place. At fifteen, Lucy casually asked me if she could see the locked bedrooms. I gave her the keys and let her go on her own. I still couldn’t face those two rooms.

A few days later, Lucy took my hand and said, “Come with me. Marissa wants you to use the master bedroom again. She wants it to be filled with life and love.”

I wasn't sure if I believed her but she’d been right so many times, I accepted it. And Lucy led me up the sweeping staircase to the bedroom. It was spotless. She’d cleaned it. She let me look and let the memories wash through me until they found peace in my soul, then led me to the other bedroom; the nursery. She’d cleaned it, too.

“One day we’re going to have a baby and this will be her room,” she said quietly, holding my hand. “I saw it.”

“Her?” I asked, noticing how Lucy had put Ferocious in the crib next to a small lace pillow.

“The first is a girl,” Lucy told me quite seriously. “Her name will be Marissa.”

 

 
     
 

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