Notes [Last revised February 16, 2018]:

  • ○ All characters are voting age products of the authors' imaginations.
  • ○ This short story uses italics for internal monologue.
  • ○ Thanks to Skye4Life for editing this.
  • © Copyright 2018 by MindsMirror. All rights reserved.

Sloan stood at the end of her bed staring intently through the tall window that overlooked the ocean. The darkened room was fleetingly overwhelmed by flashes of light. Curtains drawn open, she could see the roiling waters and white caps of waves each time the sky lit up. The strobing electrical discharge seemed to reverberate through her, contracting every follicle as if anticipating the next strike. Tightening bumps rolled across her skin and the light hair on her arms stood erect as fresh sheets of rainwater inundated the glass pane. Fixated and frozen through the nearly endless dissonance of rolling thunder, she had no idea how long she may have been standing there. Several bolts struck along the horizon in rapid succession, their light revealing her state of undress and sending shadows eerily across her walls.

Ty walked along the rubber backed carpet runner toward his bedroom as he returned from his Friday night date. What he saw, as he passed her doorway, stuck in his mind as clear as a photograph. Her sharply contrasted image now emblazoned there by the blue-white flash that lit her silhouette. Her statue like form seemed to have no awareness of his presence. Perhaps his entrance was covered by noise or her distraction with the weather. The aperture of that window framed her perfectly. Her firm albescent breasts seemed to glow, yet the sharp relief shadow she cast featured temptingly taut teats that poked out prominently atop the puffy nipples.

He mumbled, "Goodnight."

Although his heart leapt, his stride was unbroken. He was lost in aimless thoughts while his mind's eye longingly reviewed the vision captured as he continued absently towards his room.

She flinched, startled by his voice. "Night," she offered her delayed response.

Her eyes struggled to see if he were in her doorway, but he'd continued passed. Realization crept slowly over her, He saw me as he walked the path from the front door. The carpet runner was a recent addition to reduce wear on the hardwood flooring. It ran along the edge of the dimly lit great room right passed her door to his room, but evidently had the side effect of stealthing footfalls. Storm contemplations she'd been lost in moments before, vanished and were replaced by obsession of forgetting his predictably punctual return home after any outing. After months of observing this behavior, she'd concluded that her brother's attempts at a social life were merely perfunctory. Surely I couldn't have expected tonight's outcome would have ended any differently, she chastised herself.

Surprise exposures by one or the other of them had occurred a few times over the past year or so. The shared bungalow usually afforded privacy, but it hadn't eliminated the occasional accidental encounter. Separate master bedrooms insulated most opportunities, however, inherent familiarity destined its occurrence with their living arrangement. In general their comfy abode by the sea gave them each some seclusion but less than a week ago she'd come home in the middle of the day to find him nude in the kitchen. A couple of weeks before that, he'd canceled his Friday date and seen the blur of her nude form dashing back from the laundry area.

Ty flipped on the light, closed the door to his room and questioned the rationality of agreeing to this. What'd seemed like the logical thing to do at the time, was now - a source of angst - something continued eating at him. It hadn't been like this at the beginning or even several years ago when they'd attended college together.

Sitting on his bed removing his shoes, he thought, Am I crazy? Her door was open. He tossed each shoe against the side of the dresser, their heels thumping. Slipping off his, socks, work slacks and shirt, he continued disrobing and finally donned silk boxers from the top drawer. She knew when I'd get home, his thoughts had nearly been spoken aloud. The bathroom light on now, he brushed his teeth while looking at himself with judging admonition. Why am I thinking about her like that? he asked squinting menacingly at his reflection.

He reviewed why they'd agreed to this and as uncomfortable as it was to admit, it'd come down to money, plain and simple. They'd both accepted their increased transparency in order to afford the beach life they both loved.

External forces had begun pushing them in this direction two years ago, as the economy had started to slow down. He'd been in a decent job as a civil engineer, but construction projects had fallen off significantly. Then at the end of that year the whole economic system had gone haywire. Fortunately, he hadn't been laid off, as many of his fellow employees had been, but he submitted to a fifteen percent pay cut.

Merely days later, his sister Sloan had shown up at his door in a panic; her lucrative contract position had been summarily let go. She was on the trail of a couple of short term gigs, but had nothing at that moment. During her visit, their lengthy discourse and commiserating evolved into a long twisting conversation like they hadn't had in years.

Eventually they'd arrived at what they both acknowledged as obvious. They were essentially throwing away money on pricey high-end single apartments. Their past had put them off making any investments or putting down roots, but they would soon be depleting their savings to make rent payments. In the end, they'd concluded to join their resources, pool what monies they had left from the insurance and start building equity in something. In under a month, they'd gathered together a twenty percent down-payment for a cute raised beach bungalow.

Their agreement meant they would have a lower combined outlay of money, which allowed a buffer in case one of them was out of work. The advantage was that in the long run they'd be on their way to becoming owners when they paid off their fifteen year mortgage. They took up residence together in late February a year ago and it was now early June. Things had gone smoothly for the most part, but neither had really thought deeply about the logistics of sharing a living space again.

