Under his Nose
a Short Story by Kellis
Copyright © October, 2000, Kellis
“Show me their tits.”
With most of the other masculine heads in the room, Farley’s turned to regard the source of that surprising demand. Madam Lawrence was more straight laced than the typical mistress of her profession, and one of the rules proclaimed in a fine hand and framed on her foyer wall prohibited “obscene display” in the salon. For exhibition her girls were limited to either of two costumes: a formal gown, décolleté almost to the nipples, to be sure, indicating reserved status, or a long, filmy peignoir that signaled immediate availability and through which nipples and pubic triangle could be faintly seen.
The demand had issued from a man in formal clothes, including a black satin stripe on the pants leg. He was standing with Madam Lawrence facing two gowned girls whose naked backs gleamed at Farley. The sudden silence in the room permitted everyone to hear the madam’s reply.
“I remind you, ladies, we like to give a gentleman what he wants.”
The girls’ bare elbows protruded as hands rose to chests. Straps descended from both sets of shoulders. All the watchers stared at the well-dressed fellow. Who was this lucky devil? He was seen to smile slightly at the spectacle before him, unshared with other masculine eyes.
“Ah, yes!” he allowed, mustache quivering. “Now we have the basis for a choice.” He passed something to the woman and grasped the elbow of the girl on Farley’s left.
“Very good, sir,” purred the madam, adding with a snap, “Fix your clothing!”
The man and his chosen companion, still adjusting her straps, turned away toward the stairs. She was pretty enough, Farley saw. He wondered what was different about her breasts.
He had drifted closer. Though talk had resumed in the salon behind him, he overheard the remaining girl say, “Well, that’s that! I’ll go change.”
The means to satisfy his curiosity, at least by inference, suddenly occurred to him. He stepped toward, staring hopefully at the madam, and demanded, “Show them to me, too.”
The woman sniffed. “Surely you are familiar with the salon rules, Mr. Trask.”
“But he wasn’t? What was so different about Mr. Fancy Pants?”
Her lip wrinkled. “About five million dollars, if I had to guess.”
He stepped back, shook his head, drew a breath and tried another tack. “Is this girl available now?”
“Well, a … a quickie.”
“Oh, now, that’s different!” The madam’s expression brightened. “I much prefer my girls paid to go upstairs.” She held out her hand. He produced his wallet, peeled out three ones and put them in her palm.
“Thank you, Mr. Trask,” she intoned as the money disappeared instantly somewhere into her colorful and voluminous gown. “I don’t believe you know Celly, do you? Celly, this is Mr. Trask. He comes to see us now and then.”
He turned at last to the girl. The expanse of bare upper chest and sweetly rounded shoulders distracted him only momentarily before he raised his eyes to her face. He caught his breath, then realized that she was studying him with round eyes of her own.
Madam Lawrence’s eyebrows rose. “Oh, do you know each other, then?”
Farley felt a combination of shock and dismay, then a swell of anticipation that superseded all else. He took the girl’s elbow and said deprecatingly, “I think we’ve met somewhere or other. How nice to see you again, Celly! Shall we go up?”
He had to tug slightly to get her moving. She let him pull her toward the carpeted stairs and climbed them woodenly beside him. At the top he asked, “What’s your room?”
“217,” she answered flatly, not looking at him. He knew from previous visits that 217 was at the end of the hall.
Many of Madam Lawrence’s prohibitions did not apply on the upper floor. A naked woman leaned in an open doorway, holding in hand the flaccid penis of a half-dressed fellow standing before her with coat and shirt over his arm. Inside her leg a wet streak glittered in the dim light of the single overhead bulb. She entreated, “Come on back, Johnny. I’ll suck it up again in no time and you can square with Mama Laury later.”
Farley nodded to the woman as he and Celly passed. “Evening, Sal.”
“’Lo, Farl. Come on, Johnny. What’s your rush anyway?”
Farley did not hear Johnny’s reply. Celly walked stiffly beside him, her chin up, looking straight ahead.
She opened the door marked 217, proceeded inside, flipped on the bedside lamp and without pausing, stooped for the hem of her long skirt. She raised the whole ensemble, including half-slip, over her head. The two garments went together onto a wire hanger, there to hang in the wardrobe across the room. She shrugged out of her abbreviated camisole, stepped out of her panties and toed off high-heeled shoes. Throwing off the counterpane, she lay back naked on the bed, eyes on the ceiling, all in the space of a few seconds.
After closing the door he had paused to watch her every move. Now he began to remove his own clothing to the straight chair universally reserved for male disrobement. “So, Celly,” he sneered, “since when did this become the Roland Spinning Mill?”
She only sniffed, looking away to the rear of the room with its window and drawn shade.
He proceeded methodically to remove everything except his stockings and calf garters. Again he paused next to the bed, looking down at her naked body. Though he was familiar with all the temples of female pulchritude in the town, he was confident none held a better example. She glanced once at his exposure, then away.
His second question was gentler. “How long have you been working here?”
Her eyes met his briefly. She sniffed. “Too long.”
“I can’t believe I never saw you here before!”
She sniffed again. “Johns don’t notice our faces.”
“Well, then, I can’t believe you never saw me here before!”
“It cuts both ways.” Again she turned her face away.
“I guess so, though I find it hard to believe you wouldn’t notice me! Celly … Celeste, god, I suspected you were lovely, but the truth is incredible. I’ve dreamed of this. But I don’t want to … embarrass you.”
