Kristen Chapter #21: Pantomime

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Published on 23.02.06 11:40 Age: 14 yrs

Letters : 18321 Words : 3124

By: Nemo

First problems with gawkers

“See that house?” Janet asked.

Kristen breathed a sigh of relief—Janet was finally talking. It was the first time she had spoken for some time, except for a few terse commands while they were fastening their signboard under the big sign at the edge of the parking lot. Since their encounter with the two men on the trail, Janet had grown tense and uncommunicative. Kristen had felt embarrassed by the way the men had eyed her naked body and commented about her tan lines, but after a moment or two she had shrugged it off. Janet, however, had seemed to grow ever more nervous and distracted as she and Kristen had climbed toward the parking lot.

Even while they were putting up the sign, Janet had paused several times to peer over the edge of the cliff and watch the two men still making their way down toward the beach. Kristen was relieved to see the clouds suddenly lift from Janet’s expression.

“What house?” Kristen asked.

“See the gap in the trees down there at the far end of the parking lot?” Janet said, pointing. “See the house right on the other side?”

Kristen looked where Janet was pointing. Through a narrow opening in the curtain of trees, she saw glass and sandstone, obviously part of an impressively large house of modern design. “I see it. Looks pretty fancy,” she said appreciatively.

Janet smiled. “Well, you’re welcome to come visit anytime,” she said.

“That’s your house?” Kristen said. “Holy cow!”

“Yeah, we’ve got a bunch of people sharing the house every summer,” Janet said. “It’s actually owned by some friends of my parents. They’re away on business during the summer, so they rent it out to us. I really appreciate them letting me stay there, because it means I get to stay bare all summer.”

Kristen blushed. “Bare all summer?” she asked.

“Oh, I admit it,” Janet said, laughing, “I’m spoiled. When I was growing up, I always loved the summertime, because that meant no school, and that meant no clothes. We always lived out at the club during the summer, and naturally that was always clothes-free. I never had to wear clothes at all during the summer until after I got into college. Then I had a regular job, and I had to get dressed every day for work. I hated that. The owners of that house suggested that I come out here and try for a lifeguard job, and I jumped on that idea so fast your head would spin.”

“But you’re not really naked all the time, are you?” Kristen said. “I mean, you have to get dressed to go shopping, or to visit your friends, right?”

Janet shook her head. “No,” she said. “Luckily for me, my roommates aren’t as fanatical about staying bare as I am, so they pick up the groceries and stuff. And any of my friends who want to visit come see me out here. I don’t wear a stitch from June to September.”

Kristen’s heart raced at the thought. “That’s amazing,” she said. “But—but don’t you feel a little bit like a prisoner, trapped out here?”

“Not really,” Janet said. “I’m free to go wherever I want, whenever I want, so long as I’m willing to put on clothes. I just choose not to put on clothes. There’s no place I want to go that badly. I’m just sort of a homebody, I guess.”

Kristen looked again at the big house partly obscured by the trees. “You’re not by any chance in the market for another roommate, are you?” she asked hopefully.

“No,” Janet said, her face looking a little pained, “Sorry, Kristen. We’re full up. Are you looking for a place to stay?”

Disappointed, Kristen nodded. “I can keep commuting from my parents’ house, but I’m afraid I’ll go crazy if I have to make that long drive every day. I’ve checked out the classified ads in the paper, and every place seems to be so expensive.”

Janet stooped to pick up the loose pieces of rope they had dropped on the ground while putting up the sign. “Yes,” she said, “housing in this part of town can be pretty pricey. You probably need to find some place you can share with a bunch of people. Well, unless you’re like George—I think he’d be content with any old hole in the wall.”

Kristen picked up the bota bag and slung it over her shoulder. Janet coiled each piece of rope and dropped it into the plastic bucket.

“You might want to ask the other lifeguards if they know anyone who’s looking for a roommate,” Janet said, rising and picking up the bucket. “In the meantime, if you need a place to stay while you’re looking, you’re welcome to come on over and crash on our couch. Of course, before you decide to do that, I think you should know something.”

Kristen rolled her eyes. “I know,” she said. “That I have to stay naked in the house, right?”

Janet laughed. “No, of course not,” she said. “Where’d you get that idea?”

Kristen blushed and shrugged. “I just—“

“I suppose if you do wear clothes, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb,” Janet said. “But it’s entirely up to you. No, I meant that my roommates can get a little rowdy sometimes, and it might be a little noisy when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.”

Kristen smiled and nodded. “Thanks for the offer. I think I’ll probably take you up on it. I don’t think anything could keep me from sleeping tonight.”

“Ready to head back down?” Janet asked, moving toward the top of the steps that led down to the trail.

Kristen nodded and the two women started down the steps. “Tell me, Janet,” Kristen said, “are any of your roommates—“

“Hold it!” Janet said sharply, suddenly stopping in her tracks.

