A Smoke with Ghosts Ch. 01

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He was cleaning the house. The house was already clean enough, he knew. He also knew that it had become his new habit since his wife had passed away to keep things to the standard that she had always wanted. He shook his head and wondered what she would think, if she could see him now. After all the years of harrying him to clean up after himself, would she be pleased that the house was spotless? More likely she would be angry that his behavior didn’t improve until after her death.

He paused in his work to look out the oval window of the front door. Spring was just beginning, and that brought his thoughts to the yard. She had sculpted it over the years, with beautiful flowers, plants and shrubs. He wondered blankly how much effort he would end up putting into fussing with the yard. He had never cared for such things, himself. It was her hobby. He could almost see how she had looked, fifteen years ago, bent over the flowerbed in her tight cut off shorts. He remembered how, as an awkward young man, he had stared and swallowed hard when he had seen her gardening the first time.

Because he was lost in reverie, he failed to notice a young woman in front of the house, comparing his address to a piece of paper. She took a deep breath, seemed to gather her courage, marched up to the front door and rang the doorbell.

They were both surprised when the electronic gong of London Bridges made him jump! Neither had realized that the other was there! He stared hard at the girl, still half lost in his memory, then quickly regained himself and opened the door, smiling weakly.

“I am sorry, I didn’t see you there,” he apologized. “Can I help you?” She looked confused and checked the paper again, leaning lithely back to read the house numbers. Neither of them took note of the stretch of her lean belly that was exposed at her midriff as she did so.

“I am sorry,” she started. “Is this 129 Applewood Avenue, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he trailed off; beginning to wonder what this was all about.

“Oh! Of course,” she stammered, realizing that she had asked the obvious. “I am looking for Mr. Pritchet,” her words came out in a rush.

“Ah, well, I guess that is me,” he said.

“Uh,” she looked at him, and down at a newspaper clipping she held with the address paper. “Mr. Dane Pritchet?”

“Usually it’s just Dane, but yes.”

“Oh!” was all she said for a moment, looking at him strangely.

“I am sorry Miss, but what is this about?” he asked, somewhat suspiciously.

“Um,” she stammered, before she showed him the newspaper clipping. “Do you recognize this lady?”

It was his wife’s Obituary that he had put into the city news paper. It included a photo of his late wife, taken at a friend’s wedding a year before she had fallen ill. His wife looked beautiful, nicely done up with a pretty black dress. She had been radiant, smiling impishly at him; enjoying that only they two knew that she wore no underwear whatever that day. They had made love most of that night in the hotel after the dance.

“That is my late wife, Dee.” he said loss echoing tonelessly.

“Um, well… She was also my mother,” the girl let out in a rush.

—-

“I got my records unsealed when I turned eighteen,” she was explaining from the dining room. He was in the kitchen preparing coffee, grateful for the task he could perform by rote, to keep his body moving, and to stay out of her sight while he tried to absorb what she had told him on the step! His initial shock had not worn off when he had invited her in and offered her coffee.

“How do you take your coffee?” he called from the kitchen.

“Strong, with two creams and -“

“Two sugars.” he finished, as he brought a tray in.

“How did…?” she looked astonished.

“Call it an educated guess,” he commented wryly. Dee had been a coffee fanatic. Dane had never enjoyed coffee himself, but he had perfected the technique when Dee could no longer get out of bed to make her own coffee.

He passed her the cup. “Maybe we can start again. Dane Pritchet,” he extended his hand.

“Oh! Of course, how silly of me! I am Denise! Denise Franklin” He took a moment to study Denise as he took her small hand in his. Could this girl really be his wife’s daughter?

Dee had told him she was unlikely to become pregnant. After his fertility tests, and many years of wonderful, vigorous effort, he had accepted that they would never be parents. However, looking at her, Dane had little doubt that Denise was related to Dee somehow. Denise was only a little taller than Dee had been, before the cancer, with the long straight blonde hair that Dee had been so devastated to lose. Her eyes were bright green, and she had inherited all the beautiful facial features of her Northern European ancestry. Her limbs appeared to be lean and strong, and her skin was a light golden hue from time spent outdoors.

He noticed that she was studying him in turn. She had an odd look on her face, and he arched an eyebrow at her in Anadolu Yakası Escort question.

