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This material is Copyright, 2002, Uther Pendragon. All rights reserved. I specifically grant the right of downloading and keeping ONE electronic copy for your personal reading so long as this notice is included. Reposting requires previous permission.
All persons here depicted, except public figures depicted as public figures in the background, are figments of my imagination and any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Crystal agreed to all the conditions. As the choirs started up for the fall, she was the only sophomore in the chancel choir, indeed, the only high school student.
"I'm trying to recruit more young singers," Mrs. Mitchell told her. "There will be the Morgan boy, too. Craig is his name."
It turned out that she was talking about JG Morgan. He was a college student, nowhere near her age. His father had moved to town since Mrs. Morgan, JG's grandmother, thought she needed companions due to her illness. Her house was huge, and JG and his father had been fixing it up over the summer. It was the sort of church, the sort of town, where everybody knew your business.
Crystal's dad sometimes quoted something about "If it weren't for the honor, I'd as soon walk." It was supposed to have been said by a man who was tarred, feathered, and carried out of town on a rail. Adult choir was something like that. It was still uncomfortably hot in the choir loft, especially in the robes. She could get a ride home after Thursday-night rehearsals, but only by staying and socializing. These weren't her friends; they weren't bad people, for the most part, they were just awfully old. Some of them were the parents of her friends.
On the other hand, they sang every week. The youth choir rehearsed on Sundays after church and sang on special occasions. And Mrs. Mitchell did give Crystal hints for developing her voice.
Then, too, belonging did give her something of the status as an adult. She was too smart to join in the complaints about how the minister acted, but she was not excluded from the audience towards which those complaints were directed.
High school had begun soon before choir did. The high school and university years were half the reason for the long summer break. The other half was the unbearable stuffiness of the choir loft at the height of summer. At first, seeing kids she hadn't seen all summer was fun. Soon, however, class work became as boring as ever. Then the high school dances started. At first she went without a date, as she had the previous year. Then Dan asked her.
Her father thought she should wait another year before dating. "We did say last year," her mom pointed out, "that you couldn't date your freshman year. I'm not sure about this Dan, that's all."
"That's fine," Crystal said. "Dan's the one who asked me. First you say 'not yet,' then you say 'not with him.' What's your next excuse? Everybody else had dates last year."
She won that battle. One thing which her dad insisted on was that she carry two quarters with her on all dates. "Any time you feel that you want to come home, call. I won't hold it against you."
"Why should I want to call for a ride?"
"You might not," her mom said. "That's fine. And your father isn't talking about just needing a ride. But any time you're uncomfortable with how the date is going, any time you feel that you'd rather call home than continue in the boy's presence, call home. You don't even have to talk about it afterwards." As if all her friends wouldn't be talking about it afterwards for weeks if she chickened out on a date.
"Let's put it this way," her dad said. "If you have to call for me, I have to come pick you up."
After their second date, Dan kissed her. To her surprise, he stuck his tongue in her mouth. That led to a row and a breakup. When Josh asked her out, her parents were much happier with him.
Crystal wasn't sure. Okay, Dan was a creep. He was only interested in girls for one thing. But he had been interested in her. Josh seemed to invite her to the dances because it was the thing to do.
Besides, Josh was in the youth choir with her. And he could barely hold the notes. Worse than that, he spoke about how he looked forward to getting out of singing. He was such a contrast to JG. The basses stood in the rear of the choir for the anthems, and it was a treat to be standing right in front of that deep, rich, voice.
One day after church her mom was in a meeting of the finance committee. Her dad waited outside the meeting, reading a book. Crystal decided to walk home rather than wait. She saw JG among the kids in the parking lot. Mary Butler, a fourth grader, ran up to JG, squeezed his nose, and ran away. JG said, "Ho, Ho, Ho" slowly, his voice started deep and got deeper on every syllable. Then he chased Mary. He had the legs. She dodged when he got close, but his long arms got her. He turned her upside down in his arms. She screamed. When he put her down, he slapped her lightly on the backside. She was laughing when she ran away.
Crystal was surprised to find herself jealous of little Mary. What would it mean to have JG hold Crystal? (Not upside down, thank you.) What would it mean to have him slap her backside?
Not that JG noticed her. That was a problem; he didn't seem to notice her. He wasn't rude, like some of the older kids in school; he said hello when it was appropriate; he even commented on her voice. He knew that she was a fellow church member and a fellow choir member. What he didn't seem to notice was that she was a female. Mrs. Mitchell, the pastor, many of their fellow choir members, saw them as the same age. JG saw Crystal as a little girl -- not even that -- as a little kid.
As the year went on, the choir loft stopped being too stuffy because the air conditioning in the church didn't reach it. Soon, it was too stuffy because the heat from the furnace did. Her dad went out to the garage, turned on the car's heater, and drove the car closer to the front door before Crystal got in to go to school. Even so, she wore her heaviest coat. She went back to wearing a pair of jeans under her dress to church. Nobody thought it odd to see girls, even some women, removing a pair of pants in the cloakroom.
Most of the dozen or so choir regulars weren't solo material, and they knew it. Mrs. Driscoll and Mrs. Jenkins (Angela and Melissa) were the best soprano and the best alto, respectively. JG was the best bass, the best voice for that matter, the best male voice by far. The four tenors were, mostly, better than the other bass, but not solo material. Crystal knew she hadn't reached the level of the top three singers yet, but she wanted to. And, to give the devil her due, Mrs. Mitchell was trying to bring her along.
The cold really set in. Now the choir loft wasn't stuffy at all. Now she didn't bother to change out of her jeans before church. One Sunday, she was even tempted to keep her coat on. She knew, of course, that this would have frozen her solid when she walked out.
"Did you know," her dad asked one night at dinner, "that there is a major parcel of land between Lake Superior and the Arctic Ocean."
She knew that, even knew that they called that "major parcel" Canada. "Yes."
"Would you tell the weatherman that? Seems to me this weather came directly from the North Pole."
Her mom suffered through this in silence. Something snapped in Crystal, though. "Why should I? Why should the weatherman pay me the slightest attention? Nobody else does."
"Who," her mom asked, "aside from your parents, isn't paying you the slightest attention?"
Well, JG Morgan wasn't paying her the slightest attention. He didn't know she was alive. She couldn't say that, though. Why should he know that she was alive? "Aren't the two of you enough?"
"You might not believe it," said her dad, "but we think about you all the time. We don't necessarily give you what you want," (they never gave her what she wanted) "but we think about you." No, she didn't believe it, but she saw no sense in saying that.
The choir was scheduled to do "I've Come From the Fountain" as an anthem. "I want to see how it sounds with one response from a soprano, one from an alto, and one from a bass," Mrs. Mitchell said. "We could do it the last Sunday in Advent. Angela, Melissa, Craig, what do you think?"
Mrs. Jenkins said, "I can't guarantee anything around that time." She gestured towards her belly. "Crystal, do you think you could solo?"
"I could try."
"Well," Mrs. Mitchell said, "the baby is more important than the anthem." It didn't sound too sincere, but nobody really believed that Mrs. Mitchell thought anything more important than an anthem. "Why don't we try it?"
Crystal privately thought that the song was hokey in the extreme. On the other hand, she got a solo, if only five words; better, the entire choir sang "Crystal, Crystal, do you love Jesus?" once before the church and time and again in rehearsals. Best of all, she stayed after the regular rehearsal times with just Mrs. Mitchell, Mrs. Driscoll, and JG. Sometimes, when JG didn't have use of his family van, Mrs. Mitchell drove the two of them home. JG stuffed himself in the front of the Mitchell car after Crystal had climbed into the back.
On the first such ride, Crystal had a suggestion for Mrs. Mitchell. "You know," she said, "everybody calls Craig JG. That would fit the rhythm better than, 'Cray yug, Cray yug, do you love Jesus?'"
"They call you JayGee?" Mrs. Mitchell was surprised. "Why do they do that?"
"It's because of my voice," he said. "Maybe my height as well. My sister started it. You know Jenny? She called me the Jolly Green Giant. That shortened to Jolly Green, and then to JG."
"You are so good with the smaller tykes. You too, Crystal."
Oh great! Mrs. Mitchell was equating her with a "tyke" -- and in front of JG.
Still, she changed the choir's words at the next rehearsal. She never told the others that it had been Crystal's suggestion, never had any reason to do so. But JG knew.
The anthem was a great success. Then came Christmas, with all its excitement. The following weeks were a letdown. School resumed, and she didn't have any special role to rehearse. Mrs. Jenkins had her baby, a boy named Jacob, and Crystal was temporarily the lead alto.
There was a big snowstorm, and it got warmer. It wasn't warm enough to melt the snow, but it was warm for the upper peninsula in February.
Mrs. Jenkins rejoined the choir. She brought Jacob with her to rehearsals, and occasionally nursed him there. This embarrassed Crystal a little, although she would never have said so. She felt worse when she caught JG sneaking a peek while Mrs. Jenkins was nursing.
In the first place, adults -- especially amazingly masculine adults of skyscraper height, athletic build, and fog-horn deep voice -- should be beyond such childishness. In the second place, if JG did want to peek at somebody, Crystal was available. He would come after Jacob and Mr. Jenkins with Mrs. Jenkins. And, so far as she could tell from remarkably close observation, he wasn't interested in Crystal at all.
Crystal hid her disappointment while in rehearsals. Late at night, in her own room, she brooded on the unfairness. JG held small kids; he ogled old women. (Mrs. Jenkins must be twenty- five if she were a day.) He didn't glance at Crystal. She stopped undressing to look in the mirror. Were those breasts so bad, so small? They were a lot smaller than Mrs. Jenkins's of course, but Mrs. Jenkins was nursing.
She felt hers, rubbing the tips. What would it mean for him to look at these? Would he stare? She would let him get a good look, not some dirty peek. Her nipples stood farther out, and she brushed them. She brushed them more gently.
She started to take off her panties in her usual style, hands at her sides. She stopped suddenly. She pushed them down in back and front, rubbing her hands over her body as she did so. Would he like to see the view she saw in the mirror? One hand covered her delta. She caressed the sparse hair there, raising her hand and looking at what was revealed.
She shivered. The cold struck her, and she whipped her thick nightie on. Turning off the lights with one click, she burrowed under the covers and shivered there. The cold nightie was covered by the cold sheets. Still, what would it mean to have him want to look at her? She rubbed lightly over her chest. Would he like to see her there? Would it make a difference if her nipples stuck out like this?
She rubbed her nightie against the hair between her legs. She knew that boys always wanted to see that, and that girls were supposed to be very careful that they didn't. Would that interest JG? Would it be better than Mrs. Jenkins's breasts in a nursing bra? The feeling was good, even through the nightie. She pulled that up and felt all over the triangle of hair there with her bare fingers. It felt especially good at the bottom of that triangle.
She pushed against that point, very gently, very carefully. Would JG want to look, would she let him look. The picture of him watching while she poked and pried excited her. She couldn't quite see it herself at the best of times; she was completely invisible under the bedclothes. Would he want to watch, would she let him watch? Would she open herself like that? Would she spread those lips like this? Between those lips, she was even more sensitive. She rubbed there, very carefully. It felt even better.
Suddenly, in the midst of her exploration, she forgot her imagined audience. Instead, she thought only of herself as she stroked herself into greater excitement. It got more intense, and she rubbed harder. Then she exploded.
Her hand dropped down; her legs dropped to the bed. She lay there in inexplicable bliss. A moment later, there was a knocking at the door. She shoved her nightie all the way down and spread her arms to her sides. "Yes," she called.
"Darling." It was her mom's voice. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. I'm asleep."
"I thought you called."
"Good night, then."
Everyone wanted to hold and play with Jacob. Mrs. Jenkins had strict rules, but she did let church members have their turns. Once, Crystal's mom held him. When she was done, she kissed his forehead. "Look," she said, "this is probably nothing. Still .... He seems awfully salty to me. That was a warning symptom when Crystal was that age. I'm probably just making this up, but could you mention it to the doctor on your next visit."
