First TimeThe Good Sister
The Good Sister
Blue eyes shut tight yet sleep eludes Theodore Dressler. Slumber like a swallow darting near. With deceptively agile maneuvers she turns away at the last instant.
"Grampa," Alex says a warm murmur at his ear. "Checkers?"
The child's chocolate breath bathes Grampa's face. He feigns sleep too long and Alex stalks off.
Should have opened my eyes sooner the old man thinks too late.
Checkers, an enjoyment to savor.
Something for Alex to recall forty years from now.
"I remember when…," Alex will say.
Outside snow slaps vinyl siding with a steady tattoo. The wind rattles the tamper tag on the gas meter.
"Grampa's sleeping, Mama."
Grampa hears Alex' pronouncement to the throng gathered around dessert in the dining room. The Thanksgiving feast Suzanna prepared continues over coffee and green tea, pumpkin pie and three-layer chocolate cake.
"The turkey," a chorus says, his lovely daughters chiming sweet harmony.
Grampa slumps deeper into the cushions wanting for the child's return.
The sound of Ms. Tilly's voice, Meg or Jennifer, he's not sure, drifts up from the big screen in the family room where no one is watching.
"I'm going to shower," he hears. Her sultry growl reaches into his chest takes a firm hold of his heart.
"I'm going to shower."
Ms. Tilly's announcement plies the image of another woman on the outskirts of consciousness. It is there, in the far recesses of his memory that he stowed their sin.
This is a good day, a Thanksgiving Thursday, to recall the pale beauty of the holy woman standing beneath the shower head, he thinks. Theodore gives thanks for their sins each and every time Pauline comes to mind.
Thursday had been their day briefly that summer Theodore turned eighteen.
Thursday was the day Theodore reached the age of majority.
Thursday night the elderly played bingo in St. Bart's school auditorium.
Thursday was the day he first heard Pauline say, "I'm going to shower, Theodore."
Those fateful words ring as clear on this snowy evening as they did on that hot August afternoon.
On that particular Thursday with his eighteen birthday seven days in the past, Pauline and Theodore disposed of individual doubts. Vows and upbringing were forgotten. Had he not heard Pauline whisper the advice, Theodore might have made his way to the ball diamond behind Franklin Roosevelt Elementary, instead…
Today, believing himself the wiser, Theodore is convinced Pauline's words were more than idle conversation.
Seven years her junior he never dared her name without the proper prefix. Today, forty years later he does without the title to keep her memory sacred should a fellow classmate stumble on these words.
He promised never to tell.
He still understands the meaning of 'giving your word', so Theodore intentionally complicates this retelling to mislead and confuse as memory has after four decades.
Summer was never better until Suzanna strolled into his life but that's another story.
"Dressler's an ass-kisser," Tommy Sloan yells as Theodore bicycles toward the school annex on Penora. His fielder's glove hangs from the handle bars. He refuses baseball yet another Thursday knowing Pauline needs his help.
Theodore is four hundred dollar short on the down-pay proposed by his father as the minimum and Theodore relies on his bike as his means of transport.
More than four years out of elementary school and shortly on his way to SUNY in Brockport on the Thursday following the Labor Day weekend, he is still drawn by the unnamed demand that gnaws at his insides. He arrives at the rear door of the school annex at three as he has for more than two years come rain or sunshine or snow.
Attendance dwindled, the number of volunteers pared by the summer heat until by the first Thursday in August she and Theodore are paired alone.
Pauline with that rusty blush on cherub cheeks, that liquid stare that melts Theodore in his tracks each time she looks his way and thanks him for my presence.
"I don't know how I'd get along without you, Theodore."
A smile is his only response.
Alone with the second love of his life, he follows her footsteps down to the hall.
Barbara Sullivan was his first love, puppy love shared by third-graders, the target of a wayward kiss at First Communion practice.
Barbara, like Pauline today was unaware of his devotion that May afternoon in 1956.
There is neither affection nor shame on his face when she finds him staring.
Does she understand I cannot look away? He wonders. How truly lovely she is?
His name on her lips touches a nerve and pulls him from the trance he's fallen into.
"Hi," he answers once the misty revere clears.
In her eyes, so brown, so fluid, he sees the river running dangerously deep and dark.