“I am sorry,” she said, reading his expression. “I just expected you to be, you know, older.”

“I think everyone did,” he half joked. Their relationship had always been controversial, as he was several years younger than Dee. He had never seen her age, only the woman he fell in love with.

“So, Miss Franklin, how is it that you have come here, and why now?” he said, still unsure of her motives.

“Of course,” she seemed to remember herself. She leaned down to grab her backpack that sat by the leg of her chair. Her ponytail flashed golden over her shoulder and flopped into her face. Distractedly she threw her head, flipping her hair back, exactly as Dee had done countless times during his marriage. The golden hair splayed out, catching the morning sun as it gleamed through the window. He thought wryly that if Denise wasn’t related to Dee, she had certainly done her homework!

“Like I said,” she came up with a large manila folder that she placed on the table. “I had my records unsealed when I turned eighteen.” She pushed the opened folder across the table to him.

Hesitantly he pulled the file closer and read the top sheet. It was a poor photocopy of adoption papers. He read her name, Denise Franklin, and those of her adoptive parents, and there was Dee’s name, and her signature, unmistakable, exactly as she signed it twenty years later on her last will and testament.

Desperately he clung to reality as he had known it, “Dee couldn’t have children. We tried…”

Gently Denise turned pages in the folder to the medical records of her birth.

“I was an ectopic baby,” she murmured. “I grew in her fallopian tube,” her slim finger traced the doctor’s report that detailed the medical emergency that was Denise’s premature birth. He hardly breathed as he read about damage to the delicate channel from the ovary to the uterus. He read the cold figures about surgery and the volumes of blood that Dee had needed transfused.

“And endometriosis blocked the other fallopian tube,” he told her. “You will want to pay attention to that, if you have painful menstrual cycles, get tested right away.” She blushed.

“I am sorry,” he told her, realizing he had been perhaps over-familiar. He had forgotten about some young women being embarrassed about their ‘Lady thing’.

He pushed the file, largely unread, back across the table. “Why have you come now? You’ve had this information for two years, apparently,” shock made him sound blunt.

“Well,” she sipped her coffee, holding her cup with both hands, just as Dee (her mother!) had done when she wanted time to collect her thoughts. “At first I was afraid of finding my birth mother, in case she still didn’t want me, you know, in her life, like when I was born.”

His heart softened. It was too easy, in grief, to forget that others had pain too. “Of course, I am sorry.” he murmured. “But I can tell you that she very much loved children. In fact she was a social worker, did you know that? She worked especially with girls and single mothers. I guess that makes more sense now, in retrospect.”

Denise’s eyes were bright as she listened attentively.

“I came here hoping you could tell me about her,” she said softly. “I decided to try to find her when I got into University, hoping she would be able to be proud of that, at least. But all I could find out was that she had left the city I was born in.”

He noticed the letters of the local University on her open back pack. “Then a few months later one of the girls in my art class brought me this,” she held up the obituary, “She thought I looked so much like the woman in the picture, and said ‘Isn’t that neat?’. I almost died myself when I read the name.” Her eyes shone with unshed tears for a Mother she had never known.

“You came half way across the country to study here?” he asked incredulously. “We moved here seven years ago for my work. Of all the cities to come to…”

“When I read that she was survived by her husband, Dane Pritchet, well, I had to come here, to learn about her and to ask if you were my-” she cut off momentarily, “but of course you can’t be. You aren’t that much older than I am!”

“Well aside from the fact that I am dark haired, and almost twice your size, and could never have a daughter as small as you, I also did not meet your mother until I myself was almost twenty years old.” he smiled a bit sadly at her, wishing he did have a beautiful daughter. “And for the record I am thirty five.”

He saw her eyes flicker down to the obituary and watched her do the mental calculation.

“Eighteen years is the number you are looking for,” he added quietly.

“How on Earth…?” she caught herself, and looked guiltily at him.

“It’s alright,” he said gently, “We got used to that reaction fairly quickly. I guess the shortest way to put it to you is that you are likely to age extremely gracefully.” Avrupa Yakası Escort She beamed, her lips parting in a small smile.

“How did you meet?” she prompted him. He leaned back in his chair and remembered.