“What I mean to say is, if you’d rather, I’ll just leave.”
At last her eyes rose to his. They lingered, exhibiting the small twitches that indicate a survey of the full countenance. She said, “You’ve paid for me.”
His hand extended, hovering over her breast. She studied it, then looked up at him again. “Mama Laury doesn’t make refunds. Get your money’s worth.”
Just below his hand the nipple erected and ridges appeared in the areola. He grasped the breast, nipple in his palm. Her hand rose to his growing erection. She manipulated him gently and opened her legs when his hand strayed between them.
With three fingers in her, he bent forward to suckle a nipple. Shortly his arms went around her and he pulled her body against him, his face at her neck. “My god, Celeste!”
“If you don’t like Celly, call me Celicia, please… Come on,” she added, tugging him. “You’re ready.”
“But are you?”
“I’m always ready.”
It was true enough, he found. Her hips began to roll as soon as he had fully penetrated. She threw her head back, grunting in time with his thrusts. But the unprecedented novelty of his circumstances still pervaded him. He could hardly believe the identity of his partner, even as he drove into her with all the passion available to a womanless man.
“Hey,” she exclaimed, “you’re good at this!” Her nails bit his back as her knees rose to clamp her calves around his hips. “Oh, fuck!” she called, almost unintelligible through gritted teeth. “Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck!”
When her body arched rigidly beneath him, that and the preceding display fetched his own crisis. He strained into her, motionless except for spurting semen. She produced a soft soprano scream. Her arms and legs fell away from him as she gasped for breath. He raised his upper body on extended arms and looked down at her flushed face while recovering his breath.
Her eyes fluttered open. They narrowed on his. She cried fiercely in a voice hardly above a whisper, “You son of a bitch! How’d you manage that?”
He had hoped for some form of personal recognition, but this reaction surprised him unpleasantly. He backed away from her and rose off the bed. Her eyes glittered on his. He shook his head. “What an actress!”
“Who’s an actress?” she demanded.
He grinned sourly. “Then you want me to believe you dreamed about it, too?”
“I don’t care what you believe.” She sprang out of bed in the direction of the wash stand. First soaping a wet rag, she scrubbed her pubic area vigorously. Holding the rag, she looked up. “Want me to wash you?”
“You’ll wash a son of a bitch?”
“I always do — the ones that want to be clean.”
“All right.” He came around the bed towards her.
She watched him approach and shook her head. “I didn’t mean that. You’re not a son of a bitch. You’re just a man.”
“Then why did you call me one?”
She shrugged. “You got to me.” Her eyes twinkled. “Don’t you think it was part of the act?”
She wrung out her cloth, resoaped it and scrubbed his equipment far more gently than she had her own.
He asked, “Don’t you believe in douching?”
“After a while you don’t need it,” she replied indifferently. “Do you want help dressing?”
“I guess not.”
Nevertheless when she had slipped on a green translucent peignoir from the wardrobe, she stood by to hand him his remaining clothing and adjust his necktie.
He grasped her shoulders and used the requested name with heavy irony. “Come home with me, Celicia.”
“Don’t be silly!” She shrugged out from under his hands and faced him stonily, arms crossed under her breasts.
In the doorway he sighed, bowing. “Then … I’ll see you later.”
As he started to close the door behind himself, she caught it. “I’m going downstairs, too, you know.”
She walked up the empty hall beside him. Apparently Johnny and Sal had concluded their negotiation. Remembering that and more, he said, “By the way, I think your tits are perfect.”
She said idly, “Too round, I suppose.”
“Bessie’s boobs look a lot like ice cream cones.” She chuckled grimly. “When I was just turned 17, so did mine.”
On the stairs they met another couple ascending. The man, a very young one, tugged his berobed woman in obvious anticipation. “Around the world!” he cried. “Why do they call it that?” Farley paused, cocking his ear for the woman’s answer, which arrived in tones of amused patience interspersed with a soprano giggle. “The world’s a ball, ain’t it? I’m gonna take you around two worlds!”
At the foot of the stairs Celly put her hand on his arm. “Good night. I must get back to work.”
He nodded reluctantly. “Okay. I guess this place does pay better than Roland Mills.”
She chuckled. “And every other joint in town.” She spun away from him toward a group encircling Madam Lawrence, who looked up at Celly’s approach, smiled and said something to her audience. Two of the men, faces wreathed in smiles, pulled the girl into their group.
Head down and scowling, Farley made for the front door.
* * * *
For a long time he sat in a rocker on his front porch in the cool September evening enlivened by the love songs of crickets blissfully ignorant of October’s forthcoming frost. He rocked for awhile, put his feet on the porch rail, then took them down and rocked some more. He slammed fist into palm and muttered restlessly under his breath, “By god, what if that was a twin?” After a bit he added, “What twin? No! She knew me, damn it!” He shook his head. “Of course she didn’t want to admit it, but she knew me. I could see it in her eyes.” He continued to rock, closing and opening his fists.
The mill whistle blew a long, shrill moan of released steam, announcing the midnight break for the night shift. As the echoes died away, Farley’s eyes widened with an idea. He lunged to his feet and descended the steps to the sidewalk, setting out purposefully to walk the three blocks to the mill gate.
Every window of the huge building streamed electric light into the night. A large bulb hung over the guard shack at the gate. The man behind the counter, wearing a county deputy’s badge, watched Farley approach. No other person was visible anywhere, though the hum of the factory bespoke the presence of a multitude behind the brick walls. The mill whistle blasted again, almost painfully loud at this close remove.
