The traveling vampire sh.., p.21
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       The Traveling Vampire Show, p.21

           Richard Laymon
 

  Pulled tight and smooth, the blouse showed every contour. The smooth mounds of her breasts were tipped with stiff nipples.

  “You look fine,” I said.

  She frowned. “What?”

  Before I could say anything, she turned around and looked at herself in the mirror. Her frown deepened. Her hands came up and she touched her nipples. “Can’t go around like this,” she said.

  In the mirror’s reflection, our eyes met.

  I shrugged.

  Her hands slid down below her breasts, clutched her blouse and pulled it upward, dragging its tails out of her cut-offs. When she stopped, it was still tucked in but now had plenty of slack in it. No longer taut against her breasts, it draped them but didn’t reveal every detail.

  Her eyes again met mine in the mirror. “Better?” she asked.

  I nodded.

  She turned around and came to me, a smile spreading over her face. “Are you all right?” she asked.

  “Fine.”

  “Are you sure?”

  “Sure.”

  “You seem awfully nervous.”

  “I do?”

  “Yeah.”

  “I’m okay.”

  “Do I make you nervous?”

  “Maybe a little.”

  Reaching down, she took hold of my wrists. “These?” she asked, and lifted my hands and placed them on her breasts. Through the thin fabric of her blouse, I felt their heat and smoothness. I felt how springy they were. I felt the push of her nipples.

  Chapter Thirty-three

  In Slim’s bathroom, I tried to clean myself up.

  “Are you okay?” she asked through the door.

  “Fine,” I said. I tried to make my voice sound calm even though I was so embarrassed I wanted to cry.

  “Can I do something to help?” she asked.

  “No. Thanks. Everything’s okay.”

  “Oh, sure.” She didn’t sound very chipper, herself.

  “Just…I’ll be out in a minute.”

  “I’m sorry, Dwight.”

  “Isn’t your fault.”

  “Of course not.”

  I blushed furiously.

  What did she think had happened to me?

  She hadn’t asked.

  Does she know?

  My hands leaping away from her breasts, I’d blurted, “Gotta go,” then run from her bedroom and down the hall to the bathroom.

  Maybe she thinks I got hit by the trots.

  From the other side of the door, Slim said, “It’s fine if you want to take a shower or something.”

  A shower might be the best solution, but I said, “No, that’s okay.”

  “Come on, Dwight. You take a shower, and I’ll throw your stuff in the wash. It won’t take that long. We’ll get everything nice and clean.”

  “I don’t know,” I muttered. The wads of toilet paper had taken care of the worst of it, but I was still very sticky and my jeans…

  “Why don’t you just hand your pants out through the door?” Slim said.

  “Nah.”

  “Come on, Dwight.”

  Slim opened the door, but only a few inches. Her arm reached in. “Just hand them to me.”

  “They’re a mess.”

  “It’s all right. Come on.” The fingers of her upturned hand waved back and forth, gesturing for me to approach.

  “Can’t you just leave me alone for a while?”

  “Give me your pants, Dwight.” This time, she sounded serious.

  “They’re gross.”

  “They are not.”

  “That’s what you think.”

  “I know what happened,” she said, her voice suddenly going soft. “And I know why it happened. I know all about that sort of stuff. Thanks to Jimmy.”

  “Oh, God,” I muttered, and hoped she hadn’t heard me.

  “He was gross,” Slim said. “Everything about him was gross. But nothing about you is gross, Dwight. Nothing. There’s nothing for you to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Okay? So just let me have your pants and I’ll wash them for you. Please.”

  “Okay.”

  Blushing like crazy, I climbed out of my jeans. On the back of the bathroom door was a full-length mirror. I saw myself walking toward it, my hair mussed, my face scarlet, my shirt not quite long enough to cover my equipment, my jeans swaying by my side, my legs bare all the way down to the tops of my white socks.

  “Here,” I said, and put my jeans into Slim’s hand.

