It was a rainy spring day and as much as I hated shopping I couldn’t put it off any longer. Upon first entering the department store I passed a cute brunette trailed by two little girls. It was obvious that the shorter of the two wasn’t happy to be there. She reminded me of myself at that age. I smirked and went to find the items I needed.
While standing in the checkout line I could see the brunette searching the crowded aisles. It looked like only one of the little girls was with her. The shorter of the two girls was nowhere in sight.
“Zoe! Zoe! Where are you?”
When I heard her shouting for the little girl I decided to leave my place in line and offer my help.
“What happened?” I asked walking up to the distraught woman.
“We were picking out for clothes for Angie and when I looked around Zoe wasn’t there,” she said hurriedly.
“Where were you when you last knew Zoe was with you?”
“Over there. By the girls jean sets,” she said pointing to clothes racks near one of the walls.
“My sister is going to kill me,” she cried following me to the children’s clothing section.
I looked back but didn’t ask her about her comment. There were quite a few people in the children’s clothing area due to the clearance sale. I kept bumping into shoppers or shopping carts and reminded myself never to step into another store on a Saturday again. If Zoe was anything like me she probably looked for a quiet space to crawl into to get away from everyone. At least I hoped she did. Every clothes rack I passed, I pushed the clothes aside and looked at the ground near the base of the rack. The closer we got to the jean sets, the more I worried that she wasn’t here. My heart rate was increasing rapidly as I checked more and more places without finding Zoe. I pushed a number of clothes to the side of the largest rack, and I saw the little girl curled up against the center pole, asleep. I had not realized how tense my body was until I felt the relief at seeing the little girl. I looked toward the brunette who was trapped between shoppers and motioned with my hand for her to join me. When she reached me, I pointed to the floor.
The little girl opened her sleepy eyes, startled.
“Can we go now?” she asked oblivious to the havoc she had caused.
The brunette held out her arms to her, tears of relief running down her cheeks. She held the girl, looking uncertain about what to do next.
“How about we go to the food court and get an early lunch?” I offered.
She merely nodded and stood up, holding both girls’ hands. We headed out of the store toward the food court. The walk was done in silence except for Zoe and Angie pointing out items in the stores we passed and calling out their colors.
“What would you like to eat?” I asked when we reached the food court.
“Whatever you’re having.”
“And the girls?”
The brunette looked at the girls and then back at me.
“I don’t know. They’re my sister’s girls. I convinced her to let me take them shopping. It’s my first time out alone with them,” she said.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry. I’ll get some slices of pizza and fries. All kids like pizza,” I said and winked at her.
“Thank you,” the brunette said quietly when I came back with the food.
“You’re welcome. I’m Chris by the way.”
“I’m Cassie,” she said with a smile. “How did you know?”
“How did I know what?”
“Where to look for Zoe.”
“Oh. I didn’t. I just hoped she was like me,” I said sheepishly, “When I was young, I really hated going shopping, any kind of shopping. I would get bored and tired of following my mom around the store, especially when she would stop at every rack to look at clothes. And of course there were always so many people there, bumping into me because they were never looking down. So I would crawl under the clothes hanging from the clothes rack to get away from everything.”
“What did your mother do?”
“The first couple of times she freaked out. Fortunately I had not fallen asleep so when she would call for me I would crawl out of my hiding place. She caught on quickly to where I would go hiding after those incidents. A couple of times I fell asleep and couldn’t find her. I walked around crying until someone took me to the Customer Service area. Then they would page my mom to come get me. Once I got older, she would just ask a cashier to page me instead of looking for me herself.”
“Really?” Cassie asked incredulously.
I merely nodded in response and took a bite out of my sub.
“How old were you the last time she had you paged?”
I finished chewing and took a sip of my soda.
“Seventeen. The look on the cashier’s face was priceless. She must have been expecting someone much younger,” I said laughingly.
She laughed with me. She had a beautiful soft laugh.
