From The Ghost Writer
Rose and Carla came back after five. Murph had left the deck and pool area. He was watching a baseball game in the TV room.
When they were dressed and back to working, Keekah and Keelah had stopped in on Murph to see if he needed anything. He said no and was happy to be alone. Neither of them fussed with him. He was thankful for that.
He’d had a hot tub incident on a cruise once. He’d had a sauna incident at the Hotel St. Martine too, that one when he was a boy of fourteen, that one not a pleasant one, not one he cared to remember, but not one that was too bad in the scope of things. The hardest part of that one was not telling his father about it because he was afraid of what his father would have done.
Peaceful and even serene, he was dozing off when the hurricane hit. They each carried packages and Fred followed behind with more packages. Both of them tossed their stuff on the other sofa and plopped down on either side of Murph. Both of them put their feet up on the coffee table and slumped down into the soft cushions.
“God am I tired,” Rose said.
“Me too,” Carla said. “But we had fun, didn’t we?”
“More than I’ve had in forever. Tell Murph what happened.”
“You tell him.”
“Let me watch the game,” Murph said.
“We almost got kicked out of this shi-shi boutique,” Carla said. “We would have too but Rose threatened the manager.”
“Not really,” Rose said. “I just told her I knew the owner and didn’t think she’d be happy if she found out her manager had thrown me out of the store.”
“The manager didn’t buy it so Rose pulled out her phone and started dialing.”
“That didn’t do it though,” Rose said. She thought I was bluffing. I had to actually place the call.”
“You should have seen that manager’s face when Rose called the owner by name,” Carla said. “She had a cow, turned all red. I bet she wet her pants.”
“Why’d you almost get thrown out?” Murph asked.
“I’m too embarrassed to say,” Rose said.
“Carla?” Murph said.
“I have to pee,” Carla said. She quickly got up and left the room.
“I bet her a thousand dollars she wouldn’t…”
“Don’t you dare tell him,” Carla said, peeking her head into the doorway.
“Do something,” Rose said. “Well, she did it and she got busted doing it, and it’s funny now, but I ended up losing a grand.”
“And I got all this great stuff on Rose’s money,” Carla said, returning and sitting back down, “without her having to buy it for me because she’s filthy rich and I’m not.”
“I don’t do that,” Rose said. “Ever.”
“Good,” Carla said. “I’d hate it if you did. But I did win that bet.”
“You sure did, love,” Rose said.
They both laughed, deep belly laughs.
“I’m happy you’re loaded,” Carla said.
“I’m well beyond loaded,” Rose said, correcting her. “And I’m happy you’re crazy, Carla.”
“I’m well beyond crazy,” Carla said.
“I’m counting on it,” Rose said.
They both laughed again, loud happy laughs. Then Rose called out for Keekah.
“Let’s get drunk,” she said to Carla.
“Plastered,” Carla said.
From The Ghost Writer
Murph finally ejected his thumb drive and shut down the computer. He left it on a table by the lounge chairs on the deck.
In the kitchen he made himself a tall glass of iced coffee and he took it out on the deck where he sat comfortably, purposefully facing away from the glass enclosed pool. He was thinking about the work he’d done, about the project as a whole. He thought it was coming along well so far and he hoped this mishegas of a weekend would not get in the way. But it was bound to, he thought. No way they would be the same as they had been now that certain barriers had been shattered. In one way, he was sorry for the leisurely demeanor brought about by the skinny dipping. In another way, he was pleased that Carla and Rose had hit it off so well, though not so pleased they’d slept together.
If he thought about it, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it, there was just too much female testosterone in the house. He wanted to slap himself upside the head for allowing himself to be cajoled into reaching under Keekah’s and Keelah’s housecoats. What the hell had gotten into him? He wondered. But then he thought about those moments and remembered it was no different, not really, from when he’d reached up Bea’s kitchen dress that time she’d sat on a high stack of lettuce cases out in the hall.
He was sitting down on a milk case. It was a sweltering summer day. The slight breeze blowing in through the screen door offered an oasis from the heat seeping out of the kitchen. Bea sat with her legs wide open. She was airing out up there, letting that cool breeze flow where it would. Murph had opened his shirt. He couldn’t help but look at her. The view of her white bloomers hugging her female essence was riveting. He was only twenty. At that age little else was on his mind.
Still, Murph hadn’t done anything. He’d sat smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer–things he did back then–while Bea reached a hand up there and scratched herself. Bea was in her forties. Murph, young and skinny as all hell, was boy-toy candy to her. She saw him looking and asked him if he wanted to scratch it.
