The Preacher's Wife, Chapter Two
"Would you like to go to Greece?"
The question broke Maggie out of her focus on the column of numbers on the computer screen in front of her. "Excuse me?" she asked, puzzled.
Dorothy, the president of the Christian charity, had posed the question. "I'm serious," she explained. "I'm organizing a tour of our major contributors to Greece this summer. I'm calling the tour 'In the Steps of Saint Paul.' I need an assistant to help me."
"But I have never traveled and I know nothing about Greece." At age 37 Maggie's travels had all been in an orbit around her home town in Kansas. The charity where she was working was in Omaha,
"That doesn't matter," Dorothy answered. "The travel agency does the logistics. What I need is somebody to help me keep twenty women contented. I know you well. You're attractive. You're sensible. You can pamper them, pray with them if necessary, and with a little study you can help me explain the places we're seeing. You've read the New Testament?"
"I know it backwards and forwards, but I can't afford a trip to Greece."
"You'll go free. I can't pay you a salary but it will be an all-expense paid trip. Unfortunately, you'll have to put up with a crowd of rich, spoiled women for 10 days." Dorothy laughed. Maggie was well aware that Dorothy's patina of Christian piety often yielded to cynicism. "Think about it."
"I will." That afternoon Maggie could barely focus on auditing the charity's financial accounts.
Greece! She had always dreamed of seeing the world. Five years ago she had broken out of the routine of being the wife of a small-town evangelical preacher, first finishing college, and then passing the examination to become a certified public accountant. The customers of her one-woman business were Christian organizations, churches, and preachers scattered around Kansas and neighboring states. She was efficient, flexible, painstaking -- and cheap. Working only part time she now earned as much money as her husband, whose congregation was neither large nor wealthy.
During her occasional business travels, Maggie had several sexual encounters. Most were hurried and self-conscious and with married men as nervous as she was. She had overcome her initial guilt at being an adulteress and now was fearful only that her indiscretions would be discovered. Moreover, she was drinking alcohol during her travels, a vice she concealed almost as fervently as she did her illicit sex.
At home she was a different person. Several days a week, she was the exemplary preacher's wife: self-effacing, tireless in her duties, the mother of two teenage children. At home she tried not to show signs of her newly found independence and professional confidence. A preacher's wife in a small town in Kansas was expected to be humble, dowdy, and mediocre.
Maggie went to sleep in her hotel room that night with images in her head of the blue Mediterranean and bright shining villages on rocky islands. Early the next morning she telephoned her husband. She always asked his permission for any endeavor. He never denied her. He enjoyed the almost-new automobile her income had purchased too much. "What would you think if I went to Greece in July for two weeks?"
"Greece? We can't afford that."
"It won't cost much...My expenses will be covered. I'll be helping a women's group following Paul's route in Greece." Their church did not believe in saints. He was just Paul, not Saint Paul.
"I'll take photos so I can give a presentation to the Women's Fellowship after I get back," she promised. Then, she threw in the clincher. "There will be a group of rich women on this trip. The contacts will do us good." Her husband still had the ambition --fading though it was -- of becoming the pastor of a large, rich church.
"Thanks, dear," she said happily. "I'll be home tomorrow. I'll help you collect some of those donations that are slow coming in."
"That would be useful," he replied. "There's talk, you know, that you're...uhh...not as active as you used to be in the church."
"I'll lead the prayer meeting next Wednesday. Promise. I love you." It was not entirely a lie. Her husband was not a bad man — but he was sedentary and unimaginative. She would have gone mad had she not found a way to carve out a slice of independence.
"I love you too, Maggie."
Maggie bought a guidebook and read about Greece. It sounded enchanting and she was truly interested in Paul and his travels two thousand years earlier to promulgate the new religion of Christianity. She asked Dorothy, "Do I need to come back to the U.S. on the airplane with you?"
Dorothy thought a moment. "No. Once we put the group on an airplane home your job is done."
"Then, I'll go — and I'll plan to stay on for a few days to visit one or two of the islands. They sound wonderful."