Mr. Jenkins came by the house some days later. "You were right," he said to Crystal's mom. "It's cystic fibrosis."
"It's not good, but it's better if they catch it in time. Thanks to you, they did. Melissa and I owe you. Anything you want, ask us."
"What I really want is for Jacob to be all right. And you can't deliver that. As far as you could, you'd do it anyway. Look, he's a baby. Anybody would look out for a baby."
Life in the choir had an odd rhythm. Lent was spent rehearsing Easter music. They had weeks of "Up From the Grave He Arose" before there was any mention of the crucifixion. Mrs. Mitchell recruited the little kids into a "Cherub Choir." Crystal felt that not all the members had earned that name. Jennifer Morgan was one extreme example. The brat had no good word for anybody.
Being in the youth choir and the chancel choir gave Crystal a double loyalty. She was too old to run around like the little kids, but not too old to occasionally want to. On the other hand, she was one of the adults now, and the little kids in the youth choir sure didn't treat her that way. (Not that they were particularly obedient to adults other than Mrs. Mitchell, the pastor, and their own parents.) Still, she knew that some of her new friends expected her to at least tell the little kids not to run in church. And some of her old friends were very sure she shouldn't.
Ashley Morgan was in the youth choir, but not one of the problems. Indeed, it was hard to believe that such a small voice belonged to JG's sister. Crystal tried to be civil with her. On the one hand, a friendship with her would be likely to lead to an acquaintance with her brother. On the other hand, she didn't want JG thinking of her as one of the friends of his little sister. He should think of her as one of his fellow adults in chancel choir. And, after all, Ashley -- in junior high -- didn't have anything in common with Crystal.
Geometry class got rough. "I wish I had taken general math," she said at home, "that's all you have to take, you know?"
"Oh?" said her dad. "And how did you plan on paying rent?"
"You can't take general math and expect to live here."
"That's my room."
"It's my daughter's room. And my daughter wouldn't take general math."
"Now that you have each made your points," said her mom, "are you willing to help your daughter with plane geometry?"
"Of course. When would you like to have the lessons?" he asked Crystal.
She didn't have a choice. They settled on Tuesday and Saturday evenings.
What her dad would not do was to teach her to drive. Her birthday came too late for her to enroll in driver's ed that year, and all he would do was say, "Well, you can take the course in school come September." It was totally unfair, that she could be sixteen and still not allowed to drive the car all summer. Many of her friends had started well before their birthdays. He emphasized, though, that if she ever distrusted the driver's ability -- whether because he or she was drunk, or for some other reason -- she should call home and he would pick her up. As if Crystal would. And her friends didn't do drugs, which she was sure was "some other reason," and then drive. They did far fewer drugs than she thought he thought, really.
The cherub choir sang the Sunday after Easter. The youth choir sang twice. JG and Mrs. Driscoll each got two solos. Mrs. Jenkins begged off twice, but she sang a solo in June. Then the choir broke for the year. If anybody remembered Crystal's singing they didn't mention it.
There had been more than the usual amount of dissatisfaction with the current pastor. Crystal heard fourth and fifth hand reports that the staff-parish committee had asked that he be replaced. That she did not hear directly from her own dad, who was on the staff-parish committee, could have been a complaint of Crystal's. Instead, it was one of those things which she tolerated in silence.
In June, right after the end of school, he moved out and the new pastor moved into the parsonage. It was Rev. George Powell, with his wife Barbara. The chancel choir sang its last anthem the first Sunday that Rev. Powell preached. People welcomed him and said nice things about his first sermon; they complimented his wife. The most enthusiastic comments, however were about his young daughter. Shannon was terribly cute, and Crystal felt herself succumb as fast as the other girls did.
Crystal had outgrown most of her summer clothes. Her mom took her shopping. She bought new bras, B cups since the old ones didn't fit any more. Her mom suggested that she get ones which would snap at the closest point -- more growing room that way.
She found the cutest swim suit, but her mom wouldn't let her buy it. "One piece. Your father would have a cat fit if he were asked to pay that much for such little coverage."
Swim suits aren't priced according to the amount of material, but still they left the shop with a one-piece suit. Compared with what her friends would be wearing, it would qualify her as a nun.
Her final selection of jeans wasn't much better. They fit like farmer's overalls.
Still, she had clothes for the summer. Josh started taking her to movies in town about every other week. They sat down front where they could see everything. Many of their friends sought the back rows, but Josh didn't seem interested in her; he seemed more interested in being seen with her.
The rest of the time, she started going with her friends to Portage Lake. Despite the still-cold water, she swam -- one thing which could be said for her mom's choice of swimsuit, you could swim in it. Then they lay around on big towels working on their tans. Josh wanted to be near her, but they had separate towels. He helped her with her sunscreen, but otherwise kept his hands to himself.
She noticed that some of the boys she knew from high school watched her on the beach. At first, this made her a little nervous; after the second day, she gloried in it. She didn't flaunt anything -- what did she have to flaunt after her mom had dressed her like a nun? But, when she had noticed some boy looking her way, she sometimes spread her legs a little to get more sun on the thighs.
There were a lot of holes in church during the summer. Faculty and students took long vacations. She didn't get to go anywhere. The farthest she had been in her life was Manitou Island. Her father read physics journals and taught summer school, rather than exploring the USA or the world like other faculty members did. JG was away, working rather than sight- seeing. Still, she missed him.
Some of her friends went to the beach on Sunday. The changing rooms were closed, the lifeguards weren't there, but nobody tried to prohibit swimming. "Crystal," Janice said, "you have to come."
"Why?" She couldn't leave the house before Sunday dinner was over, anyway.
"Just come." It turned out that there were boys there, boys none of them had ever seen before. They were men, really, students from the university who all worked together at some mine through the week. Sunday was their only day off, and they spent it at the lakeshore.
What was more, and despite the competition from some of the other girls -- Amanda wore a bikini which wouldn't have made a decent handkerchief -- some of them were interested in Crystal. She went back the next Sunday.
There was always a big celebration on the Fourth of July. Most of the town was there. Families ate a picnic dinner, and then watched the fireworks after dark. She went in her swimsuit covered by blouse and jeans. She went swimming early, and then decided not to cover up for the rest of the day.
Each family would claim a small patch of ground, but everybody visited back and forth. Her friends would go to their parents to raid the picnic basket, then visit somebody else's family, then gather at the western end of the beach, which was their place. Some would go in the lake again; some would wander off with their special person. The nearby woods were full of couples.
Crystal visited many of her friends and their parents. She visited some choir members. Then she came upon the Morgan family. "Hi, Ashley," she said. Ashley gave her the look of recognition which was all the conversation Ashley ever offered. She then resumed reading her book.
"Hi, Crystal," said JG. She had known he was off work that day.
"Young Crystal," said his grandmother. "You look a lot cooler than I feel."
"Well," Crystal said, "any time I get too hot, I can always go back in the lake."
"That's the real advantage of being so young. But isn't the water awfully cold?"
"And any time I get too cold, I can come out again." Great, now she was having a conversation with his grandmother, and a silly one at that. Still, it beat hanging around in silence. And some students at the university found her attractive in her swimsuit -- fit for a nun, or not.
After a minute, JG wandered off. She got away not too long after.
Somehow, the fireworks were a letdown that year. Her dad and mom talked about how nicet hey were all through the drive back, but she didn't contribute much to that conversation.
She continued to go to the beach, she met with a bunch of people from the high school on weekdays, and her special friends and their friends from the university Sunday afternoons. On most weekdays, she could get a ride there from her dad; some Sundays, Jan or Amy drove; some Sundays they got there by walking or hitching. Usually, they all hung out together, swimming, lounging around, swimming. Then the men would get back in their powerboat to cross the lake to where they were parked. Her friends would all go back in the woods to pull their jeans and tops over their swimsuits.
As the summer went on, some of the more daring girls would take walks with some of the boys on the paths in the woods. Other girls, mostly those with special boyfriends, stopped coming on Sunday afternoons.
Crystal didn't go off alone, partly because she had been warned about Lyme disease. She had two special friends among the crowd from the university, Bill and Chris, who each had asked her. She let them understand that she hadn't decided yet.
One Sunday, when she and all her friends had hitched to get there, Bill hadn't been able to come. Towards the end of the afternoon, Chris asked her to walk in the woods with him. It was about time; Crystal didn't want to be kissed in front of her friends, who would tease her afterwards. One of the boys was off with her friend Amy. As the boys didn't go off when a friend was in the woods, Crystal delayed her acceptance until Amy would get back.
Suddenly, they heard a scream. Amy came back, all right. She was holding the top of her swim suit in her hands. There was a bit of shouting, some of the boys yelled at the guy who had gone with Amy. Then they all piled in their boat. The girls were left on the beach. Amy was sobbing and incoherent.
Somebody brought her clothes. She pulled on her top without fastening the top of the swimsuit; the string on the back seemed to be broken. "Now what?" asked Jan. "She can't walk back dressed like that. It must be a mile and a half to her house. Do we hitch?" Amy was incoherent, but plainly wasn't happy about that choice.
Crystal saw what was needed. She pulled on her own jeans and fished some coins out of her pocket. There was a pay phone near the closed concession stand. "Dad, you said I could call you if I needed to. I'm at the lake, and I desperately need a ride home."
Crystal had planned to put Amy in the front seat. Instead, Amy headed for the back, and Nicole and Sarah got in with her. Crystal rode in single glory in the front. Her dad let the back seat off a block from Amy's back door. The girls had a plan to get her in unseen. Without asking, her dad drove back to the beach to pick up the others. He dropped them off at their homes, making their house the last stop.
"I told you there would be no problems if you called, but could you tell your mother what happened? You can be as explicit or as discreet as you wish, but she'll be worried. As for me, my lips are sealed."
Crystal explained as much as she understood about Amy to her mom. She left her decision to walk in the woods with Chris out of it. "Well," said her mom, "I think that this is the time to call in your father. Ryan," she shouted. He came.
"Apparently," her mom said, "the need wasn't quite Crystal's. Was it all right to call?"
"Well, I've been thinking about that. The rule is that if she needs to call, I need to pick her up. She felt she needed to call. I'm not going to second-guess her." He turned to Crystal. "I think you did the right thing, kid."
And that was the last time that either of them brought that up. Amy's dad wasn't quite so forgiving. Amy, naturally, tried to keep the secret of what had happened in the woods from her parents. And, naturally, it didn't work. Amy's dad learned what had happened, probably a lot more than Crystal ever learned. And her dad, who had been some sort of buddy with Crystal's, thought Crystal's dad should have told him.
Nobody went back to the lake the next Sunday. Amy stopped going until the next Fourth of July. When the more daring of Crystal's friends did go back on a Sunday, the boys from the college had stopped visiting.
Amy didn't tell Crystal what exactly had happened, and Crystal didn't ask. She was not that naive, though. Amy had returned not wearing her top. She thought about what had happened to Amy. She thought about it happening to her, some boy holding her breasts.
As hot as it was, closing the door to her room tended to block
the flow of air conditioning. She closed the door, though. She
thought of the boy holding Amy's breasts. That thought increased
the sweat in her cleft. Then she thought of Chris holding her
breasts. What did it matter? She thought of JG holding her
breasts. That made her cleft run with sweat. She rubbed it
around until her excitement peaked. Now all of her was running
with sweat. She threw on a robe and ran for the bathroom. She
felt cool and comfortable after a shower.
When school began again, Crystal was in second year algebra and in driver's ed. Algebra was easier than geometry had been. Still, her dad continued the tutoring sessions. He absolutely refused to do the assigned problems for her, though. What help he thought she would get from the tutoring, Crystal couldn't see.
Mrs. Mitchell gave her a special reminder of the first rehearsal for he chancel choir. She didn't provide any solos, however. A Betty Miller moved to town and joined the church. Crystal was no longer the newest alto. Mrs. Miller needed a strong voice near her to keep her on pitch. JG was back. His voice was as interesting as ever. He didn't seem any more interested in Crystal.
Driver's ed, after the first few weeks, was almost as boring as the other classes. Still, she would be free to drive herself as soon as the class was over.
