Kristen Chapter #12: Smuggler

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Published on 23.02.06 11:30 Age: 15 yrs

Letters : 21629 Words : 3754

By: Nemo

Kristen tried to beg off. “Tell her, uh… tell her that I’d rather not get dressed today,” she said. It wasn’t really a lie.

Her mother, on the phone, passed that news on to Mrs. Robinson, who had called to follow up on her husband’s invitation at the party the night before. After a moment, Kristen’s mother put her hand over the telephone mouthpiece. “She says they can drop by to pick you up on the way in,” she told Kristen. “They have dark windows in the back of the minivan, so you won’t need to worry about clothes.”

Kristen frowned and let out a frustrated sigh. She didn’t want to go, but she didn’t want to be rude. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were good friends of her parents, and they were unfailingly generous and kind. “Okay,” she said, reluctantly. “Okay.”

Kristen tried to beg off. “Tell her, uh… tell her that I’d rather not get dressed today,” she said. It wasn’t really a lie.

Her mother, on the phone, passed that news on to Mrs. Robinson, who had called to follow up on her husband’s invitation at the party the night before. After a moment, Kristen’s mother put her hand over the telephone mouthpiece. “She says they can drop by to pick you up on the way in,” she told Kristen. “They have dark windows in the back of the minivan, so you won’t need to worry about clothes.”

Kristen frowned and let out a frustrated sigh. She didn’t want to go, but she didn’t want to be rude. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were good friends of her parents, and they were unfailingly generous and kind. “Okay,” she said, reluctantly. “Okay.”

She liked the elder Robinsons, but the Robinson kids had always made Kristen feel vaguely uneasy. Their eyes were the palest shade of blue she had ever seen, and the tiny black pupils looking out from those pale eyes made them seem oddly stricken, somehow. They were fiercely freckled. In gym class she had seen that the freckles covered the older girl’s entire body. She had assumed that the same pattern held for the other two kids, as well. Today, she supposed, she would find out whether that assumption was true.

She had never been to the Robinson family’s spa. She didn’t need to go there—the school had excellent exercise facilities. She didn’t want to go there—much of what she knew about the place seemed vaguely sordid.

One high school friend had excitedly told Kristen how she had used the tanning booths naked. “Look,” the girl had said, pulling out the elastic waistband of her skirt and panties, right there in the school corridor, “no tan lines. It’s so cool, you really ought to try it.” Kristen had turned crimson at her friend’s immodest behavior.

But the naked tanning booths weren’t the worst thing. They weren’t unique to the Robinsons’ place. There were several tanning salons in the area, and they all catered to a crowd that seemed to insist on an all-over tan. (Kristen had never understood this—why was it important to have no tan lines, anyway? No one would ever see them.)

No, the thing that was unique about the Robinsons’ place was this: each tanning bed was in a little room with a hot tub big enough to hold three or four people. There was also a padded bench for massages or… other things. People were using the tanning booths naked, and they weren’t necessarily alone.

Another high school friend had been mortified when she had tried to sneak her boyfriend into one of these rooms with her. Mrs. Robinson had appeared from nowhere and blocked the boy from entering the room. “No, no, no,” she had scolded, wagging her finger. “No hanky-panky here. Not until you’re older.”

But there was no doubt that plenty of hanky-panky took place in those little rooms. The advertising for the spa suggested that married couples could schedule a “romantic interlude” in one of the private rooms. Another ad had suggested a “relaxing encounter with friends and family.” She could only imagine what went on behind closed doors. To Kristen, the spa had never seemed an entirely proper place for a nice young lady to go.

“Oh, well,” she thought, with a sigh of resignation. She was sitting on the living room couch reading the Sunday paper, and she was completely naked. Maybe she herself wasn’t exactly the nice young lady she had always supposed she was.

Kristen took a quick shower before lunch. This time she didn’t fret over the question of whether to dress—it didn’t even occur to her.

She ate lunch hurriedly, as if she were impatient for the Robinsons’ arrival. She didn’t feel very eager, and the Robinsons weren’t due until 3 o’clock anyway, but she grew restless and fidgety after the meal. She paced from room to room, seeking in vain for something to divert her attention for more than a few minutes.

“Kristen, you seem kind of jumpy,” her mother said. “Why don’t you go out on the patio and try to relax? Maybe you can grab a nap, like you did yesterday, hmm?”

Kristen nodded. She always found the quiet seclusion of the patio very soothing.