Maggie was on pins and needles for the whole ten days of the visit to Greece. She dealt with carping, tardiness, diarrhea, homesickness, and penny-pinching. Most of the women were congenial, but she had been chained to a few who were perennially unhappy.
"I never promised you a rose garden," said Dorothy as the group waited in the international airport in Athens for the early morning flight to return to the United States.
"I hope they all enjoyed the trip." Maggie said cautiously.
"You did splendidly. Nobody died. None of them got thrown in jail, or lost, or in a fistfight."
"Thank God." Maggie looked up at the sky. "God, I meant that."
"How long will you stay?"
"I have plane reservations to leave for home in five days. Today, I'm taking a flight to an island." The prospect of being on her own in a foreign country frightened her, but she was resolute. "I will do this," she said to herself. "And I hope I find a nice man to share the experience."
"Best of luck. I'll need you to audit our books when you get back." said Dorothy.
The island of Skiathos was her destination. The guidebook said its only village oozed charm, the beaches were good, and the island was not overcrowded as the airport was adequate only for small airplanes.
Her flight got her to Skiathos mid-morning and she caught a bus from the airport into the town. She had made a reservation in a small and inexpensive hotel, choosing to stay in town rather than at one of several beach hotels dotted around the island. It was hot and she felt conspicuous on the bus. Everybody else, mostly young Europeans, was wearing shorts and light-weight cotton shirts or blouses. She wore a skirt that reached below her knees and a long-sleeved blouse. She felt like a refugee from a tent revival.
She got off the bus at the main plaza and searched out her hotel, carrying her suitcase down a maze of narrow, cobbled streets and up steep, stair-stepped walkways. Her hotel was old and inconspicuous, three stories high, of whitewashed native stone with blue shutters. A purple bougainvillea curved around the signpost next to the front door. In a narrow interior was the front desk. She checked in with a friendly older man who spoke good English. Her room was small, a double bed with an end table and lamp, a chair and dressing table, and a tiny bathroom with shower. The room opened through double doors onto a balcony that looked out over a sapphire-blue sea and low stone buildings so white they hurt the eyes to see. It was hot. The hotel was not air conditioned.
She shook off the fatigue of ten days of stress and decided to take a walk and have lunch before an afternoon siesta. She took off her skirt, blouse, and panties and packed them away and put on her bikini bottom. This was the first bikini she had ever owned. It was modest as bikinis go. She put on a pair of shorts over the bikini bottom Then she took her bra off and replaced it with the bikini top. Her small breasts had more than enough room. "I should have been more attentive when I tried this on," she said to herself. "The cups are too large."
"I'm almost pretty," she thought, looking at herself in the mirror. She donned a pair of flip-flop sandals, and away she went, nervous but excited.
The Plakes beach was a ten minute walk from her hotel. It was small and pebbly, falling off in rock ledges to crystal clear water below. Pine trees shaded the margins. A dozen women and an equal number of men were sunbathing on the rocks or swimming. Most of the women were topless. Some of them had breasts burned as brown as leather; others ranged in color from sunburned red, to rosy pink, to as white as a winding sheet. Maggie guessed that she could tell how long the women had been in Greece by the color of their exposed breasts. Hers, beneath her bikini top, which hung loosely on her, had never seen the sun and were shockingly white. She wasn't yet brave enough to reveal them to the world. She sat down on a rock.
"Well, Sheila, fancy meeting you again." A young, handsome man sat down on the rock with her. He set his backpack down beside them. He was wearing only shorts. He was of medium height, well-muscled, and bronzed from the sun.
"Have we met?"
"I said hello to you when you got off the bus."
"Oh, okay, if you say so. But my name is not Sheila. It's —"
He interrupted her. "Sheila will do. I'm Rory. Skiathos is a fantasy. As are we."
She giggled. "That's very profound. Rory? Are you British?" His accent was not American.
"You know how to wound a man. I'm Australian."
"And you're American, Sheila?"
"Yes." She looked him over closely. He had a pleasant smile. He didn't seem threatening. He was almost a boy.
"How about a swim, Sheila? You look uncomfortable in all those clothes." His eyes focused on her chest.