She thought of ways to dress provocatively to make JG notice her. There were two problems. Her parents controlled her clothes purchases; the rehearsals were, after all, held in church. If she wore what she wanted to wear, Mrs. Mitchell wouldn't hesitate to send her home. She unbuttoned one more button on her blouse at rehearsals than she ever did in the house; JG didn't seem to notice.
One thing was on her side. She was growing. If she couldn't buy clothes to show off her shape, some of her old clothes did that already. One week, she took twenty minutes struggling into a pair of jeans that hadn't fit for a year. Walking the half mile to church in them was hard, sitting around afterwards socializing was nearly painful, but -- luckily -- the choir rehearsed standing up. And -- even better -- the altos stood in front of the bass section.
The next week, her mom said, "Crystal, I know that choir rehearsal is informal wear. On the other hand, I thought you had thrown that pair of jeans away. Couldn't you wear something else? There is a clean pair downstairs in the laundry I haven't brought up yet."
"Come on, Crystal," said her dad. "Get those and change. I'll drive you." It didn't seem like an argument she would win. Anyway, JG hadn't noticed her the last rehearsal.
The weather went through an unbearably muggy spell of nearly a week's duration. It changed abruptly during the church service. When the junior choir came into the sanctuary, the rain was coming down like buckets outside. The little kids, who normally ran outside to play at the end of Sunday school, ran around the church building instead. When the junior choir finally broke up -- Crystal suspected that Mrs. Mitchell dragged things out rather than get soaked running for her car -- the younger kids in the choir ran out to organize the games in the hallways. Crystal was too old for that, but she could sympathize with the feeling.
Some of the older ladies were coming from some meeting. Mrs. Morgan was among them, as was Mrs. Baker, one of the bossiest women in the church. "Children," she said, "don't run in church! You should know better. Especially you should know better, Crystal."
"What did I do?" She had, indeed, been walking demurely.
"You didn't do anything to stop them. Silence gives consent, you know."
Crystal felt so picked on by that statement, that she asked her dad when he drove over to pick her up. "Not entirely," he said when the entire story had been given to him. "Silence gives consent in some situations. If you see Smith sneak up on Jones in preparation for picking his pocket, then your silence consents to the pocket picking. (If you don't warn Jones.) If some kids are running noisily through the church hallways, your silence doesn't give your consent to their noise. Were you in charge?"
"No. They wouldn't have listened to me, anyway."
"Well, then leave Mrs. Baker to handle her own problems, which she won't do, being too busy handling everybody else's."
A week later, Mrs. Morgan stopped Crystal in the hall of the church. "You don't think silence gives consent? Do you?"
"No. My dad explained that."
"Then you know that my silence last week didn't give consent to Mrs. Baker's nagging."
"Thank you, Mrs. Morgan. It would have been worse if you had spoken. We all have to bear Mrs. Baker in silence."
"Cheer up. I'm in more meetings with her than you are."
Crystal felt better. Mrs. Morgan was nice; the whole family seemed nice, Jennifer excepted.
The big day arrived. Crystal passed her driver's exam and came back with a license. She took her friends out for drives for a week before her dad cracked down. The state would let her drive at any time; her dad severely limited her. Still, she was officially an adult now.
For once, there was no practice for youth choir. So she was free at the end of the service. She managed to walk out of the choir loft with JG. "Sure got cold, didn't it?" he said. "Did your dad have trouble getting his car started this morning?"
"Actually, I drove the family to church this morning," she said. She wanted to talk to him; if he wanted to talk about cars, she would. She'd talk to him about plane geometry if she had to.
Young Shannon, the pastor's first-grade daughter, ran up. She was holding up her arms. When JG swooped her up, she reached for his nose. JG held her up with one arm and held her hands back with the other. "No, sweetheart, we don't play that game in church. We'll play it outside later, if you want. This is church, and we don't run and play in here."
Now, there was nothing wrong with his calling Shannon "sweetheart," Crystal had done the same. Still, it was clear who had his attention. She went off to find her family, leaving JG and Shannon enjoying each other's company.
Crystal was with a bunch of her friends at Heather's house after school. Heather's parents were still at work. Somehow, the conversation turned to boys, as it always did when they weren't there.
"Did I see Bob peering down your blouse?" somebody asked Jennifer.
"Bob will peer down anybody's blouse," she replied. They all knew that. "But there is no way that he is going to ask a junior to a dance." Bob was a football star, and knew his own worth.
"Still," Nicole said, "I wish he'd ask me." There were nods of agreement.
"Isn't he a dream?" Heather asked.
"And why aren't you dreaming about Eric?" somebody asked her.
"Let's leave Eric out of this," Heather said. "I want to dream about the unattainable ones."
Crystal was willing. She sure didn't want to talk about Josh. "Speaking of unattainable, what do you guys think about JG Morgan?"
"JG?" Sarah said. "JG plays with little kids."
"JG picks up little kids," Nicole said. "Muscles have to count for something." Crystal's opinion exactly.
"Aw! You and Crystal just have a crush on him. There are muscles used in sports, like Bob's. I think JG's muscles are all developed from work. I don't want a guy who works with his muscles."
"I have a crush on that voice, that's for sure. Sometimes when he sings, I feel tingles running up and down my spine."
"Down your spine I'll believe. They start in your ears, after all. Where do they end up?"
"Who are you guys talking about?" Betty asked.
"A guy in my church," Crystal explained. A lot of the girls went to another church, or didn't go at all.
"And he doesn't go to the high school?"
"He goes to the university."
"Well, Heather said 'unobtainable.'"
But, aside from Nicole, people either didn't know him or were unimpressed by him.
Crystal's mom belonged to the United Methodist Women. She paid her dues faithfully, but she didn't attend many meetings. She went to the meeting before Christmas, however. By tradition, the pastor was the speaker at that meeting, and it was Rev. Powell's first time.
She came back grinning. "Was it a great event?" asked Crystal's dad.
"Not in the way that the organizers intended. In the first place, the pastor preached a sermon." His predecessor had always read a nice story from a book on such occasions, a story which could make everybody feel good.
"And in the second place, the sermon was about Advent. This is the time for waiting for the Christ Child. It isn't yet time to celebrate his birth."
"Ahhh." The December UMW meeting was, of course, the Christmas celebration of the woman's group.
"Well," said her mom, "he's right."
"Were the women persuaded?"
"I left them reminiscing over how well Rev. Oldwell did."
"Weren't people dissatisfied with Rev. Oldwell's preaching?" asked Crystal. She knew they were, and with justification. UMW Christmas celebrations weren't the only times when the man read out a sweet story.
"Once a girl," her dad began, "went to her mother and said, 'Oh how I wish I could combine the best parts of John and Bob.'
"'What are their good points?' asked her mother.
"'John is handsome, a great dancer, and to top it all off, he has a great job which pays well.'
"'That is impressive,' said her mother. 'What does Bob have that is better than that?'
"'Bob,' said the girl, 'wants to date me.'"
"That," Crystal shouted, "is not one bit funny!"
Her parents looked at her as if she'd gone crazy. "Ryan," her mom said, "amscray." Her dad picked up his paper and went upstairs. "Now, honey, what's wrong?"
"That joke isn't funny. None of his jokes are funny."
"So your father told a story which wasn't funny. Hardly headline news. Now, what's wrong?"
"Everything. You wouldn't understand. If you thought that was funny...."
"Actually, I thought that it was appropriate for the situation. I think I found it funny the first time I heard it. What I'm concerned about is what's bothering you."
"You wouldn't understand." If they had their way, nobody would be interested in Crystal at all.
"Probably not. I sure won't understand if you don't explain. On the other hand, I do see that something is bothering you deeply. C'mon, a trouble shared is a trouble halved."
"JG, you know, the bass singer at church...."
"The guy with the great voice you've had a crush on for more than a year." Crystal had never said so to her mom.
"Well, yes. He doesn't know I'm alive."
"I know that this is a faint consolation right now, but you are growing up. Men will be noticing you more and more. Someday, hard as this is to believe right now, you'll get annoyed about the guys who look at you as a sex object." Crystal could believe her, there were the Bobs around who would peek down any blouse.
"You mean someday JG will notice me." She'd been hoping that for well over a year. It hadn't happened yet.
"Well, that isn't impossible.... What I really meant, though, was that the boys of your own age, boys who have already noticed you, are growing up, too. Some day soon, the boys that are attracted to you will be men who are attracted to you. Boys who, since you want a man, look inadequate now... those boys will be men who will appreciate you and whom you will appreciate." Despite the 'whom,' her mom was trying to make her feel better.
It didn't work, though. She didn't want a Josh grown up sooner or later, she wanted JG. And she wanted him now. She wasn't going to get him now; she could see that. The closest she could get was the choir. And that wasn't very close.
JG was scheduled for a duet with Mrs. Driscoll on "Are Ye Able." Unlike the anthem in which Crystal had taken a solo part, this was a true duet. Instead of a call-and-response, the two singers sounded together. And they sounded beautiful.
Aside from her jealousy about all that time that those two spent together, Crystal felt an artistic jealousy, too. She wasn't up to that level of singing yet.
"Are you content with never having a solo?" Mrs. Jenkins asked Crystal out of the blue one Thursday after rehearsal.
"Well.... I do see that you're a better singer than I am."
"Still, you were so nice to step in last year. It's not going to happen again soon, and if it does, we'll sue Eli Lilly. I'll speak to Mrs. Mitchell. Your doing it would sound like complaining."
Mrs. Mitchell asked Crystal about it. She offered her a ride after youth-choir rehearsal. When she was in the car, Mrs. Mitchell said, "I hear you'd like another solo."
"Look. Mrs. Jenkins sings better than I do. You know that, and I want you to know that I realize it, too. I'm not complaining, or threatening to quit. I enjoy being in the chancel choir. I enjoyed my solo even more, it is true. So...."
"So, you'd go on like this, but you'd be happier in a more prominent role. That makes sense. And you do keep up with youth choir. I'll look for something."
"I'd be very grateful. And, it doesn't have to be soon. If you think I need more practice than the regular rehearsals give, I could practice at home. We have a piano, not that I got very far with my lessons. Still, I could play the notes I'm supposed to sing. Mom plays it enough that dad makes sure that it is kept in tune."
"Wise man. Nothing sounds worse than a piano out of tune." Crystal's dad probably couldn't tell. What he cared about was keeping her mom happy.
"Crystal," Mrs. Mitchell said after choir rehearsal not too long after that discussion, "could you stay afterwards for a few minutes? I'll drive you home."
"No need. I drove." Her dad was quite permissive about letting the car go on Thursday evenings. "Of course, I'll stay after."
When she did, Mrs. Mitchell showed her a hymn in the old hymnal, "For some reason, they left 'I've Found a Friend' out of the new hymnal. I really think it sounds best when sung by a young voice like yours. We won't schedule it, yet. You see if you like it. If you get on top of it, I'll rehearse with you after the regular time. Take the book home; we have hundreds stored here."
Crystal could see why they'd left it out of the new hymnal. On the other hand, she had lots to learn about singing the notes; and Mrs. Mitchell had lots to teach her there. Mrs. Mitchell wasn't going to ever learn about hokey words -- certainly not learn from Crystal. And it was a solo.
What it wasn't was a duet with JG. But Crystal didn't think she was musically ready for that yet. She was ready in other ways, of course. And Mrs. Mitchell sure wouldn't think that Crystal was ready for that. Being a soloist was one step forward.
Josh had been taking her to the movies about every two weeks. She expected him to invite her to see "The Nutty Professor." She knew he was a big fan of Eddie Murphy. When it came to the end of its run, she figured that she should go on her own. It was really selfish of her to depend on Josh to pay her way in to movies. Since her dad had a meeting that night, he wouldn't let her take the car to the later show. They compromised on her attending the earlier one. She saw the whole thing, and sat watching the fillers. Then she felt she should get the car back to her dad before he got nervous. Walking up the aisle on her way out, she saw somebody who looked like Josh.