Murph, especially in front of the meat cutter, Henry Lee, took it as a challenge more than an offer. He wasn’t backing down. He stood up, approached her and helped himself to a long moment’s familiarizing himself with her most intimate place. Bea leaned forward and kissed Murph while he pushed past her bloomers.
Mary, the prep cook, who would become become Murph’s lover, stopped it all by stepping out of the kitchen into the hall. “Ain’t y’all got nothing to do?” she asked. She stood in front of the screen door and fanned air into the top of her dress with her hands.
“We’re heading to the hot tub,” Keekah called from somewhere behind where Murph was looking.
“Have fun,” Murph said.
Keelah appeared before him naked and still wet. “Look what you’re missing,” she said.
“Maybe next time,” Murph said.
Keelah leaned over him, dripping water on him. She kissed him full on the lips. “You know it’ll be okay with them if you join us.”
“I don’t know anything anymore,” Murph said.
From The Ghost Writer
Murph told himself repeatedly he wasn’t going into the hot tub with them, but he wasn’t sure he wasn’t. He tried several times to get back into his work. That wasn’t happening, not with Keekah and Keelah romping around in the water naked.
The brown of their Haitian bodies glistened in the wet of the water. They both were mostly brown though parts of them were darker than their skin. He could easily see these. Knowing he was watching, they played with each other, copping feels and laughing joyously. They even hugged and kissed, really kissed. At one point they both sat facing Murph on the ledge of the pool making sure he could see all of them.
Keekah and Keelah were more heavyset than Rose. Rose, as Murph now knew firsthand, was cherubic, Rubenesque. And she was Rose, or pinkish with flesh-colored highlights. Carla was smaller and trim, more angular than curvy. She had darker tones to her colors than Rose, and she had a tight, almost kid-like butt. All the butts Murph had suddenly seen, quite unexpectedly and very much by surprise, were appealing, enticing, inviting.
Nothing is so simple, he reminded himself, his eyes riveted to the women parading before him. What happens to Carla and me now? He asked himself this. What about Rose? Am I supposed to…? And then how do we go back to work as if nothing happened? Where does it all go from here?
Sixty-four thousand dollar question, he thought. But then he remembered skinny dipping with Hank and Paula and Pam and others when he was in college. They all went back to their lives without their being naked together affecting anything.
Annabelle though, she was a different story since there had always been some sort of attraction between them, an itch they both knew had to be scratched. Sometimes, Murph thought, those things happened. Sometimes it was a free shot and you just had to go for it. That was Annabelle. She had flirted, teased, even provoked Murph. When it seemed as if her provocations were going unanswered, she made sure Murph saw her mostly naked and pretended she didn’t know he was watching her as she paraded through Jack’s house that way.
Jack, their mutual friend, was off to Florida for Christmas break. They were both staying at his place. To complete her full court press, she made sure they were plenty high and told Murph she was going for a shower.
“Be awfully nice if you did my back for me,” she said.
“I can do that,” Murph said.
They washed each other’s backs for three straight days, Murph remembered. He only went out once. He went by Doc’s house for drugs: acid, black beauties, Quaaludes and weed. Annabelle met him at the door wearing only high heels and a hat with a black veil. Some years later a song came out about a woman leaving her hat on.
I’m not going in that hot tub, Murph told himself. I’m not going near those two or the other two. I’m keeping my dignity and my sanity and I’m keeping to myself. He shifted in his chair, found himself a comfortable position and tried to go back into his narrative. Impossible, he thought. He closed his eyes and demanded of himself that he concentrate. What he saw in the bright-dot darkness nearly drove him to tears.
From The Ghost Writer
Carla and Rose left at eleven, excited and giggling like two teenagers off to the mall by themselves for the first time. They each wore jeans and low-cut tops. Each sported high heels. They both looked mighty sexy. Both kissed Murph bye and bid him have a good day of work. Fred had prepared the car and was at the ready.
Murph had started work after the ladies left him at the breakfast table. By the time they’d finished eating, their towels had completely slipped away from their bodies so they both sat naked before him. He’d watched them swim and had himself eaten while they’d played in the pool. Keelah had come out to clean and wash the table. She’d come out a second time to set it for lunch.
At one Murph had a tuna tommy down with French fries. He was reminded of when he was eighteen and working in Manhattan. Every day he ate lunch in a coffee shop. “Tuna tommy down,” the waitress called out for his order. That place had the best goopy tuna laced with celery and mayo. The fries were always crispy and hot. He’d relished that meal, ate it every day for weeks at a time.
Should have kept that job, he thought, finishing up his sandwich. It had started as a summer job, full time. He’d completed his first semester at Queens College, having begun in mid-year because he’d graduated high school early. They’d offered him ideal terms, any twenty hours. He could pick the days and times, and they’d pay him his full time salary, teach him the business and give him raises regularly.
