The purple, tired face of the unconscious man was clearly visible through the thick plastic of the oxygen tent. There were tubes in his nose, an IV in his arm, and monitors all along the side of the bed. A nurse checked his chart and the readouts, and spoke quietly to the frightened woman in the chair on the other side. Now, a doctor fiddling with his name tag came by to speak to her. They were a lot more calm than she was. Because the time of emergency was over? Or because they'd seen it all before?
Now the frightened woman, about 45 or so, got up and held the man's clammy hand. Now she let go and nervously paced. Then chanced a little trip out to the ICU lobby.
Her brother was there, and her niece, a skinny girl of about 20 with trendy clothes on. And a chubby young woman of about 22, with a hispanic-looking man her age who looked to be her boyfriend. All yet in their coats, and sweating, not having thought to take them off.
The doctor fiddling with his name tag came out. In response to the unasked question, he said, "He had quite a close call. But he's stable now, finally. He'll be OK but reoovery will be slow. He's GOT to rest for a good while. And lay off the fatty stuff."
"He hates doing that," the brother said.
"Well he has to. No other way."
Now a commotion in the ICU and the scrambling of nurses. A gurney was quickly pushed into the operating room. No -- that was another patient...
The frightened middle-aged woman, obviously the sick man's wife, crossed herself and closed her eyes and prayed. After a moment's thought her brother closed his eyes too.
Into his gathering of white Rhode Island Catholics entered a tall young black man with a shaved head, neatly dressed in a business suit, holding his hat and coat. Instead of closing the door behind him he held it open, waiting for someone to enter.
Her steps were unsteady, her breathing labored. She wore nothing but three-inch-wide coral blue pasties over each nipple, and a tiny matching thong bottom held on by barely visible threads that crossed her hips and disappeared between the cheeks of her bare butt. On her feet were nothing but string-held flip- flops, the soles paper thin. The young black man helped her into the lobby. The doctor could not but notice her entry, and approached. Such minimal clothing would normally be unacceptable in a guest to his unit, of course, but he had been advised. The young woman was fighting an allergic reaction but had insisted on being as clothed as possible.
They all hugged, hands clasping Tami's bare shoulders and bare back gently, though her own hugs were firmer.
Her concave tummy quaking with discomfort, she brushed back the strands of red hair that had shaken across her forehead. She said, "D - doctor -- P - perini? H - how is m - my Dad?"
The doctor quietly repeated when he had told the others. "He was working too hard, I told him that last time I saw him."
"C - can I... see him?" She shook and her companion steadied her, placing his hand on her bare hip.
Rod let Tami go and be alone with her father. Then he went in and joined her, holding her hand. He watched as she contemplated her father's face, with a serenity that was remarkable.
When they got back to where her family was, her mother and Uncle Robert and her cousin Amaryl, and Tami's old friend Charlene and her boyfriend Carlos, and a handsome young priest walked in.
"H - hi Father George."
In measured tones, he said, "I'm awfully sorry about this. Your father's a good man, I think he'll pull through. Your family is lucky to have you, Tami. They look up to you. And to your brother."
"Th - thanks."
"I see your allergy is being treated bit by bit." Father George surveyed Tami up and down. He was gay, a carefully kept secret, but could not help but notice.
"This is... all I can wear. At the moment. I've got to g - get a job as soon as I g - graduate."
"I'm sure you'll have no trouble with that. You'll be the valedictorian, as I understand. Congratulations."
"Th - thank you."
Father George went on to talk to the other family members. Rod and Tami sat down.
Tami crossed her legs. The quivering caused by her allergy caused her foot to shake. It caused the papery flip-flop to fall off. With a lurching motion Tami bent down to put it back on, clumsily threading the string between her toes.
"Babe, you don't have to have all that on. Take it off. They'll understand." She was supposed to stay naked as the beginning of her "status orgasmus" preparation, but had insisted on being as clothed as possible here.
"N - no."
"At least take your shoes off."
"N - no."
They sat in silence and then Tami, unable to keep still, stood up and listened to the conversation between Father George and Tami's mother. Rod watched, seeing Tami's total nakedness from the rear, interrupted only by the little strings sloping into her butt crack, amid the heavy clothing of the others. He thought of his marching band dreams and imagined Sarge, the band director, had had a heart attack during a parade and the rest of the band, having found out that he was going to be OK, were chatting in the hospital lobby. Frigid Brigid in her micro- uniform, respectfully listening to the fully-clothed grown-ups. The other Tunemasters were no doubt nearby.
So Tami's premonition of bad things happening had been correct. First her brother gets his tour extended in Iraq, now her father has a heart attack. With a shudder he thought of the old saying that bad things happen in threes. What would be next?
He thought of Joe getting a hardship discharge. Of course it should be tried. But from what they had heard this was not the kind of situation that would qualify these days. No children involved. And her mother was around to take care of John Smithers. Unfortunately Martha knew nothing about running the store. Tami had, but obviously could not do that naked, or nearly naked. It would cause a riot on Chalkstone Avenue. He could picture cars honking and a traffic jam as everyone rushed to get a look at the naked chick behind the parts counter.
Once again, Rod felt helpless, inadequate. He wished he could do more than just stand around and be a shoulder to cry on. He wished he could make Tami's problems go away. He wished he knew how to run a hardware store. The thing to do was just to sell it. But without John Smithers around they would probably have to close it down and see if they could get out of their business lease. Who would buy a defunct hardware store? They'd be reduced to selling the stock for ten cents on the dollar.
Tami had worked out her thoughts on the three-hour drive down here, once she had collected herself after the first shock. "In high school I used to do his books. I could do that again, and the ordering, and payroll. I'll go down on weekends. Friday night, after hours." Of course, they both knew the store hadn't been doing well. Having to look at those books would distress Tami even more.