She went close, standing at the end of the last row. He was sitting further in. It was Josh. Why hadn't he invited her to see the show? Why was he sitting so far back? They never did. And why was he sitting right next to another guy? The row was nearly empty; you don't sit down next to a stranger when the row is empty.
Josh, and it was Josh, was staring at the screen. Just in from the bright outside, he didn't see her at all. The reason he was sitting next to the guy became clear. They were holding hands.
Seeing her "boyfriend" hold hands with another girl would have been a shock. Seeing him holding hands with a boy was far worse. Crystal walked steadily out of the theater. She drove home sedately. She went up to her room quietly.
Then she lay in bed and bawled her eyes out.
She didn't know what to do. Josh, inadequate as he might be as a boyfriend, was a friend. Telling about this would ruin his life. For that matter, it wouldn't give her reputation much help either. "Crystal? She can't attract boys. The only one wanted her around so he could pretend he liked girls."
She actually accepted Josh's invitation to the next dance, although she made it a point to drive there by herself. She had a new enough license so that nobody thought that odd. In the middle of the dance, she staged a big fight with Josh. She stormed out and drove home.
"Darling," called her mom from outside her door, "is something wrong?"
"Come in." She didn't want to conduct this conversation at a shout. "Nothing is really wrong. I had a fight with Josh. I know you guys liked him, but this has been coming for a while. I think that it's over between us."
"Oh dear! That's too bad. Do you feel awful?"
"I feel okay. I'd like to think it over by myself. But I feel okay. It's just that I'm going to have to plan out my life differently. Not long term," she could see the worry on her mom's face. "I just need to know how I'm going to get to the next dance."
Crystal decided not to go to the next dance. She concentrated on rehearsing her solo. At first, terribly self-conscious about inflicting the same song on others hundreds of times over, she rehearsed when her parents weren't home. When her mom heard her, however, she asked all about it. Crystal told her a little.
"Not your choice of words?" Crystal shook her head. "Well, your father will be glad to know that. He can stand to hear them at home, he hears a lot worse in church. Just not thinking they're his daughter's favorite song."
"Mom!" They knew her favorite songs; they didn't approve, but they knew. They even knew her favorite hymns.
"Well, I can play it for you if you want." So they did that. Her mom playing the tune, sometimes just the alto part, and Crystal singing. When her mom was satisfied that she knew it, Crystal brought the subject up with Mrs. Mitchell again.
"Crystal!" She said after she'd gone through it once. "You know it already." What she had expected, she didn't say. She scheduled it as an anthem, with Crystal singing the first two verses, and the entire choir singing the third, for the Sunday before Palm Sunday.
The hymn came off without a hitch. Everybody was quite complimentary. "You sounded much better than we did," JG said. "Stick with me, kid, and you'll end up a star. Of course, you'll end up a star if you don't; but stick with me, anyway." Crystal would have been quite happy to stick with him, but he was only joking.
There was more snow on Easter day than there had been on Christmas. After that, however, the weather got warmer.
Crystal began going to the school dances by herself. Two couples had fights over the boys' dancing too often with Crystal. Jim asked her to the next dance, and she accepted. He was a nice guy, if no JG, and she got along better with her friends if she wasn't obviously available.
The problem was that Jim expected the situation to develop faster than she wanted and -- she strongly suspected -- much farther. On their second date, he drove her home and kissed her good night on the front porch. On their third date, he stopped the car on the way to her house. She liked the kiss well enough, his taste was exciting. She pushed his hands away from her blouse. The next time, she decided not to. He felt her breasts all over and kissed her as if he wanted to devour her. It was exciting. Then, he drove her home, kissed her sedately on her front porch, and left her.
As the weather grew warmer, their parking time grew longer. She refused to get in the back seat with him. She did, however, allow him to open her blouse. Later, she would open it herself and unhook the bra.
His kisses and the feel of his hands were exciting. She got in the habit of dancing with him, feeling his hardness against her, parking with him, kissing and letting him feel all over her top. Then she would come home, tell her dad and mom she had arrived safely, and go up to her room.
There, all alone, she would remember his touches. She would touch her own breasts. She would touch herself where she didn't allow his hands. Slowly, she would caress herself until she was overtaken. She would lie there and rub her clitoris until she came. Then she would drift gently off to sleep. Maybe Jim was the man for her. Certainly, she seldom got off except on those nights.
"It's too late to schedule anything for this year," Mrs. Mitchell said. "But you might look over the hymnal I gave you. See what you like, and we might schedule it for the fall." She put that off until vacation. She'd have plenty of time then.
Meanwhile, she lived for the choir rehearsals. JG didn't single her out, but he always spoke politely when she could think of something to say to him. JG, however, was planning to work out of town again this summer. She'd see him on the Fourth, but that was family time. Standing in front of him during the church services and the choir rehearsals was little enough. Now she was going to be deprived of even that for months.
The last Sunday before he was scheduled to leave, she saw JG talking to little Shannon in the parking lot. She squeezed his nose. "Ho, Ho, Ho," said JG in ever deeper tones. Shannon scurried away. She had judged her direction wrong, though. Instead of dodging between the cars, she ran straight away. She offered no contest to JG's long legs. He caught her and turned her upside down in his arms.
"No, don't," yelled Shannon, although she was laughing so hard she had trouble getting the words out. He finally spanked her lightly when he had set her back on her feet. She ran away.
Well, there seemed only one way to get this guy's attention. Crystal walked over. "Hi, JG," she said.
She grabbed his nose.
"You are much too old for that foolery," he said. "Big girls get another response. If you do it again, you'll be sorry." Well, she had his attention. So she did it again.
Without so much as a "Ho, Ho, Ho," he grabbed her arm. He pulled her into a hug. His hands were on her backside, but not in a spank. They were holding her against him. His leg, pressed between hers, was hard against her mound. One hand came up to hold her head. He leaned down and kissed her.
JG used his tongue, and she felt his hardness against her. All this felt different from anything she'd experienced with Jim, though. He licked her lips. She felt much funnier inside than she ever had before. Her nipples were burning hot and painful where they were pressed against his stomach. Something was churning in her belly. Her knees were weak. The kiss seemed to go on forever.
She had an orgasm stronger than anything she'd ever brought herself. She staggered when he let her go.
"That's what big girls get when they don't act their age," he said. "Now don't do that again."
She was ready to do it again. Just let her catch her breath. But JG set out in his loping stride. He would have been hard to catch even if her knees had been working.
That was Sunday. On Tuesday, Jim took her to the movies. They sat in the back row. She couldn't see much from there, but she could feel a lot. They left the movie much earlier than they ever did during the school year. Even though Jim drove a long distance, it was still light when they parked. She couldn't help comparing his kiss to JG's. Even though he claimed that it was punishment, JG gave more and took less than Jim did. Still, JG -- as she well knew -- was far away. She cooperated with Jim, taking off her blouse and -- although the light of day bothered her -- her bra when they got to the time that this was appropriate.
Jim kissed her again, his hands busy on her breasts. Her nipples hardened, and her tongue chased his. She was excited, and she could see that he was too. His erection tented his jeans.
"Let's get out of the car," Jim said. Get out? Even though there was nobody around, she was naked above the waist. Besides, she was excited. Now was the time for him to drive her home so she could get the privacy of her own room and finish herself off.
"Why not stay here?" Why not, indeed, go home?
"I have a blanket in the trunk." He wanted to get out and have her lie on a blanket. While he did what?
"I don't think so. Why don't we stop here? I'll get dressed again while you drive me home. I don't want the neighbors to see me get out of your car all mussed up." It was still, after all, light out.
"Come on, Crystal. I know you don't like the back seat, but the blanket will be fine. It will protect you from any grass stain." The blanket wouldn't protect her from the hard ground.
"And what will protect me from you?"
"Look, I think this date is over. Drive me home, please." She still carried some coins. What good they would do her in this wilderness was another question.
Jim, however, did drive her home. "Thanks for the lovely date," she said.
"Thanks for coming with me," he said, sounding just as insincere as she did.
She went to see some other movies by herself. She sat down in front where she could see all the action on the screen and ignore the action at the back of the theater.
Jim never drove such a long distance after their date, though. And, after he brought her home, she thought of JG's kiss. The hands on her breasts which brought her excitement were still Jim's; the hands which brought her satisfaction were -- as always -- her own. But the imagined presence, the imagined eyes, were JG's.
The real JG, however, was miles away and unaware of her existence.
Which made the Fourth even more of an event. Again, she went with her family to the beach. Again, she stripped down to her swimsuit in the car and took a dip. Again, she wandered among the family areas. The Morgans were in about the same place as the year before.
She could hear JG long before she could see him. "Dance, then, wherever you may be," he was singing. "For I am the Lord of the dance, said he."
She expected to listen till the end of the song, but he broke off when he saw her. "Hi, Crystal," he said. As he was reading the song from a single sheet of paper, he had his glasses on.
"Hi JG. Hi Ashley. Hi everybody. I was enjoying the song."
"That," said JG's grandmother, "is my favorite hymn. JG was kind enough to sing it for me."
"Aren't you lucky. Such a fine voice to sing for you when you want it." Lucky? Crystal would cheerfully kill to have a claim on that voice to sing for her.
"Not every time I want it. He would sing himself hoarse if I did that."
JG might have blushed at that. He was too deeply tanned to tell. Anyway, he changed the subject. "It's a great song, in the hymnal, too. Not that you are ever going to hear it while Mrs. Mitchell chooses the hymns."
"That's for sure." Crystal loved Mrs. Mitchell. It was the only way she could put up with her taste in words. Laughing at her hokey selections was something the two of them, along with most of the choir, had in common.
"Look," she continued, "I didn't mean to interrupt. I'd hoped to hear the song."
"Yes, JG," said his grandmother. "Why don't you start at the top again?" Crystal had always liked Mrs. Morgan. For that request, she could have kissed her. JG did sing the whole song through.
After a bit, Crystal felt she was intruding. Certainly, JG
wasn't about to walk away from his family. She excused herself
and thanked him again for the song. Still, when she got back to
her parents, she felt better about the day than she had the year
before. The fireworks made a grand show above the lake that
When high school started up again, they were seniors. Somehow, this didn't look so important as it had a few years before. Still, there was nobody but teachers to rank over them. "I'm sorry, Crystal," Heather said to her as they walked out of the school and towards Heather's car.
"Jim asked me for a date, and I said 'yes.'"
That was no real shock. Jim wanted more than he would get from Crystal, and she wanted more than there was in Jim. Jim had waited until the start of the school year gave him a larger selection. Still, Crystal knew what was expected of her; she walked home. She was going to have to persuade her dad to let her drive the car to school; it was nearly a mile, after all.
Chancel and youth choirs started up. The first rehearsal for youth choir was on Sunday, and Crystal skipped it. Mrs. Mitchell said nothing that Thursday at the rehearsal for chancel choir. The next week, however, she did.
"Crystal, you are really needed in the youth choir. Not only is your voice the best in the group now, but a the other girls note your absence and figure that they are old enough to cut out, too."
"I've been meaning to talk with you about something," Crystal replied. She hoped this would work. "You know, you said I should look for a hymn for a solo. Well, I've found one, but it's not in the old hymnal."
"What is it?"
"It's called 'Lord of the Dance.' It's in the new hymnal, number two sixty-one." And a bit hard to find, it had been, too.
"I'll look at it."
The next Sunday was, luckily, fine. She told her dad she would walk home. Mrs. Mitchell was gathering the youth choir for their rehearsal. "Coming to choir today, Crystal?"
"I meant to ask you. Have you looked at that solo I suggested?"
"Yes. And it's not really suitable, do you think? I'll find something else for you."
"Well, I think it's very suitable. Well, that's your decision. I'll be seeing you."
"What would you have done if I had said you could sing it?" Now the woman was starting to catch on.
"Come to youth choir, of course."
"Well, that hymn would take a great deal of practice." Mrs. Mitchell might have meant practice on the hymn, but it was really simpler than they usually chose for anthems. She probably meant practice at youth choir.
