Many years ago I was pretty active in taking outdoor photographs. I hated doing people, and especially didn’t like doing weddings but they paid a lot better than the occasional sell of a scenic photo, so I shot weddings and family portraits as they came along. Like I said, that was quite a few years ago. When kids came along there wasn’t time for my photo trips and the activity died out. Now, with the kids all on their own and me single again, there’s a lot more time to do the things I want to do.
I live a much simpler life these days, doing some part-time consulting and an odd handyman job for some of the divorced and/or widowed women in town, and have come back to photography now that I have to time to learn digital and the various software programs available for publishing.
With no daily or weekly commitments these days I decided to take some road trips and shoot some images, like the good old days. One difference, though, would be that these days I often preferred a motel room at least now and then whereas back in the day a tent was grand enough. So, I decided to take a trip up the coast, further than I’d ever roamed before, and see what the coastal redwoods held. Like way back, I didn’t set a firm itinerary, but decided to play it loose as to where I’d go and how long I’d stay.
After driving hard for almost two days I got to a small town on the northern California coast well after dark, but found no campgrounds and virtually all the motels full. Finally, on the outskirts of town, I came across a small inn that showed vacancies and I pulled in at the office just as the night manager was about to exit the door for the night. They only had one room left, he explained, one side of a duplex cottage. It actually worked well for me as it had an efficiency kitchenette and a little deck out facing towards the shore. So, I took the room and as I was unloading my truck I noticed how quiet it was around there. Not many of the other rooms had any lights on, and the opposite side of the unit I was in had a car parked there but there were no lights on or sounds coming from that side. I figured whomever was there was either out for the evening or had retired very early for the night.
The next morning I rose early and took a cup of hot tea out onto the little deck to listen to the sea lions bark along the shoreline. The breeze felt refreshing and the air was just cool enough to be brisk. I hadn’t noticed any signs of life from the unit next door, but kept to my side of the adjoining deck just the same. It was fine by me that they kept to themselves, for the very last thing I wanted on this trip was some chatty neighbor. Just as I was about to get up and start out on my day’s quest the door from the next unit opened. I turned to see who it was well before they had looked out onto the deck themselves.
As the younger woman stepped out I instinctively rose to greet her, something I was taught to do at a young age. With the noise of my chair sliding back she startled and looked at me almost with shock in her eyes. I apologized and stepped back a step or two towards my unit. She was still dressed in her nightgown and a very thin robe of sorts, and the cool morning air had produced instant bumps on her ample chest. She clutched the robe to her and without any word spoken she slipped back into her unit and shut the door. Well, it was about time to head out anyway so I grabbed my camera bag from my room and headed out for my truck.
I spent the whole day out along the coast taking images of the waves crashing against the rocky shore, of sea lions lounging, and of the sun filtering through the redwoods to the ferns below. Being out in nature like that, alone and in the quietness had always been a stress relief for me and this day was one of the more therapeutic ones I’d had in a long time, and long overdue. On the way back toward my little duplex cottage I’d stopped and picked up a whole basket of cheeses, crackers of all sorts, nuts and berries, some breads and deli meats, fresh fruits, and some cold beers as well as a bottle of tequila.
Back at the cottage I grabbed a cold brew, some crackers and some hot cheese and headed out to the deck to watch the last glowing rays of the sun dim on the far horizon. The stars were already beginning to sparkle faintly in the sky that faded from west to east, and a chill was settling down upon the shadows. About the time I’d finished the first of the beers and was getting up to get another I heard my neighbor’s door open. Turning to face her I saw her standing there looking somewhat timid. I greeted her politely, told her my name and stepped towards her with hand extended. She just stood there for a moment as if she didn’t know what to do, then gently took my hand by the fingertips and softly said “Hi.”
I invited her to sit and enjoy some of the snacks I’d laid out, and asked if I could get her something to drink. She declined the drink but did eye the snacks on the table and headed towards a seat. I excused myself and went to get that brew, thinking I’d return just long enough to be polite then excuse myself to my room for the evening.
