This adult story is (C) by Katryna. It may be redistributed subject to a few provisions but may not be sold or otherwise used for profit and must have this heading attached. Please read my legal notice as downloading, redistributing, or reading this story signifies your agreement to the terms and conditions outlined within it.
Note: Thanks to my devoted editor for the name suggestion for Aurora's "Uncle." As this character develops, the reader should not infer any resemblance to any real persons, living or dead, whether in terms of similar names, similarity of moral character, both, or the use of the former to imply the latter. Although, as they say, if the shoe fits...
"So, what do you wanna do while we're waiting?" Joe asked, after a short pause.
Aurora shrugged. She was standing a few feet away from him, by the refrigerator; his back was to, and about 6 inches from, the closed laundry room door. "I dunno," She responded after a moment. "Any ideas?"
Joe shook his head. "Um, well..." He pondered for a moment. "Well, anything outside isn't gonna work..."
"Why no--" She began, then blinked, looked down at her outfit for emphasis, and shook her head. The kid was clad in nothing but a borrowed t-shirt, and she'd already had an unnerving brush with hypothermia the night before. "Oh. Right," She mumbled sheepishly, shaking her head slightly. "No, that won't work at all..."
"Not until April at the earliest," He confirmed. "Kinda limits our options."
Aurora thought for a moment. "Ya know, we could just go in circles with this all day," She said, then giggled.
He smiled. "Heh. True. But that's gonna be kinda...I dunno. Repetitive?" They both chuckled. "Well, what do you normally do when you're snowed in at ho--" He paused, then smacked his forehead.
"What?" She asked, cocking her head and tensing slightly. She seemed at once concerned and nervous.
"You'd better call home," He said. "Your Aunt must be worried sick about you."
"Nah, it's all right," She replied, shaking her head again and looking down for a moment before meeting his eyes. "I stay at friends' houses sometimes. She won't worry...yet, I mean," She finished, stammering slightly.
He nodded slowly, attempting to digest both what she was saying and what she might be telling him. Her hesitation made him nervous, and, as before, he suspected she wasn't telling the whole truth. He briefly weighed whether it would be worth trying to pry it from her, and decided against it. He didn't want to make her feel uncomfortable or upset. But her family's ignorance of her whereabouts posed a problem; after all, her Aunt was responsible for her and would miss her. He decided against giving her a hard time, beyond the minimum needed to fulfill his responsibilities as her host, especially the ones that came with her age.
"I think you should call her anyway, honey. Let her know you're all right," He said.
"I know, but...gah. Like I said, it'll be ok."
"Is there something I can do to make it easier?" He asked, cocking his head.
She blinked uncomprehendingly for a split second then nodded slowly as the implicit message sank in. "Well...I dunno. Partly...well, she'll be upset I suppose."
"Why? I'd think she'd be glad you were safe and out of the storm."
"Well, yeah, but..." She trailed off, looking down again for a moment. "Well partly it's because you're, you know, a guy..."
"And she'll probably get the wrong idea...I dunno, she's paranoid like that."
"I mean, *we* both know everything's fine," She replied, blushing a little.
"True," He replied, almost honestly.
"But she...I dunno. She doesn't trust me."
He nodded, smiling grimly. "Still, honey, I think you should at least let her know you're all right. You don't have to go into too many details, but if she asks..."
She cocked her head again. "Hmm?"
"If she asks, well, don't lie to her, ok?"
"Awright," She replied. She looked down and pinched her chin for a moment as she pondered. He waited patiently, his eyes unconsciously drifting over her yet again. "Ok, I'll call her," She replied with a shrug. She sure does that a lot, he thought.
"Good," He replied. "The phone's at the end of the counter."
She turned, glancing in that general direction, and after a moment located it; the cradle was attached to the wall next to the kitchen area thermostat. He smiled; this was one of the few really brilliant things his uncle has come up with. All the thermostats were slave-linked together so that they automatically set to the same temperature, but each measured the local temperature in separate part of the cabin and could activate a separate heating or cooling circuit to keep the cabin at the same temperature.
Aurora picked up the phone and dialed, then put the phone to her ear. "Shit," She mumbled after a moment, blushing slightly. Overall, she was adjusting well to his tolerance and openness.
"Wrong number?" He asked.
She nodded. "Yeah," She replied, then dialed again. She held the phone to her ear. "Hello? Oh...hi Tyler--" She winced. "Sorry, *Uncle* Tyler...is Aunt Kara there? Yeah, I can hold." She stood, holding the phone to her ear and fidgeting nervously, for several minutes; he watched her awkwardly in silence for the first minute or so.
