This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons is entirely coincidental.
"So what brings you clear out here to Golden?" he asked, eying the Massachusetts plate on the front of my Tempest with an expression of mild suspicion. He turned the key in the front door and motioned me in.
"Well, I'm actually a Colorado native," I replied. "I just finished my engineering degree at MIT, but I'm going to be starting my masters at the School of Mines this fall." I noted that this seemed to satisfy him, but didn't pay it too much mind. I was too busy checking out the "furnished two-bedroom house" the stooped old man was showing me.
The word "house" might have been a bit grandiose for this particular dwelling. It was in the old part of town and was more of a cottage in actuality, but it appeared to be nicely maintained on the outside and the stoop had a decent view of the huge monogrammed "M" up on Mount Zion.
The interior was a mixed bag. Most prospective renters would have wanted the more modern wall-to-wall carpeting, but I loved the old, worn oak floors. The living room featured a fireplace and sturdy built-in bookshelves that filled an entire wall, a great feature for a bookworm like me. The bathroom had been recently remodeled with neutral colors and the tub/shower unit had sliding glass doors. There was even a massaging showerhead, likely left by a previous renter.
On the other hand, it was obvious that the kitchen hadn't been updated in a quarter century. By this time, in the summer of 1985, even Avocado Green and Harvest Gold had mostly been replaced by Almond and White, but these particular appliances still soldiered on in 50's vintage turquoise.
One of the bedrooms was laughably small, useful as an office at best, but the living room and other bedroom were reasonably large. The furniture was about what you would expect in a rental, but didn't look too bad. All things considered, the cottage met my specifications just fine.
Except for one thing.
He probably caught my frown. "I guess you noticed that there aren't any beds," he said, perhaps a bit defensively.
"Well, yeah. The ad did say 'furnished'."
"Well, over the years I've found that beds get trashed more often than the rest of the furniture. It was costing me a lot of money. I don't supply beds anymore, but I lowered the rent some to make up for it."
I decided that it was just as well. I'd had a run-in with bedbugs back east and it might be a good thing to be able to pick out my own sleep surface this time.
"I guess I could get my own," I allowed.
He nodded slowly. "I usually try to rent to mature folks. You sounded older over the phone. You're not the kind of kid that throws wild parties are you?"
I could tell by the look in his eye that he'd be a hard one to fool. It was a reasonable question though. During my undergrad days, I'd lost my share of a deposit, plus some, when a couple of my apartment roommates hosted a blowout that got a bit out of hand. I'd been at work on a late shift when it happened, but had gotten stuck with the consequences nonetheless.
"No sir," I replied, meeting his eyes, "I'm also starting a full-time job with a local engineering firm. With classes and work, I'll be lucky to find time to sleep."
He just nodded, but I could tell he'd decided I might make an acceptable tenant. "Well, what do you think?"
"The ad said $450 a month?" That was serious money, but a fraction of what a place like this would have cost me back in the Boston area.
"Yup, with gas and electric included, and furnished as is. You can add up to two other people to the lease for an extra $50 each."
"A month," he added, rather unnecessarily.
"I think it's going to be just me, but I'll keep that in mind," I said.
I'd kept myself going all through my undergraduate years by promising myself that as soon as I graduated, I'd live in an actual house for the first time in my life. Renting this one just for myself was a guilty luxury I could now afford, if only barely. My job was entry-level and my scholarship modest, but if I was reasonably smart with my expenses I could swing it. Even if it had been just to myself, a promise is a promise.
"Okay, I'd like to take it, Mr. Cabrini. I've got a list of references if you need them." He gave me an approving look. The fact that I'd offered them without his asking had evidently impressed him.
"Oh, you seem trustworthy enough. It's yours."
"Great. I guess I'd better start looking for a bed, then."
He nodded. "You'll probably want to do that before you return your U-Haul. That'd be a lot easier than strapping it to the roof of your car."
"That's good advice, sir. When can I move in?"
"The minute you sign this contract," he said, pulling a multipage document out of his battered leather folder, "and pay first month's rent. And the $300 deposit."