When I returned to the deck I noticed the young lady munching on the snacks as if she were truly hungry. I also noticed a delicate nature about her. She was tall and fairly well proportioned, but petite and delicate at the same time. Her auburn hair hung in loose curls down below her shoulders and her skin was creamy and smooth. I also noticed her goosebumps, so I reached just inside my door and grabbed a fleece jacket I had laying there. As I stepped back out onto the deck she looked up at me with a slight smile, but also with just a touch of fear it seemed.
She took the jacket without hesitation and as we sat there talking about the sunset and the stars she kept snacking away. I commented that she seemed hungry, and that was the wrong thing to do for she instantly stopped eating and withdrew back into her seat. I apologized, said something about the snacks being addictive to me, too, and then asked her name. “Ann” was all she said.
As the evening grew Ann and I sat there on the deck and chatted about all sorts of things. I was surprised at how easily the talk came for me, feeling completely at ease with this young lady and she apparently feeling some ease with me, too. At first I had thought myself to be perhaps old enough to be her dad, at least biologically, but found out that we really weren’t that far apart in years, a testament to her youthful appearance. I also found out that she too was there alone, and was an empty nester of sorts, too. Her husband had been very abuse, verbally and physically, and after she’d finally rid herself and her children of the scum she’d raised her son and daughter alone. They were out on their own now and she was simply lonely. This trip was a getaway of sorts for her too, but more of a treat herself sort of thing. The longer the conversation went on, it seemed the easier it got for her to talk, too. But, I was getting hungry for something more substantial, so when I offered to take us somewhere or bring back something, she smiled and said something brought back would be nice, that “it was nice just sitting here with good company and enjoying the evening.”
A half hour later I was back with some take-out that at least smelled good, some wine for Ann, and two slices of cheesecake for dessert. Somehow it felt good to be doing this, sort of like a date. Maybe it just felt good to be doing something for someone just for the heck of it. Regardless, when I got back there was a note on my door to come to her side of the duplex, and before I could knock on her door it swung open and Ann was standing there with a huge smile on her face. She’d arranged a dining table of sorts in her room from the little desk, one side adjacent the bed and the chair on the other side, and had candles lit and music playing in the background. When I looked around and commented on how romantic it was Ann blushed openly and then started to apologize, but I stopped her short by telling her how it was so nice to have this kind of atmosphere once in a while, and it had been a long while.
The supper was filled with laughter, and the longer we talked the more open we both became. As I cleared the things from the table she brewed some coffee in the little pot there in the room and we enjoyed the cheesecake by candlelight alone. It really was a romantic setting, and when we finished I reached for her hand and said, “Let’s see what the stars look like now.”
With a slight giggle Ann took my hand and I led her out onto the little deck that joins our units. The night air was crisp and clear, and the stars were twinkling above like a blanket full of sparkles. The air smelled good and a slow song was softly drifting out through the door of her room that we’d left open. I asked, “Would you like to dance?”
“Of course!” And there on the deck we danced a slow dance, the old fashioned way with her held close to me, my arm around her waist and hers on my shoulder. The chill, the wine and the mood allowed Ann to lay her head on my chest as we danced, and her hair smelled clean and fresh. She moved next to me, mocking my every movement with a light touch and grace. When the song was over it was as if she didn’t want to stop. Finally when I stopped, Ann looked up at me, tilted her face upwards as she closed her eyes, and our lips met softly and gently. The kiss was held just long enough for me to taste the sweetness of her lips, feel the warmth of her breath, and feel her body leaning into mine. As we parted our lips her eyes met mine with moisture beginning to cloud the edges. Ann thanked me for a wonderful evening and bid me a good night. With that she turned to enter her cottage as I bid her a good night as well.
The next morning I had my cup of tea on the deck while the sun was rising, but never heard a stirring from Ann’s unit. I didn’t want to pressure her, besides, there were some trails the locals had clued me about that I wanted to explore during the morning hours, perhaps getting some rising sun shots. So off I went not knowing when or if I’d ever see Ann again or not.
