Jessie

Prologue

Dear Jessie

 

Well, after three long years it’s finished and, as promised, I’m sending you the ms in hard copy. Please let me know what you think of it and if there’s anything you take exception to.

It is our story – yours, mine and Ira’s. You’ll see that I’ve used your letters pretty much verbatim, and Ira gave me all the stuff he’d written (as therapy he said) about his marriage to Deborah, and his affair with you. That was almost a book in itself. I’ve had to tidy it up a bit, but I think his voice still comes through. Tell me what you think.

Fingers crossed it’s true what they say about sex selling because I’ve really excelled myself at how much of it I’ve been able to cram between two covers. To say that my book contains some scenes of a sexual nature would be a misrepresentation under the trade descriptions act – it contains hardly any scenes that aren’t. I do worry about that a bit. John Updike wrote somewhere about our sexual interest being inexhaustible. I hope he was right and that I haven’t tested that proposition to destruction.

But even putting the hard-core stuff aside, I don’t think the overall narrative is lacking in interest. An erotic romance it may be, but as you know better than anyone, it’s based on real events and I’m hoping that the intensity of the love story will carry the reader along.

I’ve had some positive feedback, but so far, no main-stream publisher has made me an offer so I intend to go with Kindle. I’ll publish the book in serial form in episodes of four to six thousand words. There’s been one bit of bad luck though – the free to view website I used to publish on has gone down, apparently never to return. I’d had well over a hundred thousand views there and I’ve now lost access to all those readers some of whom might have become purchasers. Oh well, C’est la vie!

By the way, the last time we skyped I forgot to ask what you thought of my pen-name. You have to admit that Lexie Mueller is a lot more exotic and memorable than Jackie Miller which, in any case, is a bit too close to Jackie Collins for comfort.

One last thing my lovely: I’m dedicating the book to you and Ira both, but the following piece – which won’t make it into the book proper – is for you alone.

 

 

Do you remember that day we spent together at Red Ridge? – I’ll never forget it. Your parents had gone away on business, and, thinking they could use his accountancy skills, they’d asked Ken to go with them. It was the only time we ever had a house to ourselves and such bliss to be free from any anxiety about possible interruptions.

We’d just driven back from the beach. We were both dressed alike with open shirts over our bikinis, and I remember thinking how sexy you looked, and wanting very much for you to feel the same about me. I was quite desperate with longing for you.

You made omelets and a salad for us to share and opened a bottle of wine. After we’d finished eating you cleared the plates away, fetched a pack of cards, and laid it on the table between us. Then you looked at me, all faux innocence, and said, ‘Do you want to cut?  We can play for forfeits.’

Less than ten minutes later you were topless – sitting with your forearms on the table, and your naked breasts resting on them like two birds side by side on a bough. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Then suddenly you stood up and announced, ‘To hell with this; there’s got to be something better to do,’ and, taking my hand, led me into the curtained alcove where the bed was that you shared with your husband.

 And what happened there took my breath away. My darling Jess, you were amazing!  Who would have thought it of my shy and gentle friend that she could be so forceful, so controlling?

We stood at the foot of the bed kissing. Your eyes were deep, dark pools which, looking into mine, dispelled all my doubts. We shucked off our remaining clothes, and now, fully naked, breast to breast, embraced, grinding our pubes together, intermingling pussy hairs (and swapping them, I bet). Then you cupped your hands over my breasts (almost as if you were measuring their cup-size as much as fondling them), pushed me down onto the bed, and laid on top of me, and covered my face and body with tiny kisses. And you buried your nose in my bush breathing in (as you later told me) its beachy sun-struck fragrance, and licked my briny cunt.

The walls of my vagina were already quaking when suddenly you left off. I heard   myself wailing, ‘Don’t stop! Oh please, don’t stop!’ And I was still wailing when you stopped my mouth with a kiss. Then I felt your hands behind my knees, pushing my legs up till they were pressing on my breasts; and I held them there for you while, briefly, though quite briskly, you consoled my poor bereft cunt with two artful fingers. And then you got hold of my ankles and stretched my legs as far back as they would go, so my ass was lifted up off the bed, and now I’m holding on to my feet, which, with their soles facing upwards, were resting on the pillow, way past my head.

I can remember like it was yesterday: my body rising vertically from the bed – held there by your chest as you knelt behind me; your breasts soft against my back; your two hands resting on the crest of my upturned ass – parting its cheeks; my pussy-hair, newly trimmed and sleek as a shaved lawn, lying like a dark veil across my pubes – hiding nothing. Looking between my thighs, at where my belly ends, I can see two plump mounds – fuzzy hillocks – between which the shaft of my clit, like a tiny cannon, is nestling, its tip peeping out from under its concealing hood.