When the sound died away, Farley went straight to the counter and declared, “Hate to bother you, but I need to get in touch with my niece.”
“Your niece,” repeated the man in a neutral, flat voice.
“She works here. At least she says she does. She’s a doffer on the night shift.”
“What’s her name?”
The man’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “You want to leave her a message or something?”
“Ah, is there any way you can call her out here for just a minute?”
“No way,” the man responded immediately. “You heard that whistle? That was the end of break. Nobody gets in or out until the end of the shift at four. Too bad you didn’t get here five minutes earlier.”
Farley shook his head. “Yeah. Too bad.”
The guard suggested, “I could slip her a note in a couple hours when my relief gets here.”
Farley took a breath. “Look, what I really want — Could you tell me whether or not she actually came to work tonight?”
The man studied him. “I might. What’s it worth to you?”
The guard explained in a sanctimonious tone, “I’m not supposed to give out anything on our employees, you know.”
“I see,” Farley retorted dryly. He found a cartwheel in his pocket and clapped the big silver coin on the counter top.
Quickly the guard raked it off. “What’s her name again?”
“That don’t ring a bell.”
“You mean she doesn’t work here?”
“Naw. I mean I don’t know that name.”
“Well, if she works here, she’s bound to have a time card. Go see if she punched in tonight, will you?”
He shook his head. “Can’t leave this post until I’m relieved.”
“What? I can’t wait here two hours!”
He shrugged. “Sorry, but that’s the way it is.”
“No, it isn’t,” Farley asserted, his voice deepening. “You haven’t delivered. Give me back my money.”
The guard barked a laugh. “You’ll get your answer when my relief gets here.”
“No, I won’t. You’re going to give me back my money before that.”
“Oh, yeah?” The man laughed longer, clearly amused now.
“Because if you don’t, Mr. J. Dillingham Roland will get a dozen letters tomorrow telling him that his guard with badge Number 47 takes bribes.”
The guard’s laughter choked off. The two men stared at each other. Slowly the guard’s hand came out of his pocket. The cartwheel clicked on the counter top. Farley took it and turned away.
The guard called after him, “I’ll tell her you’re checking up on her.”
“Thanks,” Farley called back over his shoulder, “but I won’t pay you even if you do.”
* * * *
His alarm went off at four A.M. As he reset the clock, he realized that the mill whistle was also sounding the end of night shift. The synchronism was not surprising; every clock in town was set to that same whistle.
He lit a lamp, pulled on his slippers and long nightshirt, visited the outhouse and on his return stopped at the door of the girl’s room. Knocking elicited no response. The door proved to be locked. He brought his skeleton key out of a pocket but hesitated, finally returning it to the shirt. He turned away to the front porch and again took his seat in a rocker.
A few crickets still sang. Otherwise the town was quiet. Somewhere down the valley a steam locomotive chuff-chuffed along. Farley yawned but steeled himself to stay awake.
He heard the metallic slither of the electric trolley approaching its stop two blocks away, the clap of its door, then the rising whine of its departure. He waited longer, licking his lips in anticipation. Faintly at first but growing louder came the tap of heels on the paved sidewalk. He leaned forward, resting elbow on the porch rail. He saw a figure turn the corner under the streetlight and proceed toward him. She wore the midcalf smock in which she had departed after serving him supper. He smiled grimly. No one would board the trolley to come three blocks from the mill, but he himself had ridden it earlier to travel across town to Madam Lawrence’s place.
Nearing his walk she stopped suddenly. Dimly a hand flew to her face. “Oh!” she exclaimed.
“Good morning, Celeste,” he said gravely.
“Uncle! You gave me a turn.” She came on up the steps.
“I guess it is pretty dark here,” he admitted.
She paused on the porch, looking down at him. He smelled the cooking-meat odor of female sweat and a remainder of the flowery perfume that had filled his nostrils earlier.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“At this hour?” she retorted. He couldn’t see her face, but her expressions were familiar enough that he could readily imagine the cocked eyebrow. “Can’t it wait until supper?”
“If you’re tired, I guess it can,” he admitted. He straightened up, put out his hand and stroked the swell of her hip and buttocks through the smock. She did not react except for a sudden uncharacteristic stillness, almost as if she were holding her breath.
He asked, “What are you wearing under the smock?”
She stood beside him, purse hanging from her far shoulder, facing the door without answering. He slipped his other hand between the buttons of the smock and immediately encountered a smooth, bare thigh.
“Not much,” he observed. His hand ranged upward and found cotton underpants. Fingers slipped under the edge into wiry pubes.
She said huskily, “Uncle, I have to go real bad.”
Her nearer hand dangled at her side. He caught it, raised it to his lips and kissed the back of it, including a swipe of his tongue. Releasing her, he said, “Go ahead. If you need a light, take the one in the hall.”
Immediately she opened the screen door and passed into the house. He waited, smiling slightly, one hand under the nightshirt to encourage himself. She was a thoughtful girl who would never let a door slam, but before long he heard her footsteps again in the hall. The wavering light of her lamp illuminated the rusty wire screen of the door from the inside. Her footsteps ceased. He heard the rattle of a key, got up and entered the hall just as she opened the door of her room.
“Going to bed, Celeste?”
She paused, fishing a match stick from the pocket of her smock, and turned to look at him. The lamp, again on the hall table, lit her face well enough for him to see its lack of expression.