"Um...if she's busy you can just leave a number and she can call back."
"I need the number first," Aurora responded with a wry smile.
"Oh, right." He gave it to her.
"Eh...maybe I better wait for her," Aurora said, apologetically. He shrugged and nodded. After about three more minutes she perked up. "Hi...Aunt Kara? Yeah...yes, I'm alive. Really, I'm fine. ... I'm just staying with a friend for a while. ... Yes, I know the storm's stopped. ... Well, I'm pretty sure there's about three feet of snow piled outside the door. ... No, it's not a boy, geez."
Joe winced slightly at that, looking at her disapprovingly. He started to say something, but she put her finger to her mouth, frantically indicating for him to be quiet. He decided to indulge her, but resolved to have a talk with her after the call was over.
"Yes, really, I'm fine," She continued after a moment. "All right. I'll be back as soon as it's feasible, geez. Yes, yes, I know you're resp--eh, ok. Bye." Aurora hung up the phone and met his eyes, cocking her head slightly. "What?"
"I asked you not to lie to her."
"I didn't," She responded, shaking her head disbelievingly.
"You said--" He began, but she interrupted him.
"You're twenty-nine. That's not a 'boy' any more." She flashed him a triumphant smile, one with aspirations of becoming a smirk, and he shook his head. "I didn't tell her anything that was untrue."
"Yeah, but that's not how she'll interpret it."
"That's her problem, isn't it?" The girl responded, clearly growing a bit impatient.
"It's still dishonest to say things that are technically true with the intent of them being taken the wrong way..."
"Bullshit!" She responded, almost shouting. He winced slightly, and she blinked, looking at the ground and flushing a little. An awkward moment passed.
"Aurora..." He trailed off, making an effort to keep his voice calm. He'd had more than enough of shouting matches with his parents, and later with his marriage, and he refused to let another mar his growing friendship with the girl.
"Sorry," She said after a moment, looking up at him, her expression a mixture of guilt and, strangely, alarm. "It's just...I'm so sick of people blaming me for what they read into what I say."
"I understand," He replied. "And...well, I guess you're right. Telling her that...well, if its not dishonest it's disingenuous."
"Disin-what?" She asked, cocking her head.
"Disingenuous. It means...um...hell, let's look it up," He said, turning toward the living room. She followed after a moment, remaining a few steps behind him as he crossed the entryway and the living room to pull the conspicuously worn ten-inch tome of a dictionary from its place on the second-to-top shelf of the bookcase nearest the tinderbox. Her grunted as he lifted it, shifting to one hand long enough to brush some of the dust from it, then turned around.
She smiled weakly, took a couple steps toward the sofa, and sat down. He smiled slightly himself as he joined her on the sofa, finding the "D" tab among the slightly yellowed pages and opening the dictionary about fifteen pages beyond that. "D...di...ah, here we go," He exclaimed, pointing to it.
She read it out loud. "Not straightforward, deceptive, insincere, cynical..."* She blinked. "Um..."
"What I mean is, the words you picked were..." He sighed. "Oh, never mind."
"I get it," She replied, looking at him curiously. "But...if you think about the reason I said that...well..."
"Like I said, she'd just worry needlessly. I mean, come on, it's not like we're...well, you know..."
He nodded. "That's true." He shook his head slightly, looking at her sheepishly. "I don't know why I was making such a big deal out of it," He added, after a moment's hesitation.
"When I do that Aunt Kara says I just think I have to be right all the time," She said. "But that's not what I'm thinkin' and I bet it's not what you're thinkin' either, right?"
He shook his head. "I don't know...I suppose I can be like that sometimes..."
"Maybe it's because I'm a kid?" She suggested, looking a little bit impatient again.
"Maybe," He replied. "But it's not..."
"Not what?" She asked. Her expression slowly shifted, from slightly impatient to slightly hurt. He winced, shaking his head.
"It's not that I don't respect you or I'm talking down to you or anything," He replied. "I...I really don't know. I'm sorry, Aurora..."
She was silent a moment. "You want me to do the right thing..." She mused, then smiled softly. "You're forgiven, silly."
He smiled back. "Good," He replied. "But still..." He shook his head again.
She shrugged. "C'mon, we're wasting too much time on this."
"So we are," He responded, glancing at his watch. The argument had taken up almost ten minutes. "Still, I feel bad about--"
"I said don't worry about it," She interjected.
"No you didn't." He grinned playfully as she rolled her eyes.