"Do you take cash?" I asked, reaching for my wallet. It was most of the money I had left, but I'd budgeted for this.
"I guess I'll be leaving the keys here with you," he said with a yellowed smile.
It took me about a half hour to unload the trailer that had been attached to the back of my beater Pontiac since I'd left for Golden. Mr. Cabrini's advice about using it to bring home a bed made sense, but I was exhausted from three days of driving, sleeping fitfully in the back seat each night to save money, and then most of a day of apartment hunting. I guiltily decided to just lie down on the couch for a few minutes, knowing that it might end up being a lot longer.
I needn't have worried. The springs in the couch were so broken down that the central support dug hard into my side. I got back to my feet and looked around. The wood floors were complemented by linoleum in the bathroom and kitchen. The couch cushions were permanently attached, so I couldn't put them on the floor. There wasn't a reasonably soft horizontal surface in the house. I didn't want to blow any more of my limited funds on a night in a motel, so unless I wanted to sleep on a hard floor, or in my car for a fourth night in a row, I needed to buy a bed tonight.
I was due to start work in a couple of days, but my first paycheck wouldn't be until the end of the month. After shelling out for the cottage, my funds were severely limited and I had no line of credit. I was going to have to do this on a shoestring budget, so used was the word of the day.
The classified offerings in the Golden Transcript were thin. Three of the beds had been sold and the two I looked at were of highly questionable hygiene standards. There was only one ad left. "Used waterbed $150." It struck me that at least with one of those, you'd never have to worry about blood sucking vermin living in the mattress. I'd never owned a waterbed, and this one seemed kind of expensive compared to others I'd seen in the past, but it was after dinnertime now and I was running out of options. I called the number from a pay phone.
"Hello?" The female voice that answered sounded young and smoothly melodic, which reminded me of a grim statistic. The male to female ratio at the Colorado School of Mines was about five to one, much worse than even MIT.
"Uh, yeah," I said, starting out awkwardly as usual. "I'm calling about the waterbed for sale?"
"Sure. It's a king-size with a bookcase headboard and twelve-drawer pedestal. It's in really good shape, too."
Only then did it occur to me that there was another consideration. The whole goal of buying a bed this afternoon was to have something to sleep on tonight, but it was unlikely that I could drain, disassemble, move, reassemble, fill and warm up a waterbed in the amount of time I had left.
"Is it set up?"
"Yup, and it's filled at the moment so you can check it out, but I'm going to have to drain it in the morning because I'm moving tomorrow. I really need to sell it because I can't take it with me."
"Well, here's the problem," I said. "I was hoping to get a bed set up in my new place tonight and I've heard that draining a waterbed can take hours."
"Not a problem. I live up on the third floor, so if we ran the hose out the window and down to the storm drain it would siphon out in like twenty minutes, especially since I have a three-quarter inch hose. The rest of the disassembly would take less than a half an hour and I'd even help you load it up."
Ask around and probably not one person in fifty could tell you what diameters garden hoses come in, much less that a three-quarter inch is relatively big. This girl also knew that a siphon works progressively better as it has more drop. As a certified engineering geek, I was intrigued.
"I suppose that might work," I allowed, but there was still the setup and fill, not to mention that this thing would be huge. While my larger bedroom had plenty of space for it, I really didn't see the need.
Then there was the price. That kind of money would get me into a brand new standard full bed, albeit at very basic quality, and I already owned full-size bedding.
Everything about this deal was wrong and I knew I should just forget it, but logic had now been relegated to the back seat. I just really wanted to meet this girl. I tried not to think about the likelihood that she'd be three hundred pounds and/or married. Instead I reasoned that since she was up against a deadline, I could probably talk her way down from her asking price and get her to throw in whatever bedding it had. After all, the bed would fit in my room and if I didn't manage to get it set up quickly enough, I could still throw enough clothes down on the floor to survive another night.
"Where and when can I see it?" She gave me the address, saying that she'd be able to show it to me in about an hour if I wanted to swing by. I agreed immediately, hoping I didn't sound overeager.