Idly, he thought of his own mother. They should really stop by Roxbury and see her on the way back. No, it would be too late. And he and Tami both had early morning things to do tomorrow. That old house, how he would hate to see it go. But she just couldn't take care of it by herself, since his father died. She seemed about ready to admit things and put the "For Sale" sign up. The sale should set her up pretty well. The house was in good shape and the neighborhood had improved in recent years. Naturally she would give much of her windfall to Rod and Tami, and they could use it to help out Tami's folks. But that would be, at the earliest, months away.
Twenty minutes later they all tried to get Martha Smithers to come home, but she insisted on staying the night at her husband's side. A nurse brought in a cot. The group dispersed, Tami having gotten the phone number for the nurse's desk.
The drive back to Vermont was a silent one. Rod looked over at Tami as much as he could while keeping his eyes on the road. He thought of the first time they had made this trip together, how she had gotten into his old, drafty car, clothed only in a blanket, and sucked him all the way to Vermont. Happier times.
Tami had placed her "clothes" on the dashboard. She spent an hour contemplating them. In a delayed reaction, she cried. Rod patted her thigh.
It was around two a.m. when they finally pulled into their driveway. Tami sniffled and said firmly: "I need to make some big bucks p.d.q."
"Please DON'T go dancing at Teaser's."
Tami didn't answer. She was looking down at her bare feet, flexing her toes. She was tired but obviously wide awake.
As he got out of the Jeep, Rod said, "Think you can sleep?"
"I'm going to have to try. Big day tomorrow."
George Halifax, General Counsel of Campbell - Frank College, swallowed the last bite of his doughnut and ambled across the quad to take in one of his favorite sights, Miss Tami Smithers sprawled out napping on top of one of the concrete tables like a lazy cat.
She must enjoy every ray of sunshine on this warm day, he mused, after that long Vermont winter with the two April blizzards. There was still melted snow in shady corners but the day was glorious. As was her body, arms and legs spread wide, her nipples lazily erect in the sun, her pussy lips slightly opened.
Her rest was fitful, though. He could tell that. The bags under her eyes, the lack of that gentle smile. One could hardly blame her for being sleepless.
She turned a bit, the concrete scraping under her bare back, opened her eyes, and squinted at the sky, with a sexy little tired moan. George felt his dick stiffening. Fortunately, it was well hidden by clothes and his sizeable gut. And now Tami sensed his presence and looked down at him, realizing of course that her pussy lips were spread wide in his face, knowing he could see right up inside her, but showing no bashfulness nor making any motion to close her legs. It was all a part of Tami Smithers's life, a part she had long gotten used to.
"Hello, Mr. Halifax," Tami said to him across her pubic hair.
"Hi, Ms. Smithers, Tami," George said. "I'm sorry to hear about your father. It's been all over the campus intranet."
"I've come to show you something." Realizing, in his dirty middle-aged man's mind, how that sounded, he quickly revised it. "I mean, a document came in for you. It's in my office."
Tami sat up and stretched her arms skyward, her breasts riding up. George took a deep breath and suppressed the urge to grab them. It was almost irresistible. He thought of this Smithers girl over and over, during sex with his wife, it got him fired up. He was going to say something about it on his sex blog (lawyer.tonsoffun.com) but didn't want to blow his cover.
She got up and they walked together. On the path to Rossland Hall he said, "What happened to your outfit?" He had gotten turned on by those little pasties, and that clit strap.
"It's the treatment at Chalfont, with Dr. Kantor, I'm supposed to stay naked for now."
"Oh." He pretended ignorance. She waved blandly at a friend who passed by. Then as they passed a pile of snow she stooped next to hit and desultorily smooshed sloppy handfuls onto her breasts and into her crotch. "I'm supposed to stay cold too." The snow made her nipples poke out more than usual. As she stood up George had to look away and take a deep breath.
As they saw the sign to Rossland Hall, he thought of Henry Ross. He'd never met him, of course, his infamous predecessor, but he'd seen him on those secret Chalfont DVD's before he handed them over to Tami. God, that scene with her being pistoned to orgasm, again and again, looking so young and frightened, having to look Ross in the eye as he shouted insults at her family and racial epithets at her boyfriend. The agony and terror and unwanted ecstasy in her eyes... He had to admit it was an incredible turn-on. He was charged up with his wife for two weeks after seeing that. Did that make him bad?
As they entered his office on the ninth floor he realized how cluttered it was and how Tami had no clear place for her bare feet. Tami didn't mind as potato chips crunched under her soles.
He handed her a large envelope. "This is important, Ms. Smithers. It came in today by overnight. A government contract. Or, actually, one of the companies that supply the government. They want to mass produce your fabric."
Tami's bloodshot eyes widened as she held the envelope in her hands. "Mass produce?"
"Somehow they've heard of it and they've decided it might be useful as military outfitting. Which is what you wanted it to be, right? Suitable for both heat and cold, for our boys in Iraq?"
Tami looked down at the sealed envelope in wonder. "What does it say?"
"I don't know, it's really for you to look at. You and Gretchen Spaulding."
"Gretchten will let me sign for everything."
"Well, you then. Make sure a lawyer looks at it though."
"You're a lawyer, right?"
"Yes, but I'm only the college lawyer. I look out for the college. YOU need a lawyer to look after YOU."
Tami opened the envelope and drew out the twenty-page document.
George didn't want to say it, knowing where it would lead, but felt he had to. "Dr. Konrad, in the Fashion Technlogy Department, he's an intellectual property lawyer. BURRRRP!" He cleared his throat. "Sorry. Have him look at it, OK?"
Tami's tired, worry-lined face started to read. "OK. Thank you, Mr. Halifax." And she turned and left, stepping between crumbs, George's eyes following her with complicated thoughts until they fastened on her trim little butt cheeks.
He was startled when she came back ten minutes later.
"I've read it," she said, breathlessly. "I agree. It says the advance is a hundred thousand dollars, payable in 30 days."
"Wow." Actually not unheard of in that business, but to a naked 22-year-old college student... "Still, talk to Konrad --"
"I've already signed it. Do you have a fax machine?"