I visited an area a couple hours drive north of the village where the cottages were, stayed until after sundown, caught a burger on the way back and didn’t get back in to the cottage until just about bed time. A hot shower, a few shots of tequila, and after downloading the memory cards to my hard drive I turned in for the night. I did take notice that Ann’s car was in the parking space, but no lights were on in her unit. “We’ll see what tomorrow holds” I thought as I killed the light for the night.
The next morning I rose well before daylight, grabbed a bagel and cup of tea and headed out to catch the rising sun and the gentle light it casts down on the waking landscape. There was no stirring yet from Ann’s side and again I thought about whether she’d be there when I got back or if she’d be gone. We hadn’t discussed travel plans or schedules, and I really didn’t know what she did during her time there.
I was back at the cottage just after lunch, usually taking a break during the harsh midday sun and just hiking or scouting for earlier or later shots, but this day I’d decided to go back, take a nap perhaps, grab some groceries, and then late in the afternoon I planned to go back up the road about an hours’ drive to a spot where I’d found a nice wide, deserted beach that should afford some good sunset shots, if the sun and clouds cooperated that is.
When I’d arrived back at the duplex cottage I’d noticed that Ann’s car was gone and I had assumed that she had departed. I also found myself missing seeing her before she left was disappointed that there was no good-bye note or anything. I then started to criticize myself for obviously reading more into the meeting than she had, or whatever.
I had just laid down in the bed to relax for a bit when there was a knock on the door that led out onto the deck. I figured it must be the cleaning folks and was a bit perturbed about them interrupting my afternoon, so you can imagine my surprise when I opened the door and there stood Ann. She looked lovely, relaxed and refreshed, and after greeting her I began to tell her that I didn’t think I’d be seeing her again. She blushed slightly and asked if she could come in, which was just fine with me. I left the door open to allow the gentle breeze to keep the room fresh albeit a bit cooler than some would prefer, and motioned for Ann to have a seat
Ann talked about how she was embarrassed over our meeting that first night, of how she’d been quiet but listened to me come and go, of how she had been thinking about her life and what she wanted and didn’t want, of how this trip was a retreat for her from the stresses of her everyday life, and of how she needed to be open and honest with me as she felt I had been with her. As she talked I mostly just sat there on the end of the bed and listened. After she had talked for a long while I told her I appreciated her being so candid, that she needn’t be embarrassed over anything we had done, that I had no expectations of her beyond the moment but did enjoy her company very much, and that anything I could do to help her retreat be as relaxing and replenishing as possible to please let me know.
We talked some more about good times and not so good times, and then she directed the conversation towards some things she had always wanted to do under better circumstances than those she had lived in, of some things she was interested in, and of her interest in some of the things I was doing. “For instance,” she said, “I’d love to follow you around some time on one of your quests for pictures.”
“Well, you’re just in luck!” I replied. I explained that I had planned on going out that very afternoon for the sunset shots and asked if she would like to join me.
We left well before the sun was low on the horizon, wanting to make the hours’ drive in time to get to a good setup and get comfortable. The ride was full of laughs and we talked at remarkable ease. When we got to the beach area I pulled my truck off the road onto a parking turnout, and she helped me tote the sleeping bags and gear down to the beach. I’d packed some snacks and drinks, just in case, had my camera and a couple of lenses, and two sleeping bags.
The beach was windy but I found a large rock that was situated perfectly to allow us to sit down on the leeward side while affording the optimum perspective for the setting sun. I spread the fist sleeping bag down on the sand and told Ann we’d sit on that one and cover up with the other one. It was a legitimate plan, but made better by the notion of being under a single bag with her rather than hunkered in my own bag.
As the sun set it offered us a magnificent display, with colors ranging from bright yellow to deep reds, fading to a sky of magenta to blues then to darker purples while the water glistened in the rays of the sun from a gold kissed deep blue to darker blues to almost black. Stark white gulls would occasionally glide by on their way to their nesting places and the stars were beginning to twinkle in the periphery of the panorama. As the colors gradually faded to darker shades and the sunlight dwindled the air was turning markedly cooler and the breeze carrying a deeper chill. Ann had long been close to my body but as the temperatures fell she snuggled very closely to me, laying her head to my chest and had her arms around me, tucked into the warmth given by my body and held by the coverings. As I took the last image of the sun I laid down my camera and slid down into the warmth of the coverings with Ann. She was warm and soft, and just as I was about settled down in the cocoon she kissed my cheek and remarked about how cool my skin was.