“Oh, and you don’t have to worry about the neighbors,” her mother said. “I spoke to the Johnsons this morning. I think they may have felt a little hurt that I forgot to invite them to the party last night. Anyway, they said you can go nude anywhere you want. They even said that if you get bored in our backyard, you’re welcome to go over and visit with them.”

Kristen blushed. She didn’t understand this—she had been naked all day, and later she was going to ride off with some family friends to spend some time naked at their place of business. She was nervous, but not embarrassed. But somehow her mother could say a few simple words, and make Kristen turn red. “That’s, uh… nice of them. But—but I think I’ll just stay in our backyard for now.”

“Okay, sweetie,” her mother said. She put a hand on Kristen’s shoulder and leaned over as if she were going to whisper a deep dark secret. “Try to relax, okay?”

Stepping out onto the patio was like stepping into another world. The fragrant air was filled with birdsong. A breeze sighed softly through the trees. Kristen smiled, and felt that she had never fully appreciated what an island of serenity this place had always been for her.

She didn’t really want to take a nap. She settled into one of the lawn chairs and breathed in the perfume of her mother’s amazing flower garden. She watched the gentle honeybees droning busily from flower to flower. She saw beautiful songbirds flitting from branch to branch in the trees. A gray squirrel dashed across the yard, pausing for just a moment to gaze quizzically at the naked young woman watching from the patio.

Kristen could scarcely keep from laughing in pure delight. “This must be what the Garden of Eden was like,” she thought. For this one brief moment, she couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to wear clothes.

The moment passed quickly enough—the sun had not yet come around to warm the patio, and the air felt a little chilly. Kristen rubbed her upper arms briskly and shivered a bit. She wasn’t actually cold, but the sunlight on the grass looked warm and inviting.

She stood up and walked timidly into the yard. When she reached the rose bushes, she stopped and scanned the horizon in all directions. Only the Johnson house had a direct view into the yard.

Kristen leaned forward a bit and stared at the Johnson house. She licked her lips nervously. Only two windows at the back of the house had a view into the yard. It was unlikely that anyone would be at those windows right now. Even if someone was there, the Johnsons had said they didn’t care if Kristen went nude in the yard. Nevertheless, Kristen’s pulse was pounding as she walked past the rose bushes into the large open part of the yard.

Every few steps, she shot a glance over her shoulder at the two windows at the back of the Johnson house. There was no one in the windows. There was no one there. There was no one there. Slowly she relaxed. She didn’t have to walk far before she stood in delightful warm sunlight.

The grass was cool and soft under her bare feet. The air smelled so clean and sweet she almost felt she could bottle it and sell it at a hundred dollars an ounce as a life-restoring elixir. She made a long, slow circuit around the yard. Periodically she glanced up at the Johnsons’ windows, but she never saw anyone there.

Finally, she paused and looked for a long time at the empty windows. She shook her head and laughed at her own foolishness. How much time and worry had she wasted on baseless fears? She thought about her terror yesterday in the beach locker room, and her bitter dread as she fretted about breaking the news to her parents. She had confronted terror after terror during the past two days, and every one of those terrors had turned into a will-o-the-wisp. She wondered: how many other phantom boundaries hemmed in her life? How much living was she missing out on because of baseless fears?

Kristen noticed her mother standing in the patio door. “Are you ready?” her mother called. “They’re here.”

Kristen nodded and came into the house. She paused at the laundry room and wrapped herself in a clean towel. She also remembered to grab a bottle of sunscreen, since she would probably be using the tanning beds. “All ready,” she said cheerfully. “Nothing to fear but fear itself,” she mused silently, and smiled.

Mr. Robinson stood at the front door. He grinned when he saw Kristen. At first Kristen thought he wore a towel around his waist, but as she got closer she realized it wasn’t a towel, but a light velour wrap, closed at the top with a couple of metal snaps. His skin seemed a little leathery, she thought. His physique reminded her of the blond guy at the beach—thin, wiry, and surprisingly muscular. Kristen followed him as he went to the van’s sliding rear door and pulled it open.

Mrs. Robinson, sitting in the front passenger seat, wore a similar wrap, snapped together over her right breast. She smiled and nodded as Kristen passed.

The bucket seat just inside the open door was empty. Beside the empty seat sat the son, Mark, who had been a year ahead of Kristen in high school. He gave her a weak smile, then quickly looked away. He wore a pair of loose boxer-style swim trunks. So far as she could tell, Kristen’s theory that all the Robinson kids were freckled all over their bodies was correct.