"Butthead!" She giggled, swatting at him playfully. He pulled back, dodging the swat, and laughed in response. A thought crossed his mind and, on impulse, he lunged forward suddenly, fingertips wiggling menacingly. She squealed, throwing her arms up instinctively. He slipped his arms in between and around hers as she flailed, fingertips wriggling, and finally they connected with her sides, about at the middle of her ribs.
She squealed again, squirming as he tickled her, giggling hysterically and trying to push him away. She fell backward onto the sofa after a moment of wriggling, and he dived after her. She caught his hands, momentarily, but he twisted his wrists free of her grasp and resumed tickling her, a bit below her ribs this time. She began to push at his arms with hers, a few shrieks blending with the giggles as he pushed back, his tickling fingers slowly working up her sides towards her ribs. Her face strained for a moment and he backed off slightly; in shape or not, he was still quite a bit stronger than the slender young girl, and he didn't want to hurt her.
Aurora noticed his hesitation and surprised him by squirming downward, trying to slip out underneath his arms. The kid was amazingly resourceful, he reflected as he dug his fingers in, tickling harder. She squirmed, giggling, as his fingers slowly worked their way up along her ribs. She whimpered urgently, kicking her legs and writhing under him as his fingertips approached her armpits.
Then she paused suddenly, gasping for breath but clearly startled, even beyond the tickling. He paused, the tickling forgotten as he felt his stomach clench, horrified at the prospect of having hurt her, accidentally or no. She slowly, pointedly turned her gaze downward, tilting her head forward slightly. He followed her gaze and froze, as startled as she was.
Between his tickling upward and her squirming downward, the t-shirt had ridden up almost to her bellybutton. Her legs were parted slightly, and her soft, smooth mound was clearly visible, along with a hint of the beginning of her lips. "Ummmmm..." they both stammered, then looked up at each other. Jesus, he thought, he was practically lying on top of her...
They stared at each other for a good five seconds, both blushing progressively deeper, each of their eyes darting downward once or twice. Then he swallowed, grabbed the back of the sofa, and lifted himself up off of her. She chuckled nervously, reaching down and pulling the shirt back down, covering herself. She smiled sheepishly, suddenly lunging up at him, bringing her hands up under his arms. "Ack!" He yelled, recoiling, but she followed his movement, tickling at his armpits furiously and cackling theatrically. Her fingers dug into his armpits again and he squirmed, arching upward.
He yelped in surprise as he lost his grip on the sofa, half sliding down the back and half-falling on top of her. She grunted at the impact, exhaling forcefully and drowning out his groan as his stomach landed on her partially bend knee. "Shit!" He yelled, quickly lifting himself off of her and sliding fron the sofa onto the floor, giving her room to breathe. He swallowed hard, horrified at the prospect of having injured the girl.
Aurora gulped a couple lungfuls of air, coughed for a moment, then murmured "Jesus..."
"God...Aurora honey...I'm so sorry," He stammered.
"Jesus you're heavy," She wheezed, chuckling weakly.
"Are you...are you okay honey?" He asked, cringing slightly.
She nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I'll be ok."
"I'm sorry," He repeated. "I'm really on a roll here, aren't I..."
"'S'ok," She replied, smiling a bit wider. "It was an accident." She pondered a moment, then giggled. "'sides, I had it comin', I s'pose."
"Why?" He asked, confused.
"I cheated, silly," She replied with a grin.
"You...oh. When I was..."
"...distracted?" She asked with a grin.
"That...kinda came out the wrong way," He replied, shaking his head slightly.
"Did...oh. No, I don't mean you were...um...eying me or anything," She explained sheepishly. He kept a poker face, mentally kicking himself yet again for doing precisely that. "Just...you were...distracted...I dunno." She paused. "Sorry about...eh, you know, making you uncomfortable...again..." She blushed and shook her head slowly.
"It's all right, honey," He replied, smiling reassuringly, making a conscious effort not to patronize her. "Don't worry about me, I'm fine." It was almost true. "It's just that I didn't want to embarrass you," He replied. "Or, you know, for you to be uncomfortable. It was...disconcerting, that's all."
She nodded, smiling. "Thanks," She replied, starting to lift herself, with his help. "But, um..."
"Um?" He asked, raising an eyebrow as he reached out, grabbing her hand and helping her sit up. He was still concerned he'd hurt her when he landed on her, but she didn't seem to have suffered any permanent damage. Still...he shook his head slightly and shrugged sheepishly, biting back yet another apology. She didn't seem to be too concerned, he reflected. Unless she was about to tell him...