Ann and I sat there long after the sun had settled in over the horizon, watching the last glow fading and comfortable in each other’s embrace. We began to kiss softly and her hands began to roam over my chest and stomach. I held her in my arms, trying to be a gentleman and not appear too forward or anxious about enjoying her body, though my own body was aching for her touch. Her hands caressed my chest and neck as we kissed, and then during one long, deep and passionate kiss I felt her hand drop down to my leg. She moved it softly and teasingly along my thigh, never close enough to touch forbidden areas, but the affect was as powerful as if she had. I held her as before but when I did allow one arm to drop and my hand to rest upon her side I felt a movement of her body and almost a gasp in her breath. I knew her body longed for the touch as much as my own did, but I held off, the gentleman in me fighting the desires within. Then, almost without me noticing her arm moving, Ann grasped my hand and moved it to her breast, heaving slightly when my hand fell upon her firm mound. Just as quickly her hand left and returned to my leg but I began to massage her breast through her clothing, able to feel the hard nipple through the layers.
The ride back to the cottage was welcome in the sense that the sand had become both hard and cold. As we rode back Ann slid across the seat to ride cuddle against me as I drove, my arm across her shoulder so I could caress her breast once in a while, while her hand lay temptingly close to my semi-erect cock. We talked about the afternoon, every now and then Ann leaning up to kiss me on the cheek, and we decided to stop at the diner in town for a bite to eat before going back to the duplex.
Back at the duplex Ann invited me to her room to look at some pictures she had on her computer and share a nightcap or two. “There’s nothing I’d rather do!” was my reply, though the bulge in my jeans said otherwise from time to time. So I grabbed my tequila and we laughed though the evening, enjoying each other and a long, deep kiss just often enough. When it grew late Ann told me that she had to leave the next day, fairly early for the long drive ahead of her, and she began to tell me that her retreat had become much more than she ever imagined it might. Though she thanked me, I argued that it was me that should be thanking her, for she had not only also made my trip more than I had hoped for, but she had also rekindled spirits within me that had been dormant for too long. With that, being the gentleman, I rose, kissed her hand and bid her a peaceful night’s sleep. Ann sat quietly on the bed with moistened eyes as I left her room, offering her own good-night wishes to me.
My room was stuffy that night, more so than I’d known it to be on prior nights, so when I decided to leave the deck door ajar slightly to allow some of the fresh nights’ air in for a bit, intending to get up and shut it after a few minutes. As I lay there with the events of the day swimming around in my head I was oblivious to both the time and the surroundings. I never noticed when the door slowly swung open. I never noticed when the dark figure entered my room from the deck and began to move slowly across the room towards my bed. I was startled when I felt the covers pull from me and the bed move under the weight of the dark figure.
Ann never made a sound as she gently pulled the covers from the opposite side of the bed. She eased down onto the bed and lifted her legs up and over, sliding them under the covers. As she pulled the covers back up over her body she shifted her body over next to mine, and I felt the soft warmth of her smooth skin next to mine. As I turned slightly towards her and reached an arm over her, her lips met mine with a sweet kiss tenderness. She pulled herself to me, and I was aware of her nudity. Her body was drawing mine, her kisses carrying my mind away in whirling passions. The sounds, smells, and motions of passion filled my bed that night until well into the wee hours of the morning, until both of us being fully sated drifted into a slumber together, her head resting against my chest.
The next morning I was awakened by Ann slipping out from the bed, and when she noticed that I was awake and watching her beautiful body in the light of the morning, she asked if I’d like to join her in a shower. “Heck, yeah!”
After showering and dressing Ann stepped back over to my room and this time knocking on the door, entered and asked me if I was going to buy her breakfast before she had to leave town. I knew the diner down in town, located out on the pier, had a dynamite breakfast so I suggested we head on down. Ann had already packed her car, so she offered to follow me down into town so she could leave right after eating to begin her long drive.