“I should probably take them home before I screw up some more.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“A good aunt wouldn’t have lost Zoe.”
“Come on. You don’t believe that?”
She shrugged her shoulders. It was no longer raining but it was still overcast as I walked her and the girls out to her car.
“Will you let me buy you dinner tonight as a thank you?” Cassie asked after buckling the girls into the car.
“You don’t have to buy, but I’d like to have dinner with you,” I answered.
We arranged the time and place and exchanged phone numbers just in case. I watched her drive off and decided I had enough shopping for one day.
Looking in my closet for something to wear for dinner, I wondered if this was a date. It felt like she was asking me out but she was also grateful for my help. I picked black pants and a forest green blouse, which brought out the color of my eyes, hoping for a casual look. I arrived at the restaurant a little early and got us a table. When she arrived minutes later, my heart raced at the beautiful sight she presented in a navy blue skirt and a flowery white top. I stood up so that she could see me.
“Hi,” she said with a smile that didn’t seem to reach her eyes.
“Hi. If you don’t want to have dinner, it’s okay,” I said when we sat down.
“No, no. I do. It’s just been,” she shrugged looking at me with sadness in her eyes.
“Nothing. I’m okay.”
“I want us to be friends, Cassie. I’ll listen. I won’t judge.”
“Thank you for saying that. It’s just my family. They know what happened with Zoe.”
“How did they find out?”
“Angie told my sister in front of the whole family about my losing Zoe in the store. My sister said that she knew something like this would happen. My mother agreed with her,” Cassie said.
“Oh, come on,” I said, “Anyone can lose sight of a child in a shopping mall especially when they have two in tow. It could happen to your sister and your mother, too.”
“I doubt it. Apparently I am the only one that can’t do anything right,” she said.
“I’m sure you do plenty right,” I said, reaching over and holding her hand.
“You’re so sweet but let’s talk about something else.” She smiled at me.
“So what would you like to eat?” I asked, handing her a menu.
We proceeded to order food, and we talked for hours. Cassie told me she was one of three children. Her older sister was a CFO for a large company and her younger brother was a mechanical engineer for an aircraft manufacturer. Cassie left university after the first semester because school just wasn’t for her. She took a job as a clerk in a supermarket and worked her way up to store manager. Her parents were furious when she stopped school and have been very critical of everything she did since.
I told her I was an only child and my parents had me when they were in their late thirties. They took retirement 6 years ago and travel a lot, sending me postcards from wherever they were and calling me on holidays. I worked in the sales and marketing department of a medical devices manufacturer. The spring and fall were the most hectic times of the year for me because that’s when most of the trade shows occur. We both were unattached and we talked a little about our previous relationships. Cassie’s last girlfriend treated her like her mother and sister so I changed the subject. We’d only known each other for one day yet it bothered me how her family treated her.
Due to our busy work schedules we only had time to meet for lunch once a week, but we talked every night, either by phone or the internet, catching each other up on what was going on. Throughout the day I looked forward to connecting with Cassie in the evening. It was always the best part of my day. One night the phone was ringing just as I entered my apartment.
“Hey,” Cassie said.
“Hey you,” I said happy to hear her voice.
“Is this a bad time?”
“No. I just got home. What’s up?” I asked sitting down on my comfy couch.
“What are you doing on Saturday?”
“Yes, I don’t have to work this weekend. I was thinking we could spend the day together. Not shopping,” she said laughing, knowing my distaste for that activity.
“Um. Well, you see. It’s the first weekend of the summer season and I planned to go on a canoe camping trip.” I never mentioned the trip to Cassie since I didn’t know if she would want to spend a weekend in the outdoors.
“Oh. Okay. Are you going with someone?” Cassie asked.
“No, no one,” I hesitated, “Would you like to go with me?” I held my breath hoping she would say yes.
“I don’t want to ruin your trip,” she replied in a small voice.
“Why would you ruin my trip?” I asked confused, “I’ve thought about asking you many times but I didn’t think you would like this kind of thing.”