“Did it turn out to be a lot of work?” he asked.
Slowly she shook her head. “About like usual.”
“Will you tell me about it?”
For the first time he saw a hint of a smile. “You mean you’re really interested?”
“Oh, yes! I’ve always wanted to hear how it looks from the other side.”
She frowned, then shrugged. “Well, that can certainly wait till supper!”
She pushed into the room. When he reached the doorway, she had already removed the mantle of her lamp. The match flared. Shortly the room was filled with the soft yellow glow.
She turned around to face him when he closed her door behind him. She grinned at his red-striped nightshirt. “You look like a peppermint stick.”
He grinned, too. “I guess you never saw my night clothes before.”
“Not that shirt! When I nursed you through the pneumonia, you had a white one.”
“Well, a man can’t look his best when he’s sick. Nor a girl when she’s traveling at night, eh? Was the trolley crowded?”
“No. One man got off at our stop. I was glad he went the other way.”
In two steps he stood before her. His hands went to the buttons of her smock. The skin around her eyes tightened and she took a quick breath, but she stood without protest and let him undo the whole line down the front of the garment. He had to kneel to reach the bottom buttons. Still on his knees, he pushed the halves apart, reached to her hips and lowered the cotton underpants. When he lifted her heel tendons, her hand went to his shoulder for balance and she stepped out of the panties.
He said huskily, “I don’t care if you don’t douche!” Still holding her hips, he pushed his face into her crotch, tongue thrusting into the labial cleft, lifting the tiny clitoris. He tasted woman and fresh urine. Whether or not her disavowal of douching had been merely a whore’s bravado, he found none of the seminal musk that he fully expected.
“Oh!” she cried. “Oh, god!” As his tongue circled its objective, her hands closed on his head but made no attempt to repel him.
“Uncle …” she began hesitantly. “Uncle, I’m g-getting … weak.”
She turned slightly, not enough to dislodge him, and sank backward onto the bed. He turned with her, maintaining his grip on her hipbones, widening his tongue, furiously laving the entire pudendal surface.
Her pelvis began to rise and fall. She grunted with each twist. Gradually her sounds merged into a tortured moan, rising in pitch, breaking off suddenly as her body grew rigid. That state endured hardly a second before she shoved his head roughly away.
He got to his feet, wiping his face on the hem of his nightshirt. She lay twitching and shuddering. Her legs opened wide enough for the hips to creak, an obvious invitation. But now he wanted another service. He waited until her eyes opened, huge in hunger.
He grinned hugely. “How does peppermint lose its stripes?”
He lifted the hem of his nightshirt, gathering the cloth above his waist. She stared up at his exposure, well lit by the nearby lamp.
“You mean …”
“You ought to know it’s clean,” he reminded her.
He leaned forward and caught her hands, drawing her up to a seat on the edge of the bed. His hands closed behind her head, pulling her face to his painfully hard erection. “Suck it, Celly,” he whispered huskily. “Won’t keep you long. It’s about to pop.”
Staring at the meaty apparition, she opened her mouth slowly. “Suck it,” he repeated, urging her closer. Delicately her lips closed over the head. He felt the touch of her tongue.
“Oh, god, Celeste! If you only knew how I’ve dreamed of this! But you were the daughter of my wife’s sister, unavailable. Until tonight.
“I watched your teen years after your mother died, watched you grow up, watched you leave with that Simmons fellow, then Carberry’s son. I wondered why an attractive — hell, a beautiful girl like you had so little luck with the boys. What a laugh that is, eh?
“And when that damned flu took my wife, I even thought about …” He took a breath and shook his head. “Then tonight. God, Celeste! I couldn’t believe it. I still don’t. Here the loveliest face in the world has my cock stuck in the middle of it. I never thought to see anything so … so … Oh, god, I’m coming, Celeste!”
He had anticipated her homecoming for many hours, all spent nursing an erection aside from two hours’ sleep. The result of that concentration was expressed suddenly into her mouth. She shuddered, backing away with wide eyes, into one of which he immediately shot his second spurt. Both eyes squinted shut. His hand darted down and vigorously pumped the remainder onto her cheeks and chin.
He stood panting. She sat naked on the edge of the bed, rubbing her eye, seminal fluid dripping from lips and chin.
“God, what a sight!” he exclaimed deep in his throat. “Here, let me.” He leaned forward and wiped her whole face with the hem of his nightshirt, careful to press downward gently on the affected eyelid. When he stood back, she blinked up at him.
“Does it burn?” he asked.
Her mouth worked. He saw her larynx bob in a swallow. She took the hem into her own hand and rubbed her eye briskly.
When she released the cloth, he said contritely, “I’m sorry about your eye, Celeste.”
“It’s all right,” she answered. She tasted her lips and managed a slight grin. “Well!” she exclaimed.
He sank beside her. “May I … kiss you?”
Her grin became a smile. “You never have, uncle.”
“Because I didn’t think you would allow it.”
“Now you know different.”
His arm went around her, pulling their faces together. He kissed her with probing tongue, tasting his faint residue. She allowed him to explore as deeply in her mouth as he could reach. Feeling her body quiver, he drew away. Her eyes were closed and her breathing had quickened.
“God, Celeste, what a wonder you are!”
She smiled lazily and her eyes slowly opened. Suddenly they rounded, staring at something over his shoulder. “Uncle! It’s almost five o’clock. Doesn’t your shop open at seven?”