"Uh... sure... next to Miss King's office... but you should -- "
She ran off, her soles slapping against the tiles in the hall. And so Tami Smithers faxed a signed contract to a Texas phone number that in fact rolled over to a fax machine in Dubai. The contract had been carefully drafted by a recently hired lawyer in the Department of Defense, who had had some professional difficulties, including leaving a position hastily, and a more recent order of protection. But he had connections, so of course the normal vetting process was waived.
Horace Konrad, Esq., Ph.D., tenured professor in the Fashion Technology Department, smoothed his ruffled cuff and glanced at the twenty-page document with the fax transmittal sheet, lying on his desk. Then he smoothed his other ruffled cuff. This trim, 55-year-old was the most "out" of all the gay professors on campus, the most foppishly dressed. One could even see the rouge on his cheeks, the penciling on his eyebrows. Today he wore a pink striped shirt, an orange ascot, and a Little Lord Fauntleroy blue jacket. His pants were purple velvet, his boots fake- snakeskin with sapphire studding. His gray hair was highlighted with blond streaks. With this colorful attire and makeup, an unkind observer would say he looked a little like a circus clown, lacking only the red bubble nose.
A sad, serious clown. He glanced at Mr. Rod Sykes, in his suit and engineer boots, sitting to the side. And then he studiously regarded the naked young woman standing in front of his desk, her pubic hair looming over the photo of him and his long-time partner that perched on the far edge. He had offered her a chair but she was too nervous to sit. Her big toe corkscrewed uneasily into the carpet. Her nipples, normally big and brown and erect, sticking themselves into everyone's face (Dr. Konrad was not enamored of nipples in general, at least not female nipples), were parched, receded, as if trying to go into hiding. Something not possible for nipples that happened to belong to Tami Smithers.
"Yes, as you point out, there is a huge advance payable in 30 days, but there are conditions that have to be met, before the 30 days starts to run," he said.
Rod, having a side rear view of Tami, noticed her butt cheeks flexing and braced himself for bad news. This meeting was Tami's idea. She had tossed and turned through another sleepless night, wondering at what she had signed. Several times during the night she had gone over to the kitchen table to go over the contract yet again, trying without success to penetrate the legalese. There were also some references to "incorporated protocols" but no hint as to what those protocols were. Finally in the morning she called on Dr. Konrad to look at it. Just three hours later he asked her to come in at 5:30 p.m. Rod left work early to get here with her for support.
Exhaling, as if in weariness and exasperation, Dr. Konrad said, "It took me a while to find the referenced protocols, they are supposedly on the Department of Defense web site but the link is dead. They are a relic of a time when it was much harder to get contracts for core services. That's a term of art, it means things the Army, for example, traditionally does for itself. That includes uniforms. I know this, I used to be in Quartermaster Corps. One of my old pals had the protocols in his files."
He made a limp-wristed wave at a thirty-page fax to his side. "The relevant provision is a kind of bootstrap, where you have get a similar contract before you get THIS contract. And it has to be with a, what it calls a 'qualifying institution'."
"What does that mean?" Rod said.
Dr. Konrad looked up at the naked girl. "In your situation, it basically means you have to win the International to get the advance."
Tami shut her eyes. "Oh Jesus." She crossed her arms in front of her, squeezing her breasts so that they spilled out over her arms.
"In the meantime this company, this, uh, Graywater Enterprises, they have dibs on the fabric you have invented. Since you haven't patented it, they are free to get a patent themselves, or declare it a government secret. I know that sounds unfair, but to quote Ronald Reagan, 'when you get into bed with government, you get more than a good night's sleep'."
"This is a private company, right?" Rod said. "How can they declare Cherish a government secret?"
"They can, trust me."
Finally Tami sat down, her now clammy butt sticking to the vinyl of the chair, and she drew her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees, as if to curl up into a ball, a very unusual gesture for her. Dr. Konrad had a full view of her lower lips, and the wink of butthole below. He tried not to look. Her toes flexed and writhed in front of her. "Lord... win the International!"
"You can use your fabric in your International submission, of course, because it would be what the contract calls 'for demonstration purposes'. But you can't sell it and you can't license it to anyone else."
Rod felt miserable for his poor wife. True, she had learned that she had made the finals of the competition, she would be going to the finals show in Montreal, two weeks from now. But she had also been told that the odds were against her winning. That would be so sweet if it happened, though. A fully paid scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design, back in her home town, and if this status orgasmus experiment worked out she'd be back to fully clothed by then... "You can win it, Babe!"
Tami grunted, putting her head between her knees. "Maybe... maybe..."
"I have to be honest. You shouldn't delude yourself," the professor said. "The panel of judges who will be at that event in Montreal, well they have their own prejudices, or maybe I should say predilections. They are not familiar with the military, they are suspicious of what they picture as the military mentality, and they do not like Americans, especially recently. And now you have signed up to be, in essence, a defense contractor. There has been a lot of bad publicity about defense contractors lately. I won't lie to you. Having signed this . . . contract . . . will be a powerful mark against you, in their book. I would be on firm ground if I said it would in effect disqualify you."
"Can't I get out of it?"
"I'm afraid not. Listen, Miss Smithers," Dr. Kantor said, slouching and wrapping his hands in front of him, "I may seem cold about this but I'm supposed to be a lawyer to our fashion students, and a good lawyer must be honest with his client. Like everyone else around here I have a great deal of respect for you. And I understand the family pressures that caused you to rush into signing. But you're over 18, and there is nothing that can be called duress or unconscionability or anything else that the law recognizes as a reason to erase that signature. As far as legal protections go, you are now... shall we say... quite naked."
"This contract... it's a mark against her only if the judges know about it," Rod said. "What if they don't find out?"
"I won't say a thing. Halifax is sworn to secrecy too. But..." He paused. "The government has no problem outing people when it serves its purposes. And even if you won the International, if they found out about this contract later, and they almost certainly will, there could be adverse consequences."