Should have done lots of things, he thought, and not done lots of things too, he thought. This one, not keeping this job, was a minor regret, one not even making the regret scale. He hadn’t thought about it in forever, and he wouldn’t have thought about it now if the tuna hadn’t been goopy and laced with celery, if the juices from the tuna hadn’t run over his plate like they had there.
Keekah cleared the table and again reset it for later. She brought him freshly brewed coffee the way he liked it and asked if there were anything else he needed or wanted. He said no and went back to work. She told him to call out if he changed his mind, but he was ensconced in his work, the telling of Rose’ s story. Thus far, Rose had gotten through the dealings with her family, but they had not started with her husband’s story and her marriage. Rose’s husband had died from a coronary some ten years ago.
Murph’d only recently begun a narrative, but Rose had not addressed what she wanted as an end product, so he felt as if he were shooting in the dark. In fact, Carla, always the more direct, always more brash, blunt and much less unafraid, had told Murph she would query Rose about the desired end product. In part, that was why he’d made the meeting for the two of them.
He’d had no idea it would move in this direction. Brunch a week ago had led to the weekend here now, to Rose and Carla’ s skinny dipping and sleeping together without him last night, to their doing whatever it was that they’d done, to their skinny dipping for him to see this morning, to their letting their towels fall away from their naked bodies in front of him at the breakfast table.
Goddamn, he said to himself. He wanted to get this project under his belt without any complications. Didn’t seem as if that was happening.
About three, Keekah and Keelah came out on the deck. “We’re going swimming,” Keekah said.
“In the raw,” Keelah said. She winked at Murph. “We’re not drawing the curtains either.”
“Hot tub after the pool,” Keekah said. “There’s plenty of room.”
“Have fun,” Murph said. “I have work to do.” He watched them as they went in and disrobed by the pool. He watched them head into the water. He saved his work in case he was unable to get back on track, but he told himself in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t going into the hot tub.
From The Ghost Writer
Murph planned to work all day on the deck beside the indoor pool. The pool enclosure had two sets of sliding doors which led to the deck. The rest of it was insulated glass panels. Rose had decorators pick tapestry-like curtains to cover all the glass. They were on sliding tracks which were electronically controlled. There was even a remote control.
He had not brought his laptop because Rose said she had many of them all kept up to date by her computer service. Rose had made a phone call and the service had brought over two machines. Murph chose one and set it up. He found it ready to go, a spiffy state of the art thing with lots and lots of RAM. All he had to do was plug in his thumb drive.
Rose and Carla romped about in the pool while he ate his breakfast. He sat so he could watch them, and he thought they went out of their way a little to put on a show for him. Keekah stood and watched awhile too. She’d brought Murph fresh orange juice and a pitcher of coffee for the table. As she watched she’d sidled up next to him and pressed herself toward him so that without much effort his hand could brush up on her buttocks. He helped himself to a generous feel, and to his surprise, she pressed on his hand.
“I ain’t wearing no bloomers,” Keekah said. As she said this, she lifted the house dress just a touch for him, to give him the go ahead.
Murph slid his hand upward along the back of her thighs but as he was about to explore the uncharted territory Keelah walked in.
Keelah was not her sister’s double but the resemblance was obvious. She was a year younger and she and Murph had met just yesterday for the first time. She had reminded him that she would be the one cleaning his and Carla’s apartments and that she still needed keys.
“Caught you,” she said to her sister. “Ain’t you got no shame?”
“None whatsoever,” Keekah said. Then, “Go on, take a good feel,” she told Murph. “You can feel her too so she don’t feel slighted.”
Murph began to explore the area while Keelah poured herself some coffee. Like Murph and her sister, she watched Rose and Carla in the pool.
“Some boys got all the luck,” she said.
“You think?” Keekah said.
“Why, what you think?”
“I think this boy got a nice touch.”
“Let me see,” Keelah said. She stood on the other side of Murph, took his free hand and guided it where she wanted. “You sure this is okay?” she asked.
“Who you asking?” Murph said, “me or her?”
“Them,” she said looking to Rose and Carla who were just getting out of the pool. Miss Carla more than Miss Rose since she’s your woman.”
“Don’t Miss Rose look happy?” Keekah mused.
“More than I’ve ever seen her,” Keelah said.
Before the sisters started back into the house, they told Murph they’d be around for anything he needed or wanted during the entire weekend and said they’d bring out breakfast for the women.
“You do have a good touch,” Keelah said winking at Murph.
Rose and Carla came to the table wrapped in towels. They did look happy, Murph thought. Carla poured coffee for Rose and herself and neither of them bothered to cover up when their towels slipped away from them as they sat with Murph.