He took a breath and got to his feet. “I have a feeling the proprietor will be late this morning, Celly.”
“‘Celly!’” she repeated with a chuckle. “I like it.” She stretched languorously, still smiling at him.
“You’re tired, aren’t you, and I’m keeping you awake. Well, I’m going back to my own bed.” He bent and raised her unresisting hand to his lips. When he had kissed it, he said solemnly, “I want you to know something, Celeste. Whatever has happened to either one of us … I don’t care. Do you understand?”
She regarded him thoughtfully, sighed and shook her head. “No,” she admitted softly.
“I guess it means I love you, regardless of everything.”
On that bombshell he turned away. But before closing her door behind him he glanced back. She was watching from the bedside with the same thoughtful expression.
* * * *
But he had forgotten the County Records order. The three printer’s devils employed for that job had reasonably done nothing about it in the absence of direction. In net result he had to direct them until well after dark so that the boxes of books would be ready for pickup at first light in the morning. When he finally arrived home, Celeste was of course long gone to work — whatever her employment.
He smiled, feeling no lack of confidence on that subject. Surely the innocent niece of his dreams would have flinched away from the hand inserted into her smock, caressing her thigh, tweaking the crinkly pubes themselves! If her behavior afterwards was less forward and wanton than the earlier display, well, she had worked all night and was probably thoroughly cloyed with the masculine gender, despite which she found herself providing entertainment at the last in her own previously sacrosanct bedroom. And if she had been a trifle ingenuous at the blow job, no one could accuse her of lacking complaisance.
Not so ingenuous! he thought. He knew with certainty that she had swallowed his strongest squirt. No one had done him that service since the death of his wife, who had sometimes condescended when she was half drunk. Whores always spat onto the floor on the rare occasion when he managed to surprise one. He chuckled. That was leaving out Blue Marge, who enjoyed spitting it back into the man’s face despite — or who knows, because of — the frequently returned black eye.
All right. He would pay “Mama Laury” again, if that’s what it took. He indulged a sponge bath, dressed in fresh underclothes and shirt and pocketed more cash than usual, intending to secure “Celly’s” services all night. Though it was not his practice to reuse the same woman so soon, he was well aware that all-nighters might linger in the bedrooms half the following day.
He paused in sudden realization that Celeste could easily have been following the same practice. He had hardly ever noticed when she returned home in the morning. So long as she was present to prepare his supper, he had been content — until now. Was her arrival this morning so soon after the end of night shift only coincidental?
Feeling expansive, he stopped downtown at his favorite French restaurant for dinner, having shoved Celeste’s cold meat and potatoes back on the shelf. It was not so much the French food, though he did enjoy the sauces, as it was the flirtatious French maid. But tonight Yvonne was somehow less than charming, and though while pouring his wine she even contrived to thrust a thinly covered nipple against his ear, he ate quickly and tipped the customary minimum. On the trolley to Madam Lawrence’s place he could not remember exactly what he had consumed.
A quick reconnoiter of the salon revealed no Celly. He sought out the madam, but she spoke first.
“Good evening, Mr. Trask. Two nights in a row, how nice!”
“Thank you, ma’am. Can you say if Celly is available tonight?”
The woman smiled archly. “Pleased with her, were you? Tonight she’s not reserved, if that’s what you mean.”
“Well …” He waved a hand at the reception line of girls. “Where is she?”
“Celly is popular, sir. Where do you think?”
“Oh. Of course, she would be, wouldn’t she?”
“You are not the only gentleman with good taste, Mr. Trask. May I interest you in Belle Marie? Many people claim that she and Celly could be sisters.”
“Really? Which one is she?”
“Third from the left.”
“Hmm… Yes, I see a resemblance, too. But frankly, ma’am, I have a yen for Celly. Could you advise me? What can I do to see her?”
The madam shook her head sympathetically. “In that case, Mr. Trask, I can only advise you to wait.”
“Can you say how long she might be … engaged?”
“Oh, not too long, I would guess. For two dollars you are welcome to try our punch and canapés.”
“No, thanks. I just had dinner.”
“Well, why don’t you sit over there where you can watch the crowd? Very entertaining things often happen in this salon. But you know that. You were here the night Felicity tore Mabel’s dress off.”
“Ah, yes. How is Mabel?”
“Doing a lot better than Felicity, I vow!”
“Madam Lawrence, could I ask you how long Celly has been serving here?”
Her eyes narrowed. “A good while. You must have seen her. I thought you two looked well-acquainted last night.” She chuckled. “I accused her of it later, but she swore she’d never laid eyes on you. Said what I took to be surprise when I introduced you was really only pique that Bessie got the cream instead of her. Uh, no offense.”
“Rich men don’t offend me,” he protested, “though their sons can.”
“Ah, but their sons are much freer with their money!”
“No doubt. Has Celly been here more than a year?”
“Hmm. She was here for the armistice party, I know. What a gas that was!”
“My god, that was five years ago!”
“Yes, it was. How time flies!” She cocked an eyebrow. “Where did you first meet her, Mr. Trask?”
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed. “I always wondered if she came here from that low-life den on Sixteenth Street.”
“I doubt it, not if she came more than five years ago.”
“That’s interesting.” Suddenly her expression changed. “Excuse me, Mr. Trask. That man is looking for a ride, and I’ve got just the ticket!” She dashed away to a tall fellow who had just entered the room.
