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“What about a picnic?” Emily whispered.
Guru Sri Sri Shanti was droning on about the soul being a flower that opened when the light of the Vedas shone upon it. Emily was bored because she knew a lot more about the Vedas than Sri Sri Shanti aka Joseph Poplowitz.
“I’ve had just about enough of this.” She murmured to Susan, who sat next to her on a fat meditation cushion. “Shall we go?”
Susan held up her left slim hand.
“As soon as they start the Om nama shivaya; I can’t stand chanting.”
They raided the kitchen. The fridge had a stack of roti and a bowl of vegan biriyani. Emily filled her water bottle with lassi and snitched a few of the Indian sweets. Two apples.
The murmur of the entranced participants wobbled down the corridor from the meditation room.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
“Where shall we eat?”
Emily pondered a minute.
“Hey. You know how there’s that little deserted dirt road that skirts the creek just before the turnoff to the ashram? I think I glimpsed a little clearing down that way. We can sit on the bank, paddle our feet in the cool water and eat our lunches. Good?”
“Sounds perfect if it is the way you say. I’m not one for batting mosquitoes and brushing squads of ants off my food.”
“Well, let’s give it a try. If it sucks, then we can find a more civilized spot. Okay?”
Emily winced inside. She didn’t like to hear women use the expression “sucks,” and here she had done it herself, with Susan, of all people; someone she thought had class and style.
As they walked to her car she peeked at her old roommate out of the corner of her eye. Susan personified the word ‘graceful.’ She was slim, high-waisted and long-legged. Today she was wearing a rough grey cotton skirt that fluttered around her legs as she walked; a clean pink blouse, a dark silk scarf knotted around her neck. Pale skin. Fine nose. Cupid’s bow mouth.
The only element that didn’t look ‘put together’ was her hair; short curly blonde with all sorts of mottled highlights that caught the light almost like a halo. Messy and neat at the same time.
Emily was jealous. She seemed to have been chosen by Life Central Casting to be just the opposite of this elegant companion. She had all kinds of mixed ancestry, so her skin was a palette of different hues, from nutty brown where any sun at all hit it, freckles on her nose, cheeks and shoulders, creamy beige shading to purple in her hidden areas. There was a lot of her; not fat, but big round curves that danced when she walked. Something inside her always seemed to be dancing. She fought it; dressed in black; went to yoga and meditation retreats to pump up her chill. She liked her hair, wore it loose and natural, just a little picked out. All that effort still left her feeling a hot mess. Fortunately, her guy, Darwin liked her just like she was. But he did call her ‘cupcake’ which suggested how he saw her — certainly not a sleek, classy Susan.
They didn’t talk much in the short drive over. Susan was humming something and rolling her head on her shoulders, massaging the back of her neck and temples.
“That’s why I was happy to get out of there. I thought that meditation would clear this tension headache, but I can’t shake it.”
“I think I’ve got some Tylenol in my bag.”
“Thanks. Maybe I’ll just wait it out. Maybe the food will kill it. Frankly, I wasn’t going to share this; I just was fired. Unexpectedly. Not exactly ‘for cause,’ but they weren’t nice; suggesting I just didn’t get the company ethos, yada yada. Trouble is, they were right. I like being a copywriter but I can’t write bullshit about candidates that I wouldn’t shake hands with at a church supper. So it’s good I got the axe, because I get severance. But see, I thought I could turn them around, make them greater than they were. Fucking Thaddeus Reynolds.”
“You didn’t, did you?”
“What? Oh. No, though he probably would have been willing to overlook his own ‘non-fraternizing in the workplace’ rule.”
“So you don’t think that’s why —?”
“I got cut? Nuh uh. Pure politics.”
“But it has you wired.”
“Yup. I had dreams and they’re in the toilet.”
“Maybe not. You can make a new road. And you have Greg, isn’t it?”
“Well, that too.”
“Hey, I’m so sorry. And I’d be happy to massage a couple of those knots out.”
Emily reached over and squeezed the back of Susan’s neck.
“Whoa. You have strong hands. Maybe I’ll take you up on that.”
“Okay, that’s a promise. But here’s our turn, I think. Yes, see, that’s where the little road goes off. But, it has gotten overgrown. I guess nobody much comes down here even for walking meditation. Good, we’ll have the place to ourselves.”
The car was pushing between bushes as they neared the creek. Susan had a tiny frown.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Nope. But I have a hunch. Aaaand here we are.”
The car pulled out into a little clearing. There was the stream. A small grove of birches leaned over it surrounded by a bright green bahis firmaları patch off moss. Across the stream was a wild meadow filled with Queen Anne’s lace and black-eyed susans and white daisies. Butterflies danced above them.