As I got into my truck I noticed an envelope on the seat that was labeled simply, “open at breakfast” and I figured it was some cute note or Ann’s contact info or something of the such. I pulled out of the lot and watched Ann in my mirror fall in behind my truck. On the way to the diner Ann fell a little ways behind me and some traffic had slipped in between us. No problem, she knew where the diner was anyway. When I pulled in and parked I sat there for a few moments waiting on Ann to pull in, but after several long moments she hadn’t shown. I reached down and took the envelope, eyed the label again, and slid my finger to open the flap. Inside there was a folded piece of paper with a note:
“I’m so grateful for the wonderful time you’ve shown me these past few days. It has meant the world to me. I only hope that you’ve enjoyed our time together as much as I have. I’m not good at good-byes, or explanations. Please don’t try to find me, but I know how to find you and I’ll write when I can, and let’s just see what the future brings. Ann.”
Great. I was lost. I didn’t know whether to be mad or sad. Guess I felt betrayed as well as sad, mostly. And, throw in some worry. My mind wandered to her being married and I was just a fling on a whim, to her being on her last breaths before death, to whatever. I never even tasted breakfast, and decided to just start making my way back home.
Several months had passed since my trip to the northern coast of California, and I was fortunate enough to get a few images that I had actually sold. I was settled into my routine comfortable and had even begun to think about another road trip, though it wouldn’t be back to the north coast area. I don’t get much traffic out by my cabin so when a car comes down the driveway it’s always a surprise. This time when I saw the black sedan pull up in front of the cabin I was sure it was someone lost. When a gentleman in a black business suit stepped out I knew he was lost. I stepped out onto the porch to greet him but was shocked when he spoke first, calling me by name.
When the man began to ask about whether I’d visited the coast a few months ago, with specific dates and places, I began to get suspicious, thinking I was about to be dragged into some lawsuit in a domestic battle between Ann and her husband. She had never mentioned her husband, and for that matter I didn’t even know her last name or where she lived. Just as I was getting pretty darn uncomfortable the suited man asked if I knew Ann. I replied that I did, and asked, “Is she OK?”
The man went on to explain that he was on Ann’s staff, that she was an exceedingly capable woman of considerable means, that she was not married and that this visit was not pursuant to any legal action but was instead a mission to ask a favor. When I asked him what kind of favor and why couldn’t Ann just ask it herself, Mr. Suit explained that much of Ann’s life is followed by “society” and that she didn’t want to bring undue light to me, so she sent him to bring the message. With that I invited Mr. Suit in for something cool to drink and to see where this went.
What I found out over the course of the next hour or so was that Ann was extraordinarily wealthy, had a full life divided between her philantrophic, societial, and corporate functions, with someone almost always watching who she ate with, what she did, what she was wearing, how much money she gave here or there, and how much money she was making in some endeavor. What she wanted was someone genuine, someone not after her money, and someone she could trust to share some time with. In fact, she wanted to go camping, the old fashioned way with a tent and campfire.
Wow, this was a huge revelation for me, considering how I’d known Ann. Several times I asked Mr. Suit if he was sure he and I were talking about the same woman!
I agreed to see Ann, and to take her camping or anywhere else she wanted, and with that Mr. Suit took a cell phone from his brief case. He explained it was for me to use without it being traced back to me, and that Ann’s personal cell phone number was already programmed in. He also gave me her personal email address, set up securely just to hear from me and visible to no one else. He then also gave me his business card with his contact numbers and told me if I ever needed anything to call him. I didn’t know what to say. I just stood there dumbfounded.
As Mr. Suit was about to leave he turned with one more offer. He told me that Ann had put her personal jet at my disposal, and handed me a credit card, telling me that Ann was looking forward to pictures from anywhere I felt like going. All I could say was, “Why?”
Mr. Suit looked at me for a few moments, then he told me he had asked Ann the same thing when given the assignment, and her answer was, “He was good, true and honest to me, just for me and knowing nothing more than me.”
Later that year two people were very much enjoying themselves by a crackling campfire, purely for the joy of each other.