“I’ve never been camping or in a canoe. I would like to try if you think I could do it. I would try not to be too much trouble for you,” she said quickly.
“I think you could do anything you set your mind to, and I would love it if you would go with me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure.”
“Okay. What do I need? What do I bring? What do I wear? We’ll have to go shopping,” she said excitedly.
I simply groaned in response.
Early Saturday morning I picked Cassie up at her apartment. She hugged me quickly, and we loaded her things in my car along with the bags of food. Cassie said she would take care of our meals which was a nice surprise. During the drive, Cassie fidgeted in her seat barely containing her excitement. Halfway to the canoe site I stopped at a diner.
“Why are we stopping?” Cassie asked.
“Breakfast,” I replied.
I am not a talkative morning person. Cassie looked at me waiting for more.
“We need energy for paddling the canoe, and depending on how long it takes us to get to the campsite, we may not have our next real meal for a while. So order big.”
As we waited for our food, Cassie started giggling
“What are you giggling about?”
“Nothing. I told a co-worker about our canoe trip and she told me a joke. I was just remembering it.”
“So what is the joke?” I inquired with raised eyebrows.
“What do you call two lesbians in a canoe?”
I thought for a moment but came up blank.
“Fur traders,” she said giggling.
I smirked and rolled my eyes, which just made her laugh more. Her laughter was infectious and soon I was laughing with her.
At the canoe site, our canoe was poised expectantly by the shoreline. I knew the owners of this shop so when I had called ahead to reserve a canoe I was told it would be ready when we got here. I often thought of buying my own canoe, but my apartment in the city had no place for something that big. The parking lot was filling up with vehicles with boats in tow. The boat ramp near the shop made this a popular spot for boat owners. I handed Cassie dry bags to put her things in while I loaded the canoe. I took off my t-shirt and put it in one of the bags. I was left with my bathing suit top which was like a sports bra. When I turned around Cassie was staring at me with a questioning look which made me a little self-conscious. I have a slightly athletic build and the sports style top made my breasts even smaller than normal.
“It gets hot with a t-shirt and a life vest,” I explained.
“Oh,” she nodded and removed her shirt revealing an orange bikini top that matched her shorts. I handed her the sunscreen averting my gaze from her curvaceous body. I turned to tie everything down in the canoe taking a couple of calming breaths. I was fastening the last strap when I glimpsed Cassie. Her hands were applying sunscreen to her silky legs. I was so mesmerized by the motion that I didn’t notice she was talking to me.
“Hello?” Cassie waved her hand to get my attention.
“I’m sorry. I was lost in thought. What did you say?” I asked.
“Could you put some sunscreen on my back? I can’t reach,” she said handing me the bottle.
I squirted some lotion in my hands and began with her shoulders. Her skin was softer than I imagined. I continued down her back making sure I didn’t miss any areas. I realized my hands had been caressing her long after the sunscreen had been applied and I stepped back.
I applied lotion to my arms and legs under her watchful gaze.
“You forgot some here,” she said pointing to my stomach and took the bottle from me. My stomach quivered at her gentle touch and I stifled a moan.
She then applied lotion to my back and my body was responding to her touch. I noticed that we had attracted the attention of several onlookers and once again I stepped away from her.
“How about we get this show on the road?”
I handed her a life vest and put mine on.
“I’ve never done this before,” she said hesitating by the canoe.
“It’s alright. I’ll show you how.”
I pushed the canoe into the shallow water.
“Okay. Come stand next to me.” I motioned her to my side.
“Grab this side of the canoe with your left hand and put your right foot in the center of the canoe,” I said as I held the canoe with one hand and guided her with the other.
“Good. Now crouch low and grab the other side with your right hand. Swing your left foot in and get down on your knees.”
Her knuckles were white and she was shaking a little. I put my free arm around her and held her.
She nodded in response.
“Sit up on the seat behind you and I’ll grab your paddle.”
I retrieved a paddle and gave it to her.