Rod and Tami sat there in uneasy quietude, unavoidably facing the essence of what Dr. Konrad was saying. Tami had made a big, big mistake.
"So Cherish is... out..."
"From what I understand you are an accomplished designer, well apart from your involvement in that fabric. I've seen some of your 'Tami Original' designs, they're quite unorthodox but, in the hands of the right people, they could sell. Perhaps... aggressive marketing... of your brand..."
The silence of this remote, faint prospect hung heavy in the air. "Thank you, Dr. Konrad," Tami said. And she gathered up the contract and left with Rod.
She walked ahead of him, eshewing the elevator as usual, and Rod watched as her dusty bare feet slapped down the concrete steps. She descended loose limbed as if very tired, breasts bouncing, that wretched contract in her hand. When she came to a landing she stopped.
She looked out the window, onto a playing field, beyond which lay San Beueno Hall and, beyond that, the Chalfont Institute. On the field, girls in soccer uniforms were having a scrimmage in the springtime mud, running and kicking a ball around. They seemed happy, oblivious to the mud on their sneakers and tall socks. Happy and clothed. For once, Tami seemed unhappy about being naked. Having to forego orgasms the past few days, as part of her preparation for the status orgasmus session, didn't help. That certainly contributed to her inability to sleep.
Now he was chilled to the bone as Tami asked the questions he had dreaded for three years.
"Rod... how come I'm the only one in the world who is always naked? What's it like... to wear clothes?"
He couldn't think of how to answer that, except to say, "You'll know soon enough, Babe."
To Rod's surprise Tami sniffled and turned to him. A tear fell onto her nipple just before she buried her face in his jacket. "Oh Rod... I've let my family down... and how can I explain this to Gretchen? I've signed away all her hard work!"
Gretchen, holding her arms up in the uncut sleeves, stood on the little stand in the Fashion Lab and looked down at the tired, bleary eyes of her best friend. Even her nipples drooped a bit, as if tired of facing the world 24/7.
"Sorry, Gretch." Another pin prick, very unusual for Tami. Her naked friend shook loose some threads that had gotten tangled between her toes and moved behind her to cinch up the back.
It was another attempt at getting that evening dress just right. On previous occasions Gretchen's boob kept popping out, to her intense chagrin, Gretchen being such a shy farm girl from a conservative background. Though at the moment she felt not shame but guilt, guilt she knew was irrational but felt nonetheless. Her fiance Roger, having survived a year in Iraq as a fighter pilot, was coming back in a couple of weeks, while Tami's brother got his tour extended at the last minute.
And there was the palpable guilt that Tami exuded, at having signed away the rights to Cherish. Gretchen had given Tami permission to sign for them. Despite this huge mistake she kept telling Tami, "It's OK, Tam, it's OK!" Surely Tami's family situation made the whole Cherish business trivial. Gretchen would have gladly signed away Cherish if it somehow would bring Joe back, or make Tami's father healthy again.
Now, watching Tami, with pins in her mouth, pick out a thread that had fallen into her plum-colored lower hair, she put her thoughts as gently as possible. "Tam, why don't you take a break? Go home and rest." Tami went back to cinching and Gretchen suppressed a yelp as she was pricked again, near the waist.
"No," Tami said with finality. Then she stood back, hands on her hips. "How is that?"
Gretchen hopped off the socle and landed softly on her stockinged feet.
Unknown to both of them, the door had swung open slightly. Students were passing by in the hall, on the way to the Intro to Fashion class. Mostly non-majors who had signed up for it as a lark, not realizing all the reading they would have to do. And now including Lorinda, who had mercilessly abused and tormented Tami during that awful freshman year, who had gotten that summer accounting job with Ned and Ethel that Tami had longed for... accompanied by her roommate Celine, who could just barely tolerate her.
Gretchen turned and, unfortunately, her right boob once again popped out.
"Woooo!" squealed a delighted Lorinda, whose view through the open door was unobstructed.
"Oh Jesus!" Gretchen, suddenly aware of her audience, blushed furiously and drew the flap of Cherish over her right breast. Only now it was her left breast that popped out.
"Wooo! Wooo!" Lorinda squealed with delight. "Nice tits, Gretch!"
"Oh Lord Almighty..." Gretchen turned and fled to the dressing closet in teary-eyed shame.
Campbell - Frank's only naked student, a being possessed, flew through the opened door and tackled Lorinda. Then threw a punch square in the jaw with her powerful arm. A few seconds later Lorinda Summerton lay face-down in the hallway, surrounded by shocked students and faculty, motionless, with a pool of blood forming on the floor under her head.
Sitting in the kitchen, Rod and Gretchen looked at their coffees and then up at each other.
"I don't hear a sound from up there," Gretchen said.
Rod nodded. Tami had been in the attic since they woke up an hour ago.
Gretchen hesitated at what she was to say next, but said it. "Aren't you afraid she'll do something... stupid?" She pictured Tami hanging by a noose.
Rod shook his head and took another sip. "All in all, Tami's seen worse." He thought of the stories he had dragged out of Tami about that naked cross-country trek back home. Nearly freezing and starving to death on the tar paper roof of a diner in Arizona. Nearly baking to death on the hot Texas chapparal, until she was rescued by that horse. Trussed up in that harness on that pony farm, almost going mad with pain as she refused to have that horrible fax sent to her father, while that tail dildo pounded her ovaries mercilessly. He thought again of what the Chalfont people had told him, that it was as painful as having one's testicles squeezed in a vise until they popped. He shifted uneasily in his chair.
"She'll find a way to survive. She always does. And she's with us, not alone. Surrounded by our love and our support."
"Amen." They both looked up at the ceiling. Then gazed out at the misty early April morning, hearing the birds sing as they fluttered among the newly sprung flowers. A season of hope and promise. "The cruellest month."