And you’ve got me so bent over I can actually see into my cunt – where you’re parting it with your fingers – and It looks like a coral cave. Then your head bows between my thighs like a pilgrim at a shrine, and I watch your tongue dipping in and out of me and flicking against my twitching clit. All white, it seems at first, like a cat’s that’s been lapping cream.

And then you replace your tongue with your fingers, stroking the anterior wall of my vagina, where the G spot, if it exists, is supposed to be. And it’s as if there’s a garden pond inside of me. And with your two fingers moving in and out of me so vigorously, my cunt is squelching – like when you walk on soggy ground.  And suddenly – Oh my god! – I feel it gushing. Have I pissed myself – for how else could I be so wet without having had a man inside me to make me so?

But you weren’t fazed at all, were you my lovely Jess? You bent down and gave my swollen cunt a parting kiss. And with that sweet smile I can always see whenever I think of you, you said: ‘Jackie; darling; it’s not; believe me it’s not!  No way! That’s as fresh and as sweet as a mountain stream.’

The older I get the more vivid these memories become. Perhaps it’s the same for you and you won’t need this aid-memoir. But please indulge me anyway, and accept these images as a gift – my adorable, kind, and ever gentle friend – from

Your always devoted, always loving Jackie.

 

 

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‘I don’t know how you put up with it,’ Deborah Miller said. She took another sip of coffee and studied  her young friend across the rim of her cup. ‘I wouldn’t,’ she added, ‘not for a moment.’

Jessie gazed down at the table and thought for a while before replying. ‘It’ll probably surprise you, me saying this, but to be honest I’m not sure I care all that much. I know you’re supposed to, but I kind of figure it’s a guy thing and you’ve got to expect it – especially considering where Ken comes from. I’m pretty sure his dad was the same.’

The older woman lowered her cup and held it cradled in her hands. ‘Maybe you’re right;’ she said. ‘Maybe they’re all the same.’ She hesitated for a moment then added, ‘You know, last time he went away Ira had it off with a bar-girl in Taiwan.’

‘Whaaat? Are you saying he told you about it?’

‘Right after he got back we had this amazing fuck – I came four times at least – massive orgasms, one right after the other. It was incredible! I asked him: where did you learn that, and he thought – rightly as it happens – that I’d guessed he‘d had some strange and came clean. I was so pissed off! I whacked him across the face while he was still on top of me. Turns out he hadn’t learned it from her at all, he’d just read about it in a book he’d bought there.’

Jess laughed. ‘Gee, I don’t think I’d want to hit anyone who’d just made me come four times; maybe I should buy that book for Ken.  Fuck! Four times! That’s never happened to me….To be honest I don’t think Ken fancies me that much anymore. Not since Hetty was born. The last time we had sex he told me I was about as animated as a log so I guess it’s to be expected he’d look for it elsewhere.’

‘How can you let him put you down like that?  If the sex is not that good mightn’t that be as much his fault as yours, or more even?  Look, like I said, I was pissed off with Ira but it was a one off – or so he tells me, and he was a long way away. At least he didn’t shit on his own doorstep like Ken is doing. You really should stop being so passive.’

‘You say that, but maybe that’s what keeps him hooked. He’s a sexy little guy, he works hard and he’s a good provider. As for me – I’m a lazy cow who wants to do as little as possible and I guess being compliant and accommodating is how I get away with it. It might not be very admirable, but you know me – anything for a quiet life.’

Debbie has no answer to this and the two friends fall into a companionable silence. The sky above them is a peerless blue. In the tree overhanging the verandah, two parrots squabble noisily until one flies off and the other, unwilling, it seems, to let the matter drop, follows in hot pursuit. Their brilliant colours flash briefly against the green foliage and they’re gone.

When at last Deborah speaks again, it is with some reticence: ‘I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but since Ira’s been away Ken’s come on to me quite a few times – like, you know – when we’re rehearsing.  I don’t know, maybe I’ve encouraged it. Do you think I might have – has he said anything?’

Jessie finds herself wondering whether matters might not have advanced beyond the come on to me stage already, but pushing the thought to one side says, ‘No, but I can’t say I’m surprised; you’re a good looking woman; in the circumstances, it’d be odd if there wasn’t some attraction. Actually, I think it’s been a bonding experience for the four of us, even though me and Ira only feature as part of the audience. Anyway, don’t feel you’ve got to hold back on my account.’  Her own words surprise her and it’s not clear, even to her, whether she’s really as indifferent as she sounds – or has she a premonition that further down the line there may be something in it for her as well?