“Here, sit up straight. Put one hand at the top of the paddle holding the handle. Move your other hand just above the blade. If it’s uncomfortable move it up until it feels better. I’m going to push the canoe a little deeper in the water so you can paddle.”
She looked slightly frightened when I nudged the canoe.
“Don’t worry. I got you.” I smiled reassuringly and she relaxed.
“Put the blade in the water as far forward as you can reach. Make sure your bottom hand doesn’t get wet because you’ll end up with blisters. Don’t lunge your body and keep the paddle vertical,” I directed.
“Push your top hand forward and pull your bottom hand back. Pull the blade as far as your hip then take it out of the water. Turn it parallel to the water and carry it forward back to the starting position. There you go. Try it again,” I encouraged. I let go of the canoe knowing it would not go far. I retrieved the other paddle and walked the short distance along the shore parallel to the movement of the canoe.
“Great! You got it! Now stop for a moment so that I can get in.”
I pulled the canoe closer to the shore and got in the rear.
“Switch sides every so often so that you use your arms equally,” I said when we began our journey.
After an hour of paddling close to shore, I rested my paddle on top of the canoe and took in the scenery. It was a beautiful day with a solitary cloud in the rich blue sky. The sea water was calm; a bare whisper of wind could be felt. The air was filled with the delicious perfumed scent of the white blossoms from the magnificent arbutus trees hanging overhead. The only sounds came from the cool water lapping against the side of the boat and the rhythmic splash of the blade of Cassie’s paddle. Every so often we would hear a high-pitched call from an eagle perched in a treetop.
“Hey! You’re not paddling!”
“Taking a break.”
“But we’re still moving,” she said perplexed.
“You were paddling.”
“But what? You thought you weren’t contributing?” I asked gently.
“I…” She beamed and turned in her seat to paddle.
“Relax, babe. There’s no rush. Enjoy yourself!”
We talked and laughed while we traveled at a light pace for four more hours until we arrived at our destination. As we pulled the canoe onto the shore Cassie turned to me.
“Chris? There’s a Private Property No Trespassing sign. Can’t we get into trouble?”
“No. I bought this piece of land last summer.”
While we unloaded the canoe and set up camp, I told her of my plans to build a small cabin on the land and how I would be able to store items here and not lug everything on each trip. I glanced at her every so often when I thought she wasn’t looking. She caught me once but didn’t say anything. She also paid very close attention to me when I was tying down the tent. Cassie surveyed our campsite with a look of pride. The canoe was completely unloaded, and the tent was up. The sleeping bags and our personal items were inside.
“We work well together,” she said.
“Yes we do,” I said as I was setting up two compact canvas folding chairs I’d brought. After a day of paddling, there is no better treat than chairs with backrests. I stood up to stretch only to find Cassie standing next to me. The sweet scent of her perfume mingled with the smell of the outdoors was intoxicating. I leaned closer to her. She put her arms around my neck and pulled me to her.
“Thank you, Chris,” she said timidly just before her lips touched mine in the sweetest kiss. I wrapped my arms around her and our barely covered flesh fit together as one.
“For what?” I asked dazed when her lips left mine.
“For asking me to come with you. For being so patient when you showed me how to paddle. For letting me help you with the campsite.” She put her fingers on my lips when I tried to interrupt her.
“For not treating me like I’m incompetent or useless. For making me believe that I can contribute and that I’m your equal. For being you.”
To my surprise, she leaned in and kissed me again. My heart soared, discovering not only that my shy friend wanted me but because she was initiating the kiss. We stood there kissing, exploring each other’s mouths. We lost track of time until my stomach signaled that it was hungry by growling loudly which caused us both to erupt in a fit of laughter.
“Come on. Let’s have some dinner,” she said leading me by the hand.
“Where did you get all this food?” I asked looking at all the prepared food we took out of the cooler and bags.
“I made it last night. I love to cook.”
“It looks delicious.”