“I guess I was about like you are now, in University. Didn’t you say you are taking an art class? I was working on an art degree, oddly enough. In the spring of my sophomore year I decided to find a new place to live. I’d had a bad year and figured new surroundings would help me reset and refocus. Dee had an ad in the student housing registry. Basically I met your mother when I moved into her basement suite!”

“Come on!” she laughed girlishly, “That sounds like a story out of Penthouse Magazine!”

“What are you doing reading Penthouse Magazine, young Lady?” he barked in mock severity. They shared a chuckle.

“Well, anyway, that’s how I met her,” he smiled, “Honestly!”

“What was she like?” she asked, her expression open. Denise was beautiful, young, and healthy, full of life and potential. He found himself liking her as he tried to give her the information she had waited her whole life to have.

“Dee was beautiful, first and foremost, and very kind although I was quite nervous around her when I first moved in.”

“Oh? Why?” Denise asked, leaning forward.

” I remember stumbling out of bed early one morning and seeing her in her robe getting laundry out of the dryer!” he laughed, “I was so scared she would kick me out if she ever knew how hot I thought she was!”

Denise smiled conspiratorially, “But she did find out! I can see how a girl would find that kind of admiration appealing” she finished wistfully.

“Now tell me some more about yourself,” he tried to change the subject. “Quid pro quo” he added in Latin.

“This for that, huh?” she smirked, showing her knowledge. “Well, I am a sophomore myself, and I guess I am doing general studies. Some history, and science, and art and stuff.”

“Art and stuff huh? Tell me about your art classes.”

“It’s a drawing class, pretty informal really. We all take turns being the artists and the subjects. It’s all pretty bohemian,” she nodded her head, worldly wise.

He forgot himself as he murmured, “Dee used to model for my drawings…”

“Oh? Tell me about that!” she sat straight in her chair, looking directly at him. His face reddened as he reminded himself that he was not sitting with Dee reincarnated, but only a little girl! ‘You were no little boy when you were her age’ an inconvenient voice reminded him. He squelched the voice and stood clumsily up from the table.

“Um, no, De-, uh, Ms. Franklin. Look, it was very nice to meet you, but you got here just as I was heading out” he lied.

She seemed surprised but gathered up her papers quickly.

“I hope I didn’t offend you,” she stammered as he started for the door.

“No, no, Ms. Franklin. Not at all, it’s just that I have to run. Or, go for a run I mean!” he grabbed up his gym bag by the door, jiggling it in the air by way of demonstration.

“Can I come back and talk to you again?” she seemed almost frantic, and he realized she must be imagining the loss of a vital link to a past she had sought for years. He collected himself, and spoke to her in a calming voice.

“Of course you can, Ms. Franklin. Of course this won’t be easy for either of us. Let’s just take some time to process, okay?”

“Yes, of course, Mr. Pritchet,” she said softly as she headed down the stairs.

She turned her head and smiled kindly when he said, “Call me Dane.”

He watched her walk down the street, her book bag slung on her shoulder, did not disguise her narrow waist and round buttocks. Her ponytail bobbed and gleamed in the spring sunshine. He leaned on the door and felt like Dee had just walked out of his life, all over again.

He turned back into his large quiet house and wondered what he would do now. He looked down at his gym bag still in his hand, and could almost hear Dee tell him: Go for that run!

—-

His feet carried him swiftly along the quiet trail. He really did enjoy running. After a sickly childhood, he felt free when his body, now fine and strong would sail him down the road at a fast pace. Usually he luxuriated in the feeling of the wind on his face, his body efficiently drawing oxygen. Today he could hear Dee’s broken voice, thanking him for staying beautiful for her. He poured his pain at the memory into increased velocity, and his mind wandered further back. Back through the years to when a beautiful and mature woman had commissioned a young art student to create boudoir drawings for her.

—-

He sat in the darkened room. He was tall, more gangly than lean, he would not grow into his height for many years. He had adjusted and re-adjusted the lights, to offer powerful contrasts of light and dark. Inside he felt terribly nervous at the prospect he faced, but he did his level best to appear nonchalant and professional.

“If İstanbul Escort she figures this is anything but a job to me, I am fired and probably homeless,” he muttered to himself, checking his drawing bench and supplies for the umpteenth time.