  “Thanks,” she said. Her arm retreated. A moment later, she said, “What about your trunks?”

  Expecting the question didn’t save me from the embarrassment of it.

  “I got rid of them back at my house,” I confessed. “They were too hot.”

  “Ah,” she said. “Okay. No problem. I’ll go downstairs and throw these in the washer. Why don’t you go ahead and take a shower?”

  “Be careful, okay?”

  “I will be. You, too.” The bathroom door eased shut.

  I thought about things for a minute or two, then took off my shirt and socks and stepped over to the bathtub. I started the water running. When it felt about right, I climbed into the tub, slid the frosted door shut, and started the shower. The spray came out cold. A few seconds later, however, it was good and hot.

  I tried to get myself clean with just my hands and the water. After some rubbing, though, my skin still felt slick and tacky in the places where I’d made the mess.

  Bending over, I removed a bar of soap from the tray.

  The fresh scent of the soap reminded me of Slim.

  Of course, I thought. It’s her soap.

  Suddenly, the realization struck me that I was taking a shower in the very same tub where Slim took her showers or baths. She had been naked in this very place. She had slid this very bar of soap over her bare skin. It had touched her face, glided over her breasts, slicked the skin of her buttocks, even rubbed her down there.

  Never mind, I told myself.

  But as I stood in the spray, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about it. I got pretty excited all over again. I imagined Slim coming back upstairs after throwing my jeans in the washer…easing open the bathroom door and sneaking inside…taking off all her clothes, then sliding open the shower door.

  Mind if I join you in there?

  Don’t mind at all.

  It’ll never happen, I thought. Not in a million years.

  It might.

  What had already happened was too fantastic to believe.

  She put my hands on her breasts!

  If she’ll do that, I thought, what else will she do?

  She knows all about sex, thanks to that bastard Jimmy Drake. She’s experienced. We’re alone in the house. We’ve got all night—if we skip the vampire show. Taking a shower together could be just the beginning!

  I was done washing myself, but I decided to keep on showering.

  No hurry, I thought.

  She’d already had plenty of time to take my jeans out to the garage behind her house, throw them into the washing machine, start the machine, and return to the house. By now, she might be just outside the bathroom door.

  On the rim of the tub was a plastic bottle of shampoo. I picked it up, opened it, and poured some of the yellow goo into the palm of my hand.

  I’ll be sudsing my hair when she comes in.

  I’ll act very surprised.

  I won’t have to act, I realized. I really will be surprised. I’ll be shocked.

  It would take a miracle to have Slim get in the shower with me.

  But she put my hands on her breasts.

  Right. And I had an accident like some kind of sex-starved kid.

  I am a sex-starved kid.

  I rubbed the foamy shampoo into my hair and scalp. The shampoo didn’t smell the same as the soap. Like the soap, however, its aroma reminded me of Slim.

  I lathered my hair for a long time, giving Slim plenty of time to show up.

  She isn’t going to show up, I fina
lly had to admit.

  She’s probably waiting outside the bathroom door—and wondering what’s taking me so long. Maybe she even decided to wait by the washing machine and not come back until my jeans are finished.

  I put my head under the hot spray. I spent a fairly long time rinsing away the suds, still hoping for Slim to come in. Finally, I bent down and turned off the water. I rolled the door open. Hanging on to its edge, I leaned out slightly and looked around. The bathroom was aswirl with white steam.

  No Slim.

  I climbed out of the tub. Dripping, I took a few steps and pulled a pale blue towel off its bar. Slim’s towel. It had to be hers; her mother’s tub was in the master bathroom. The towel was the same powder blue color as Slim’s bikini. The one she was wearing tonight. The one with the top she’d removed in her closet.

  Drying myself, I wondered if the towel had been in the wash since the last time she’d used it. I didn’t think so. It seemed clean and fresh, but didn’t smell or feel the way towels do before they’ve been used.

  This one had been against Slim, all over.