In the seat behind Mark sat Mary, who had been in Kristen’s gym class. She wore a large white t-shirt that reached down to the middle of her thighs. Mary, too, gave Kristen a weak smile, but she maintained a steady gaze, and her smile grew steadily stronger and broader. “Hi, Kristen,” she said at last. “Glad to have you with us.”

Kristen smiled and nodded. “Thanks for letting me come along,” she replied.

Beside Mary, in the seat behind Kristen’s, sat 9-year-old Molly. She had her arms crossed, and her face was twisted into a petulant scowl. She wore a light-blue leotard, and there was a puffy ballet skirt all bunched up in her lap.

Mrs. Robinson twisted around in her seat to speak to Kristen. “Molly won’t be able to join us today,” she said, “and we won’t be able to stay too long at the spa. Molly has a special rehearsal this afternoon, and tonight there’s a recital for her dance class. The dance studio is right on the way, so it won’t take any time to drop her off. We’ll have to leave early enough so we can get ready for the show tonight.”

Molly huffed loudly, but said nothing.

Kristen smiled and took her seat. She fastened the seat belt as Mr. Robinson slid the door closed.

“You can take your towel off if you want to,” Mark said very quietly. His eyes were fixed on his own hands, which were fidgeting restlessly.

Kristen blushed. “Uh, no thanks,” she replied. “I’ll wait.”

The spa didn’t look the way Kristen had expected. As soon as she stepped through the door she could see that. The place was surprisingly large and well-equipped. The exercise room was filled with shiny modern equipment. The entire place was neat, clean and bright.

“Hold on just a second,” Mr. Robinson said after everyone was inside. “We always hang this curtain over the glass door on Sundays. Don’t want to scandalize the neighborhood, you know.” He grabbed a folded piece of cloth from behind the reception counter and quickly and expertly strung it across the door. When he was satisfied, he turned and smiled. “Okay,” he said, “make yourself at home.”

All the Robinsons stripped instantly, and piled their clothes on a chair behind the reception desk. Mark had seemed very awkward and self-conscious about Kristen’s presence when they were in the van, but now he pulled off his shorts without a trace of embarrassment.

“Kristen, give me your towel.” Mrs. Robinson stood behind the reception counter. She stretched her arm across the counter for Kristen’s towel.

Kristen suddenly felt uncomfortable. Naked, Mrs. Robinson’s body seemed bloated and puffy. Her buttocks and her thighs were pocked with cellulite—what the girls at school sometimes called “cottage cheese thighs.” Her large breasts hung low, and her little round gut drooped under the influence of gravity, too. The lower part of her belly was furrowed with deep, ugly wrinkles unlike anything Kristen had seen before.

“Is this what old people look like naked?” Kristen wondered. Mrs. Robinson wasn’t all that old—probably in her mid-forties. Reluctantly, Kristen undid her towel and handed it over to Mrs. Robinson, who turned and put it in the chair with the other clothes.

Kristen was puzzled: why in the world was Mrs. Robinson a nudist? Surely she knew what she looked like, but she didn’t seem the least bit self-conscious about her body.

Kristen noticed a display carton of sunscreen on the counter, just like the box Mr. Robinson had given her as a joke the night before. “Oh, Mr. Robinson,” she said, “I’ll have to remember to give you back that box of sunscreen when I get back home.”

Mr. Robinson smiled and shook his head. “No, no, that’s for you. We made a bit of a joke out of it, but it’s really for you. If it’s too much for you to use, you can always share it with the other lifeguards.”

“Thanks,” Kristen said. “It’s awfully generous of you.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Mr. Robinson said. “If you tell them who gave it to you, it might even be good publicity for the place.” An amused smile grew across his face. “Heck, if you can get them all to use it, maybe we can wrangle a big endorsement contract with the manufacturer. If the Black Knife Beach lifeguards aren’t qualified to endorse sunscreen, I don’t know who is.”

Kristen smiled, and blushed a little. Next to the box of sunscreen was a stack of brochures for a nudist club. Curious, she picked one up. “Hmm, what’s this?” she asked absently.

“You know,” Mr. Robinson said, “this is a great place to recruit people into nudism. Not many of our customers think of themselves as nudists. But we believe just about everybody uses the tanning beds and the private hot tubs nude. A lot of people come in with the spouse, and after they’ve been here a couple times, some of them come in with friends. A few visits, and folks start feeling pretty open-minded. We like to see them pick up a brochure and come on over to our side.” He smiled a beatific smile.