She looked down. Her bikini top gapped open. He was peering at her exposed breast. "The barely seen is more interesting than the obvious," he commented, nodding toward the topless women laying on the rocks.
She blushed and tucked her breast back under the fabric. "That sounds like something Plato might have said."
"An old Greek." She looked up at the sun. "It's too hot and bright for me to get into the sun. I'd get sunburned."
They continued chatting amiably. He asked, "May I invite you to lunch? Dutch treat? I'm a bit short of the ready, but I know a good cheap restaurant."
"I'm also on a tight budget." It seemed advisable not to give him any illusions that she was rich. She had read about "kamakis," handsome young men on the Greek islands who ensured that wealthy older women had a memorable vacation -- for a price.
"I can pay my own way," he assured her. He pulled a t-shirt out of his backpack and put it on and shouldered his back pack. "Let's go. The restaurant is nearby."
"Lead on, Rory," she said.
They strolled to a restaurant on a cobbled street with outside tables shaded by a grapevine growing on an overhead trellis. They ate Greek salad and grilled octopus soaked in olive oil and bread with a crunchy crust and drank a large bottle of beer each. Then, chatting amiably, they each drank another bottle of beer. He told her about himself. He was 25, from Perth, and had been on Skiathos for a month. He was nearly out of money. She didn't ask him what his real name was, nor did he ask her real name. She was wearing her wedding ring.
Maggie felt woozy after the second beer. She yawned. "I can't stay awake. I need to take a nap." She hoped this was not the end of their relationship. "Maybe a swim later?" she asked tentatively.
"How about we make plans while I escort you to your hotel?" he asked. "That is truly a fetching top," he added. Her bikini top was gapping again.
"I need to buy one that fits." She tucked her breasts in. "Good," she thought, "He's interested in me."
"I need a nap too. I've been sleeping on the beach for the last two nights. Beneath a pine tree. A money problem. I didn't sleep very well." He yawned. He paid half the bill for lunch with a grimace and looked at her with beseeching eyes. "That sand is awfully hard."
She laughed. "Oh, all right. I get the hint. Do you want to nap in my room?" To herself she said, "He's too young and good looking! But he seems nice. Maybe this will work?"
"Thank you. I'll reward your kindness by showing you the town tonight. If you pay for the beer."
"Well, perhaps...but first a nap." She was cautious.
"I'm up for that."
They walked back to her hotel, rubbing shoulders companionably in the narrow streets. Maggie made a point of dropping off her money and passport in the hotel safe and introducing Rory to the old man at the front desk -- just in case he proved to be something other than a pleasant, charming boy. She led him up the stairs to her room.
"This is home," she said. "We can share the bed for a nap." She opened the French doors onto the balcony. The room was hot. She wiped away rivulets of sweat between her breasts. She lay down on the bed, put a pillow beneath her head, yawned, and stretched, He took his t-shirt off and joined her, their bodies touching on the narrow bed.
"You know," he mused, "You remind me of my Sunday School teacher when I was twelve years old."
"Because I'm old? Old fashioned?" She was upset. Was her true character so easily perceived?
"No, of course not, I was in love with that Sunday School teacher. Why do you think I noticed you?"
"I wondered about that." He didn't answer; he was already asleep.
When she woke the sun was low in the sky and it was cooler in the room. Rory was in the shower. He came out with a towel wrapped around his waist. "Hi, Sheila. Sleep well?"
He sat down beside her on the bed. She stretched luxuriously and her breasts popped out of her bikini top. She reached to cover them, but he caught her hand in his. "May I?" he asked politely.
She held his hand and looked into his eyes. She had a moment of fear mixed with anticipation. He smiled. She moved his hand to her bare breast.
He leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek. "I take it that as a 'yes.' Don't be frightened. I won't hurt you." He laughed. "It might even be fun."
He massaged her nipple. She didn't protest. Her body was stiff and tense; her nipples were large, erect, and dark brown. He kissed a nipple. "That tit is dry. It needs moisture."