  When I was done drying myself, I wrapped it around my waist and tucked a corner down to hold it in place. It jutted out quite a lot in front, so I didn’t go to the door or call out for Slim.

  To pass a little time, I stepped over to the counter. The mirror above it was all fogged up. Even though I couldn’t see myself in the mirror, I combed my hair with a pink comb I found on the counter. Then I sprayed my armpits with Slim’s deodorant. It was Right Guard, and it’s odor reminded me of her.

  It seemed that Slim’s special scent was made of many different aromas—her soap, her shampoo, her deodorant. Now those scents were on me. I liked having the same smell as Slim—or almost the same.

  She had other aromas, too, at different times. Perfumes. Suntan oil. Foods she’d eaten. Sometimes, she carried outdoor scents: she smelled like wind or rain or grass or sunlight.

  The towel was no longer sticking out, so I went to the door.

  I expected Slim to be on the other side of it.

  She wasn’t.

  I stepped out and looked down the hall. Light from her open bedroom door spilled onto the carpet like a yellow fluid.

  “Slim?” I called.

  No answer came.

  Not from her bedroom. Not from downstairs. Not from anywhere.

  What if they got her?

  The thought made me feel squirmy.

  Maybe they were hanging around the house all along, hiding, waiting to get Slim alone…

  She’s probably still in the garage, I told myself. Safe and sound. Waiting to take my jeans out of the washer.

  I might as well wait in her bedroom, I thought.

  As I walked toward the glow from her room, the towel started to come loose. I grabbed it, held it up, and kept on walking—suddenly very aware of being naked except for the towel.

  Stepping into the light, turning toward her doorway, I suddenly imagined Slim was waiting for me in her bed. Maybe with a sheet pulled up almost to her shoulders.

  Her shoulders bare.

  Her face smiling.

  That’s why she hadn’t answered when I called out; she didn’t want to ruin the surprise.

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Wrong.

  Slim’s bed was empty. She didn’t seem to be in her room at all.

  “Slim?” I asked, just to make sure.

  A fluttery feeling in my stomach, I left her room and walked to the head of the stairway.

  “Slim!” I called out.

  She didn’t answer.

  So I trotted down the stairs. Straight ahead of me was the front door. I suddenly imagined it swinging open, Slim’s mother coming into the house and gaping up at me in shock, blurting out, What’re YOU doing here, young man? Where are your clothes?

  Something had gone wrong with her overnight plans, and here she was.

  It could happen.

  Of course, it didn’t.

  It’s been my experience that worst case scenarios are very rare indeed. Rare to the extent that you can almost count on them not happening.

  But sometimes they do.

  The moment I turned away from the front door, my terror of being caught by Slim’s mother vanished and my fears for Slim resumed.

  The kitchen light was on. The back door stood open and the screen door was shut.

  Earlier, Slim had entered the house this way to open the front door for me. She had also, probably, gone out this way to take my jeans to the garage.

  I walked across the linoleum floor. It felt clean and slick under my bare feet.

  At the screen door, I stopped and looked out.

  The two-car garage stood at the far right corner of the lawn. Though its doors were shut, the windows of the laundry room were bright.

  Slim has to be in there, I told myself.

  But what if she’s not?

  She is! She knows I’ve got no pants until she comes back with my jeans. She’s just staying with them till they’re done.

  Probably.

  I couldn’t stand the idea of waiting for her—not knowing for sure if she was there—so I opened the screen door and hurried down the back porch stairs.

  Night had come. It was warm. Soft breezes blew against me, and they smelled of rain—rain that had been holding off all day but was sure to fall sooner or later.

  Almost naked, I was glad to have the darkness. The trees and fences gave me some protection, but not enough, from the eyes of neighbors who might be looking out their windows. If I should be seen in Slim’s back yard wearing nothing but a towel…

  I suddenly realized that Slim would be seeing me in nothing but a towel. I couldn’t turn back, though. I had to make sure she was safe.