Then together they got up, Rod in his sweats, Gretchen in her bathrobe, and ascended the stairs silently, Rod in his stockinged feet, Gretchen in her tennis shoes.
The attic of this small house was a bare expanse of dusty hardwood boards, under the bare joists of the sloped roof, holding nothing except some boxes stored in the corners. Three peaked windows afforded a view of the street and Mrs. Blanton's house and the mountains beyond. As Rod and Gretchen ascended, the first thing that hit their eyes was the well-known ring of brown skin around Tami's anus, winking at them from between widely separated butt cheeks as she kneeled prone on the floor, her head down and her arms extended in front of her. To the side was a bottle of water and, further out, a laptop. Next to the laptop, an envelope with Tami's careful block lettering:
CPL JOSEPH P SMITHERS
C CO,784 BSB
101ST INF DIV
APO AE 03574
They recognized Tami's pose as one of her gymnastics positions. Now as they stepped up onto the boards she turned on her side, clasped one foot and veered into one of her stretch positions, legs split apart. Then with her hand she turned the upper foot so that it almost touched the low ceiling. The dust from the boards clung to her butt cheeks and the side of her thigh. Her pussy lips were split open and they hung out obscenely, engorged with arousal from days and days of not having release. The smell of female filled the room. Rod's dick stiffened at this natural signal, despite his mood. As he sat down cross-legged with Gretchen he had to shift it around so it ran down his leg.
Tami turned again and now she faced them, legs apart in a split, hands in front. Then she extended her hands out to rest on her knees and opened her dexterous toes. The toes spread so wide they looked like fingers opening to clasp a softball. Like a chimpanzee's feet. Rod thought of lightening the mood by saying "Ooo! Ooo!" but changed his mind.
"How are you holding out?" Gretchen said at last.
Tami reached over to the water bottle and took a sip. Her face, drawn with lack of sleep, was serious but somehow serene. "Considering I'm under indictment, and under the college code of conduct I'm suspended from classes and barred from campus, and I've signed away our invention and my degree is in grave danger and I might be expelled, and my brother is in a combat zone and my dad is in critical condition, I'm OK."
Thank God Lorinda hadn't been killed. Tami was so strong that one punch could have done it. But Lorinda's jaw was broken, and had to be wired shut for at least a month. And then there was that arraignment. Judge Prudence Staton, in shock, had listened to the heartbroken Assistant D.A., Miss Granby-White, ask for a charge of first degree aggravated assault. Tami had listened nakedly and almost in tears next to the exquisitely dressed Marcus McIntyre as Lorinda's mother, a stringy-haired shrew who was like an older version of her daughter, screamed for a charge of manslaughter. But the judge wouldn't do that.
Then the judge really set Lorinda's mother off by refusing to set bail. It was patiently explained that the purpose of bail was to prevent flight and Tami was not a flight risk, not only because she was Tami but because it was hard for a naked woman to flee town without detection. This did not satisfy Lorinda's mother one bit. Rod supposed he could sympathize. After all, her daughter had almost been killed.
Rod's and Gretchen's thoughts were interrupted by the naked young woman, speaking with her hands on her knees again, her pussy lips languid and hanging down, right in their face, her toes separated. "I've made three big mistakes. I yelled at Yvette and she almost committed suicide, then I signed that contract, then I socked Lorinda in the jaw. From now on . . . ooohhh . . . nothing stupid. Everything I do has to be exactly the right thing."
That shudder was a product of her extreme horniness. Rod hated to see her suffer. "Babe... let's go to bed. I'll lick you." Which made Gretchen blush.
"No!" the naked girl said firmly. "I have to stay -- unsatisfied. The buildup to the -- status orgasmus. When I get into clothes again. And can lead a normal life and find a job where I can."
The three sat on the floor in silence, Rod and Gretchen cross-legged, Tami in her split. Then Rod said, "I think there was a lot behind that punch you gave Lorinda."
"There's no need to psychoanalyze me, Baby. I know EXACTLY why I punched her so hard... It was all that shame from my freshman year coming out. I thought I'd let it go, but it was still inside me. When she started in on someone else, on my best friend, well then I had to..." All this delivered without emotion, with clear-eyed, or maybe cold-eyed, seriousness. Tami seemed like a different person. There was no joy in her. No sense of dreams and hope. Just brutal honesty.
Gretchen thought of something Jen had told her, of Lorinda's finger up Tami's butt, feeling the rectal contractions as Jen brought Tami to orgasm after orgasm at that demonstration arranged by Dr. Congi in the basement of the admininistration building. "She's squeezing my finger to death!" Lorinda had squealed, as her immature friends had held Tami's hands and feet, while Jen used all her skill to intensify and extend Tami's orgasms, not knowing the mortal shame Tami was suffering. Yet after all that freshman year humiliation, it was only when Gretchen herself had been shamed, that Tami let her anger out.
"So now what?"
Tami said, "Well... I can still keep up with classes by e-mail. My professors are seeing to that. And I've been looking at... options."
She pivoted on her butt to the laptop and turned it on with her pinky toe. In a moment Rod and Gretchen were shocked to see it was set to some kind of porn site.
"Watch this," Tami said. "She calls herself the Pussygun."
A quick video showed a platinum blonde with fake breasts, naked except for high glass heels, spreading her legs and leaning back and squirting a stream of what looked like water from her crotch.
"That's easy," Tami said, extending her foot to pause the video with her second toe. "I can do better."
Rod's heart sank because he knew Tami's talents and knew what she was about to do. It was a surprise to Gretchen, though. Tami upended the water bottle into her pussy, then turned toward the windows. She raised her widely spread legs on flat bare feet, raised her butt off the floor, then with quick grunts she directed a narrow, laser-like stream at each window, hitting each dead center. She managed a second hit on each before the water ran out.
"I've looked into it," the naked young woman said. "Setting up the web site and the cam is easy. And I'll use an alias. Maybe pixellate my face. Nobody will ever know it's me."