"Sorry about that. I have some suntan oil." She glanced apprehensively toward the doors opening onto the balcony to assure herself that nobody could see into their room.
"I have something that works just as well — and tastes better." He went over to his pack and pulled out a small bottle. "Olive oil. Extra virgin."
He reached behind her back, unfastened her bikini top, and pulled if over her outstretched arms. He poured olive oil into his cupped hand and rubbed it onto her breasts. The oil was slick and smooth. The towel around his waist parted and his half-erect penis and testicles poked out.
"Now, they're nice slippery tits." He licked a nipple. "Taste good too." Her nipples were sensitive.
The inner housewife in her protested. "We're going to get the sheets greasy."
"You don't have to do the laundry." They kissed and laughed together. He lay down and rolled over on his back and handed her the bottle of olive oil. The towel fell away from his waist. He lay naked. "Your turn."
She took the bottle. She sat up and began massaging olive oil into his hairless chest. She liked that. Her husband and some of her other lovers had chests with kinky hair that was scratchy when they embraced.
"You would be more comfortable if you took those shorts off," he said. He unbuttoned them and pulled them over her feet. "And the bikini bottom?" he asked.
She again looked apprehensively toward the open door onto the balcony. She had only rarely had sex in other than darkened rooms. Rory helped her pull off her bikini bottom, threw it toward a chair, and kissed her while his hands ran over her bare buttocks.
"About that oil," he said. "Don't forget about my part that most needs massaging."
Maggie screwed up her courage, sat up, straddled him, filled her cupped hand with olive oil and massaged it into his chest, looking at his face, his parted lips and half-closed eyes, feeling the hard muscles of his arms, stroking his short, powerful fingers one by one in her hands.
As she sat on his groin, his hardened penis rubbed against her clitoris. Her heart missed a beat. She froze. "No, no. I must be careful!" She eased her body away.
"Hey, I wanted to be there," he said.
She kissed him. "No! I mean not without a condom."
"Don't worry about that. I'm safe. Do you have condoms? " he asked. "I can go buy some. My treat," he added with a smirk.
"I have condoms in my suitcase. The side pocket." She always carried them with her -- just in case.
He walked over to her suitcase. His penis was short and thick, shaved bare of hair. His buttocks were rounded and tanned, the same color as the rest of his body. He unzipped the side pocket on the suitcase , and took out a package of condoms. "Wow! A half-dozen. You come prepared." He took one out and laid it on the table beside the bed. "Six will do for tonight, but we'll need more tomorrow."
She blushed, then laughed. He lay down beside her. He ran his hand over her breasts and her stomach and down to her bush of hair. "You're relaxing. I can feel it in your muscles. It's a Greek island; it's summer. This is our lives at their best. Enjoy the moment."
"I'm going to try," she said with determination. She sat up, filled a cupped hand with oil and massaged his penis, then lay on top of him and kissed him from face to hips. She went around and around his groin, filling her mouth with oil and spurting it over his penis and testicles and rubbing it in with her lips and tongue.
"Methinks the lady is not as naive as she pretends."
"I've never done this with oil. I like it."
"I'm glad to be the first. You're my first American."
"You're my first Aussie."
"Learn to pronounce it properly. It's Ozzie, not Ah-sie." His penis was poking a hole in the sky, rubbing against her nose. "I think it is time to consummate this relationship," he added.
She was relaxed now and playful, "Consummate me." She reached for the condom, opened the package with her teeth, took it out, and put it on his penis carefully. When she had finished, he rolled over and impaled her. She gasped.
"Freedom," she thought and dissolved into her vision of heaven, a quiet, meditative state of calm and good feeling. After those long days of tension, abstinence, and restraint with the women's group she was now with a beautiful young man on a lotus-eating island where she knew nobody and nobody knew her.
"Don't hurry," she said to Rory. "I want it to last. I want to lie here quietly and enjoy it for a while."
He probed within her carefully, heeding her wishes, pausing and resuming, slowly, kissing her lips and eyes and neck, running his hands down her flanks and under her buttocks, raising her to him, driving hard and deep and then backing off, halting to let her relax and catch her breath.