  It’ll be embarrassing, I thought, but it can’t be any worse than what’s already happened.

  After retucking the towel to secure it around my waist, I opened the laundry room door.

  I stepped in.

  Slim wasn’t there. Neither machine was running, but the air felt hot and smelled faintly of detergent. I stepped up to the washer and opened its top. Bending down and peering into the shadows, I felt moist heat rise against my face. The machine had been used recently, but it was empty now.

  I stepped over to the drier. It was a front-loader. When I bent over to open it, my towel started to come loose. I grabbed the towel at its tuck by my hip. Holding it in place, I bent lower and peered into the drum.

  At the bottom was a tangle of damp fabrics.

  Feeling a little confused, I squatted down directly in front of the drier, reached in with my right arm, and plucked at the clothes. I separated them enough to find my own jeans, Slim’s cut-off jeans and the pants of her powder blue bikini. Nothing else.

  “You got me.”

  Though I recognized Slim’s voice, it came from behind and startled me. My arm hopped up and banged against the top of the drier’s door hole. “OW!” I yelped. I jerked my arm clear. Grabbing where it hurt, I shot to my feet and twisted around.

  The laundry room had its own door into the rest of the garage. Though the garage housed the big old Pontiac that used to belong to Slim’s grandmother (who’d checked out in the Super M checkout line the previous year), it was mostly used for storage. They kept a freezer chest there. And an extra refrigerator.

  The door had been shut when I came into the laundry room.

  Now it was open and Slim stood in the doorway, a look of concern on her face, a beer bottle in each hand. Her shiny black blouse was large enough so that it reached below her groin. Cut higher at the sides, it let me see bare skin to her hips. Her legs were bare all the way down to the sneakers on her feet.

  I noticed all that in about half a second.

  During the same half second, while my arm rang with pain, I realized that I’d lost my towel.

  The hand of my wrecked arm was almost where I needed it to be. Fast as I could, I cupped myself.

  Slim smiled as she watched me squat a
nd snatch up the towel.

  When I had it around me again, her smile vanished. “Sorry I startled you,” she said.

  “It’s okay.”

  “You really whacked your arm.”

  “It’ll be okay.”

  “I keep messing you up.” She looked serious when she said it. But then she must’ve found some humor in her wording, because a smile crept across her face. “Rusty would’ve liked that one,” she said.

  “Yeah.”

  “Anyway, I’m sorry.” She stepped out of the doorway and came toward me, the bottles swinging by her bare hips, her breasts moving softly under her blouse. She set the bottles on top of the washer. “Let me see your arm,” she said.

  Holding the towel together with my left hand, I raised my right arm. The front of my forearm was crossed by a red mark. Slim frowned at it. Then she gently took hold of my wrist and elbow, lifted my arm toward her face, and kissed the red place. I still felt as if someone had whacked my arm with a crowbar, but now I could feel Slim’s lips. They felt cool and soft.

  Looking up into my eyes, she asked, “Does that make it better?”

  “Makes it fine,” I told her.

  She lowered my arm and let go of it. “I didn’t mean to surprise you,” she said. “I thought you were in the house.”

  “I got worried about you.”

  “I was just out here.”

  I shrugged. “Guess so. It’s just…you were gone so long.”

  “I couldn’t come in till the wash was done.” She lowered her head to look at herself. Her open hands, down by her sides, gestured toward her bare thighs. As if to point out that she was naked below her hanging shirttails.

  As if I hadn’t noticed.

  “Since I was doing a wash anyway,” she said, “I figured I might as well throw in some of my own stuff.” She blushed slightly, looked as if she might add something, then turned away. “Only trouble is, I can’t get the drier to work.”

  I found myself smiling.

  “Looking forward to wet jeans?” Slim asked.

  I shook my head. “It’s just…I thought you’d vanished again.”

  Her eyebrows soared. “What do you mean, vanished again? I’ve never vanished.”

  “I thought you had.”

 
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