“I’m sorry? Is everything ready?” her voice came from the washroom. He swallowed hard, and answered in the affirmative.

She came into the room wearing a long robe. Her makeup was carefully applied, and her silky long tresses hung nearly to her waist. He swallowed hard, noting her small bare feet with dark red nail polish.

“Yes of course,” he replied, willing his voice to sound calm. He hoped that she took his intense gaze as an artistic eye, and not the intense attraction he felt for her.

“Whenever you are ready, we can start with some simple sketches to warm up and get comfortable, then move on to more sustained poses,” he hoped he sounded experienced, copying the phrases he had heard his professors use in class.

Demurely she undid the belt of her robe. She eased it off her shoulders and let it slowly slip to the floor. She wore a pretty evening gown, with long slits up the sides of the legs, and bared shoulders. He felt her beauty as a rush of warm sensation from the top of his head down his body and directly to his groin! Nervously he attempted to will his starting erection out of existence.

“How would you like me?” she asked huskily.

“Um, these will be short drawings, five minutes or less, so if you are okay with it we will try some more intense poses,” he suggested.

“Of course,”

“So, if I can get you to sit on the bed, and lean back on your elbows,” he mimed what he meant on his bench. “Lean your head back and let your hair hang” She did so, and her breasts were thrown into prominence, standing proud on her chest. Her flat stomach made a wonderful contrast, and he noted the curve of her ribcage through the elegant dress.

“Now bend the knee furthest away from me, bring it up, yes,” he encouraged her. “And the leg closest, drape it off the side of the bed, and curl it towards your head, if you can.”

Both legs were exposed through the slits in her dress, the material draping in a very artistic manner, he thought. He admired the way the light and shadow outlined the musculature of her legs.

“Now smooth your hands on the bed, and arch your closest foot in,” he directed, his confidence growing as the image unfolded in front of him, and was translated to his sketchpad. “Beautiful!”

He worked rapidly, creating an outline, the suggestion of shape and depth with his charcoal. Her eyes were closed, which made him more comfortable to stare at her. He was quickly caught up in his work, and his desire made his talent soar. He no longer felt like he was merely drawing her, more like he was worshiping her. This was a tribute to her beauty, he felt.

All too quickly he noticed her body tremble. He realized that he had given her a challenging pose to hold, and he gave her relief, “Relax,” he told her. She got up and stretched as he openly watched. She came around to the bench to see what he had drawn.

He was acutely aware of her closeness as she looked over his shoulder at the pad. Her eyes were bright as she pronounced “It’s wonderful! You are so talented!” Her fingers lingered momentarily on his shoulder, almost making him jump with an electricity only he could feel.

“Perhaps an easier pose?” he struggled to keep his voice from rasping.

“And perhaps a tad more revealing,” she concluded as she opened the dress at the front. She wore a small, white satin bra with matching thong underwear. Her breasts were perfect, he noted. How could this be a woman of almost forty years? Her smooth stomach was pulled by lean muscle just under the skin. He had never seen a model like this in his art classes!

“Something like this?” she asked, catching her hands behind her back. She stood with her back arched and her weight more on her left leg, her head once again thrown back. The pose pulled her dress away from the front, to gather at the back, again flowing like the drapery that was ubiquitous in the drawing studio.

“Perfect,” he tore the paper off his pad and began anew. This time he began his drawing with the exquisite curves of her gently protruding hip bones. He made careful note of her mons pubis, the gentle panty covered mound detailed in his drawing. His attention swept up and down in turns, first describing her abdomen, then her thighs, back up to her arching breasts, and back to her buttocks. His charcoal traced the sinuous line of her collar bone, the grace of her neck and jaw-line. He left small indications of the location and direction of her hair, so he could fill these details in at a later date.

“That is excellent,” he concluded. “Please feel free to rest. Are you warm enough? Can I get you anything?” She left her gown open and moved to his bench, again touching him as she observed his work.

“Certainly I don’t look like that!” she laughed, “That is much nicer than I look!” He looked at her with complete seriousness.

“You look that good and better. I just wish I was talented enough to capture it properly!” She smiled down at him and bumped his shoulder with her hip.

“So what’s next, Michelangelo?”

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