"What kind of vehicle do you have?" she asked. "With all the drawer units, the bed's pretty bulky."
"I've still got my U-Haul. That shouldn't be a problem."
"Great. Where did you move from, if you don't mind my asking?"
"The Boston area. I'm starting a new job at RJS Composites on Monday."
"Really? I've heard that's a pretty cutting-edge kind of place. What do you do?"
"I'm an aerospace engineer," I said, not mentioning that I was entry-level and still sopping wet behind the ears.
"Cool," she said, like she meant it. "I'll look forward to meeting you."
"Likewise." I hung up the phone smiling.
With an hour to kill, I headed back to my new place to get cleaned up a little. I'd taken a sponge bath in a rest area bathroom stall and washed my hair in the sink that morning, but hadn't had a real shower and a good shave in days. Now was the time, because like they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
When I arrived at the address she'd given me, I found an upscale apartment complex of maybe half a dozen buildings. I parked in the central lot and went looking for her apartment. Naturally it was in the one furthest away. As I went up the outside stairs, I noted that they were narrow and the landings were unusually tight. Poor work on the part of the architect, I figured, and it would make getting the bed down to the trailer a real pain. No wonder she was having trouble selling it.
The rumble of distant thunder called my attention to the dark clouds coming over the mountains, announcing the imminent arrival of an evening storm. These were a near daily occurrence along the front range of the Rockies in late summer, but today's edition looked particularly ominous. This whole deal was looking worse by the minute.
I knocked, now certain that I'd be meeting a fat hausfrau, but when she opened the door I found myself face-to-face with a tall, young brunette in a halter sundress. She had dark eyes, flawless olive skin, glossy hair pulled back in some sort of fancy style, and a distinctive, yet somehow very attractive, Roman nose.
"Hi, I'm Alan," I said, surprised at myself for not stumbling over my words for once. "I called about the waterbed."
"I'm Rachel," she said. "Nice to meet you, Alan. Come on in." She closed the door behind me, then led the way. I noted that other than several tall stacks of moving boxes on the kitchen tile, the apartment was cleared out to the bare walls. It appeared to be ready for the next tenant to move in.
"I've got all the windows open because I cleaned the carpets today and I need them to finish drying out," she said, evidently in apology for the steady stream of air blowing in through the back windows and out the front. "They cut me some slack on my move out date in return, but I still have to be out by the end of the day tomorrow." The breeze felt good at the moment, but I could smell the building storm on it.
As I followed her down the hall, I observed that Rachel was slim and athletic, with just enough curves to her body to give her a nicely feminine look. I liked the way her open-backed dress displayed the glowing smoothness of her skin and the lithe movements of her hips as she walked.
I reminded myself that I was here for a waterbed, not a date, and that Rachel was way, way out of my league, but I was still nursing the faint hope that my love life would improve following my undergrad years.
I'd attended college on an extremely tight budget, working full time to supplement my small scholarship. It's not easy to get out and party or do much dating when you share a two-bedroom apartment with three other guys and deliver pizza six nights a week. That was my excuse and I was sticking to it.
The waterbed sat alone in her otherwise empty room. "Go ahead and take your time looking it over," she said. Then, conversationally, "I'm a senior at Mines and I'll be sharing a room to save money at my new place. I won't have space for this thing."
Then the tone of her voice saddened and I glanced over to see that she was frowning. "In fact, I'm going to be stuck on a top bunk in a really nasty basement apartment with five other girls."
That had to suck. It sounded like my undergrad experience. While I'd personally liked most of my many roommates, I was a basically private person and hoped I wouldn't ever have to live in such close proximity to a bunch of other guys again.