Farley sat where she had directed and glumly watched the barnyard dance before him. For the first time in such a place he felt excluded, though well aware that it was his own choice. At least the wing chair, high-backed and well stuffed, was comfortable. He could imagine Celly’s performance upstairs only too well, and the images were hateful. In this he surprised himself. Never before had he reacted so to the ordinary work of a whore. Always before he had found their indulgence of other men stimulating. He gritted his teeth, but the images would not fade.
“Mama Laury said you’re waiting for me.”
Aware that he had sunk into distasteful reverie, he snapped to full consciousness. Celeste in the familiar green peignoir stood beside his chair. Her perfume washed over him strongly. The nearer brown nipple faintly visible under the green reminded him how it had hardened for his hand last night.
He stood up. “Celeste, my god!” His hands fell on her shoulders. “Please come away from here with me.”
Lips exposing teeth in a snarl, she shrugged and stepped back. “Goddamn it, Trask, keep your hands to yourself in the salon! You know the rules.”
“All right,” he agreed humbly. “But will you come with me?”
“You mean, will I take you upstairs? The answer is no, not tonight.” She chuckled at his obvious disappointment and continued in a fierce whisper, “Listen, my john has upped the ante. He’s staying all night. I saw Mama Laury in the outhouse. She said you were pining for me. For the sake of last night, I wanted to tell you not to waste your time. Don’t make me sorry I bothered.”
“But … But, Celeste, I’ll pay for all night!”
“Damn it, I told you to call me Celicia! Not tonight, you won’t pay. Find Mama Laury and reserve me for tomorrow night.”
“Well, okay, if I have to, but when you come —”
“I’ve got to get back,” she interrupted, “before he cools down.” She laid a hand on his arm and produced a big smile. “Thanks for asking, Traskey. You’re sweet.”
She whirled away and dashed up the stairs, white legs gleaming under the trailing peignoir. He stared after her, eyes narrowing with an idea. He murmured under his breath, “All right, missy, but you don’t carry a house key!”
* * * *
The banging on the door awoke him easily from his blanket roll on the parlor couch. He lurched to his feet and staggered into the foyer, banging a shin painfully on a leg of the glove table. He jerked open the main door to see a dim figure standing on the porch, faintly outlined by the distant corner light, holding the screen door open. He squinted at it owlishly.
“Well, uncle, may I come in?”
Of course it was Celeste. “Certainly,” he said, standing aside.
“Why were you locked up?” she asked, entering and standing beside him. He could hardly see her, but as the night before he could smell cooking meat and faint perfume.
He responded with his prepared lie. “Mason’s dog was nosing at the screen again. Guess I locked it from habit. Sorry.” He peered past her. “But it’s still dark!”
“The days are a lot shorter now,” she responded. “How did you answer the door so quickly?”
“I was … I was sleeping in the parlor,” he admitted, glad that she couldn’t see his face.
Her hand clasped his bare forearm. “Uncle, is something wrong?”
He took a deep breath. “You know what it is, Celly!”
Her hand fell away. “It’s me, is it?”
When he didn’t answer immediately, she sighed. “I’ve been thinking of you, too. Let me go to the back, then I’ll …”
“Then you’ll what?”
Her voice became hardly more than a whisper. “I’ll come to your bed.”
“Wait till I light a lamp.”
She almost laughed. “Don’t you think I can find it in the dark?”
Waiting for her, he lit a lamp anyway and used his wife’s night jar that he had never removed. He had to smile. His heart was beating faster and he felt a stirring below his nightshirt. He turned back the bedcover she had made the day before, which he had not yet disturbed.
She came into the room, squinting as she faced his bright, reflecting lamp. But her eyes seemed to twinkle. She said warmly, “The reason you locked up was so I’d wake you when I got home, wasn’t it?”
He pretended to frown. “That’s the trouble with women.”
“They sit down to pee and it gives them time to think.”
She laughed, a delightful soprano cascade. “I don’t mind if you did. I was wondering if I dared to wake you!”
Her countenance was bare of the heavy makeup she had worn at Madam Lawrence’s. He decided he liked the present face. It was younger, fresher. He recalled it with his penis stuck in the mouth and trembled. “Celeste, you are so lovely!”
“Thank you. Why have you just discovered that, uncle?”
He shook his head. “I’ve known it for years but didn’t think I could tell you.”
“Then I’m glad you changed your mind.” She was wearing the same gray smock. Her hands rippled down the buttons, lifting the calf-length bottom for access. She shrugged out of it, throwing it over a chair. Tonight she wore a heavy cotton chemise, knee length, that went over her head without disturbing the hair in her bun. It, too, fell across the chair. Thin camisole and underpants immediately followed. She bent to remove shoes and knee-length stockings before standing straight in the pitiless light, hands at her sides.
He drew a deep, shuddery breath and threw off his nightshirt. They faced each other, both stark naked. He put out his arms and she hurried into them, raising her face for an expected kiss. He did not disappoint her. Her hands went around his neck. Wrapping her in his arms, his tongue probed her mouth while his stiff erection prodded her pubes. Her tongue tentatively slid upon his, then followed him as he withdrew. He felt a quivering begin in her body and raised his head, turning her backwards to the bed and laying her gently upon it. As the night before, he knelt between her legs, opened the labia with prying fingers and licked her to a shuddery mewling until her strong hands forced his head away. That result arrived much sooner than it had on the previous night.
