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The latch clicked as Carla Moore softly closed the door behind her. None of the middle-aged and senior ladies had locks on their doors. As usual every morning, Mrs. P left her rooms to watch the quiz shows on the huge TV in the Spa's activity room. Carla had no business in the woman's rooms, but she needed her morning fix. Paula Pembrooke's bedroom was a prime lookout, and Carla wanted a few moments of tingling pleasure.
The thick soles of her sensible shoes squeaked against the polished wooden floor as she skirted the area rug Mrs. P insisted upon. For about a year now, Carla had administered one wing of the Riverside Spa's second floor domain--a wing consisting of individual apartments.
A few weeks before taking the position, Carla had laid her mother to rest in a nearby graveyard beside her father. An only child with a few distant relatives, Carla, who was thirty-six at the time, had wondered what to do next. She'd applied for her current position in the local newspaper. Although the job had sounded somewhat prosaic, Carla had been pleased when she had been hired to oversee one of the wings. The salary wasn't everything she'd hoped for, but it covered her property taxes, dressed her, fed her and her cat, and provided some extra to put away for a rainy day. Carla didn't regret the decision for one moment when she accepted the position.
Now in the doorway to Mrs. P's bedroom, Carla's eyes roved over the lady's elaborate furnishings. Wistfully, she ran a finger over the polish on an exquisite mahogany side table and looked over at the massive, ornate bedstead. Its heavy, dark wood must weigh a ton. Carla had watched the moving men struggling to carry it onto thebuilding's freight elevator and up to the second floor. She had often wondered how it would feel to make love in that huge bed.
Thoughts about her handsome deceased husband tormented her these days. She would gaze at his picture and think about what might have been if he were here to satisfy her longings. His clumsy caresses, his youthful, eager lovemaking, and the untutored nights they shared during those first months of marriage, were now only dim memories. God, how she missed the rush of desire, and the need for satisfaction [MF1]that plagued her these years without a man in her bed to take her over the edge to completion. How she wanted to experience those out-of-this-world feelings again as a mature, sexually active woman instead of a deprived unmarried widow.
Wanton, unsatisfied lust had created a repressed yearning for erotic expression. Now Carla hoped to see--and devour--what was outside. She turned from the bed, wiping away an erotic vision of a naked man lying in it, opening his arms to receive her. Tentatively, she took the drape and eased it away from the window, peeking out. She swallowed hard, dry mouthed. Squeezing her eyes shut for a moment to tease herself, she hung onto the wild flutter of anticipation raging in her chest--the tremors she felt when she first saw him.
Inhaling deeply, Carla opened her hazel eyes and looked.
God! He was absolutely beautiful.
In the rooms next to Mrs. Pembrooke's, Maddy Barry rustled the drape back from the glass and urgently gestured to Jessie. "Come look, sister. He's back."
Jessie hurried over to her sister and gawked. "He's something else, isn't he?" she said, smiling, a wicked gleam in her blue eyes. "He reminds me of Johnny Weissmuller from those Tarzan movies." Jessie giggled. "Do you remember the day, Maddy, when he rode down Main Street during the July 4th parade? Sitting up there on the open Rolls, with that broad, hairless chest and those scrumptious pecs. Bare from shoulders to his belly button, he was. Good Lord, I almost wet my pants when he gave that Tarzan yell as he drove by us and waved. Ooooeeee!"
"Jessie, shush! He'll hear you!"
"Oh, so what if he does, Maddy?" Jessie's blue eyes crinkled in her aging face. "Whoever he is, he won't mind. I'm sure he's been ogled by plenty of women a lot younger than us. If he looks up here, he'll see we're just a couple of old fogies getting a cheap thrill. Probably heard women screeching like that before, too." Jessie laughed louder.