"Thank you again, Theodore," Pauline says two hours later, after they finish arranging the chairs and tables for evening bingo. He loiters for a final whiff of her flowery fragrance. The soft sweat lighting on her skin is not enough to silence the affliction that blackens his soul.
"Yes, it is hot," he says agreeing with her appraisal. Sweat stings his eyes. He notices the acrid scent under his arms.
"Will you be here for me next week, Theodore?"
"Yes," he says as Pauline keys the lock on the back door to the school annex.
"Good. You'll probably be the only one."
"Yes, I know."
"Well, I'm going to shower, Theodore. But first, I did not forget your birthday; the eighteenth is a big deal," Pauline says. "I want you to have this…"
Pauline reached under her tunic. After a bit of fumbling Pauline comes away with a St. Christopher medal on a silver necklace. "To protect you of your journey, Theodore," Pauline says softly. Pauline hands him the talisman and they share the static spark that passes from Pauline's finger tips to his hand.
"I'll see you at Mass on Sunday," Pauline says before she turned away and hurries to the convent.
Her soles scuff the asphalt. He imagines the underside of those long dark robes brushing bare flesh.
Theodore stows the English racer behind Father Jim's garage before slinking toward the convent. Ignoring the fleeting nervousness he stumbles through the yews planted three deep from the edge of the driveway to the windows beneath the enclosed porch.
There is water falling from two of the six heads that protrude from the white tiled wall of the shower beneath the porch. Pauline raises a delicate arm and adjusts the spray falling on her slender body.
She has more hair under her arms than I, Theodore sees.
The hair is the thing he first notices while he spies on the holy woman.
Under the dark cloth she wears there is little need for a razor he reasons for no man is destine to see the woman as he does today.
Long and lean, Pauline is thinner than he expected.
And so pale…
Dirty blonde hair Theodore has never seen is knotted above the nape of Pauline's neck. Bony blades poke out below the slope of narrow shoulders.
He looks away for fear of being struck blind for this offense.
Why bother, he questions a moment later, understanding he's already damned for the thousand sinful thoughts that have kept the sleep from his eyes since the first day he laid eyes on the woman.
Don't squander this moment, he tells himself as desire overcomes imaginary fears.
He crouches lower and turns back to the screen. He watches her graceful shadow on the white tiled wall opposite his place beside the open window.
Pauline looks over her shoulder, to the opening and to the source of the shadow that has joined hers on the white tiled wall.
Enthralled, flight is impossible. His legs are useless.
"Theodore," she begins then loses the ability to speak. Stunned silence follows the surprise in her brown eyes, the back of her hand to her mouth.
Pauline rebounds quickly pulling composure from thin air and saying again, "Theodore."
A small voice in his head shouts, Run while you still can.
Pauline wrests that alternative from the realm of possibility when she asks, "Would you shower with me, Theodore?"
Her query squelches his fears.
The anger he expects does not materialize.
Not damned after all.
A silly smirk is all he is able to muster. He contemplates the consequences professed daily at Mass the last thirteen years of his life, from kindergarten through to his high school graduation from Bishop Fallon High School.
Pauline repeats the offering with a gesture, her hand extended up to the opening after she slides the screen aside.
"Okay," he says. He is unable to project gloom, the gloom that might save him; his shield protecting him from retribution.
Dimples appear at each corner of her mouth. His eyes drift lower. To those perfect beige circles on a field of pale pink flesh that hold his attention for three beats of his over-stressed heart. To the hard muscled oval, abs protruding above the thick snarl of dirty blonde hair.
The hair, again the hair.
"I won't let you fall, Theodore."
Her fingers are wet and warm, her arms deceivingly strong. Her hold is firm yet reassuringly relaxed should Theodore balk at her invitation…free to flee in that instant when fear overcomes desire.
"I already have," he says still holding her hand too tight…gaping.
"You are a sweet boy," she says, realizing. The admission troubles Pauline. She tugs her fingers free and backs away. Her imprint is wet on the front of his navy blue tee shirt. It bleeds into his blue jeans.
The repartee, a word unknown to Theodore at the time, plays out one sided while he stands frozen to the floor unsure.
"Will you be missed at dinner?"
He shakes his head.
"Why were you at the window, Theodore?"