Susan sat with her mouth a little open, shaking her head.
“Cue the Disney music, right?”
“Well, there are probably tons of mosquitoes and huge ants.”
But there weren’t.
Emily popped the back of her CR-V and rummaged.
“I think I have both an old quilt and one of those shiny thermal blankets. So we’re all set.”
She spread the thermal blanket on the moss under a birch tree and laid the quilt on top of it. Susan sat down and then just flopped out on it.
“God. This is so damn soft. Wake me in a couple of hours.”
“Hey. Don’t be a pig. Leave some room for me. And we came here to eat. And drink. Guess what I keep in my stolen Starbucks thermos. Something for respite from respite, relief from too much ‘selflessness’ and nirvana.”
She uncorked the thermos and took a swig.
“Not. Vinegar. Yet.”
Susan propped herself up on one elbow and took the proffered libation. Drank.
“Oh, yes. But I’ll wait for more with my food. Right now I really need that neck rub.”
“Okay. I can wait, though my tummy is starting to rumble. Let’s see. I’ll lean against the tree and you sit in front of me. Good. Scooch away just a bit so I can put my hands comfortably on your shoulders. Perfect. Now, I know how to do this; trust me, I do Darwin all the time, but maybe I’ll be a little more gentle with you. You tell me. Just an ‘uh huh’ or an ‘easy’ and I’ll change it up. Loosen a couple of buttons so I can get at your neck better. That’s right.”
Emily started with both thumbs on either side of Susan’s neck, pushing up until they met Susan’s skull.
“Is that okay? Not too hard?”
“S’good. You can go a little deeper. Muscles so tight.”
“Yeah. I noticed that. Your neck is made of wood. But you have the prettiest, finest hair growing here. It’s like a baby’s.”
Susan wasn’t saying much. She let her head hang forward. Emily pressed her fingers into the tight muscles on either side of Susan’s neck, the ones sloping to her shoulders.
“Wow, these ones are extra tight too. Pop another button so I can reach your shoulders. Great. See, here and here, where the muscle goes into you shoulder is a place you hold a lot of tension. I’m going to press in hard here. You ready? Try not to tense up. You tell me when it’s too much.”
“More. A little more. Yeah. More. OK. Ow! No, don’t stop. That got it.”
“You’re right. That one is more relaxed now. Ready for the other side.”
“Sure. Good. Keep going. You can go harder. Ooh. Ooooh! Wow! That one was tougher to get. But thanks.”
She started to button up again. Emily put a hand on her back and pressed just below the shoulder blade.
“Yeah. Just about everybody holds a lot of tension in that magic spot. Let me just work that a bit. Good?”
“That’s great, only —”
“Right. Bra strap. Can I —?”
Susan slipped her shirt off her shoulders and Emily popped the clasp. Susan gave a little sigh.
“Feels nice to let the puppies out. In fact, I don’t know why I’m wearing the thing. There’s mostly women here, and people who aren’t supposed to give a shit; pardon me.”
“You’re pardoned. Hey, did you know that you have this almost perfect little line of moles that goes down the right side of your spine. There are — one, two, three, four, five, six, seven of them. Oh and this one down here. I bet Greg likes to kiss each one. Yeah. I can imagine it, One, hot breath, two, cool breath, and so on. Right?”
Susan shivered and tiny goosebumps rose on her ivory skin.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot that you and he —”
“That’s okay. So, those knotty places under the shoulder blades?”
“These ones, yes. Sorry. More work, less fantasy bullshit.”
Emily applied herself and soon Susan was groaning softly but pushing back into Emily’s thumbs and fingers. She gave a little scream.
“Oh. Sorry. Too much?”
“No. No, fine. But can I lie back now? I’m all rubber.”
“Sure, fine. I need to do your temples and jaw now anyway.”
Emily spread her knees and Susan dropped her head back in her lap.
“Sure. Everybody carries a lot of tension in their jaw and all that hooks into the back of their neck.”
Emily had her fingertips pushed into Susan’s curls, pressed tight against her scalp dragging to the top of her head. Susan gave a little squeak and arched her neck, pressing hard against Emily’s pubic bone. Emily felt a little shock and a spasm inside.
Susan opened her liquid blue eyes and met Emily’s in an upside down gaze.
“I’m sorry. Here I’m concentrating on relieving my own pain and I didn’t even think about the … effort you are making. I didn’t thank you. So, should I move? Are you uncomfortable?”