"I'm not in a hurry. Why don't I practice it at home until I think it's ready?"
"And you'll come to youth choir?"
"Of course." As she did that day.
Her mom, whose opinion of music differed from Mrs. Mitchell's, was happy to help her with the hymn. She rehearsed with her mom two nights a week, she sang and practiced with the chancel choir, and she rehearsed with the youth choir. She was actually doing as much singing as was good for her voice.
Aside from the unofficial promise of a solo for Crystal later, choir rehearsals went as always. As it was the start of the year, they struggled to get up to speed on a good many anthems. Later, they would be polishing one while they learned another.
JG was in fine voice. He always was, and not just in Crystal's opinion either. He appeared to have forgotten the kiss, and she was afraid to mention it to him. He was perfectly polite to her, as he was to all the members of the choir. It wasn't quite what she wanted from him, but she had no grounds for complaint.
As for Crystal, she hadn't forgotten the kiss at all. Thursday nights in bed, she would play back all her memories of the immediate past. Then she would recall everything which had happened that Sunday in the previous spring. She would remember his mouth on her, his hands on her backside, his stomach against her hard breasts. She would caress everywhere he had touched then, saving the best for last. Then she would remember his leg between hers. She would remember it pressing against her mound. And she would press her hand against her mound, and rub there. She would come remembering his mouth and on hers, his voice, and his leg.
The altos always stood in front of the basses. More often than not, Crystal was right in front of JG. Always when she chose her seat, of course. Usually when he chose his. At one rehearsal, Mrs. Jenkins moved aside when Crystal got there to allow Crystal into her accustomed place.
Then, one Thursday, JG didn't show up. Crystal wondered where he was. Wondered? It had ruined her day. She went to church Sunday with questions. Would he be there? Would he tell them what had happened.
He wasn't there, and the news was all over the church. She heard it when she was putting on her robe. Old Mrs. Morgan had had her foot amputated. People were shocked. The pastor mentioned the news so that the few people who hadn't heard it earlier learned at the service. He led a prayer for her, and asked people to continue that in their private devotions. She had type A blood, and blood donors would be helpful.
Crystal was an O, but a little too young. Her dad, however, gave. When visitors were permitted, he drove her to the hospital. He came with her to the room, but held back. The bottom of the hospital bed didn't really show the lack of a foot. The woman's face, however, had aged remarkably. It had been hard to believe she was over seventy; now, eighty or ninety would have been Crystal's first guess.
"I'm Crystal Cameron," she said.
"The song bird. Why the long face? If I can smile, you ought to be able to smile, too." She looked over at Crystal's dad.
"I'm Ryan Cameron," he said, "her father. I drove her here. But I've seen you in church." She didn't even pretend to recognize him.
The rest of the Morgan family were all together in church the next Sunday. JG's dad got up to thank everyone. JG was out of choir for a while. Everyone greeted him with open sympathy and covert curiosity when he returned.
"This was terrible in all sorts of ways," he said. "You know that she managed the farm for herself for years. Finally, the diabetes caught up with her, and we moved to town to be with her. Anyway, she has been seeing this doctor for years. She wasn't doing too badly, at least we thought so. Now she's being treated by an endocrinologist. And all sorts of things we'd been doing were wrong."
JG sat with his family in church, but came to the rehearsals for a few weeks. When he had caught up, he sang with them. One Thursday, he said he had a request. "My grandmother has a favorite hymn. She'd like to hear me sing it as a solo in church. I know that isn't how we choose anthems, but, as a special case...."
The choir was on his side. The church would be, also. Mrs. Mitchell asked, "What is this favorite hymn?"
"It's called 'Lord of the Dance.' I know it isn't exactly your style..."
"That isn't the problem. Crystal has been rehearsing that piece. I promised her."
"No problem," Crystal said. Which was the least accurate words she'd ever spoken. There was a problem; there was going to be a problem. She didn't want to make trouble for JG's grandmother, who was a nice woman and having enough problems right then. A million times worse was making trouble for JG himself Worse, if anything could be worse than that, was making trouble for JG when he was trying to please his grandmother. "If Mrs. Morgan wants to hear JG sing it, then I'll step aside."
"Well, really," said JG, "I think she wanted to hear it in church once more. I'm sure that a solo by Crystal would suit her just fine."
Crystal was trying to find a firmer way to step aside when Mrs. Jenkins spoke up. "Or," she said, "the two of you could do a duet. Would that be okay with you, Crystal?"
"It would be fine." It would be better than fine, it would be heavenly.
"That would be great!" said JG. "And I know that my grandmother enjoys Crystal's voice."
"I'll think about it," said Mrs. Mitchell.
After youth choir practice on Sunday, she spoke to Crystal. "Would this duet with JG meet your conditions?"
"A duet with JG would be great." She had gone to youth choir practice every week since she had made the deal with Mrs. Mitchell. What more did the woman want? Should she promise to stay in youth choir after she graduated?
"Well, so long as you're happy."
"I'm happy." Happy? she was delirious?
"Then everybody's happy."
She got her mom's approval to invite JG home to do the practicing. When Mrs. Mitchell announced that she would schedule the duet, she invited him.
"That would be great!" he told her. "I hope you don't schedule it too soon," he said to Mrs. Mitchell, "I don't know how soon my grandmother will feel up to the trip to church."
They settled on Tuesday for their rehearsals. She had to cancel her dad's algebra tutoring for that time, but all he said was: "Well, you'll have to really listen Saturdays, then."
Crystal needed to really work on algebra for her dad, she had to be in -- and be an asset in -- youth choir for Mrs. Mitchell. She had to practice the piece itself. That was a long list of places to be extra good, but it was worth it.
She remembered to thank Mrs. Jenkins, too. "That was a brilliant idea on your part. I don't know how to thank you."
"I didn't do anything. The person who is putting extra work in on this is your mother." Crystal could see that this was true. "You and JG, of course, but both of you seem to enjoy it. Now I don't know what you can do to make life easier for your mother, but you do." So Crystal found herself doing her chores much more willingly than she had in previous months.
Her mom invited JG to dinner before the rehearsals. All her dad did was check that JG wasn't planning to take any physics courses that year -- he didn't want him at the dinner table and in his class at the same time. Crystal marveled. After all the blocks they had put in her way, they went to a lot of effort to help make JG's visits comfortable. JG ate without his glasses but slipped them on when it came time to look at the music. "I'm far-sighted," he said. "The opposite of so many who have to wear glasses to drive."
JG ate less than her mom added to their meals, but one exception was his inroads into her spinach souffle. "I never before saw a kid your age who really liked spinach," she said. Oh great! JG was no kid.
"It is one of the healthy foods I've taken up," he said. "They praise all the green leafy vegetables, and you can't get much greener or leafier than spinach."
They'd both sung the hymn before, of course. The second or third rehearsal sounded good enough that Crystal was afraid the anthem would be scheduled. Nobody mentioned that possibility, though. Indeed, JG said, "I want to make the music schedule a function of grandma's return to church, not the other way around." And, of course, Crystal could just see them cutting back on rehearsal times since they didn't know how eager Mrs. Morgan would be to return. Nobody suggested that, either, and Crystal certainly did not.
Finally, however, Mrs. Morgan did attend church again. Crystal thought she looked better, half dead instead of wholly so. The people who hadn't seen her since the amputation, however, were visibly disturbed by her newly-evident age. They tried to hide it, but many of them didn't do a good job.
That Thursday, Mrs. Mitchell asked them to perform their duet after the main rehearsal was finished. She nodded her approval. Indeed, the only problems had been a little stumbling of her fingers when she was sight-reading the piece.
"This sounds great!" The musician in Mrs. Mitchell conquered her preference for sloppy lyrics.
"Thanks," said JG. "But I don't want to guarantee that my grandmother will be coming back regularly."
"That's understood. We already have a schedule, anyway. However, we'll do this the first Sunday in November. If your grandmother can't make it, we'll make plans."
They rehearsed on Tuesdays and also stayed after on Thursdays. The performance was a great success, and Mrs. Morgan was visibly pleased. The other Mrs. Morgan, JG's mother, invited Crystal to Sunday dinner a week later -- partly to celebrate, partly to thank her. Crystal didn't need thanks, but she wasn't about to turn down another dinner with JG.
And then reality sank in. She wouldn't be eating with JG any more. He wouldn't be coming to her house for rehearsals. She did see him at choir rehearsals and on Sundays. But that was no longer enough.
Two weeks after this realization set in, she was at the end of youth choir. It was too cold to walk home, and her dad was late picking her up. Some younger kids were running around. Somehow, that got on her nerves. "Stop it!" she shouted. "You shouldn't be running in church."
There were ten seconds of near-silence. Then Jenny spoke. "Don't mind her," she said. "She's not anybody, just the girl my brother's silly about." The kids ran off together.
Crystal was, too. somebody. What struck her, though, was the idea of being the girl JG was silly about. That probably was nothing; what did Jenny know? On the other hand, it was an intriguing idea.
JG showed up in the van for Jenny and Ashley. Her dad pulled into the parking lot soon afterwards. "Professor Cameron," said JG, "may I have a word with you?"
Her dad gestured that he was listening.
"I'd like to ask your daughter out. Would you object?"
"She's a free agent," her dad said. How free an agent had she been when she was thinking of taking general math?
"And," JG said, "her word is law. If she refuses an invitation, that's it. I won't complain. What I want is your permission to ask her out to a movie."
"Take him up on it, Ryan," Mrs. Mitchell suddenly said -- was the entire church hearing this? "You can't set conditions if you refuse."
"I'll talk to Crystal and to her mother. We'll get back to you."
"Well," he said in the car, "what's your choice? You know, I could refuse. I would be blamed."
"I'd blame you. I'd run away."
"That's not what I'm talking about. If you want me to, I'll say a simple 'no.' I'll be blamed. You'll be innocent."
"I don't want you to. What do you think I am?"
"My daughter. I'll talk to your mother." It really bothered her that they would exclude her from decisions where it was her future being decided. Still, this was more important than that issue. They invited JG back to hear their decision.
"First," her dad said, "no university events. Second, we have veto over the particulars. Third, I want a limit on your intimacies."
"My oath. I'll never do anything which Crystal objects to."
"That's not good enough," her dad said. "Crystal's a minor. You're not supposed to do anything I would object to." Great! Crystal could just picture her dad's idea of a movie date; JG attending one night, her attending another. But he was going on. "All your intimacies will occur in this house, or out on the porch. They'll be limited to when you bring her home. You won't kiss her or touch her otherwise. And you won't do anything to which Crystal objects."
"I've already promised that."
"Do you promise the rest?"
"Yes." Some "intimacies" were better than none.
"Crystal," JG began, "would you do me the honor of coming with me to the movies Friday night?"
"Does either of you know what is playing?" her dad asked. Silly question -- a date with JG was playing.
She had the same intentions when JG ushered her into the theater. She wasn't there to see the show, after all. He stepped back, allowing her to choose the location; she headed towards the back.
Once seated, however, JG didn't touch her. The person to her right actually pressed against her more fully, and he was so involved with the girl on his other side, he probably didn't notice Crystal. Puzzled, she tried to follow the plot of the movie. The sound track told her most of it, and she found that watching JG's face told her much of what was happening. Indeed, JG's response to the action on the screen was fascinating.
JG called her on Saturday to thank her, he was thanking her, and invite her to a movie the next week. Again, he ushered her to the back row; again, he watched the movie without touching her; again, he drove her back. This time, however, he touched her shoulder when she was at the top step outside her house. The two steps up put her nearly on his level. When she turned, he kissed her.
The next week, she opened her mouth for the kiss. Their tongues met. For an endless time, he held her while his tongue explored her mouth. By the time he let her go, she knew what "creamed her jeans" meant. She was also sweating in her warm coat. She took enough new reality upstairs with her to supplement the images she'd kept from his first kiss so long ago.