"Oh Babe..." Rod said. "That would be so..."
"Cheap?" Tami's eyes flashed. "Rod, even once I get into clothes, even if they let me graduate, I won't be able to make real money for a long time. My family needs cash NOW."
"And I have other tricks too. Like this." She leaned forward and reached one of Gretchen's sneakers with her feet. Then did her trick of untying the laces with her toes. And tying them up again. "And then there's putting that tail in. I bet not many women could do that. And the gymnastics. Not many totally naked gymnasts on the web, from what I've seen. Or at least no good ones. If I can learn to do status orgasmuses at will, that will be an extra. Put it all together, probably a unique site. I should draw a lot of paying subscribers. And, on top of that, there's Teaser's, or some such place."
"Oh Babe..." Rod said again.
"It won't be so bad," Tami said, deadpan. "I'll be cured by then and can wear clothes for my day job, maybe being a grad assistant. Again, if they let me get my degree. This web site will be my cash cow, though. I can work on it on weekends."
That she had carefully thought this all through made it worse. Rod and Gretchen looked at her, then at each other, in great sadness.
Now Gretchen contemplated the envelope with the military address on it. Similar to the address she used to write her fiance Roger, whose tour ended next week. "I see Joe got promoted to Corporal."
"It's lateral only," Tami said. "Same pay grade as Specialist. Only now he can order Privates around. Necessary now that he's in a combat zone. . . I'm writing him a long letter explaining what happened." Tami exhaled, raggedly, then stood up, her head nearly touching the joists. She shook her muscles all over, evidently to redistribute the blood that kept collecting in her pelvis. Her breasts bounced and she looked down at her two companions. In a perfunctory sign of vanity, she ran her fingers over the short hair on her head, then fluffed up the plum-colored hair below. "Joe's gotten a lot more interesting to talk to now that he's grown up. The Army matured him. I think it might be good therapy for me, to explain myself."
"Speaking of therapy, Tami," Gretchen said, "if you can't go on campus -- "
"The Chalfont folks said screw you to the rules," Rod broke in. "They told Tami that her sessions will continue for the buildup. She goes again on Monday."
"Right... and..." For once Tami showed a trace of emotion as she looked up at Rod. "It's Friday. I've got to go down, you know. Do Dad's books."
"I'm coming too, Babe," Rod said.
"Yes... I've got to face Dad. I'll need you next to me, Baby."
Rod sat in the hall next to Tami, who was suffering in her little pasties and stringy thong bottom and paper thin flip flops. They overhead John Smithers's raspy, weak voice speaking on the phone behind the partition.
"No, no, Walt, what are you doing buying rakes? It's the end of the season! Now don't go higher than five bucks per on the outdoor clocks. They don't have to be huge... Oh Christ, I don't know what we'll do. We'll have to close on Sundays then. Just keep the damn place going..."
A nurse passed them and walked behind the partition. She made him end the call. Evidently she told him about his visitors. She came out and looked at the young couple and shrugged, then went on to her next task.
Rod and Tami sat uneasily. Then her father lurched out from behind the partition in a motorized wheelchair. They stood up, out of politeness. John Smithers, thin and pale and with an IV in his arm, strugged with the controls and wheeled up to them halfway.
He stared at Tami with a look that could pierce metal. Tami gulped and drew her hands in front of her, then forced them to her sides.
He let the silence go on and on, never dropping his stare. Then he said, in a short-breathed voice, "Young lady... I am very disappointed in you."
"S - sorry Dad..."
"How COULD YOU -- " He coughed and breathed and held his chest, then made sure the I.V. was still in. "After all you've done... how could you do something... so STUPID... so GODDAMN STUPID!!"
Tami sniffled, like a little child being scolded who was waiting for the spanking.
John Smithers caught his breath and spoke now in a low scratchy voice. "To throw all that... four years of hard work... to throw all that away... Tami... is there something I don't know about? Why exactly did you slug that girl?"
Rod closed his eyes and felt like a great weight was about to be lifted from Tami's shoulders. Now was the chance to tell her father about the shame she had experienced. Not to go into detail about the Chalfont experiments, but at least to tell him of all the teasing and taunting... how it was like Hell on earth to have to go around naked... how this was why she suddenly lost control...
"Is there some reason you felt the need to slug her?" he asked again.
Tami closed her eyes and then opened them. In a teary voice, she said, "N - no, Daddy."
John Smithers's nostrils flared and he slammed his hand on the arm of his wheelchair with what little strength he possessed. "Then I am ASHAMED of you! ASHAMED!! I don't want to talk to you... ANY MORE!!"
Rod jumped up next to Tami and was about to say something. But Tami shook her head vigorously and held him back.
John Smithers worked the controls and mananged to turn the wheelchair around. In a moment he was back behind the partition. Tami stood there, sniffling, forcing herself to stand up straight, a picture of utter misery.
They waited there for a few minutes. Then from behind the partition a nurse emerged and told them Mr. Smithers wanted to be left alone. They had no choice but to leave.
"How could he not accept her apology? With her miserable and crying like that? Can't he figure out she's been under stress?? He's just a stupid, stubborn, closed-minded old jerk!" Rod said, shaking his head at his eggs. "I'm sorry Bec, but even though he was in a wheelchair, I was about to whoop him upside the head."
Rev. Rebecca Stanton, sitting across from him tonight at the Polka Dot Diner in White River Junction, N.H., nodded. "It sure sounds like he was being jerky."
"But I stayed back because I just had to respect Tami's wishes. She always wants to keep the past a secret from her folks. Yet another thing that she holds in. Maybe she didn't want to get him even more excited, with his weak heart. Yet another sacrifice she makes for that old buzzard who's too stubborn to open up and realize what she goes through for him."
Rebecca looked different these days. She dressed more like a minister, not in her former lumberjack shirts and jeans. Longer, freer hair, and some wrinkles around the eyes. Not wrinkles of worry. Wrinkles of someone who has learned to laugh a lot.