Debbie is surprised too, she asks, ‘Are you really telling me you wouldn’t mind?’

But Jess doesn’t reply – something has attracted her attention. She is gazing intently towards the field where the horses are. She gets up and, leaning forward with her arms on the balustrade – counts them off.  There’s Ira’s chestnut gelding; Debbie’s bay mare; the children’s painted ponies; and they’re all grazing. All, that is, except Comanche: the little skewbald that Ira‘s supposed to be breaking in for her, is lying flat on his side quite motionless. It has taken all of five minutes for her to register that the whole time she has been watching, the horse has not moved a muscle. She tells Deborah, ‘I think there’s something wrong with Comanche,’ and is about to run across to the field, when the horse raises its head and neck from the ground, struggles to its feet, and starts to graze nonchalantly. Jess wonders if she should take the pony back into pasture with Devil – Ira has never broken a horse   before and is trying to teach himself from a book – but now she sits back down and ponders Debbie’s question. When eventually she replies, she speaks hesitantly.

‘Well maybe a bit, but he’s going to go on doing it anyway; it might seem strange, but I’d rather that it was with you than with someone I don’t know.’

‘You’re being very open minded,’ Deborah says, ‘but it would feel like taking advantage. Look, me and Ira have been together fifteen years now; sex is okay when it happens but I can’t pretend to be that keen and Ira knows it. You know he wanted me to go on this trip with him – I think he thought it could be a second honeymoon.’

‘Why didn’t you go?’

‘I thought the kids were too young to leave – even with their grandparents. Sandra’s only just turned three after all.’

As one who will seize any opportunity to take a holiday without the encumbrance of a child, Jessie finds it difficult to get her head around this. Hetty’s not yet five and several times already she’s been left with her grandparents while her parents holiday abroad. It doesn’t appear, Jess thinks, to have done her any harm.

‘Anyway,’ Deborah goes on, ‘before he left, Ira asked me if I still loved him and I told him yes, I loved him like a brother. He wasn’t happy. He made it pretty clear that if I didn’t want him anymore he’d go elsewhere. Now you’re telling me Ken’s not that keen either. So I’m wondering – what would you think to a swap around?  Mightn’t that liven things up a bit for all of us?  I mean, you do fancy Ira don’t you?’

If this possibility has been germinating in her mind also, Jess is not quite ready to acknowledge it. She shakes her head. ‘I don’t think Ken would be up for that. Anyway, I can’t imagine Ira would be interested in someone like me.’

‘Why on earth would you say that?  Ira thinks you’re beautiful; believe me he’d love to go to bed with you.  As for Ken, as long as you’re comfortable with the idea, you can leave him to me….So, what do you think?’

‘Well I guess at least I’d be getting something out of it, which is definitely better than how things are now.’

You might think, in view of her earlier speculation about the relationship between her husband and her friend, that the significance of Deborah’s confidence in her ability to influence Ken would not be lost on her; but Jessie is not one to dwell on things; she glances skywards, ‘It’s looking good,’ she says, ‘come on let’s head off down to the beach.’   (1328)

          

He would never forget the first time he saw her. She was walking with a friend past Morgan’s café, pushing her baby daughter in one of those Victorian style prams which were fashionable back then, and the look of her set his heart racing. He saw Morgan do a double take and heard him ask: ‘Who is that beautiful ethnic-looking woman?’

But it was not until next time, when finally they met face to face, that he knew he was done for. He had gone round to call on her husband but it was Jess who answered the door. And she was stunning!  For what seemed a very long moment he stood there speechless, as if someone had punched the air out of him. She was wearing a bikini so small she might just as well have been naked; and he wondered how, having recently given birth, she could have a belly so flat; and breasts that were so shapely and set so high on her slender torso; and each breast a perfect handful. She had an air about her of sun-struck indolence which might, he thought, have been post-coital languor, and he felt a sharp pang of jealousy – Deb would never have gone about the house like that for fear he’d come on to her. Thinking about it afterwards, he was struck by how unselfconscious she seemed – not flaunting her body, just very comfortable in it.

Shortly after, Ken came to the door. He was naked to the waist and carrying a guitar. To Ira’s jealous eyes he looked smug and satisfied as if he’d just had sex. Swallowing that bitter pill and remembering what he’d come for Ira asked: ‘Can you play that thing?’