"Now," she said. "I'm ready. Are you?"
"Are you kidding? I'm ready to blow a hole in your ovary, or whatever you call that thing."
"It's a vagina."
They climaxed together in a sexual explosion, her legs straight up in the air over his shoulders as he dug as deep as he could within her. His spasms seemed to go on forever, one after another, matching the shocks that ran up and down her spine.
" Eureka!" he said when it was all over and they lay quietly, their sweat-soaked bodies locked in an embrace. "That's what some old Greek said."
"His name was Archimedes. He thought of a solution to a problem while he was bathing and he ran naked out into the street shouting Eureka." She giggled. "I know because I've been reading my guidebook."
"I could run out into the street naked and tell the world that I like to fuck you."
She lay contented for a long while, treasuring her emotions. He went to the bathroom. When he returned she asked, "Are you hungry?"
Yes," he answered. "It's almost nine. The restaurants will be opening."
"I'll buy you dinner."
"Good. Let's go somewhere expensive."
"No, you have to appreciate me for my inner qualities - not my money."
"I've appreciated those inner qualities, my little Sunday School teacher. You have fulfilled my adolescent dreams. I wanted to fuck that teacher."
"Actually," she said. "I am a Sunday School teacher. And a preacher's wife."
"No kidding. Don't ask any more questions."
They joined their bodies again, frantic and intense this time. It was over quickly. Then, they showered together.
Afterwards, she rummaged through her suitcase, "What to wear?" she puzzled.
"Definitely not one of these." He held up a bra. "How about one of my t-shirts?"
She tried on the t-shirt. It was too large. "Isn't it too casual for wearing out at night?"
"Sheila, you're not in Kansas anymore."
She looked in the mirror. "If I raise my arm, you can see my tit through the armhole."
"That's the idea."
It was, she thought, a nice looking breast. She put on an ankle-length, flowery wrap-around skirt to go with the t-shirt.
They ate at a restaurant in a triangle where two walkways met on a tiny plaza with a large pine tree in the center. She ate swordfish and scordalia; he ate a gyro and French fries. They both drank beer. The life of the town flowed around them. She was a little uncomfortable. The outline and color of her nipples showed through the thin fabric of the t-shirt. She had the awful fear of the one chance in a million that she would see somebody from Kansas that she knew.
"Do you want to go dancing?" Rory asked.
"Yes, that would be fun." That would also be a way to escape from this all-too-public restaurant where she felt guilty and sinful. But Maggie rarely danced. It would be frowned on back home for the preacher's wife to be seen gyrating around a dance floor. She paid the bill.
Rory led her down a narrow street to a door in a wall that opened into an interior courtyard with a bar, a few tables to one side, and a small flagstone dance floor. Recorded music blared from two large speakers. A few couples were dancing. She was relieved to see that her t-shirt was appropriate for the occasion. They ordered beer. More people were arriving. Soon, they were standing three deep at the bar.
A tall man grabbed her arm and half-dragged her toward the dance floor. She looked back in dismay at Rory. He was talking to a tall, blonde well-endowed girl -- probably a "Swedesa" as the Greeks called all Scandinavians.
The dance floor was so crowded that Maggie didn't need to worry about her lack of dancing skill. She just stood and shook her body, and held her arms up and felt other people rubbing against her. Rory was dancing now with the young, beautiful Swedesa whose unrestrained breasts bounced like basketballs.
She frowned. She had competition for Rory's affections. Unfair competition from a younger, prettier, and more buxom woman. Her dancing partner handed her a beer and she drank it quickly. She must get back to Rory. She made an excuse and staggered off the dance floor. Rory was now standing at the bar with his Scandinavian princess.
"Sheila," he shouted above the din, "Meet Gudren."
"My name is not Gudren," said the princess.
"And mine is not Sheila," Maggie answered. Maggie attempted to smile sweetly. Confidently. If she was going to lose Rory, she was going to do it with style -- and hide her anguish.
Gudren looked her over. Maggie felt like a cabbage in a rose garden, but Rory said, "Sheila is my lady." He kissed her on the cheek.