But the helpful, intelligent demeanor was the same. "I can see how you feel paralyzed. Obviously an unfinished situation."
"Yes... and with her father's health the way it is... What if he dies tomorrow? With that... scene... being the last words between them?"
They sat and looked out the big windows at the parked cars in front of the diner, then out into the night, down at the river, flush with the melting snow from the mountains. Further on, the trucks boomed by on the interstate.
"So..." Rod lurched himself into a smile. "How's the... conjugal life? What's his name? Rodrigo?"
Rebecca blushed and her eyes crinkled. She flung back her long hair. "Oh Lord... Sex... I've never known such pleasure. Wow!!"
She and Rod laughed together. Rod reached across and patted her on the shoulder. "Good for you! You deserve it, after all the helping people you do."
Rebecca these days was doing mission work in Kenya. She was "in the States" on a two-week leave, to see her brother and the rest of her family. She was going to stop by the Campbell - Frank area next week. But Rod had called her ahead of time and arranged this meeting, 30 miles out of town, because he needed what he called "some pastoral counseling". And of course to say hi and catch up on things.
"I don't mind being frank with an old friend, if you don't," Rebecca said. "But feeling Rodrigo's penis stretching me, going way up into me, riding him like a cowgirl... it's heaven on earth. And he's such a good man."
Rod smiled. It was so weird to hear Rebecca talk this way. "Are you going to tie the knot?"
"That is a question for next year. But we sure fit together." She giggled naughtily, something Rod had never heard from her. "In so many ways."
They both smiled and then looked out into the night again.
Rod exhaled and said, "John Smithers... what a jerk."
Rebecca said, "Let me ask you something... That incredible strength Tami has. Where do you think she gets it from? Do you think it suddenly sprung up inside her at age 18 when she was forced to go naked and forced into all those trials? No, it was already in her. She got it from her dad. She's just as stubborn and mulish as he is. In the context she was in, that quality turned into courage and sacrifice, being brave when no one could see she was being brave. That inner stubbornness allowed her to survive, allowed her to keep her scholarship and get straight A's and make her parents proud. A weaker girl would have gone crazy, or cracked. But not the daughter of John Smithers."
Someone got into one of the cars to leave. The headlights turned on and illuminated Rod's face.
"If he's as Catholic as he sounds," Rebecca continued. "Have there been any divorces in Tami's family? Or annulments?"
"No." It was a point of pride with Tami. "We Smitherses marry for life," she once said.
"Well, then, to him marriage is forever. You can't stop being Tami's husband any more than Joe can stop being her brother. It's not a question of you coming between Tami and her dad. You have every right to intercede... And say what you think is the right thing to say."
After a few moments Rod said, "It's time to step up. And be brave like Tami."
"A form of being stubborn."
Wanda Percival, Suffolk County (Mass.) Assistant D.A., put her arm around her old friend's bare shoulders. She looked down at her slacks and her fashionable pointy-toed heels next to the hard, tanned bare feet. Then looked out with her friend at the blinking lights of the runways out here at Campbell County Airport.
"I wish I could help you," she said, looking down at her rum and coke, "but I'm not admitted to practice law in this state. And from what Jen's dad says, there's no research to be done. I wish you the best. You deserve it."
Tami took a sip from her martini. The bar here made really big ones. Her glass was like a cereal bowl. "How is life as an A.D.A.?"
"Not like I hoped. I thought I could be mean in a good cause. But a lot of these criminals, they remind me a little of myself. They just grew up on the wrong side of town, that's all. Or were in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Tami's toes rubbed Wanda's shoes, whether in curiosity or appreciation or envy, Wanda couldn't tell. "I think I liked you more when you were Wandabitch. You've gone all squishy now."
Wanda laughed. "Maybe it's because right now I wish I was naked and you were clothed."
Tami's big toe pushed on the points of one of Wanda's shoes. "You could still kill someone with those."
It was called a "solidarity dinner" for Tami Smithers, here at the Skyview restaurant, the scene of that horrible orgasmic torture Tami had undergone, though of course tonight she wasn't about to wear that tail. Marcus McIntyre, who arranged it and paid for it, had decided on an out of town location. And, Tami being "persona non grata", no one official was here from the college.
Except George Halifax. "Tony Noyes wishes you the best," the college's lawyer said as he drank up a diet soda and drank in Tami's naked charms up and down. "He can't say so, of course. But they wanted to, uh, strip you of being valedictorian, so you wouldn't give that speech, but he said, Not while she's a student here. You are a fine young woman, Ms. Smithers."
As she stood next to Rod, he in his best suit, she with a new manicure and pedicure and pretty flecks of sparkles in her plum-colored hair, both above and below, and greeted the line of well-wishers, one could tell she was blushingly shy about all the compliments but also glad she had so many friends. Now some of the TL's came up, Barbara and Myra and Rosaria, and also Sessu, hugging her and complimenting the sparkles in her lower hair. This got a smile out of the naked woman. As Rod held her martini she spread her lower lips and waved with her clit. "Hi hi!"
Now a look of surprise. Yvette!
"Merci, merci," she said, almost tearfully, hugging so hard that Tami's breasts squeezed out to the sides against Yvette's blazer.
Tami took a deep breath, her breasts heaving, as she looked Yvette up and down. She also had on a button-up blouse, long skirt, and black sneakers. And had cut her hair and permed it. "What are you doing these days?"
"I thought a long time, a very long time, after you saved me. I told Pierre to stay away. I went up to his house in St. Hubert, and told him so. Then I went back to the pere, the priest, with the closet of clothes, remember? Now I have a job, a real job, being a secretary at his friend, he has a lumber company in Grafton. So nice people."
A genuine smile from the naked woman. "I'm so glad!" Another hug.