Kristen looked quizzically at Janet. “What is it?” she asked.

Janet put a finger to her lips to hush Kristen, and pointed down to the beach. “Watch,” she said tensely.

From this high vantage point, the entire beach stretched like a great panorama before them. There were perhaps a dozen beachgoers scattered along the beach, relaxing or playing. She and Beth had warned a few of them against going in the water, because the lifeguards were occupied today with other tasks. One person was wading at the edge of the surf, but everyone else seemed to be staying cautiously away from the water.

The two men they had passed on the trail had finally reached the last leg of the path down to the beach. They were moving slowly now, probably worn out by the long climb down.

Kristen could see Beth and George working just outside the lifeguard station, assembling a redwood picnic table. Alicia was almost directly below, walking toward the nearer lifeguard tower, apparently carrying something heavy. Trina, similarly laden, had just reached the nearer tower, and was setting her burden down in the sand. Don had propped a ladder against the side of the concrete block restroom building, and was climbing it, carrying a large black bucket. Richard was busily working away at something down at the farther lifeguard tower. Kristen strained to see just what Richard was doing, but before she could figure it out, Richard dropped whatever he had been doing, and started walking back toward this end of the beach.

The two men had reached the foot of the trail, and paused for a moment, apparently to catch their breath. Then they started walking across the white sand beach, to where Alicia was walking past.

Trina had paused to rest near the lifeguard tower, bent at the waist with her hands resting on her knees, like an idle outfielder at a baseball game. She looked up, straightened up, and started walking toward Alicia.

Beth and George were both looking toward Alicia and the two men approaching her. They were holding a long redwood plank, one on each end. They quickly looked at each other, and tossed the plank aside.

Don was now on the roof of the restroom building. Richard trotted past the building, and made some sort of hand signal. Don jumped from the roof to the sand below. When he recovered his footing, he fell into step behind Richard.

Beth and George were walking quickly toward Alicia, who had stopped walking and turned to face the two men approaching from the foot of the trail.

“What’s going on?” Kristen whispered.

“Shhh! Look!” Janet said.

Trina reached Alicia just as the two men did. Beth and George arrived just a couple seconds later, and Richard and Don stepped up a couple seconds after that. Kristen strained to hear or see any clue about what was happening. There were no raised voices, no gesticulations from anyone, but this was clearly some sort of tense confrontation, and Kristen didn’t understand it. Kristen glanced at Janet, who was biting her lip, intently staring at the scene playing out below.

Richard and Don slowly sidled over to stand directly behind the two men. The men didn’t seem to notice—they seemed to be focussed entirely on Alicia and Beth. The two men were completely surrounded by naked lifeguards. There was still no hint of raised voices.

After a moment, one of the men made a courtly bow and seemed to kiss Alicia’s hand. He reached for Beth’s hand, as well, but stopped. The two men turned, and collided with Richard and Don. The two lifeguards seemed apologetic, and stepped aside. The two men walked back to the foot of the trail and started climbing. The cluster of lifeguards on the beach stood for a few minutes and watched the men climb.

“Wh—what was that all about?” Kristen asked.

Janet was quiet for a long moment. “I’m not completely sure,” she said at last. “Maybe they just didn’t know about the dress code.”

Kristen scowled. “What’s the big secret?” she asked angrily.

Janet gave Kristen a reassuring smile and patted her hand. “Come on, Kristen,” she said. “Let’s get back down there. I think Beth will be able to tell us what’s really going on.”

Kristen snorted with disgust, but followed Janet down the steps and onto the gravel trail.

They walked in sullen silence for several minutes. Janet tried to break the silence. “Say, Kristen,” she said, “before I so rudely interrupted you up there, you were asking something about my roommates. What did you want to know?”

“Who cares?” Kristen said dully. “It couldn’t have been anything important.”

“Oh, come on, Kristen,” Janet said. “Don’t pout. I really don’t know what this is all about. I think I know who one of those guys is, but I’m not sure. Okay? I don’t want to fill your head with my guesses and then find out that I’m wrong. Let’s not jump to any conclusions until we get down there and get the actual facts, okay?”

Kristen frowned and sighed. “Okay, you win,” she said, nodding.

“So what did you want to know about my roommates?” Janet asked, smiling.

“Oh, that,” Kristen said. “I was—oh, I remember—I was wondering if any of your roommates are guys?”

“No,” Janet said, “just a bunch of women. I lived in a place with some guys once, and I don’t want to do it again.”

“Oh? Why?” Kristen asked.

Janet laughed. “Men are pigs, Kristen. You spend half your time cleaning up after them. Disgusting. And they all seem to read way too much into the fact that you don’t like to wear clothes. Me, I like to be comfortable when I’m at home. And unfortunately, that seems to trigger some primitive reflex in their big dumb brain stems.”