The next date, they were in the absolutely last row in the theater, with nobody on either side for some reason. JG, deeply into the movie, stretched out. He put his arm across the backs of the two seats beside him. So his arm was behind her without touching her. She reached a hand up to clasp his.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly. And he should have been sorry. She pulled the arm down until it was across her shoulders. She snuggled a bit against his side. That was much better.
She watched his face as he watched the movie. His arm was long enough to reach her breast around her neck. Should she put his hand there? She decided not to. He was working hard to meet her dad's rules.
On the way back, he asked her if she wanted to stop for a hamburger or pizza. "Haven't you cut out all that fast food?" she asked.
"I've cut way back. It's all a matter of grandma's diabetes." Then his story poured out.
"Anyway, long ago she had been told to avoid sugar. Mom cooked for her using fructose. Do you know fructose, fruit sugar? Anyway, we thought it was safe for her. Now the endo tells us that fructose is a bad as sucrose, table sugar. Mother feels awful."
"Your grandmother doesn't blame her, does she?" Crystal asked. She hadn't looked like the kind of person to blame others for an honest mistake.
"How can she? She's the one who told her to use that. Now she has a meter and is testing herself. She's on all kinds of medicine, aside from the foot. Anyway...."
JG told her more about it. Type 2 diabetes is almost certainly hereditary. JG's father was at risk; JG was at risk. And in his case the risk could easily take more than forty years to show up. Members of his family were reconsidering their lifestyles. JG was going to walk more. He was certainly cutting out junk food.
"Well," Crystal said, "I don't want to tempt you away from those rules. You don't have to feed me."
"Well, I wasn't planning on eating there. I was just going to sit and watch you. Watching you is always a pleasure." It was the nicest thing he'd ever said about her.
Then Christmas intervened in their schedule. Once it had been her favorite night of the whole year; now it was just a week that she and JG -- aside from church services -- had to spend apart.
"Titanic" opened simultaneously over the entire civilized world in early December. It reached the Upper Peninsula in mid January. Her parents, not great movie buffs, saw it immediately. Legally, she was old enough to see it; her dad's rules, however, barred movies with that rating.
"So," she said, "do I get to see it?" Really, what she wanted was a date with JG. She didn't actually see much of those movies anyway. Maybe they would invite him to dinner instead. That would put two chaperones at the table with them, not that any chaperones were needed, but it still would be time with JG.
"There really are three questions," her dad said. "Do you see movies with JG? Do you see this movie? Do you see this movie with JG?"
"All right. The first question is settled."
"I really think they should be allowed to see it," her mom said unexpectedly. "Look, he's thinking about sex; you aren't going to stop that." If that was true, Crystal hadn't seen any evidence. "The question is whether he's thinking about romance at the same time. Now I wouldn't want her watching 'Debbie Does Dallas' with JG. This, however, is romance,"
Her dad shrugged. They disagreed often enough, but Crystal seldom saw their arguments about rules for her.
So, she told JG that she was permitted to go with him if he wanted. They went that Saturday. The plot was too complicated to follow; the screen too filled with blurs to distinguish. But the soundtrack was luscious and she loved watching JG's expression through the film. Once, his arm around her shoulders even tightened in a hug. That night, she turned her face up to his from the top step. They kissed longer than usual. He straightened and walked back to the van. She let herself in and went upstairs to remember the evening.
"Well," her mom asked the next morning at breakfast, "how did you like the car scene?"
"Crystal, and we trusted you? Where did you go? What did you do?"
"We went to the movie. We watched a movie -- a movie about a boat, not about a car."
For some reason, though, they didn't believe her at all. By the time they got to church, she had sworn dozens of times that they went to the movie. After church, they cornered JG. "We'll drive him home, Mr. Morgan," her dad said. The four of them got off in a corner.
"Where did you take Crystal when I thought you were going to a movie?" her dad began.
"To a movie. To see 'Titanic.'"
"Describe the car scene."
JG described a hot scene involving the two stars in great detail. Suddenly Crystal suspected something. "What music was playing then?" JG sang a good imitation of it. The point where he'd hugged her was the hot scene. It was Kate Winslet who had attracted him, not Crystal.
Mrs. Mitchell called her to come to youth choir.
"Go on," her dad said. "I'll talk to JG and pick you up here in an hour. When he did, he asked her about what she could see of what they were driving past. He didn't retract any of his accusations, but he didn't repeat any either. When they got home, her mom asked her about the soundtrack of the movie. She was able to describe it fairly well.
They later made an appointment for her with an optometrist. She came away with a prescription for glasses.
These made her self-conscious, and she tried to wear them as little as possible. JG was having none of that. "If I take a girl to the movies, I expect her to see the show." She didn't mention how he carried his glasses in his pocket most of the time.
With all of the talk she'd heard about "Titanic," she was tempted to see it for herself. She also wouldn't mind hearing all that music again. By the time she had her glasses, however, the show had moved on. JG took her to another movie, and it was amazing the details you could see from way back where they sat. He drove her home and kissed her on the front porch again. The feeling on her mouth was wonderful, but the feeling on her nose was not. JG pressed against her glasses when he kissed.
Her vision was misty in a different way the next morning. Her mom laughed. "Clean those glasses. I think that is JG's cheek print I see on your left lens." It was her right lens, but otherwise her mom was probably right. After everybody got home from church and they had had Sunday dinner, her mom knocked on her door.
"You know that business of getting your glasses dirty?" she said. "There is a way to avoid that." Crystal was sure she was going to get a suggestion to stop the kisses. Fat chance! If total blindness -- and not simply getting the glasses fogged up -- were the consequence, she would still want JG to kiss her. "You received a carrying case with the glasses. A smart girl carries the case with her in an outer pocket. When you're about to be kissed, slip the glasses in the case. Now, it's not smart to avoid wearing the glasses at all, but taking them off for a kiss isn't a bad idea."
Crystal was shocked, less that her mom knew techniques for kissing when you were wearing glasses than that she would suggest ways for Crystal's doing it. She knew her mom wore contacts, after all. And she'd been around for enough kisses between her parents. "Thanks."
Nobody had quite said, "We're sorry we mistrusted you." They hadn't said that to Crystal, who would -- now that the thought had been brought to her attention -- have been perfectly happy to go off with JG anywhere he wanted. They hadn't even said it to JG, who had been pure as the driven snow. On the other hand, they were being rather nice to her these days, and they weren't restricting her dates.
The weather broke in March. Anybody in Houghton would have told you that you hadn't seen the last of the snow, but that night it was pouring rain. "Get inside," her father greeted them when they got near the door after the movie. Her mom had made cocoa. She and her dad took theirs upstairs. "I don't want Crystal going back out in that," her dad said. Nobody mentioned the kisses good night. On the other hand, they were all alone downstairs with Crystal's coat hanging in the entryway and JG's draped over a chair.
He wrapped her in his long arms when she turned her face upwards. The difference in height made the kiss a little awkward. On the other hand, all of her was pressed against all of him. She could feel the hard tips of her breasts pushed against his stomach; she could feel his erection pressed against her. JG might be playing by the rules, but he too wanted more. She sank against him and let him support her weight as his tongue invaded her mouth. His hands smoothed down her back again and again. She lost herself in the sensations.
When they broke apart, they discussed her college plans. "I'm very happy," he told her, "that we'll see each other next year. Still, I wouldn't want you choosing a college because of me." She told him she could get a discount at MTU because her father taught there; she could live at home and attend. She was completely honest. At no time did she actually say that spending the time with him wasn't the deciding reason.
Much later, he led her over to the stairs. She climbed up two steps, and he kissed her again. Later yet, she heard a sound from upstairs. Her father cleared his throat. It was remarkably loud. JG broke from her and got his coat. He grabbed her hand for a quick kiss, and then he was gone out the door. Crystal shot the bolt and watched through the window as his van drove off into the dark.
About a month before her birthday, Crystal told her dad, "I know what I really want for my birthday."
"It has to be something we can afford," he said.
"You have to remember the Fourteenth Amendment as well," her mom said. This was totally beside the point, but Crystal wasn't going to chase that rabbit; this was too important.
"You can afford it," she said. "My senior prom is coming up. I want to be able to invite who I want to be my date." She'd stopped going to dances. JG was her boyfriend, and she didn't want to dance with anybody else. He could have taken her to university dances, but that had been her dad's first rule.
"'Whom,' darling," said her mom -- to be ignored again.
"I don't know that JG would be terribly interested in a high- school prom," her dad said.
"That's my problem, and his. I want your permission. You can afford that."
It took longer than that, and they went off to discuss her future again without her participation. Finally, though, her dad said, "If the school allows it, I won't object." The school did allow it, Crystal had checked that first.
JG offered to buy the ticket, but she didn't think that would even be legal.
JG showed up in a tux with corsage in hand and drove her to the dance. He really was good on the fast dances; she couldn't believe she'd never seen him dance before. They fit a little awkwardly on slow dances, but they were pressed against each other. For hours, he held her in his arms.
The senior boys were of all sorts. Some of them looked like they still belonged in grade school, some of them looked like they were adults. Still, her date was uniquely the real adult there. And JG looked great in a tux. Her friends were envious. Just when it didn't matter any more, Crystal was a social success.
Many of her friends went to parties after the prom. She didn't dare even ask for that. Her mom had, however, fixed a snack and left it in the refrigerator. He kissed her on the porch, a lovely kiss even if their bodies were separated. He followed her in, however. Her parents were, for once, upstairs and out of their way. He kissed her again, very briefly, in the kitchen.
Her mom had put a tablecloth on the dining-room table for the event, but Crystal would rather have the privacy of the kitchen. Anyway, the chairs were closer together there.
They kissed and ate, and kissed again. JG talked about his major. "Electrical engineering is great. The only thing is, I'll have to find a way of getting exercise. They talk about the 'sedentary life style' being one of the causes of diabetes. We picture people lolling around on couches. Actually, it is people working hard with their brains. They just don't use their muscles.
"That's what is so great about my summer job following the harvest. The only thing that is great about it. I won't enjoy leaving you when school gets out. The hourly pay isn't that hot, either. It's just that you get a lot of hours. But it does burn energy. I come back from one of those summers weighing fifteen pounds more than when I leave. And none of it is fat."
Finally, a noise startled them both. It was only the toilet flushing upstairs, but he looked at the clock. "I have to go," he said.
"Do you really?" But she knew he did.
When she had watched the van drive off and bolted the door, she climbed the stairs towards her room. "Did you have a nice time, dear?" called her mom's voice from the darkened bedroom.
"A great time," she said. And it had been a great time -- the
greatest time she could have as a minor.
JG came to her birthday party. He gave her a nice pendant. That wasn't what she wanted from him for her eighteenth birthday, but she wasn't about to say that in public.
He asked her out to a movie again. As always, he came to the door to meet her. "Good night," she called to her folks as she left. "Don't wait up for me. I don't know when I'll be back. I'm not a minor any more."
In the theater, she snuggled next to JG and watched the movie. The picture was nice and sharp still. She couldn't concentrate on it, though; she was too busy imagining the night to come. "Can we go somewhere?" she said when they were in the van afterwards.
"Eat?" JG asked. "Or park?"
"I'll find some place; I'm the wrong man to know all the spots." When he turned into a dirt track, she took off her glasses and put them on the dashboard in their case.
JG leaned over and kissed her. Soon, his hands were traveling all over her breasts. He broke the kiss to speak. "Sweet," he said, "soft. I knew you'd be soft. I just didn't know how soft."
His tongue explored her mouth while his hand explored her chest. She became more and more excited by his presence and the feeling of her body. Suddenly, she twisted in the bucket seat and pushed up against the seat belt. A moment later, she relaxed.
"Darling," he said. He kissed her forehead which was somehow damp with sweat. "Darling, darling, sweet Crystal!" He handed her the case with her glasses after he'd started the van. She waited on her side while he crossed in front of the van to let her out. Then he walked her to the front steps and kissed her.
She glanced at her watch; it wasn't eleven yet. Upstairs, she stopped outside her parents' room. No light was coming under the door. Quietly, in case they were asleep, she said, "I'm home. I bolted the door."