He paused to wipe his face on the bedsheet. When he raised up, he found her watching him with wide eyes. “This time will you do me properly, uncle?”
“If you wish.”
She raised shapely knees invitingly.
He continued, “I would think by now you’d prefer variety.” He smiled. “But the first way is still the best, eh?”
“We’re in your bed now!” she declared enigmatically.
He grunted. “Believe me, this bed has seen just about as much variety as yours in Room 217. By the way, I’m very glad he changed his mind!”
But she was uninterested in dialog. “Please, uncle. Don’t tarry.”
He grinned. “Tarry! What an old-fashioned word!”
“I’m an old-fashioned girl.”
“That’s certainly true, if you go back a bit.” He lifted her further onto the bed, then crawled between her legs. “You ought to be ready, my dear.”
“Oh, god, uncle, I’ve been ready an awfully long time!”
“You said something like that just the other night, didn’t you?”
But apparently she was not ready. Though her labia were wet as any his glans had ever parted, he had difficulty in penetrating much beyond them. He withdrew slightly and tried several short strokes, each of which elicited a grunt from her, but it was only when he thrust strongest and longest that she opened fully with a short cry and accepted him entire. Her wetness actually increased thereafter.
She hugged him tightly against her chest, but her hips and legs were rigid and unmoving. After a while he stilled his hips and raised up to look at her. He saw a face of anguish. She had caught her lower lip in her teeth.
He asked in surprise, “What’s wrong, my darling?”
She gasped, her chest rising beneath him, and shook her head, looking up at him through tears. “I’m sure it’s nothing unusual. Go ahead, uncle, and finish, please.”
“You … seem to be in pain.”
She took a deep breath. “It’s a curious mixture. But, please, please, uncle, do finish.”
Her legs came up around his hips. He resumed his thrusts. Though wincing, she finally matched him with rolling pelvis. He found that his sensitivity had recovered in the 24 hours since his last release, and shortly mixed his fluids with hers as he had last done in Room 217, though this morning she clearly enjoyed it much less, if at all.
Guilt rose in him at this proof of selfishness. He withdrew from her and rolled over on his side. One hand cupped her breast, the other slipped into the soft hair behind her head and turned her face toward him. A tear overflowed and ran down her cheek.
He wiped her face with the edge of the sheet. “Now tell me what I did wrong. Is it because we’re not in Room 217?”
“‘Room 217?’” she repeated, studying him oddly.
“Why are you crying, Celeste? Did I hurt you somehow?”
Her brow wrinkled. “You don’t know? It hurt, but that’s not the sad part. Oh!” Her eyes widened. “You thought that my other men had already …” She shook her head. “I wouldn’t let them, uncle. One even offered to marry me, but I knew I was saving myself.”
“You were …” He stared at her. “What are you talking about, Celly?”
She grinned faintly. “If that’s your nickname for me, uncle, then I’ll accept it. But why do you say it so oddly?”
His lip curled in a sneer. “It’s what Mama Laury called you!”
The innocent wonder in her eyes took him aback. “Celeste …” he began.
“You must know about these things,” she said calmly, slipping a hand down her body. She raised it before her face. “How long does the bleeding last?”
Two of her fingers were smeared with blood. A white droplet dangling from a fingertip.
“Good god, Celeste!” He raised up on an elbow. At the junction of her thighs the sheet was stained crimson. He glared around at her. “Why didn’t you tell me? So that’s why he left early!” Farley felt of his face but his hand came away clean. “At least I didn’t get it all over me.”
She blinked at him. “Who left early?”
“Your all-night john, of course! … Wait a minute. That blood is awfully bright!”
She nodded. “It ought to be. It’s very fresh.” Suddenly she frowned. “Did you think it was my monthlies? I’m not due for another week.”
“If it’s not your … Celeste, what are you saying?” He shook his head violently. “You couldn’t be virgin!”
“I can’t be now,” she agreed. A beatific smile spread slowly on her face. “Though I was until a few minutes ago.” She raised up on her own elbow and hugged her face to his chest. “Oh, uncle, I’ve wanted you to do me for so long!”
He sat frozen. “Then how …” he began. “But who …” Slowly his free arm went around her shoulders. “Oh, god, Celeste, what have I done?”
Her eyes twinkled up at him. “Made a woman of me, I think.”
He stared at her in horror. “But you … You’re my niece!”
“Only by marriage. We share no blood.” She pointed to his red-streaked penis and grinned. “Until now.”
He sat up fully on the side of the bed, took her by the shoulders and set her beside him, ignoring the stain left on the sheet as he dragged her buttocks across it. He stared into her eyes. “Tell me true, Celeste. Where have you been since supper?”
Her eyes widened. “At work, of course.”
“Where at work?”
“Roland Spinning Mill Number Three. You know all that, uncle.”
“And how did you get home?”
“Walked. How else?”
“Why did you ride the trolley last night?”
“But I didn’t! Oh. You asked me if it was crowded. It stopped and let a man off as I was coming down McAllister Street. But I didn’t ride it!”
He thought over the possibilities, at last asking, “How do they know you at the mill? Do you have a badge?”
“A badge? You mean, to get in? No. The guards recognize us.”
“The guards! Do you know a deputy with Badge Number 47? He has light hair, stocky, freckles all over his face.”
“I don’t know the badge number but that sounds like the one the girls call ‘Shifty.’”
“That fits. Why doesn’t he know you?”