The summer sun blazed down on the front lawn. Evan "The Body" Lupo, the nickname he'd earned from high school classmates when he won a wrestling championship, had just removed his denim shirt .The day was hot, and Evan's sweat showed dark patches of blue on the garment. He tossed the shirt into a wheelbarrow that held dried weeds he had pulled from the garden. Evan stretched his broad, callused palms toward the clear blue sky. He rolled his brawny shoulders, his back flexing to loosen tight muscles. His ribcage rippled under bronzed skin. Perspiration dribbled down both sides of his spine, trickling beneath the low-slung waistband of jeans encasing slim hips. Evan squatted, the stonewashed, faded denims outlining his heavy thighs. He picked up a can of soda from the ground. Wiping dripping sweat from his brow with a thick, hairy forearm, Evan dragged the cold can across his forehead with long, blunt-tipped fingers. Then he pulled the tab and tilted the can to his lips, emptying the carbonated fluid into his mouth and taking a long, slow swallow.
"How long is it, Jessie, that Rose Lupo passed away?" Maddy asked.
"Just before Thanksgiving, I think," Jessie said. "I only saw him once when she moved in. I'm surprised he's here, doing landscaping."
"He doesn't seem to have any helpers with him, which is strange," Maddy said. "I recall noticing him when we were at the visitors' reception. He pulled up to the entrance driving a big Caddy, a white one, with his mother inside. I often wondered if landscaping was his only business."
"Nobody seems to know, but he must have cleared what he does with the powers that be, Maddy. He comes around when he feels like it, putters in the garden for an hour or two and leaves. I've never heard him speak with anyone but Jake, the groundskeeper."
Just then, Evan Lupo glanced up at Maddy and Jessie.
I caught them this time, he thought. Two curious old women wondering what I'm doing here. He was fond of old ladies, almost as fond as he was of making time with mature-minded women. Evan gave the Barry twins a wide, toothy grin and waved.
The twins looked at each other, laughed, and waved back.
As he waved to the sisters, Evan noticed the draperies twitch in the apartment next door. He wondered who else was watching him work in the garden. Evan's uncle, a Port Newark-based Mafioso, had liked to putter in his vegetable patch when he was young. Anthony Lupo had taught Evan about gardening--and some shadier business lessons--after Evan's father had been killed because of a family dispute. Following Lorenzo Lupo's burial, his wife, Rose, and young son, Evan, had gone to live with "Uncle Tony," the dead man's brother.
But that had been a while back; Evan was 28 now, both of his parents dead. He had planted a number of rosebushes soon after his mother had moved into the Spa. Roses had been his mother's favorite, and Evan himself loved the beauty and heady perfume of the flowers. Because of that, and because roses reminded Evan of his deceased mother, and helped him come to terms with the recent loss of her presence, he still came to tend the bushes when he had time.
In the adjacent apartment, Carla quickly let go of the drape. She would die if the landscaper caught her staring. She hadn't spoken to him since he'd showed up to tidy the Spa's rose garden; she simply peeked out the window to drink in him and his body every chance she got.
Even with the drapes closed and the man out of sight, Carla's mind could trace the path the soda had taken as the hunk's Adam's apple pumped, moving the cold stream down his throat. She remembered how he had licked soda from his lips with the tip of his tongue. Carla now unconsciously imitated that gesture, feeling a sudden gush of moisture between her thighs. She sighed audibly when her cunt muscles unconsciously clenched.
Why do I tempt myself this way? Why don't I just go out and find a man who will fuck me and be done with it?
Sensations tickled her nipples, burning along untamed nerve endings. A flush raced over her skin; unfulfilled, hot desire poured through her. She knew Mrs. P always set her air conditioning at 65 degrees in this weather. Nevertheless, Carla was sweating.
She left quickly. One fantasy a day was enough, or she'd be pleasuring herself tonight.
Once outside Mrs. P's apartment, Carla pulled herself together--lust was not appropriate at the Spa--and she tapped on the Barrys' door.
"That you, Carla?" Maddy called out. At Carla's acknowledgement, Maddy invited her in. "Where have you been and what've you been doing?" The twins spoke at her at the same time as she entered their apartment. They sat in identical chairs, two glasses of wine on the small lamp table placed between them. Are the twins tippling again? Carla wondered, chortling silently.
"Well, let's see now," Carla replied. "What can I tell you today? What if I had a date with one of the Giants' or Jets' burly football players?" She winked wickedly and laughed, standing in the doorway with fists resting on her slim hips.
"Oh, Carla! Do make it something exciting," Maddy said and took a sip of her wine. She waved Carla toward a nearby couch. "Come sit. Would you like a glass of wine? It's Tawny Port. The only kind we drink."