"That wasn't my ass," She replied, giggling.
"What?" He blinked, looking at her quizzically, then rolled his eyes as he got the joke. "Right, right. 'Em-bare-ass...'" He chuckled, thinking for a moment. "It is, you know," He pointed out.
"Is what?" She asked.
"Nuh-uh, I'm covered," She responded, giggling, then glanced down at the shirt. "Uh, sort of..."
"C'mon," He replied, grinning playfully. "You're just wearing a t-shirt, no pants or underwear..."
"How do you know?" She giggled again and stuck her tongue out.
"Call it a hunch," He replied wryly. "So, um..."
"Yes?" She asked, smoothing the shirt again, where it had ridden up a bit in the process of her sitting up, and cocking her head for the umpteenth time.
"So, what do you normally do at home when you're snowed in?"
She giggled. "Are we noticing a pattern here?" She pondered for a moment. "I dunno. Reading usually, or games sometimes."
"Games? Um, board or computer?" He asked, then smacked his forehead a moment later. "Shit, that's right. Sorry."
"For?" She asked, slightly confused. "Oh. The computer thing?"
"Yeah. It's just...I've had one since I was like 7, so it's kinda..."
"...hard to imagine living without one?" She asked. He nodded. "I get by all right," She said with a shrug.
"So, in terms of games..." He asked her.
"Mostly just play with myself," She replied.
"Huh?" She asked, looking at him for a moment. "Oh, shit..." She blushed. "That came out wrong, didn't it?"
He shrugged. "Maybe a little," He responded, smiling again.
"Sorry," She said, shrugging sheepishly. "No, I mean like solitaire; playing four sides of a monopoly board, that sorta thing."
"Ever try chess?" He asked. It had been one of the few games he'd enjoyed playing with other humans as a kid, and Aurora seemed to be, like him, a bit of an introvert.
"Tried it," She replied. "No fun when I'm just playing against myself though."
"Eh, I suppose not."
She paused for a moment, then grinned suddenly. He raised an eyebrow, and she leaned toward him, bringing a hand to her mouth. "That bitch hella cheats," She confided, in an exaggeratedly conspiratorial whisper. She broke into a laugh, and he followed a moment later.
He pondered for a moment, raising a eyebrow. "Never with anyone else?" He asked. He found that hard to believe; she was so delightful to be around that he couldn't imagine, even in a small mountain town, that there was no one for her to spend her time with.
She shrugged. "Had a chess by mail thing going with one of my instructors for a while."
He shook his head in mixed disbelief and sympathy. He could only imagine what being so alone would feel like to a child her age; even as a nerdy social recluse, he'd had a few friends here and there. He was amazed that she didn't seem depressed. Apparently he was at least adequate, if not good, company. "I mean, around here."
"Like who?" She asked, looking at him a little strangely. He nodded slowly, resisting the urge to wince, as the rammifications of her confusion sank in. She swallowed, watching him nervously.
"Neighbor kids?" He suggested. She shook her head. "Your aunt and uncle?" Another negative. "Jesus," He muttered.
"What?" She asked, a defensive edge starting to creep into her voice.
"You're just on your own all day?" He asked her.
"Nah. Aunt Kara works, and Uncle Tyler...um, he's home during the day," She said. "It's just...um..." She hesitated, and he felt the urge to wince again. She was clearly making something up, and it was obvious that there was quite a bit she was holding back about her home life. He swallowed himself as possible explanations began to creep into his mind, but he willed them away. He knew she'd tell him in her own time, and he didn't want to pry it out of her if she was uncomfortable discussing it. "He's boring to play with," She finished.
"Ah. What does he normally do all day then?" Joe asked, curious, and a little suspicious as well.
"Watches TV mostly. Goes out sometimes." She shrugged.
"Gotcha. And you're not much into TV...?"
She shook her head. "Nah, I kinda got into a few cartoons when I was little, but the prime time stuff..."
"...just doesn't interest you?" He asked, chuckling. "I'm the same way. Just have it for the weather reports." He shrugged. "And the occasional movie."
"What movies d'ya have?" She asked.
He shrugged, trying desperately to think of one he owned that would interest a kid her age. "Mostly drama and action, a few of the better horror flicks." He thought back to what he'd watched at her age, realizing it was mostly the same. "A comedy or two," He added as an afterthought. "I dunno, what do you usually watch?"