“Wait until you taste it,” she said confidently and with good reason. The food was incredible, and I told her at every opportunity. I regaled her with tales of my misadventures in the kitchen, my lack of cooking skills, and how the microwave oven became my best friend. Her laughter warmed my heart.
After dinner, we watched the boats in the water, stealing glances at each other, the sun setting in the background. I went over to our bags and came back with some foil and several candles. I placed the candles on the foil and lit them.
“That’s so smart,” Cassie remarked.
“Well we don’t need a big fire and this way our clothes won’t smell like ‘Eau de Woodsmoke’ in the morning,” I joked and she giggled.
“How do you feel about going out there again?” I asked extending my hand to her.
She smiled, taking my hand. I stopped to pick up the cooler.
“What’s the cooler for?”
“To sit on,” I said while putting the cooler in the canoe under the rear thwart.
“Aren’t we both going to paddle?”
“We’re not going to go that far from shore. I figured we could sit in the back together.”
Putting on her vest, Cassie kept her eyes down, her shoulders slightly slumped. I put both paddles in the canoe and pushed it into the water.
“Do you remember how to get in?”
Cassie nodded. I helped her in the canoe so that I could touch the soft skin of her back.
“Sit on the back seat,” I instructed.
“I thought I was sitting on the cooler?” Cassie asked confused.
“Nope. The cooler is for me,” I said getting in.
I sat on the cooler leaning slightly against the thwart. I reached behind me and grabbed the paddles, handing one to Cassie. We pushed away from the shore and I put my paddle behind me and stretched lazily, all the while smiling at Cassie. Cassie was looking at me with sparkling eyes while she paddled. There were several other boats out enjoying this special nighttime treat but they were at a distance from us.
“Cassie, look down at the water.”
She looked at me puzzled.
“Please,” I said motioning with my head toward the water.
“Oh my God!” Cassie exclaimed looking at the water.
Her paddle was creating a shower of light. The water dripped off the paddle like little sparks. As the canoe glided along it was lit up from underneath.
“What is it?” Cassie whispered like she was trying not to disturb the amazing event unfolding before our eyes.
“Bioluminescence. There are small organisms in the water that give off a glow when they are disturbed,” I explained.
“This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Cassie said reverently.
We watched the light display beneath us in silence while we slowly glided. After gliding for half an hour over the lighted water, Cassie put her paddle in the boat, got on her knees and crawled to me. She slowly rose up, resting her hands on my bare thighs. I could feel the warmth of her touch spreading throughout my body. She leaned into me, her face inches from mine, her breath on my cheek.
“This has been the best day,” she whispered in my ear before tugging my earlobe with her teeth. She nibbled her way down my neck, then back up again, over my chin, until she rested her lips on mine. I held her waist and felt her hands between us. Zippers being opened echoed over the water. It took a moment to register that it was the zippers on our life vests. Cassie crushed her body against mine. We both gasped at the contact giving our tongues an opening to meet. I slid my hands under her vest and up her back, drawing her closer. Her hands grabbed fistfuls of my jet black hair holding me tight to her. Our tongues danced together, occasionally separating to search out hidden spots in each other’s mouth. I moved my hands to her front, brushing the side of her breasts. Cassie loosened her grip allowing enough space between us so that I could slide my hands over her breasts and to her back. I found the clasp of her bikini and opened it with ease, freeing her beautiful breasts from their confinement. For weeks I fantasized about this moment but my fantasies never included this surreal setting. I trailed my mouth down her neck and made my way to her breasts. I put my arm around her waist and lifted her slightly to get better access to her breasts. I kissed and licked around each one, avoiding her nipples.
“Please,” she begged.
I flicked her nipple with my tongue just before sucking it into my mouth. I lightly bit and tugged it before releasing it and repeating the process with her other nipple. Cassie responded to my ministrations by moving her pelvis, trying to make contact with any part of my body. I moved my free hand between her legs and rubbed her mound over her shorts. The canoe was rocking gently to the rhythm of Cassie’s moans. As she got closer to her release, her hips rocked faster against my hand. She let out a long moan and collapsed against me. I held onto her while she tried to catch her breath. She slid down a little and rested her head on my thigh. I paddled, backwards, slowly in the direction of our campsite.