Oh but she was beautiful! How he longed to hold her in his arms! – that he would, as he then thought, never do so, seemed nothing less than an intolerable injustice. He left their house feeling desolate.

 

As the plane banked, its dipping wing revealed the island, emerald green and diminutive against the blue immensity of the Pacific. Whenever Ira flies in he’s reminded of that first sighting and the queasy mixture of exhilaration and apprehension he’d felt as he pondered what lay ahead of them on this speck in the ocean, at once beautiful and alien wondering if Debbie felt it too.

Eight years have passed since then and now, coming back after five weeks abroad, he is acutely aware that his sense of alienation has not diminished. Alhough he has come home he does not feel at home. He knows it’s not to do with location this time – it’s to do with his interior, not exterior, landscape – it’s his relationship with Deb. For a number of years now he had felt that their relationship was withering through lack of sustenance, and believing that they urgently needed time alone with each other, he’d begged her to take this trip with him. And although he knew in his heart that her decision to stay behind was the right one, he had not been able to shake off his feelings of anger and resentment towards her for doing so.

    Had their marriage been doomed from the start he wondered. Their only experience of sexual intercourse had been with each other. Their courtship had been long, and sexually intense. Perhaps their relationship had already run out of steam by the time they finally got around to tying the knot.

     But they had kept on making love, right up to the ninth month of her first pregnancy so maybe it was only after the birth of their children – a boy and, at two-year intervals, two little girls – that things began to go sour.  With each birth Ira’s loving feelings for his wife had intensified, but it would be years before it occurred to him that it had not been the same for her. Years later she acknowledged that she had been depressed during those early years of marriage and thinking about it he realized that even back then he’d had a nagging sense that something was missing. When their son was five and their daughter two, they took the children on an ocean cruise and didn’t make love – not once. This saddened Ira though he didn’t speak about it. True, they were sharing a cabin with the children, but he could not help but feel that had there been enough enthusiasm on Debbie’s part, they might have found an opportunity for at least one discreet fuck.

But whatever resentment Ira felt about the quality of their sex lives, he managed to bury, and so the first serious rift in their relationship did not occur until some years later – after he made the fatal mistake of telling Debbie about Pearl.

 

During the three nights they spent together, they coupled vigorously, variously and often; and it was as if he’d reached the end of a long dry spell.  Pearl was lithe, flexible and adventurous. ‘You can’t do it like that,’ she told him once – as he attempted a somewhat unlikely position – only to add in surprise as he entered her, ‘Oh, you can.’ And when between couplings they drifted into sleep she would lie with her body pressed tightly against him. He understood then, that during all those arid years, as much as the sex, it was this closeness he’d been missing. He did not delude himself that Pearl clung to him out of affection. Likely she had learned, at her mother’s knee, the behaviour regarded as appropriate for a wife or concubine. Or, viewed more optimistically, perhaps it was a simple, human response to the fact that he treated her kindly and with respect, and showed a concern for her pleasure as well as his. Whatever the case, it touched him that when, sated, they fell asleep at last, he would, on waking, find her still pressed against him, often with her hand cupped around his balls.

 

He’d noticed the Yanks at the hotel check-in the day of his arrival, and again next morning, waiting in line for breakfast. There had been some delay in getting service under way. The cook is doing a lot of shouting; his underlings a lot of scurrying, and the two young Americans are joshing them in a Chinese accented pidgin, chivvying them along. It’s good-natured enough, but embarrassing nonetheless, and Ira is trying, with a noncommittal smile, to reconcile his contradictory impulses of sympathy with the staff, and affinity with his fellow guests, the taller of whom, after a series of sidelong glances such as you might bestow on a co-conspirator or confidante, now addressed him directly:

‘Say if you mind my asking sir, only me and my buddy here, we’re intrigued by your accent. We were wondering where you hail from – I’m Steve by the way and this here’s Dwight.’

 Except in the course of business, Ira has had very little in the way of human contact over the past few weeks. Flattered by their interest he tells them of his Pacific Island home and learns in turn – what he has already surmised – that the two friends are GIs on R&R from Vietnam. As someone for whom that war has long been something of a preoccupation he is fascinated by this and the three of them are soon chatting animatedly, stepping aside to let others in the line pass by. And when Ira, having at last been served, is about to move on, Steve, after exchanging a quick glance with Dwight, and with that courteous deference which strikes Ira as attractively American, says, ‘Sir, we’d be honored to have you sit with us.’