“Why don’t you kids show Kristen around?” Mrs. Robinson said. “Then you can help her get started in one of the tanning rooms. Don’t worry about getting the door. I’ll stick around here, and if anyone comes I’ll let them in.”

Mark and Mary nodded and motioned for Kristen to follow them. They led her on a tour of the facilities. They showed her some of the more impressive pieces of machinery in the exercise room. They showed her the steam room and the dry sauna, the impressively large swimming pool with diving platforms at several levels, and a whirlpool bath that looked as if it could hold fifty people. Kristen shook her head in amazement. Finally they led her back toward the reception area, and into a short hallway lined with private tanning rooms.

“Help yourself,” Mary said as they entered one of the private rooms. She motioned toward the tanning bed. She handed Kristen an oddly shaped plastic object. “You put that on your eyes,” she said. “Just close your eyes and rest it on your eyelids. It keeps the light from damaging your retinas, and it doesn’t leave a big white patch like a regular pair of sunglasses. Oh, and don’t forget to put your sunscreen on. Tanning beds are pretty safe, I think, but you can get a burn if you’re not careful.”

Kristen nodded. She sat down at the edge of the tanning bed and opened her bottle of sunscreen.

“We have to change the filters and test the motor here, so if you’ve got any questions, just ask,” Mark said.

Kristen started to rub sun lotion on her arms. “Actually, I do have a question,” she said. “But I don’t know whether I should ask…”

“Shoot!” Mark said. Mary smiled and nodded.

“Well,” Kristen said, feeling very self-conscious, “my parents say they used to be nudists, but I was raised wearing clothes. I can’t tell you how embarrassed I felt yesterday when I found out I would be working on a nude beach. What’s it like to grow up as a nudist? I mean—what’s it like to never feel embarrassed about your body?”

Mark shrugged. “I dunno,” he said. “Feels pretty normal to me.”

Mary nodded. “We don’t have anything to compare it to,” she said. “What I don’t understand is how people can grow up feeling all weird about their bodies. Let me ask you something—you know how in some cultures women can’t show their faces? They have to wear a veil or something?”

Kristen nodded.

“Okay,” Mary said. “Now, I saw a photo somewhere—maybe it was in National Geographic or something—a photo of a woman who lifted the hem of her skirt in order to hide her face from the photographer. She wasn’t wearing anything underneath. You could see everything from her navel down. She wasn’t worried about that, but she didn’t want anyone to see her face. Now, here’s my question: does that make any sense to you? Do you understand that kind of behavior?”

Kristen shook her head. “No,” she replied. “I mean—you have to respect other people’s cultures, but that’s pretty strange.”

Mary smiled and nodded. “I thought so too. We feel like we’ve grown up in the middle of a culture just as strange as that one. There are all sorts of irrational taboos, and all the people around us accept them without question.” She shrugged. “So that’s what it’s like to grow up as a nudist.”

Kristen sat for a moment, quietly considering this new perspective.

“Let me help you get your back,” Mary said, suddenly. She squirted some of the sunscreen into one hand, then she rubbed her hands together briskly to warm the lotion. She stepped behind Kristen and swiftly and expertly covered her bare back with sunscreen. Startled by the entire sequence of events, Kristen’s body jerked at Mary’s unexpected touch.

Kristen blushed. She looked over her shoulder at Mary. “Th—thanks,” she said. “I—I’m just not used to this.”

“You’re welcome,” Mary said. “Any time.”

“So, Kristen,” Mark said. “You wanted to know what it’s like to grow up as a nudist. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to grow up as a clothes-compulsive person. What’s it like to always be afraid that somebody might catch a peek of something?”

Kristen shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m just like you—I don’t know anything different. I always thought that was the normal way to be.”

There was the tinkling of a bell. Kristen heard Mrs. Robinson open the entrance room door and greet a large and noisy group of newcomers, and she flinched nervously at the sound.

“What’s wrong with you?” Mark asked. “I’d say you had ants in your pants, if you were wearing pants.”

 Mary smiled suddenly and looked at her brother. “I think I know what it’s like to grow up clothes-compulsive,” she said. Mark and Kristen both looked at her curiously.

“Did you notice? When Kristen heard those people coming in, she slammed her legs together and sort of hunched over. Her hands shot up to cover her chest.” She looked into the puzzled eyes of Mark and Kristen. “I think Kristen feels like a smuggler. Society has decided that it’s illegal to possess a human body—well, certain parts of a human body, anyway. Everybody has those illegal parts, but they all cover up and pretend that they don’t. Kristen flinches like someone caught in the vile act of possessing boobs.”

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