"Thank you for telling us, darling," said her mom. She said it loud enough that her dad couldn't have been asleep. Crystal went into her own room and stripped. She put all those clothes in the wash; they were damp with sweat, or worse. She didn't quite know what to do; she always brought herself off after a date, but JG had taken care of that for her. There were so many new memories to review that she took a long time falling asleep.
The next time that JG took her out, he parked in the same place without needing any suggestion from her. "Would you like to get in the back?" he asked. They sat on a seat which went the whole width of the van. She half expected him to stretch her out, but he didn't. There was no way that JG himself would stretch out, not in that van, not in anything smaller than a Greyhound bus.
"I want you to promise me something," JG said.
"I'll do whatever you want."
"That's not the promise I want. Promise that whenever something bothers you, you'll tell me."
"I'll never do anything you don't want. Just tell me you don't want it."
"Okay." Now get to something I might not want! But she didn't say that out loud.
At least he quickly got to something she did want. He kissed her and caressed her breasts. He kissed her all over her face before going back to her mouth for a deep kiss. While their tongues wrestled, he unbuttoned her blouse. When his fingers trailed over her belly, little shivers ran up and down her spine. He held her left breast in his hand, his fingers teasing her nipple through the bra. She stiffened under his hand and gasped into his mouth.
"Darling," he said, "darling, darling, Crystal!" He kissed her cheek. His hand had stopped teasing her, but it was still holding her breast. Well, she'd had hers, but she wasn't about to object to his holding her quietly. Everybody called her Crystal; nobody else called her darling. (Her mom didn't count. Anyway, she didn't say the word in the same way.) Still, she really liked the way he used her name as the culmination of his endearments.
"JG," she said.
"Just JG. I like your name."
"Whatever you think of Jenny, who gave it to me."
"I've decided to forgive her. She said something bratty about me, then she said I was only the girl you were silly about."
"I don't think that I'm silly about you." That was the wrong answer. "I just think you are a lovely girl with a lovely voice." Well, that was a much better answer. "I may have mentioned that where she could hear. Everywhere is where Jenny can hear."
He kissed her again. Then he lifted her shoulders from the back of the car seat. He was dealing with her bra snaps. She pressed her arms back to help him. When he'd unsnapped it, she straightened up to remove her blouse and the bra. He put them over the back of the next seat. He kissed her mouth lightly and then trailed kisses down her neck and shoulder. Knowing where he was heading, she straightened to give him better access. He kissed all over her breasts, and then lightly kissed her left nipple. Her straightening this time as involuntary. He sucked in the entire top of her right breast.
When his tongue touched that nipple, a fire burned from it deep into her belly. She writhed in his arms.
When she collapsed, he held her gently. "My darling," he crooned, "my darling, darling, Crystal." She finally recaptured her breath and struggled upright. He kissed her belly once before handing her the bra. She put it on, and then the blouse.
"I think we should get you home," he said. He went forward, bent over to fit the roof of the van. His family had got the van partly because of the room that JG needed. Not that his parents were midgets, either. And, of course, there were six in the family. The headroom made it possible for JG to move around inside; it didn't make it easy.
As for her, she didn't try to get back to the bucket seat in front. She had enough difficulty getting out when JG opened the side door in front of her house. He handed her her glasses, and walked her to the front door. Thankfully, her parents weren't downstairs; she didn't have to make conversation. She staggered upstairs and managed to get undressed for bed.
When she woke up, however, she felt great. She showered before breakfast, and was dressed and ready to go to church before her parents. When she entered the choir loft, the other altos were there, but not the basses. She sat down in the free chair. A moment later Mr. Dresser sat down behind her. When JG came in, however, he said "Sorry, George." Mr. Dresser moved over a seat and JG sat down directly behind her. When she leaned back, her shoulders touched his knees. That was her place. Apparently the other members of the choir could see that.
She gave JG a ticket to her graduation. He gave her a public kiss of congratulation when the ceremony was over. She was no longer a high school girl longing for an unattainable man. The world, her narrow world at least, saw them as a couple. Then, as she knew he would have to, JG went away for his summer work.
He wrote her letters. She wished he could keep the same address long enough to write to him. Anything in his letters could have been shown to the church. Indeed, it was so tame it could have been shown to her parents.
She hadn't outgrown her summer clothes, but many of them were worn out. This was a first for her; in the past, she had grown out of clothes before she wore them out. Her mom scheduled a shopping trip for the two of them. "Why are we paying for them?" asked her dad. "She's no longer a minor. She told us so."
"Look," Crystal pointed out, "I took AP calculus; I applied to your school. Most of what you wanted, you're getting. Why play so hard-nosed?"
"You enrolled in MTU. I get a faculty discount on your tuition. Are you going to claim that is the reason that you enrolled there?" Of course she wasn't. "If JG gets a job somewhere else next year, are you planning to stay at MTU? So why should I be pleased?"
"At least he is a hard scientist."
"In the first place, electrical engineering isn't a hard science." It was plenty hard from her perspective. Her dad was just a snob. "In the second place, I'm not objecting to JG as your choice. I just want you to have options. I'd hate to see you trapped in that relationship so early in your life."
"And what if I want him trapped into a relationship? You can't have one without the other."
"Just for a hypothesis, posit that JG wants out of his relationship with you in two years." She hadn't enjoyed hypotheses even when they were about lines and points. She liked this one considerably less. He could probably see that on her face.
"It's just a hypothesis, sweetheart. It's something that you have to consider. If he does want to get out, do you really want him trapped? Do you want a captive JG? That's all I'm pushing for, all both of us are pushing for. Your mother and I agree about much more than you think. We don't mind JG and you as a choice of you both. We do mind this rush to judgment."
Rush? She'd wanted JG for years.
"Anyway," said her mom, "this isn't going to be decided this morning. What we are about now is getting you some new clothes. Don't credit everything your father says. If he really didn't want me to pay for your clothes from money he earns, I wouldn't." Crystal knew that. When they disagreed about her, they hid away and argued it out in private.
In the store though, she did tell her mom, "I'm paying for my swimsuit myself." It was a daring two-piece suit.
"Well," her mom said, "I'll be interested in JG's opinion of that." JG liked to see her. Crystal would bet his opinion would surprise her mom.
Lots of boys liked her suit that summer. She thought it was more important that she was working on the tan for when JG saw her again.
And on July Fourth, he would. She went with her parents to the beach. She wore jeans and blouse over her suit, but she took panties and bra in a bag in her purse. If she needed to change, she'd find a place. She helped her parents set up their picnic spot. They were going to start eating, but she wouldn't eat until after her swim.
"Go on," her dad said. "I know I won't have your attention today. " So she left her purse and went to see where the Morgan family had set up.
She heard JG before she saw him. "Ho, ho, ho," he was saying. Then she saw the top of his head going rapidly away. A minute later she saw him holding a small kid upside down. The kid probably was in a swimsuit, but all she could see from her vantage point was JG's broad bare back with two bare feet kicking above his head. As she came closer, she could see him set the kid down. The boy -- you could tell his sex from the swimsuit -- ran away. JG turned around.
"Crystal!" JG greeted her.
"JG's songbird," his grandmother said. "My, you're looking fine today."
"Hi, Mrs. Morgan. Hi, folks," she said. She and JG walked towards each other until they could exchange kisses.
They offered her food; JG was especially insistent about the hamburger. They served them without buns and cooked them with the onions already kneaded into the meat. Actually, they tasted good and one wasn't going to kill her. Besides, JG would be self-conscious about his kisses until she ate some onion.
JG left his jeans with his family. His legs were much lighter than his back. Clearly, he hadn't got that tan lying on a beach. She left her glasses-case and clothes with his family, too.
"Wow!" JG said when he saw her in just her suit. They walked over to the lake.
They swam for a bit, and talked, and swam. The water was still cold; the sun was hot. They dressed back at his family's place. This time JG put on a shirt as well. The woods were not on the direct path to her folks' place, but that was the path they took.
Once they were in the privacy of the trees, he kissed her again. They found a soft spot where there weren't any roots. Lying down next to JG made the kisses less awkward. He held her breast through the blouse and suit top. He opened the blouse to kiss her belly button; she shivered.
"I shouldn't have dressed again," she said.
"You did right. I can take it off, I'm not very happy having all those boys and men staring at your cute belly button." Her mom hadn't been all wrong.
He loosened her top. "Tell me if I go too far," he said. She knew this refrain showed his concern, and she was grateful. On the other hand, she was getting tired of it. Then, though, he kissed her right between her breasts. She lay back and gloried in her feelings.
He kissed her, and petted her, and kissed her again. He kissed all over her stomach, then higher, then higher yet. His kisses on her breasts just missed her nipples until she took his face in her hands and guided it to one nipple. When he sucked, she soared.
He held her in his arms and kissed her forehead until she came back. "I love you," he said. She lay there enjoying the kisses. It was the first time he'd actually said that -- "darling" sure, but he hadn't said those words.
When they heard people talking close to them, she said, "We really should be going." He helped her up and they dusted the pine needles off each other. She fastened her suit top, and then her blouse.
"You're beautiful," he said. "Your face, of course. But I'd only seen your breasts in the dark van before. I love the way they look in the light." Blood rushed to her face. "I love to see you blush, too. Come on, we need to check in with your parents."
She left her clothes with her own parents this time. JG wore his down to the lakeside. He left his pants and shirt under his sandals and waded in. "You could have left your clothes with my folks," she said when he'd stopped in waist deep -- for him, she had to hold on to keep from floating away -- water. "They wouldn't have minded." Nobody was likely to steal his pants or shirt. Imagine the embarrassment of wearing them later. Besides, who could fit his clothes? Still, having somebody watch stuff like that was customary.
"I'm not sure I wanted your folks to see me like this," he said.
She guessed what he meant. She reached to the front of his swimsuit. "Like this?"
"Crystal!" He'd seen her excited plenty of times. It might not be so obvious, but taking off her suit top sure made it clear. JG was just a prude.
She stroked the hardness through his trunks. "Crystal!" he said again. He turned away to face the opposite shore. She floated behind him with both arms reaching around him. Her left hand was on the front of his thigh -- it felt like a tree trunk -- the other hand rubbed him through his suit. When she pulled herself forward so that her breast rubbed against his back, he stiffened. "Crystal!" he said once more. Then he relaxed a bit. He was breathing as if he'd run a mile.
"Yes, Crystal. Who did you think it would be?"
"Jeez, woman, do you know what you did to me?"
"Do you know what you did to me in the woods? I'd think you'd like it."
"On the lakeside with everybody we know to see."
"There aren't that many swimmers." Some of the kids were still in the water, but most of the grownups were back on shore. "And those aren't close enough to see." Nobody was paying them the slightest attention. "'Sides, you were worried about your condition. I bet it goes down now."
"If you let go. I will say the wet won't be so noticeable."
"Spoilsport." But she did let go. He dropped in and swam parallel to the shore. She swam after him. This time, he was going for distance. She had much more swimming than he had, but he had the muscles. Finally, she called, "I give up." He turned and swam back to where she lay floating. He found his footing and stood up. His shoulders were out of the water.
"Sorry," he said. "I wasn't trying to lose you." He held out a hand to her, and she took it. He waded towards the beach until his nipples were barely covered by the water.
They faced away from the beach, and she tried to find her footing. He held her. Her breasts, and his hands on her breasts, were underwater. "I like you," he said. His skin was warm against her back.
"Mmm," she said. She held his hands over her breasts for an instant. He shifted his grip. One arm held her tight, just under her breasts; the hand of the other arm was cupping her right breast. Her feet lost their footing. She let her legs rise. It was peaceful for a few minutes. Then, despite his warmth against her back, it got cold.
"Let's go back," she said. He walked backwards, lifting her more as the lake floor rose. When the water broke over his hand, he moved it from her breast to between her legs. Under her hips, despite her actions earlier, he was getting harder. Then they heard kids shouting near them. He let her down in the water.
They both turned and started wading more rapidly towards shore. Ten feet from shore, it was very shallow. Where it deepened to knee-height closer in, they turned. They walked back to his clothes and her sandals. By the time they got there, most of their skin was dry. Their suits, of course were still wet.