“Oh,” Kristen said, blushing.

“Take my advice,” Janet continued. “You can meet some great guy, get married, settle down and raise a bunch of kids. But when you’re just looking for a roommate, forget all about guys.”

“Uh huh,” Kristen said. “Well, you see, a friend of my family offered to let me stay rent-free at the house where his son and several other guys are living.”

“Rent-free?” Janet said.

“It—it’s a pretty complicated situation, actually,” Kristen said. “I really like this boy, you see, and—well, there’s some stuff I can’t tell you about. I—I turned down the offer, but after looking at how expensive rent is around here, uh, I’ve been thinking about it again.”

Janet stopped and turned to face Kristen. “Do you want my honest advice, Kristen?” she asked.

Kristen nodded. “Sure,” she said.

“Okay,” Janet said. “Now, I don’t know anything about this friend of the family, right? I don’t know anything about this boy you like, and I don’t know anything about the secret stuff you can’t tell me about, right?”

“Uh, right,” Kristen said, a little puzzled.

“But I can read your mind, Kristen,” Janet said. “All I need to do is listen to the tone of your voice, to the way you hesitate when you’re talking. I don’t know what’s going on here, but I think it would be a very bad idea for you to take this offer. And I think you know it, too.”

Kristen nodded. “I—I think you’re right,” she said.

“You’re welcome to sleep on my couch until we can find you a good place to stay,” Janet said.

Kristen smiled. “I appreciate that,” she said.

Janet glanced down at the two men slowly working their way up the trail. She set down the plastic tool bucket she was carrying. “You know, Kristen,” she said, “this bucket is turning out to be a little heavier than I thought it was going to be. Can you help me out by carrying this socket wrench?”

“Oh, sure,” Kristen said, accepting the wrench.

“Keep a good grip on it,” Janet said. “Don’t lose it.”

“I won’t,” Kristen said.

Janet studied the contents of the bucket for a moment and frowned. She pulled out a screwdriver, and picked up the bucket. “Let’s go,” she said, and the two women resumed their walk down toward the beach.

“I told you that Richard owns property around here,” Janet said. “Maybe he knows some women who need a roommate.”

“Oh, that would be great,” Kristen said.

As they continued their descent, and the two men dressed in black continued their climb, Kristen felt a nervous apprehension rising in the pit of her stomach. Her face reddened as she became acutely conscious of her own nakedness, and Janet’s, as well. She felt even more uneasy when she noticed Janet’s grip tightening on the screwdriver in her hand.

“Are you left-handed or right-handed, Kristen?” Janet said softly.

“Uh, right-handed,” Kristen answered. “Why?”

“Well, why don’t you carry that wrench in your right hand?” Janet said tensely. “Then you won’t lose it.”

“Oh, my gosh,” Kristen said, transferring the wrench to her right hand. “Do—do you think these guys are dangerous?”

“I don’t know,” Janet said. “I hope not. Keep your eyes peeled. Be polite.”

Kristen swallowed hard, and moved a couple paces closer to Janet. “Okay,” she whispered.

This time they passed the two men on a long stretch of the gravel path. Both men were red-faced, sweating and breathing hard. But as they met the two women, the older man stopped and smiled. The younger man gaped at the women with frank, slack-jawed lust.

“Lovely to see you again, ladies,” the older man croaked, gasping for each breath.

“Thank you,” Janet said as she walked past, her hand tight on the grip of her screwdriver.

Kristen trembled as she walked by the two men. She could feel their eyes on her body as she passed.

The older man whistled a few notes of an old song Kristen remembered from childhood—“Here Comes Peter Cottontail”—then dissolved into a coughing fit. The younger man started to laugh, although it wasn’t clear whether he was laughing at his companion’s whistling, or his coughing. Within a few seconds, the younger man was coughing, too.

Kristen felt an enormous wave of relief once they were past the men, but Janet stayed tense and alert for several minutes. Gradually, she relaxed as well. She dropped her screwdriver into her plastic bucket. “Why don’t you go ahead and toss that wrench in here, too, Kristen?” Janet said. Kristen was happy to oblige.

All the lifeguards were gathered at the foot of the trail.

“Are you two both alright?” Beth called out in a concerned voice.

“We’re fine,” Janet said, hurrying the last few steps down the trail. “We’re both fine. Everybody okay down here?”

“Oh, I’m so glad,” Beth said. “Yes, everybody’s okay.”

“Was that who I think it was?” Janet asked Beth.

Beth cocked her head toward Richard, who nodded soberly.

“Tony!” Janet said. “Oh, crap.”

“Yep,” Beth said grimly. “It seems we haven’t seen the last of the gawker problem at Black Knife Beach.”

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