“Are you alright?” I asked when we reached the shore running my fingers through her hair.
“Mmm, I don’t want to let go,” she said looking up at me.
“Come on, baby. Let’s put the canoe away and you could hold onto me all you want after that.”
We got out of the canoe and carried it away from the shore. I was putting the cooler away when I noticed Cassie spreading a blanket next to the candles.
As I walked toward her, she began to remove her clothes slowly. I stopped mid-stride and admired the display unfolding before me. It didn’t take her long to remove everything, and she stood there in the candlelight bathed in a golden hue. She beckoned me with her arms. I went to her and let her undress me. She caressed and kissed my shoulders leaving a trail of goose bumps. I lifted my arms so that she could remove my bathing suit top. She threw it on top of her clothes, her gaze never leaving my small perky breasts. While her hands caressed my abdomen, she leaned in and took a nipple in her mouth, making me jump a little. Her mouth left my nipple and licked its way down my abdomen stopping briefly at my navel. Her hands unbuttoned my shorts and pulled them down along with my bathing suit bottom. Her fingernails were moving up and down my thighs and then moved upwards over my butt as she stood back up, sending a shiver through me. She took my other nipple in her mouth while my hands clutched her shoulders. I pulled her up for a deep kiss. Our hands roamed, learning each other’s bodies.
“Lie down with me,” she said.
She pulled away slightly and tugged on my arm to follow her to the ground. We lay on our sides facing each other. Leaning forward, I captured her lips with mine. Our tongues danced while our hands roamed, caressing arms, backs, thighs, and massaging breasts. The tempo of our caresses and kisses increased until Cassie nudged me onto my back and quickly lay on top of me, our lips hardly breaking contact. Cassie moved slightly away and licked, sucked and kissed my sensitive neck eliciting moans. She slowly licked her way down my chest and stomach leaving a wet trail behind. I wanted to hurry her along. When she reached the dark curls on my mound, she raked her fingers through them. My body shivered and moistness gathered between my legs. She moved her mouth toward my mound, lightly exhaling over my wet lips, which she had spread wide with her fingers. She alternated between licking and tugging the lips with her mouth. She took her time occasionally moving her mouth away and kissing my thighs. She was driving me insane. When she sucked my clit into her mouth, my back arched off the ground and my hands grabbed the blanket below me. My breath came in short pants. I tried to stave off my impending orgasm and enjoy the attention, but it had been a while since I was with someone and I felt as sensitive as a virgin. Cassie didn’t let up and continued to suck and lick my clit until my orgasm overtook me. My breath caught, my eyes shut tight, and the sensations washed over me.
Cassie kissed her way back up to me. Her fingers entered me at the same time as her tongue plundered my mouth. I sucked on her tongue tasting myself on her. I moved my hand to her wet mound. My fingers entered her and mimicked her fingers’ movements. We continued to kiss and rock against each other until we both climaxed, one after the other. We removed our fingers and held each other, occasionally kissing and murmuring endearments.
“Cass, baby, we should sleep in the tent. It gets cold at night.”
“Five more minutes. It’s really nice out here,” Cassie murmured.
The wind picked up a little, making Cassie shiver enough to roll off of me. We gathered our clothes and blanket, blew out the candles and went into the tent. We snuggled in the sleeping bag with Cassie resting her head on my chest. I ran my hands through her silky hair.
“You know, I have a garage for my car and there is extra space. Enough for a canoe,” she said lifting her head and looking into my eyes.
My hands stilled. I lifted my head slightly and just looked at her not knowing what to say.
“We should get our own canoe since we’ll be coming out here a lot this summer,” she said smiling while placing a kiss over my heart. I hugged her tight and smiled thinking about the possibilities of our future excursions.