Emily was. But not in the way that Susan meant. She didn’t think of herself as super sensitive. Usually it took quite a bit to …. But where kaçak iddaa Susan’s head was touching her she was heating up, and beginning to sort of … ache. She looked down at the face in her lap that she had known since the first day of college. She was going to say there were no feelings but close friendship, and that was true. But this other person with the upside down face — and the feelings — well, never mind, she was human and alive and this motion had just triggered a biological thing. Walk past it.
“I’m fine, actually. I just felt — kind of a little muscle tension release, too, as I bent over like this. It’s … fine.”
Susan smiled upside down.
“I’m better now. We can quit. Or change position?”
“No, no. This is good. I haven’t finished this part. And your jaw.”
Emily reapplied herself, first really working Susan’s head. And Susan, accidentally surely, pressed into her lap; the firm back of her skull pushing just … there, and, she was concentrating, so it didn’t matter that she had to roll her hips up just a bit, so that, in the course of things, Susan’s head ground against her softer parts. And she started to massage Susan’s jaw, the TMJ muscle, pressing her fingers in around the joint, rolling Susan’s head first to the left and then to the right. And Susan soon felt the rhythm and began to roll her head in circles, to loosen her neck of course.
“Let your mouth fall open, your jaw very loose. That’s right. Really open it.”
She cupped Susan’s jaw in her palms and the tips of her fingers found Susan’s lower lip and pulled down. Her lips were so wet. Emily’s heart was galloping. And strong pulses were starting to roll out of her belly. Could Susan tell?
“I can’t be … coming; not with a woman; not with my good friend. But if she dares to stop rolling her head I’ll never forgive her. Oh dear, I’m getting close. I’m so close. I should stop. But I can’t. Oh no, here it is. Oh, Susan, please don’t find me disgusting. I’m so sorry, Oh, Susan. Oh shit!”
Emily came. It wasn’t a big rock and roll orgasm. It was a way-inside, down-tight, clenching up and letting go and tingling out the toes orgasm. But after it melted she realized that at the ultimate moment, when she was holding back a telltale moan, staying as still as she could, there came a deep sigh from Susan. She saw that her good friend had one hand in her open blouse squeezing a tight pink nipple and the other pressed hard against her grey skirt.
Emily awoke to splashing. She was slumped back against the tree. Susan had folded some of the quilt over her feet. Susan was sitting on the riverbank with her bare feet in the water, sipping from a blue plastic cup and chewing on a roti. Susan turned and smiled.
“Oh, there you are. These roti are quite delicious. Do you know that you snore; not big log-sawing snores, just little kitten purr snores. Really sweet. I got hungry, so I had to eat and I thought about waking you, perhaps with a kiss, but you seemed so peaceful, and I couldn’t decide about the kiss. I’m feeling funny. I feel I need to kiss you, but that could be a very stupid thing. Why am I babbling? Well, it’s your wine. I have drunk too much of it. I can get you some more. But it’s also, well, you know, because — Or should we just hurry back to the hall right now and I can just shut up?”
Susan made a funny face that just sort of froze. But Emily didn’t feel a need to bail her out because she was feeling odd herself and had no idea what to say. It would have been easy to say, “Just kiss me.” Or go over and give Susan a big smooch. Or get up and start packing. Or ask for a roti. None of that worked. So she sat.
“I want to eat something.” She finally said. It was supposed to be a totally neutral thing to say. But the thought that went with it, and the way Susan looked away breathing a bit funny; she knew they were on new, dangerous turf.
“I feel like I should jump into that cold water and shock myself back the way things were. But I don’t think that would work, especially if I took my clothes off. Clothes … off.”
Emily shook her head. Absolutely everything was charged with a new energy.
“I don’t dare touch you again, you know.”
“I know.” Susan didn’t look at her. “I don’t know what to do; and when I say that, a movie starts in my head where I know exactly what I’ll do.”
“Tell you what,” Emily said, slowly getting up, “I’m going to go over there and pee in the bushes, and hope they aren’t poison ivy. You could make me up a plate and some wine if there is any left and we can eat and talk when I come back. You got a tissue?”
Susan pulled one from a pack. Even that simple gesture seemed loaded. Emily went a little way off to do her business. The culottes made things a bit awkward, but worse was the fact that her lower parts were all swollen and ready. She swatted herself a bit but it didn’t help. In fact it did the opposite. Her fingers had to press into her tender bits, hanging on for dear life. She bit her lip to keep from crying out but it didn’t work. The moan escaped and she knew it reached Susan’s ears. And she didn’t care and in fact she poured it out and hoped …
When kaçak bahis she finally stood she wobbled like a new fawn.