Carla shook her head.
"Well then, plop yourself down and stay for a few minutes. You know we like to listen to juicy stories."
I wish I could tell you a good one, Carla thought. Nothing exciting happens to me.
"Well, today is my birthday if that's memorable. However," Carla said, laughing again. "It isn't the sort of news I wish to spread around, so I hope you'll keep it under your hats or the staff will be checking to see if I have gray hairs."
"Get out of here, Carla. You're a young chicken," Jessie said, putting up a hand ringed with jewel-laden fingers. "How old are you, my dear?"
"Unfortunately, Jessie, I'm 37 today." Carla rolled her hazel eyes and grinned wryly.
"Oh, I wish I were your age. Why, I'd lasso that young fella digging out in front of our building and keep him under lock and key until I taught him what's good for him." Jessie tittered, wiggling her gray eyebrows like Groucho Marx, and catching her sister's eye. "You know what I mean."
"She just wishes she still knew how," Maddy added with a sly twinkle.
"You ladies are really quite wicked, do you know that?" Carla chuckled.
"Well, what else can we do at our age?" Maddy joked. "But be serious, Carla. You should do something special on your birthday--something you've never thought of doing before in your life. Live a little before it's too late. Kick up your heels, girl! If nothing else, you'll have memories to warm your insides when you're old like us."
What the Barry sisters didn't know was Carla's young assistants on the second floor wing had badgered her into going to the jousting games this evening at Medieval Showtime for her birthday. She had hemmed and hawed and finally succumbed to their coaxing.
"Come on, Carla," Melody Connor, the youngest of her assistants had said. "We're taking you there whether you want to go or not. We have tickets, so you have to come with us. It's fun; I've been there a couple of times, and so has Kerry. The knights are scrumptious and so are the horses. It's all very exciting, especially..." Then Melody hesitated. "But you'll see when we get there. They give us dinner so don't eat. Be ready at seven. And please, for once," she said, shaking a painted, red-blood fingernail at Carla, "wear tight pants and something low cut and sexy, huh? You've still got a great bod, Carla, so show it off. You'll be surprised at what'll happen if you do what we say."
Oh yeah, look at me with five hot 20-year-olds out to party, Carla thought. I'll really feel like a mother hen at my own birthday bash.
Although she had kept her shape, Carla didn't consider herself exciting in either face or figure. Nor did she dress to attract men. She was tall and slender, and a little bit shy, but with a good sense of humor and a strict sense of morality. Growing up in a small town, she never minded when most everybody knew her personal business. Nowadays she had some concern about what people thought.
When her friends moved to greener pastures, she remained behind, and at 22 years old, had married her childhood sweetheart, a soldier. She'd followed him to camp before he left for Desert Storm; there he died in a freak accident. After that, Carla had returned home to her
parents and commuted to a job she had found in New York City. Those days, like now, she rarely went out, never dated, and spent most nights at home watching TV or reading.
"You're young and pretty, Carla. You must have a love life," Jessie said, breaking into Carla's thoughts.
Some love life, she thought to herself.
"My love life, ladies, has gone down the proverbial tubes. Kerplunk! There isn't one little bit of romance to get excited about at the moment," she replied lightly.
Nor has there been any for a long, long time.
"Oh my," Maddy commiserated. "Mebbe we can help you with that, Carla."
"Do you have a tall, dark stranger hiding under your bed, Maddy? Someone who'll make all my dreams come true?" Carla's laughter turned painful.
"Well, not quite that, my dear, but perhaps Jessie and I can come up with something." Maddy looked at her sister. "You let us think about it for a few days. Okay?"
Carla smirked at Jessie, the younger twin by 15 minutes. "Thinking of fixing me up, huh? With one of your young thespian friends?"
"Never you mind, young lady," Maddy replied, waggling her head. "Young men make the best husbands if you train them early enough. That's what I was told. And that's because a mature woman knows how to keep a young man happy."
Carla snorted. "Yeah, I'll bet." Getting up from the couch, she turned to leave. "I started a new Mahjong class after lunch. Will I see you later?"
Both women nodded in agreement.