And Ira too feels honored. ‘I’ll be glad to,’ he says, ‘only please call me Ira.’     

‘So Ira, tell us more about this island of yours,’ Dwight says when they’re seated. He looks up expectantly his fork poised half way between his plate and his mouth. ‘Is it anything like Bali Hai in South Pacific?’ (He’s the dreamer of the two – the romantic – as Ira will quickly learn.)

     And so Ira goes on at greater length about the island. He pulls out photographs which they pass back and forth between them, enthusing over the lush green landscape; the crystal waters of the lagoon; the sparsely peopled beach with its creamy-white sand. And, in turn, they tell him about their lives and families back in small-town Texas and how, having trained as medical orderlies, they had met in Vietnam, re-enlisted together, and were now on their second tour of duty. Listening to them, Ira worries that his bucolic images of the island will render even grimmer, by contrast, the harsh reality they will soon be confronting in the service of their country; but it seems that nothing can dampen their cheerful good nature or undermine their American optimism. Hearing them talk, you would not think there was a single cloud on their horizon.

       It was the start of what was to prove a pleasant, and for Ira, fortuitous relationship. Steve and Dwight knew Taipei well and when they offered to show him around. He accepted their offer gratefully.

‘First thing you gotta do,’ Steve tells him, ‘you gotta get yourself a girlfriend.’ Dwight nods agreement and Steve goes on. ‘Taiwanese chicks are great; you can trust them totally. They really look after you. They’ll never rip you off and they’ll make sure no-one else does either.’

‘Korean chicks are hotter though,’ Dwight interposes.

The comment, which seems gratuitous to Ira, is readily understood by Steve, who turning   to his friend says, ‘Okay, we’ll make it Seoul next time, seeing as how you’re still pining;’ and, with eyes cast skyward adds, for Ira’s benefit, ‘There’s this girl there …’

At which Dwight smiles, and a brief discussion follows regarding the relative merits of Taiwanese and Korean girls, which is finally resolved by a Rizla-thin margin in favour of the latter, they being beneficiaries, both men assert, of the exceptional love-making skills of Korean men. Ira is intrigued by this conversation and by his new friends’ apparent liberality and finds himself wondering bemusedly what rating they would assign to Texans, as lovers.

They went on to explain that the girls were state-licensed, clean, affectionate and, almost without exception, sweet-natured and trustworthy. You bought their time by paying an initial fee to the owner of the bar out of which they worked and subsequently, by giving money directly to the girl. Ira was not comfortable with the idea of buying a woman, but, starved of sex as he told himself he was, whatever scruples he had were quickly laid aside. They got a taxi and went to a bar Steve and Dwight knew of.

 Inside the bar it was cool and dark. There were maybe ten girls in there, gossiping amiably among themselves and with the bar’s manager. They quieted a little when the three of them came in. Steve introduced Ira to Chang who, having shaken his hand wasted no time on further formalities but got right on with introducing his girls: ‘This Pearl; this one May; this one she call Mitsy,’ he began intoning – and would have gone on had Ira not saved him the trouble by choosing Pearl.

Why Pearl?  She was young – around twenty he reckoned – and attractive, but by no means the prettiest girl there – there were two or three who were outstanding beauties. But Ira couldn’t bear to see the girls auctioned this way.  He chose Pearl simply because she was the first to be introduced, and it would have struck him as heartless to bypass her in favour of another. As it turned out, he never came to regret his decision.

There was a dance that night at the US army base and Steve and Dwight invited them along. As they danced, Pearl clung to Ira so closely that he could feel his erection poking hard into her belly and briefly indulged a fantasy of himself, buck-naked, and Pearl impaled on it, the two of them dancing with her feet clear of the floor.) The room was packed with other couples similarly entwined and the air was thick – a miasma of smoke, testosterone and Right Guard. They took a taxi back to the hotel.

Back in his room, Pearl, matter-of-factly, shed her cheongsam and stepped out of her underwear. She had a sweet figure – slender with small pointed breasts and a shapely dark triangle between her legs. They showered together and washed each other. She soaped his back, then his chest, and finally, his genitals, which she washed carefully with both hands and with an air of concentration, as if carrying out a task of paramount importance. It has to be said that he was just as thorough as he soaped her breasts, her buttocks, and between her legs.