The plate was waiting for her when she got back. She ate in silence, looking over from time to time at Susan’s back where she sat on the bank paddling her feet in the creek. Emily made herself eat, even though she didn’t really want to, even though she was hungry, or felt hungry anyway. But what she wanted to do was put her mouth on the back of Susan’s neck where she had loosened her collar; where those curls, now hanging loose more than ever, some of them damp where Susan had dipped her hand in the water and rubbed it on the back of her neck. How could she stop thinking about cupping her palms around Susan’s breasts which she knew hung loose inside her blouse?
“What have we missed?” She was trying to be businesslike.
Susan shook her head without turning around.
“Maybe most of the chanting and some of the walking meditation in the maze. Do you think anyone has noticed we are missing? They don’t take roll?”
“I don’t think they care. This isn’t like fat camp where they keep you from sneaking off and eating candy bars.”
“Or smoking in the bathroom.”
Susan had hiked her skirt up and was rubbing cool water on her thighs.
“Right. Or smoking; and can you stop doing that, please? It’s making me a little crazy, and I’m trying to cool off myself — in a different way.”
Susan looked over her shoulder with a pout and dropped her skirt over her thighs again.
“OK, I guess I have to, and I guess we should get back, shouldn’t we?”
She held Emily’s eyes for a long moment and Emily found herself heating up again.
“Yuh. We should go.”
But they didn’t, at least not immediately, because Susan said simply, “I’m hot” and slipped deliberately into the creek. Her skirt billowed out around her and then she sat down so only her neck and head were above water.
“Why don’t you come in? You’ll like it. I know you will.”
“In my clothes?”
“I’m in my clothes. Or you could take yours off. It’s only us. After all.”
Emily didn’t hesitate much. But she did strip off her clothes, turning her back to Susan and sliding into the water.
“It’s slippery under my butt.”
“You could get out.”
“No. But there might be frogs and snakes.”
Susan turned her large grey-blue eyes.
“Does that bother you?”
“Hmm, not really. I like frogs. Snakes, not so much.”
“I prefer snakes, if they aren’t venomous. They’re drier.”
“So you haven’t handled one.”
“No, I guess not.”
“Then you have a treat coming. We’ll have to handle one together.”
Susan held Emily’s gaze with a half smile. Emily felt disembodied, but she knew that somewhere her body was churning with a new hunger.
Susan stood, the water plastering her clothes to her body. Her nipples hard and lavender under the thin cotton. The skirt coated her thighs and a darkened triangle showed through the thin cloth at the apex of her slim but muscular legs. She turned, revealing a perfect ass, coated in mud.
“Splash me off, please,” she requested.
Emily complied, with enthusiasm and in a moment they were both splashing each other with waves of light green water. Emily, who was hiding most of herself under the water, had pond weed in her hair. She charged out of the water, chased by a laughing Susan.
Then she remembered she was naked and did her best to cover the essential bits.
Susan was busy wringing out her skirt.
“I guess I’ll just drive back wet. What else can I do?”
Emily saw Susan’s eyes widen as she glimpsed thick maroon nipples as Emily dried under her breasts with the blanket. Emily was also almost sure she saw Susan lick her lips.
They didn’t look at each other much as they got the picnic stuff together and put it in the car. Then Emily had to concentrate on turning the car around without going in the creek. She did it, barely. Back through the bushes. Back onto the road. Back to the ashram.
Less time had passed than they had thought. Chanting was just breaking up. They lined up silently with the other women (and two men) and began the deliberate, one breath per step, walk into the center of the labyrinth and out again. No one gave their damp garments a second glance. It was hypnotic, the slow, circular zigzag in and out, sometimes closer to the center, sometimes farther away, breathe in, breathe out, placing each foot in front of the other, eyes on the back of the person in front.
They allowed five paces between people and Susan wasn’t right in front of Emily. They passed each other as the maze wound in opposite directions. They were supposed to be letting go of worldly thoughts with each breath. It wasn’t working very well.
“Breathe in, Susan’s eyes, breathe out, let them go, breathe in, Susan’s lips, breathe out, let them go, breathe in, Susan’s breasts, breathe out, oh god, breathe in, Susan’s … The evening light was coming across the maze, golden, and it was behind Susan, and Emily could see, oh yes, that Susan had no underwear on under her grey skirt, a glimpse of light between her thighs. Breathe in, Susan’s thighs, breath out, a hint of dark triangle, breathe in, this isn’t working, breathe out, as they passed in opposite directions their hands touched and Emily actually felt a spark.
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