Maggie choked up in relief. "He is mine!" She looked at Gudren with what she hoped was a benevolent smile.
Gudren surveyed the situation, returned Maggie's smile, and said, "I should be going. See you around, Hans."
"Hans?" Maggie asked after Gudren walked away.
"My middle name. I was just giving Gudren some advice on how she could meet men."
The advice seemed to have worked. Gudren with the basketball boobs was surrounded by men on the dance floor.
Maggie paid the bar bill, taken aback at the cost, and they left the bar and began walking back to the hotel, arm in arm. She was drunker than she had ever been. Both of them felt urgency. The streets were emptying. The night was moonless.
They were alone on the street that ran just above the beach. They embraced, a long lingering kiss, pushing their bodies hard against each other. "Where I slept last night would be good," he said. He took her hand.
He led her down a trail around a retaining wall to a sandy spot beneath a pine tree on a ledge just above the murmuring waves of the sea. "Here it is. Home sweet home."
They stripped their clothes off and threw themselves down on the sand, grappling with each other. The prickly pine needles and the rocks hurt her back. "Ow!"
He rolled off her. "I'll lie on my back to save your skin."
"You Aussies have tough skin?"
She rode him to completion, sitting upright, her head facing toward his feet and her eyes looking out at the calm, dark sea. Their climax was like a ripple, gentle and pleasant.
"Do you always come?" he asked.
"Yes, even when my husband fucks me..." She giggled. "Oops, I didn't mean it to sound like that."
They walked back to the hotel. She was euphoric, her guilt and fear had disappeared. She thought of the line from Huckleberry Finn. "All right, then. I'll go to hell!"
It was nearly noon the next day when Maggie woke. Rory was there with a large bottle of water and a pot of tea. She wobbled her way to the bathroom, peed, walked naked back to the bed, drank deeply of the water, and settled onto the pillows with a cup of tea balanced on her lap. "My head hurts," she moaned.
"Can I fuck you while you're drinking tea?" he asked.
"Carefully, please. This tea is hot." She kissed him on the cheek and put the tea cup and saucer on the bedside table as he mounted her. "I hurt all over," she said, "but I feel so comfortable. With you, I mean. I never...well, you know...I haven't had much romance in my life. Not nearly enough. I just feel good." She laughed. "I'm still drunk, I think."
He stopped moving within her. "I have to leave in a couple of hours," he announced.
"What?" She pushed his face away from her cheek to look at him.
"I have reservations to return to Australia tomorrow. I have to catch the ferry to the mainland this afternoon."
"Oh," was all she could think to say.
"I'm sorry. Should I have told you sooner?"
"No, it was best I didn't know." She had tears in her eyes and her voice broke.
"Let's enjoy this last moment." They melded together as one.
After they climaxed, he stayed on top of her. She poured herself another cup of tea.
"Don't move," she said. She set the saucer on his back and sipped the tea over his shoulder. He stayed inside her for a long time.
"It's been fun," he said finally. "I have to pack and leave."
He got up and began stuffing things into his back pack. He picked up the t-shirt she had worn the night before and tossed it to her on the bed. "Here, keep this. It's my favorite. I'll wear my second favorite."
Rory handed her a scrap of paper. "Here's my name -- my real name -- and my address and phone number. If you're ever in Perth, give me a tinkle. I'll come running. And I'll pay for the beer." He kissed her on the cheek. Suddenly, he looked more like a man than a boy. "It has been my privilege to love you on an island in a wine dark sea."
"That's from Homer!" she said. "You do know something about Greece."
"'And jealous now of me, you gods...out on the wine-dark sea.' I studied Classics at the University. I'm an archaeologist. Soon to be employed."
She sat on the bed and cried and her tears tasted salty. He put his arm around her and she cried on his shoulder.
"It's late. I have to go."
"Don't mind me. It went so quickly. I'm just...disappointed." she whimpered. He walked out the door.
Maggie folded the piece of paper with his name and address on it and put in her purse. It stayed there until the paper disintegrated years later and she burned the fragments in an empty butter dish on her kitchen table.