He pulled his pants and shirt on. They both donned their sandals. A young boy came up and grabbed JG's nose. "Ho, ho, ho," he called. In his chase, he ran out of his sandals. She picked them up while following him at a walk. When he'd put the kid down, she handed him his sandals.
After taking separate john breaks, they returned to his family's location. "JG and Crystal are here," called JG's grandmother. "Put on two more roasting ears." Crystal tried to beg off; she had more than enough food waiting for her with her parents. They insisted, however. "I can't eat corn," the grandmother said, "I don't want them eating more than one apiece. So you have to eat this one." The food was a little strange; they had two fish dishes. But all of it was tasty.
They stayed with his family a little bit, and then they headed towards the woods.
There, they shared a sweet kiss before he stripped off his shirt and lay it on another soft patch. She sat on the tails and leaned back. He kissed her with closed lips. Instead of going on, he kissed over her face, then down her neck. She reached back to undo the top. He continued on, over her left breast, down to her stomach. His kiss on her belly button tickled.
She lay on his shirt while he kissed slowly upward. The bottom of her left breast, the bottom of her right breast. He suddenly buried his face between her breasts and kissed there. He returned to her mouth. His hand held her right breast while his tongue explored her mouth.
He pulled away to look at her. "So pale," he said and kissed her right breast. "So white." And he kissed the valley between her breasts. "And so pink." With that, he kissed the peak of the left breast. She could feel fire in that nipple. He sucked and licked it while that fire burned from there down into her belly. When he held her other breast and stroked that nipple, the fire spread all through her. She went somewhere else, somewhere filled with fire and heat and gold all around her.
When she got back, he was kneeling between her legs kissing her stomach and rib cage.
"I love you, Crystal."
"And I love you, too." She figured she could admit it now.
His kisses got lower on her stomach, and sexier, and more teasing. He moved up to kiss her mouth again. His tongue touched hers and drew back, licked her lips, returned to her tongue.
He drew back on his knees. His hands were on the sides of her swimsuit bottom. She raised her hips so he could pull it down. The slight breeze in the clearing cooled her between her legs.
"So beautiful," he said. "You are so beautiful. May I kiss you?" He'd never asked before. She nodded and started to pucker up.
Instead of her mouth, however, he kissed her lower belly. First, his mouth touched her mound at the center of the triangle of hair. Then he kissed the inside of each thigh. Then he licked her there. A thrill ran through her. His tongue parted her lower lips. It touched her most sensitive point. His entire mouth was there when she exploded.
When she came back this time, he was lying with his face against her thigh. "You are wonderful," he said. She felt as if she'd been to heaven. She felt as if she'd walked back from heaven. It was glorious, really it was, but she was also out of breath, tired and sleepy.
"Do you mind if I get dressed again?" she asked.
"I'll never stop you," JG said. "I'll never stop you from anything."
She struggled into her swimsuit. It felt clammy. The rest of her clothes were back with her parents. She leaned against JG. He got up and sat on his shirt, wrapping her in his arms.
"That's nice," she said. He was going back Sunday afternoon. She wouldn't see him until September. But for this day he was hers. And this was much better than sitting in the choir loft touching him with nothing but her shoulders.
"Do you have your freshman year all planned out?" he asked.
"The school part of it. There aren't all that many choices for freshmen, and dad helped with them. I have to pass the prerequisites each quarter is all."
"I think you will."
"They're harder than high school."
"Harder to get good grades in, easier to keep awake. I don't think you'll have problems, and I'll be there if you do." That was a much more comforting idea than almost the same words from her dad.
"Will you be there if I don't have problems?"
"Lady, I plan to be one of your problems. It's just that if you're doing great in freshman economics, we'll discuss more important things."
"More important than freshman economics? How about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? No! Honestly, you should put real effort into economics. But, for us to discuss, I was thinking more about how beautiful you are, whether your face is prettier than your voice, what a glorious contrast there is between your tan belly and your white breasts.
"For a break, we might see if we want to sing another duet for the church."
"Well, Mrs. Mitchell was nice about the last one. Still, we'd better find one she'll like more."
"Finding one she'll like more shouldn't be hard. Do you want to look? After all, I don't have much access to the hymnal this summer."
"I have the old hymnal at home. Mrs. Mitchell gave it to me, in fact. I'll get one that's in it and not in the new one. Just can't sing it when dad's home."
"Did he mind the last one?"
"No! He loved your voice. He just doesn't share Mrs. Mitchell's taste in music."
"You'd be surprised how many people do. Want to go back now?"
Her strength was back. Indeed, she could eat something more now. When he got up, she took his hand. He pulled her up and kissed her. When they tried to brush off his shirt, they found that it was wet where she'd sat on it.
When they got back to her parents, little Shannon Powell was there. While Crystal pulled her blouse and jeans back on, her dad explained the situation. They were minding Shannon for Rev. Powell, and would return her to the parsonage at the end of he evening. Crystal got a corn-on-the-cob while JG took a large helping of her mom's salad.
"I could go back with my parents," said JG. He didn't sound like he wanted to.
"Your choice," said her mom. "The front seat won't be crowded after all."
"Think you could fit? I think you could," Crystal said.
Her dad contributed some platitude about behaving in front of Shannon. They always behaved with the utmost propriety, all they wanted was a little privacy after all.
Before JG made a real response to him, Shannon squeezed his nose. She must have had her escape route planned. But she was squealing so loud that JG would have been able to track her by the sound alone. When he'd caught her, he carried her upside down over to Crystal's dad. One man's hands were gripping Shannon's shoulders before the other man let go of her legs.
In the last light, she recovered the case with her glasses. Then she and JG found their way back into the forest.
Once they were hidden from the crowd, JG pulled her into a tight hug. He bent down to kiss her thoroughly. Then he let go and led her along one of the trails. He stopped at a point where they could see the sky through a break in the trees. He removed and spread his shirt. He sat down on it with his back against a tree. "Sit here," he invited, spreading his legs.
She sat down between them, and leaned back against him. She shivered when he kissed the back of her ear. He began unbuttoning her blouse. "Oh, how I've dreamed of this!" he said. He kissed the sides of her neck, moving his head from one side of hers to the other. His face felt rough against hers, prickly, masculine.
"May I?" he said with his hands on the tie of her swimsuit top. Her only objection was the position. Why was her back to him? And why, if it had to be, didn't she remove her blouse and feel his skin against hers?
Still, she made no objection. She'd chased him often enough in the beginning that she rather enjoyed his taking the lead now. Besides, his hands on her breasts were fun. Even so, she didn't see why they were sitting like this.
And then the sky lit up with the fireworks and she did. The position did interfere with his getting her jeans down. But she took care of that, pushing the swimsuit bottom along with it. She pushed them off her ankles with her feet. His hands felt too good on her body for her to get up.
For the flight of three rockets, he stroked the insides of her thighs. When his hand moved up to her mound, she spread her legs to give him room. "Oh, Crystal," he whispered when his finger had parted her lips. She knew she must be sopping down there, but he didn't complain.
A rocket flew upwards, and he stroked fluid towards her most sensitive point. The rocket burst into stars just before he touched her there. "Ah," she said and leaned back against him.
She could say anything she wanted, people were saying "ah," and "oh," and "oooh" all over the lakeside.
His arm rested gently under her left breast while that hand cupped and caressed her right breast. The other hand was between her legs and at the seat of her sensitivity. A rocket spread red sparklers all over the sky; he pinched her nipple and the rockets entered her.
"Oh darling," he whispered. He held her gently while she writhed. "Darling Crystal," he whispered when she collapsed back against him. He almost surrounded her. She was safe, there was no place she could fall. They watched another rocket in stillness.
At the next, his hands moved again. She knew that she couldn't respond, but the sensations were still nice. Then they were exciting. A rocket burst into a blaze of fire above her, and a fire burned within her. Another and another burst; they were blazing above her and blazing within her. It went on and on.
Finally, the sky grew quiet and JG moved his hands to her waist. "Oh, how I've dreamed of that," he said.
"How long?" She had wanted him forever, not the last ten minutes exactly, but that was ignorance. She had dreamed of being held in his arms like this since she had first met him.
"This? Only since I left you. I had more immediate pleasures to imagine when I wasn't following the harvest. Dreamed of you? Forever. I can remember coming into the choir, and there was this girl there. She was beautiful; her face was beautiful; her voice was beautiful; her shape was starting to be beautiful. And she was too young. I kept my hands off. I worked very seriously at keeping my hands off. I only touched her with my knees. And that was the architects' fault.
"And then, you tweaked my nose. I almost lost control. You're lucky I regained it. Do you think I could see you again without remembering your breasts pressed against me? The taste of your mouth?"
"You noticed?" Considering that she'd been obsessing over him for so long, it was nice to know that he'd noticed her too.
"Noticed? I spent weeks imagining your father calling on me with a horsewhip. And then Mrs. Mitchell assigned us a duet together. My grandmother really wanted to come back to church; I feared for her life and couldn't ask her to delay that any longer. Besides, Mrs. Mitchell might have canceled the duet at any time. And all that time, I wasn't sure that you would go out with me; did you think of me as too old?
"That had a cure, after all. We were getting closer in age every day. Look! You'll be in the same school I will be in September. And, of course, I didn't know that then, and we didn't have the rehearsals any more. And I couldn't think of any way to schedule another duet. So, no roundabout route being possible, I took the direct one."
"You're cute." Cute? He was adorable. He'd noticed her all along.
"Speaking of your father's rules, hadn't we better get back there?"
She guessed so. She pulled on her swimsuit bottom. She was sopping down there; she hoped it wouldn't be detectable in the car. She pulled on her jeans. Then she took her blouse off. He kissed her nipples -- not sensuously as he had that afternoon, just a friendly peck. She put on the top of the swimsuit and then her blouse.
She staggered a little on her first steps on the path. JG took her arm solicitously. When they reached her dad and mom, they were ready to walk back to the car. JG took a sleeping Shannon and followed them. When they got to the car, they stood outside while the interior cooled down. She put Shannon on the right side of the back seat. There would be plenty of room on the left, just not enough room to give her dad grounds for complaint when she and JG sat close together.
While they stood, JG wasn't touching anything but her arm. He removed that hand to wave when the van beeped a greeting. Then it was their turn to join the line of cars. She slammed the door and crossed to the other side. She got in, scrunching up close to the sleeping Shannon. When JG was properly seated and had his door closed, she snuggled against him. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he lay his against the top of hers.
She had had a big day and, despite all the time that she and JG had spent in the shade, a bit too much sun. JG had his arm across her shoulders. She drifted off into a doze. When JG got out, all her comfort was gone. She woke. "Do you want to say goodbye while we're taking Shannon home?" her mom asked.
They had only one quick kiss when the car had turned out of sight, however. "Do you think I could use your washroom?" she asked JG. He took her in, and she cut her greetings a little short. Once in the john, she did use the facilities. Her big hurry, however, involved her swimsuit.
She stripped off the jeans and swimsuit bottom. She wiped herself thoroughly and slipped on her panties from the purse. She changed from the swimsuit top to her bra as well. Then she put on the blouse and jeans. Checking in the mirror, she found she looked just like usual. Her face was a little redder, but that might be the sun. She rinsed out the swimsuit bottoms in the sink, flushing to cover the sound. Then she wrung them out and put them and the top in the plastic bag which had held her underwear.
When she came out, she socialized with JG's family until her dad's car pulled in the drive. She had the back seat all to herself on the way home. Her parents were, thankfully, involved with each other.
She would sleep deeply that night. And, even though the next day would be JG's last day in town for months, her dreams would be pleasant.
The end Lakeside Fireworks Uther Pendragon firstname.lastname@example.org 2002/07/04 2004/06/30 This story parallels one told from the point of view of Crystal's father. That is to be found at: "Perchance to Dream" A different story involving a different couple is: "Missed" This story is indexed in the subdirectory: Young Love The directory to all my stories can be found at: Index to Uther Pendragon's Website