“Huh? But he does! Oh, you mean by name. I’m sure he doesn’t remember all our names. He goes by faces.”
He continued to stare at her. Fidgeting, she said after awhile, “Uncle, I’d better get up and check on this bleeding.”
He shook himself. “I’m sure it’s quit by now, Celeste.” He got suddenly to his feet and went to the night stand. He poured water from pitcher into basin, took the washcloth and towel and fetched the basin to her bedside.
“Stand up,” he told her as he resumed his seat on the bed.
She obeyed, holding his shoulder. He wet the washcloth and swabbed her bloody thighs tenderly, wringing out the cloth and reapplying it. When he had patted her dry, he held up the clean towel. “See, bleeding stopped.”
She smiled. “I only know what the other girls said. It seems like a lot of blood.”
“It is a lot! According to tradition it means you will have many kids.”
“That would be nice!”
“You want children, Celeste?”
“To hold in my arms, to hold to my breast. I want your children, uncle.”
“Celeste!” He stared up at her. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Yes, I do.” She frowned. “What I don’t know is what you were saying! Who is ‘All Night John?’ What a funny name! And who is ‘Mama Laury?’”
He sighed. “Celeste, I am beginning to understand that I have done you a terrible injustice, both in my mind and in fact. There’s probably no way I can ever make it up to you, except … That is, no way you would tolerate.”
Her hand clutched his arm. “Uncle! You had that same look when Aunt Bess died.”
He took a deep breath. “And I still don’t understand what’s going on. How old are you, Celeste?”
He nodded. “That’s what I thought. Is there any possible chance you might have a sister somewhere.”
She sat on the bed beside him. “Ooo!” she exclaimed, twisting her hips. “That smarts.”
“But your mother only had the one child — you. Isn’t that right?”
“No, it isn’t.” She turned her torso away from him.
He caught her shoulder and spun her back to study her face. “What do you mean, Celeste?”
She turned her head away as far as she could. “You’ll hate me.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. How many kids did your mother have, then?”
She turned an anxious expression to him, eyes seeking his. “She never had any.”
“She … what?”
“I was adopted, uncle. From an orphanage. My mother was a whore. Our mother, I should say. Somewhere I have a twin sister. Mother told me all this on her death bed.” Her eyes dropped. “It’s one of the reasons I didn’t … didn’t …”
“Didn’t have much truck with the boys?”
Her eyes flashed up. “Didn’t have much with you!”
She took a shaky breath. “There! I’ve told you my guilty secret. I’m illegitimate, uncle, a whore’s spawn with no claim on your wife’s family. Will you throw me out?”
“Celeste!” His eyes widened. “Throw you out?” He laughed hollowly.
She muttered. “At least you loved me a little.”
“No, my darling, not a little.” He took her hand and raised it to his lips. “I’ve loved you passionately since before Bess died. You were a beautiful, charming girl when you came to stay with us, and you are a beautiful and even more charming woman. Throw you out, indeed! I have rather a different fate in mind for you.”
She bit her lip. “Nothing has to change, uncle. I’m still the same person, except for a little blood. Can’t we go on as before?”
“That we can’t. Celeste … will you marry me?”
Suddenly her eyes were big as saucers. “M-marry you?”
“I know. I’m 38, almost old enough to be your father. But I want you as strongly as a man can, and I want to make you a good husband.”
When she only stared at him, he added hastily, “And I can provide for you. Business is good at the shop and I have $88,000 in real estate. You can leave Roland Mills any time you wish.”
She sighed deeply, then smiled. “Of course I’ll marry you, uncle. It’s what I’ve dreamed about, I think, all my life. I’ve loved you for years, but you never seemed to notice. Until last night. When you put your hand in my smock, I couldn’t believe it! I thought I would faint. I’ve been right under your nose for over ten years. Why just now did you finally notice me?”
He shook his head. “Let’s not go into that, if you don’t mind. It’s enough, I hope, that at last I have. I’m able to admit that I love you, too, and have since I first saw you.”
He took her tenderly into his arms. She held him tightly and they kissed, less passionately but with deeper feeling. “Oh, uncle, uncle, you are so sweet!” she murmured.
“Not half so much as you, my little dove.”
“‘Dove!’” She chuckled with pleasure. “I expect I’ll need a day or two for my bottom to heal, but you’ve taught me another way to please you. Oh, I so want to please you! What shall I do next for you, uncle?”
He stood up resolutely. “I have some things to do, some important decisions to make. Celeste, would you like to meet your twin sister?”
“Oh, yes!” Her face lit.
“She … She’s not a good woman, I’m afraid.”
Her eyes flicked back and forth upon his. “Is she … doing as our mother did?”
He looked down. “Yes.”
“Oh!” Celeste laughed shortly, but it was the sound of humor, not derision. “You had her, didn’t you?”
He took a deep breath. “Yes.”
“And thought she was me.”
“Yes, god help me! Will you forgive me, Celeste?” He looked up anxiously.
“Is she truly my twin?”
“Identical, though I now realize, only in appearance. I am truly sorry for … my mistake, Celeste.”
She surged to her feet, catching him in her arms. “Well, I’m not sorry! When I see her, I intend to kiss her for making my uncle think he could dare to love me.” She kissed his cheek. “Now tell me what I can do to please you, uncle.”
Taking a heartfelt breath of relief, he smiled slowly. “The first thing is for you to find something else to call me.”
Stories Gratis at http://www.dhp.com/~kellis