He struggles his eyes higher up to Pauline's smile.
"You said you were going to shower." He feels the heat darken his face. "I wanted to see."
"Are you going to shower?"
Yes, he nods.
"You can't shower like this." She swings her hand in a low arc. Though her touch is a breath removed from his flesh anticipation hardens his resolve. The fit of his jeans tighten.
Theodore adds his shirt, jeans and sneakers to the cassock, the tunic and wimple on the bench next to the entrance.
Pauline backs into the water falling. Up on her toes, arms raised she adjusts each shower head to a broader, less painful spray.
Under her slender arms…the hair…
He shifts his weight from one foot to the other as he pulls off the sweat socks. With one last attempt at bravery he pushes away the briefs.
"Let me wash you."
Pauline is tentative fingers unfamiliar with the anatomy at hand. Without the convenience of a wash cloth soapy fingers work the sweat and the grim from his sun-darken flesh.
Theodore is still as stone. His pulse quickens. Pauline cannot appreciate the worry she causes Theodore. Her fingers are more than he can bear. The ultimate example of devotion soils her hand.
"Shhhh," she says before he can speak. "You need not apologize, Theodore."
Apology is not his intention. He is near collapse wanting the spasms to pass. He says nothing to interrupt Pauline as she pulls her hand away and presses her palms to the pale brown points on her chest. The iridescent trace connects one nipple to the other.
"This is lovely," she says, and takes Theodore to her breasts. The patch of blonde scrubs his flesh like coarse wool as she plays slow circles over his belly. Her mouth tastes of violet.
"Lie down," she says once she determines it's not yet finished.
The floor is cool on his back. She performs a nefarious ballet on the tips of her toes before she straddles his fears. She speaks an incantation he does not understand.
"Your punishment, Theodore," Pauline says as a warm torrent rushes out from between her legs onto his chest, onto his belly.
Inquisitive he takes hold of her ankles and shifts his weight.
"Holy water," he says. Again the timing is off. The water falling from her flesh comes clear and cool to his kiss, his throat once she has emptied her bladder of the piss.
"More please," he says. She has nothing more to give in response his plea.
Pauline lowers her belly to his chest. The feel of smooth calves close to his shoulder arouses the beast.
He plays his fingers over her toes and closes his eyes to the fate that awaits. An instant later, the taste of her soap finds his tongue. The potion magic, he feasts on slippery flesh, nipping, nibbling. He knows nothing of her pain on the sharp edge of his teeth. Her sweet agony takes the breath from his lungs. Pauline withers lower and threatens his life then lifts her quivering body from his face.
His breath returns.
"You hurt me good, Theodore," she says what she feels a sound scolding. Pauline provides the proof, his bite visible on the silky folds swollen and red.
Pauline regains her strength and rolls him in her arms. Her shoulders and ass support their weight. That thin barrier and renewed nervousness separate them.
"Slowly, Theodore," she says, her breath halting on his face. Her heels at the small of his back encourage.
He trembles forward and presses his glans to the virgin seal. Theodore hesitates for he is worried she might be hurt once again. Her heels nudge him on. Finally with his fall complete, he tears the seal and slips into the warm rift.
With her heels, Pauline times the thrusts while Theodore measures the depth with the full force of his weight. He leans heavily into the slow curve of her bare bottom and the world explodes.
They rub one another raw until the bells in the steeple signal Vespers. Pauline finds Theodore slow to hear.
"No more, Theodore," she begs.
Again he does not hear and continues his assault. He prays this feeling never end when her voice comes clear to his ear.
"You must stop now, Theodore."
With her palms to his hip she stifles the rhythmic sway that makes them one.
"You can't speak of this to anyone, Theodore," Pauline says while Theodore dresses.
"Confess our sin far from here and keep my name forever secret. We've sinned but forgiveness is always at hand."
Pauline is up on her toes her arms high over her head.
Every muscle is visible beneath taut pale pink skin.
The dirty blonde wool matted below her navel.
Nipples rising high from her small breasts with each breath.
"Next Thursday, Theodore?" Pauline asks at the entrance to the shower room.
"Yes," Theodore says.
Forty years later, softened by age, Theodore Dressler admits there was no comfort gained by all the confessions made that summer of 1965.
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