I looked the bed over. When I'd seen waterbeds in the stores, they'd been consistently at the bottom end of the craftsmanship scale, often closer to rough carpentry than furniture, but this bed was impressive. The rails were made of an extremely high-quality hardwood and fit neatly into turned corner posts. The drawers were faced with the same wood, had clean dovetail joints and rode on ball-bearing glides. The doors in the tall bookcase headboard had the newfangled European hidden hinges, and the bed positively glowed with a light cherry stain done to a much higher standard than the spray-on finishes typical of the genre. The side rails were thickly padded and covered in real leather instead of vinyl, and the bed was made up with a set of royal blue sheets and pillowcases in what felt like a very high thread count. The whole thing was topped with a colorful sunset-themed comforter. It was an exceptional package.
"The bedding comes with it and I replaced the heater last year," she said. "The hose with the fill and drain kit is in one of the drawers, along with an extra set of sheets. The whole thing comes apart with just a Torx wrench and there's one of those in there too."
"This is really fantastic workmanship," I said, impressed that she knew what a Torx wrench was. I'd already decided that I wouldn't dare insult her by trying to talk her down from her asking price. This thing was easily worth triple that. "I can't imagine a company putting this much attention to detail into a waterbed and making any money at it."
Her face took on a wistful expression. "My father owned a custom cabinetry shop for a while and he made this for my twelfth birthday, but there comes a time when you just have to let go."
Wow, sentimental value. Now I felt really guilty about buying it at such a low price, but then reasoned that if I didn't, someone else would. "He obviously put some love into it," I said.
"That he did."
I gave the mattress an experimental push. It didn't feel like I'd expected.
"The original mattress sprung a leak two years ago," Rachel explained, probably seeing the surprised look on my face, "so I had an excuse to get one of the new zero-motion ones. Go ahead. Lie down and check it out."
I felt a little self-conscious lying down on the bed of a girl I'd just met, but I kicked off my sandals and gently worked my way over the rail. I still expected waves, despite what she'd just told me, but it felt more like I was lying down in a layer of oozing mud, conforming perfectly, yet not moving much once I was in position.
"Wow, it really is zero motion."
Rachel nodded. "They say it's great if there's more than one person, because you don't jostle your partner when you get in and out of bed."
It seemed possible to me that Rachel was probing a little to see if I was attached. "They say?" I teased, maybe probing a little myself.
"You tell me," she said with a prim smile, walking around to the other side of the bed and laying down next to me. Well, not really next to me. It was a king-size after all, so there was still a lot of space between us.
"I'll bet you hardly felt that," she said.
I looked over at her. "Very nice."
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized that they could be taken in a number of different ways. If she decided to treat them as a compliment of her excellent supine form, though, that was fine with me.
Rachel just nodded. I would have guessed that she would get up again right away, but I could easily understand why she didn't. The clouds had moved in over the last couple of minutes, and with the suddenly cooler breeze coming in the window, the warmth from the heated mattress felt really good.
Rachel sighed in evident relaxation and closed her eyes. Maybe she was just hamming it up to help get the bed sold, but I used the opportunity to check her out some more.
She really was lovely. I liked the way her breasts flattened only slightly when she was on her back. They weren't overly large, but they rode quite high and proud on her chest. It might just have been the result of the breeze, but I could see her nipples standing up hard under the light floral fabric of her dress. It was obvious that she wasn't wearing a bra and, while I hadn't ever been a fan of the braless look, with breasts like hers I had zero objections.
Her face wasn't what you would call "cute" in the modern sense, but it had that undeniable classic beauty that I'd liked immediately. I'd already witnessed that it really lit up when she smiled, and she seemed to smile a lot.
It was then that the inevitable rain started. Since her apartment was on the top floor, we could hear the pitter patter on the roof. Seemingly within seconds it went from sprinkle to drizzle, then to hard and steady.
Rachel opened her eyes, looking past the foot of the bed and out the window. "Since the parking lot is miles from here, there's no way you'll be leaving without getting drenched."
"Well then, I hate to impose, but would you mind if I holed up here, just until it stops?" That was a bit daring for me, but somehow, with Rachel, it just felt natural.
"Not an issue. This is a rare night off for me and I was going to spend the evening right here, reading a book. I'd offer you a chair and refreshments while you wait, but…"
"This is a lot more comfortable anyway."
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