Lying on the bed with her he took his time – kissing, sucking, stroking, gently probing and   exploring – devouring her with his eyes. And when at last he went down on her, she seemed surprised that this was happening so early on – or perhaps that it was happening at all – but soon relaxed into it, whimpering  and pushing her pudenda up to meet his mouth. It seemed to him that her pussy sweetened with each stroke of his tongue and by the time she came it was like honey dripping.  When he felt he had teased and toyed with her, long enough, he entered her gently, rightly anticipating that she would be quite small. And indeed, never before had he felt himself so firmly clasped. He heard her sharp intake of breath, then a moan and then the urgent instruction: ‘Okay, you come now’ and her hands were clawing at his buttocks trying to pull him deeper into her, though really, there was no farther he could go. He saw that she was coming again: her throat was stretched and taut and she was making these tiny sounds: ‘eh, eh, eh, eh’. He needed no further inducement. A few powerful thrusts followed by a delicious pulsing, and with a groan, he emptied himself into her, adding his seed to the juices which, Pearl’s body had, for their mutual comfort and pleasure, provided so copiously.

When, after a time, he withdrew, Pearl took  hold of his penis and said, with practiced flattery, ‘You mighty big guy Ira,’  and then gasped as imperiously, he pushed her knees up to her chest, parted them, and planted a kiss on her still swollen, vulva.  ‘No Pearl,’ he said, grinning up at her from between her thighs, ‘You, very small girl.’

Lying there afterwards, Ira found himself thinking about all the men Pearl must have serviced over the course of her young life and whether she’d had to endure much abuse. And although he thought the diminutive sounds she had made during intercourse would hardly have been worth the trouble of faking, he could not help wondering, as well, whether she really could have climaxed so easily during what must have been, for her, just another commercial transaction.  Hesitantly he asked her, ‘Do you really come when you have sex – I mean – did you come just now?’

‘Yeah, I come,’ she answered brightly, ‘why you ask?’

Why did he ask? Why should he care?  Was it because it would have struck him as pitiable if Pearl were unable to derive any pleasure from what – for the lack, he presumed, of better alternatives – she did for a living? Perhaps he felt that performing so intimate an act entitled her to something beyond mere monetary compensation – call it payment in kind – so that even if she derived no pleasure from that act, it should not, at the very least, be utterly distasteful to her. When it came down to it though, he knew that his concern was self-serving: his own pleasure would be diminished to the point of being obviated had he thought Pearl was getting none.

The second night they lay together Pearl said to him, ’You no love your wife?’ and when after a moment’s hesitation he answered, ‘Of course I do,’ added, ‘You loving your wife how come I here with you?’ Given what he supposed her cultural assumptions about appropriate wifely behaviour were likely to be, and anticipating that it might well be beyond her comprehension that a man could be married and yet feel himself to be starved of sex, he knew he could not answer her in terms she would understand.  But it both saddened and disturbed him that he felt more physical intimacy when lying with this young prostitute, than in his own marriage bed.

The inherently exploitative nature of their relationship was disturbing to Ira. However much he told himself that if she were not with him she might well be with someone who treated her unkindly, he could not liberate himself from the guilty feeling that she was his victim as well. And so, outside the limits of the understanding between them – that she would sleep with him for money – he tried to ensure, as far as he could, that she felt herself to be free. This applied to the sex also; so, though it pleased him when they made love to go down on her, he guessed rightly that she would not wish to reciprocate. He never attempted to coerce her into this, or any other sexual act, but left it to her to decide the extent of the service she was willing to provide.

They would have breakfast and dinner together in the hotel dining room and she would order for them both, addressing the waiter in their Hokkien dialect and checking the bill when it came. She carried out these tasks with brisk efficiency and he saw that it pleased her to have this small element of control and took pleasure in her pleasure. Though the guys had told him that she would, if he required it of her, spend her days with him as well as her nights, she so obviously wanted to be elsewhere that although he would have liked her company he didn’t hinder her. He would pay her retainer then, by the simple expedient of passing her his wallet from which she would take never more than a modest sum.

On their last night together she told him that an American serviceman wanted to marry her and take her back to the States with him. She asked his advice. Did he think she should go?  He didn’t believe her story, but found her aspiration for another, and hopefully better, life almost unbearably poignant. He wished a happy ending for her, but knew how high the odds were stacked against it.

When it came to parting she was brusquely courteous, extending her hand for him to shake, (how else, he thought, should, or could she be, given the gulf opening between them) and he felt a pang at the thought that he would not see her again and found himself hoping there was someone in her life who really cared about her.

The Vietnam War rumbled on for another five years. He had given Steve and Dwight his address but had not gotten theirs. He never did hear from them. He hoped they were okay.  

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