She shrugged. "Disney sometimes," She said, and laughed. "Bet that's a surprise." He smiled at the joke. "Um...action's good. Whaddaya mean by drama?"
"You mean is it 'stuff with some depth and bearing on history or psychology' or 'I don't suppose we're going to develop some semblance of a plot any time soon'?"
"Yeah," She replied. "I'm guessing it's the first one?"
She nodded in response. "I was never much into romances," She confided. "I mean, I know girls are s'posed to be..."
He shrugged. "I never paid much attention to 's'posed to's," He replied. She smiled, seeming a little surprised and quite pleased. He resisted shaking his head, afraid she'd misinterpret the gesture. He found himself again unnerved by her surprise at his tolerance, and by the probable reasons that sprang to mind.
"It's just..." She trailed off, looking upward and twiddling her fingers as she searched for the right words. "I dunno. I never really, uh, identified with the characters much..."
"You couldn't relate to them?" He asked.
"Yeah. I mean...partly I guess it's 'cause they're older but even beyond that, a lot of them seem kinda...well, just dumb. Like with the things they care about, the ways they take things and how they deal with things..." She paused. "Is this making sense?"
He nodded. "Completely. Ever see Casablanca?"
She shook her head. "It's a romance isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is, but it's actually *about* something that *matters*. The main character has to choose between what he wants and what other people need."
"See now that sounds good," She said. "It's got Nazis in it, right?" He nodded. "Black and white?" He nodded again, and she smiled. "Think I mighta seen a few minutes of it once, when my mom and dad were watching it."
"Yeah. Kinda hard to follow from what I saw, though," She said.
"Wanna watch it?" He asked.
"Love to," She replied, grinning excitedly. He smiled back and climbed up off the sofa and motioning for her to follow, heading for the stairs. She got up and followed a few feet behind him.
As they reached the foot of the stairs, he stopped and turned toward her. "Race ya?"
"Hmm..." She pinched her chin, looking pensive for a moment, then turned suddenly and launched herself up the first three steps in about two bounds.
"Hey!" He yelled, charging after her. She squealed with laughter as he took the steps two at a time, reaching the landing about a second after she did. By that point, she was halfway up the second flight of stairs, and he shook his head as he hurried up after her, realizing it was hopeless. She stepped off onto the top floor and turned, stepping back from the stairwell. He glared up at her, about two steps from the top, and she stuck her tongue out. "Cheater," He grumbled, then broke into a grin.
"I warned ya," She replied, giggling. He climbed the last two steps and joined her in the hallway, pausing for a moment before turning and leading her toward the functional bedroom. They'd left the door hanging open when they'd left the room, but he pantomimed opening it and holding it for her. She laughed again. "Why thank you, good sir," She exclaimed, in a conspicuously affected imitation British accent.
"My pleasure, m'lady," He replied, grinning, as he closed the door behind them. He glanced at the TV; it was a somewhat smallish model; he couldn't remember the screen dimensions but he would have guessed at about 20 inches. It was small enough, and light enough, that setting it on top of the combination VCR/DVD player didn't make him nervous, and consequently, for space-saving reasons, the TV was perched atop it on a low...cupboard...thing (he never could remember the name, he thought to himself, making a note to look it up once more) next to the chimney, where he could easily see it from the bed.
He crossed the room to the cupboard under the TV, then, half-kneeling and half-bending over, he opened it. There were two shelves of movies under it, of which about a quarter were DVDs. He moved back and forth a bit as he searched, and finally pulled one of the DVDs from the middle left of the bottom row. "Here we are." He held it up, glancing back at her. She quickly glanced away, then looked at the movie., which puzzled him for a moment before he realized she must have been staring. He shrugged and slipped the disc into the player.
"Should I get a chair?" She asked, cocking her head.
"If you want. I usually just sit on the bed," He replied. "Or lie down, whichever," He added after a moment.
She nodded, smiling softly. "Mind if I join you?"
"Of course not, honey," He replied, smiling warmly. She clambered up onto the bed, briefly giving him another view of her butt. He quickly turned and fished the remotes off of the nightstand, then flicked the TV on. As the opening sequence before the DVD menu began, he climbed onto the bed next to her, watching as she leaned her back against the wall and stretched her legs out, smoothing the t-shirt where it had ridden up. He sat down next to her and stretched out a bit, smiling softly at her before turning his attention to the screen. He selected the "play" option from the DVD menu and adjusted the volume to something reasonable. He shivered slightly as she scooted closer, half-snuggling against him. He put an arm around her shoulder, and they exchanged another set of glances and smiles as the movie began to play.