A few moments later, the line of well-wishers was finished. People stood around in small groups, drinking, chatting, eating the snacks brought around by waitresses in their long black slacks. Rev. Stipend came by and apologized for being late. He had to counsel a battered woman for whom he had arranged transportation to a shelter. "I pray for you and for Lorinda too," he said.
"Reverend, I will accept all the responsibility for what I did," Tami said, gravely, as those near her turned and watched. "I'm glad I have so many friends, but what I did was..."
"I pray it turns out well for you and for her," the gray- haired minister said. "So does my congregation."
After he left, Rod and Tami sipped their drinks and looked out onto the nighttime airport. They were approached by Gretchen, in a sensible long black dress, who had been staying in the background. The two young women looked at each other.
Gretchen's eyes reddened and she sniffled. "I share a little of your pain, I suppose."
They didn't hug but instead clasped hands. Rod looked down and gently shook his head. They had heard the news earlier today. Roger's tour had been extended at the last minute, just as Joe's had. It was worse when it's a fiance, as opposed to a brother. He thought of the intimate moments Gretchen and Roger had been looking forward to. Now, put off till next year. That is, IF he came back at all.
Trent came by with a revised "Tami Original" logo. The girl holding the coat was more obviously naked now. One breast could now be seen. "I think Jeffrey would have gotten a kick out of it," Tami said. "It's the least I could do," Trent said. His new boyfriend Cyril came up and put his arm around his shoulder. "Life goes on," Trent continued. "Tam, you're coming to the end of another phase of your wonderful life. I get the feeling this one's going to end happy. Maybe surprising, but happy."
Jen and her father stopped by. Jen wordlessly hugged her naked old friend, then playfully flicked a nipple, then looked admiringly down at the flecked pubic hair. She whispered in Tami's ear, "I SO want to lick you right now!" "Stop!" Tami said. "Please have mercy. I had to take a cold shower before we came here!"
Rod looked around. It was not exactly a happy occasion, but people could get their minds off Tami's predicament and talk about other things. Of course, her situation didn't apply to them. There was no uproarious laughter but the conversation was lively.
There was an observation deck above the restaurant, a glass- enclosed bubble, reachable by stairs. Homer Winant sat up there in his wheelchair with the lights off, listening to the hubbub below, taking in the 360-degree view of what stars could be seen in the glare of the lights, watching the occasional small plane land or take off. He put his martini on the railing that ran along the sides. He sensed someone behind him and turned. It was Tami, who had crept up silently on her bare feet, looking up at the sky, her toes twisting against the cold hard marble floor.
Somehow she didn't know he was there. She placed her heel up on the railing and leaned her head down onto her leg, a ballet stretch.
Homer watched the play of muscles in her perfectly formed butt, the turn of the jiggling breast, the gentle valley of the spine. Then he decided to not remain covert. "Hello, Miss Smithers."
Tami turned. "Oh hi, Homer," she said quietly, continuing to stretch.
"Best of luck to you," he said.
"Also, best of luck on the experiment to get you into clothes. I've heard something about it. From what I understand, it might work, it might not."
Tami straightened up and faced her drink on the railing. "I'm sure it will," she said. She had gotten a second martini and tookg the first sips. She idly scratched a nipple and continued to look out.
Homer plucked an olive out of his. "I see we're both martini people."
Tami looked his way.
"Too strong for most folks."
This got a little smile, which pleased him.
"How did those new ice skates work out?" The ones made out of wood, that he had designed so that they could bear Tami up without covering any part of her foot.
"Excellent. You're a genius. Everyone knows that."
"Thanks," he said, turning to face her head on across the circular deck. "Ever since I lost the use of my legs, my mind has improved. That's how I invented the full body flexor, that you tried out when you were a freshman, that gives everyone a real workout now at the Rec Center."
Tami took a big sip. "The hamster wheel."
A pause. "When I was sweating on it, up at the Dixon Mill, when I was eighteen, all stretched out. And anyone who wanted could just come by and look at me, every part of me. I used to think of it as 'the hamster wheel',"
"Well, I didn't know your true situation then."
He paused. So much unspoken, but they understood each other. "That was another life. You won out over those creeps and came out naked and happy about it."
He was gauging her reactions. This comment elicited none. So he went on with what he was going to say.
"Back when I had my legs, I was just another stupid wrench, working on tractors and lawnmowers, the low man on the totem pole over there. Then I slipped off that icy roof. Now I've invented that body flexor, and those skates... and I've patented those, and seven other designs, all in what they call these days 'ergonomics'. Professor Konrad might be the world's biggest fruitcake but he knows his stuff.
"Stuck in this chair, I learned to watch people. And in the back of my mind I'm always thinking about how people move, how their legs work. That's how I get the ideas. I lost my legs, so now I keep thinking about how it must be to have them. It turned my mind on."
Tami sipped and looked out as if trying to make out Orion in the glare. The lights of an incoming mini-jet played faintly over the slopes of her breasts, then along the hollow of her tummy. "I'm sure you'd rather have your legs back."
"True. But they're gone. In their place, I've been given a big gift. How could I not use it? Being legless AND stupid, that would be the worst of both worlds. It's my role in life to be legless and smart. So I grab that gift and make the most of it. That's the way to happiness."
Tami and Homer remained up there in the observation deck for some time, Homer glancing over at Tami from time to time, Tami looking at the stars.
Finally Tami said, "See you later, Homer," and descended the stairs with the gracefulness of a trained gymnast, holding her drink.
Gretchen had been holding Tami's cell phone. Now it rang. "Tami! It's your dad!"
Tami stood in the corner with it for a few minutes, then sat cross-legged on the floor, her bare butt cheeks pressed against the polished coldness. Then she closed the little clamshell and went over to Rod and hugged him.
"Thanks Baby," she said. "Dad is OK. He says he's sorry." She had a lump in her throat for sure. "That's not easy for him to say."
Rod felt good, having stuck his neck out, been brave for Tami, for a change.
Now Tami, her mood having totally changed, ran her toes along the leg of his pants. "I think I owe you..."