After donning her nightgown, Sloan went to her doorway. The nightlights in the main room gave very little light there and she watched the light beneath his door. A tingle ran up her spine as the tension of millions of goose bumps rippled across her again. Lightning flashed, she tensed and gripped the door frame. She knew he'd seen her moments ago. Another series of flashes outside confirmed how brightly she must have been lit as he passed.

Is he thinking about me? she wondered.

These chance exhibitions were definitely happening more frequently. Living at the beach invited various stages of undress and that's when it'd usually happened, but tonight the stormy weather had her disturbed.

I knew when he would be home; did I leave the door open accidentally on purpose? she wondered as his toilet flushed and the light beneath his door darkened.

She went back inside her room, closed her door and climbed into bed. The sheets were cool and she wished she could feel the warmth of him holding her as the storm continued long into the night. She resisted the urge to go to him with an inner strength she didn't know she had.

He climbed into his bed and wondered if she would come to him tonight. He heard her door close and he rolled onto his side toward the door. Lightning randomly flashed across outside his window and lit the gap beneath the door as he watched for her footsteps. He kept thinking they might be coming as the shadows played tricks on his heavy eyelids.

Sleep overtook them both as the storm raged on outside. This was the stormy season and they'd grown up with a similar weather pattern in Kansas. It'd been different when they were kids, they'd often clung to one another as the storms rolled through. Sometimes they'd simply sleep in the storm shelter below their room even when it wasn't storming. In their teens, that'd changed when their parents told them that they were old enough to sleep in their own beds or separate sleeping bags in the shelter. There had been a tone of disapproval, as if their concern for one another were something to avoid. That had officially been the end of it. They'd broken the rule only once afterward and it'd been the evening that events had changed everything...

It was late Saturday morning and they'd both slept in a bit longer than usual. A pot of freshly brewed coffee was giving the entire house a pleasant aroma and enticed Sloan to get up. She came in dressed to head out onto the sand. Ty was already in the kitchen having coffee and a light snack as he watched her approach. Three black triangles of her bikini barely covered the large puffy areolae or the contours of her womanhood beneath them. The long looping ties at her hips drew his eyes temptingly.

"Want some yogurt?" he asked while his eyes continued to roam.

"No, just coffee," she replied scooting past his speedo covered bottom in the narrow galley-way.

She looks so damn good in that, he thought.

Is he getting an erection? she wondered as she reached for a coffee cup.

"So, how'd it go last night," she asked as she poured a cup.

"I told you how it was going to go."

She topped off the steaming black liquid with a large portion of milk and put the carton back in the fridge. "Did you really give her a chance?" she asked absently staring at his bulging crotch and smooth abdominal area while he looked out the window blankly.

"I always give them a chance, but online matching doesn't work," he said in disgust.

She cast her gaze upward when he turned back. "Did you take her home?" she asked.

"Yes of course, but we'd already concluded we weren't clicking."

"Don't you think you should give it more than one date to determine that?"

"I don't even know why I go."

"Was there anything in particular?" she asked and took a big swig of the coffee.

"I don't filter myself," Ty replied with a little self-loathing.

"You told her, didn't you?" Sloan asked looking at him over her cup incredulously.

"Look, if someone asks me -"

"You gave her that whole gory mess?"

"No, just the highlights," he replied and laughed ironically.

"Mom and Dad would be so proud," she retorted sarcastically.

"Yeah, well they're dead so -"

"I almost came to your room last night," Sloan interrupted his words and quickly changed the subject.

"I know, I could sense you fighting it," he commented pensively. "Maybe I could have used your company; that stupid storm is probably why I'd blurted out so many of the details of our epic horror story," he said in a defeated monotone.

"We're going to be okay."

"Let's go out on the beach," he said changing the subject. "The storm obviously got to me too."

She realized his statement told her he knew why she was at the window. She watched him heading for the porch as she gulped down the remaining mouthfuls of coffee and joined him at the back door. As they exited, the sun was well up over the horizon and starting to heat the day. Wordlessly they walked out of the covered screened area and down the lengthy flight of wooden stairs onto the sand. The storm had blown debris onto the dunes. Ty stepped gingerly avoiding the plant growth to gather several pieces of trash, returned to put them in the can chained to the timber piling beneath the stairs and rejoined Sloan. Together they continued along the wooden walkway over the sand.

"Why didn't you come in last night?" he asked after thinking about it from the moment she'd mentioned considering it.

"You didn't sound very happy when you said 'Goodnight' so I -"

"Then why'd you ask how it went?"

"Can't I make sure you're okay?" she asked softly taking his hand.

Ty swallowed the knot that was forming in his throat, started to say something about her not dating at all and stopped himself. The softness of her hand instantly stifled his pent up frustration. He wouldn't hurt her by bringing it up. If she wanted to talk about it she would have to start that conversation. He walked silently with her to the water, enjoying her touch as they continued through a myriad of seashells washed up from the storm and the tide was out exposing the wave crushed shards. They walked the beach with their bare feet in the fringe of the surf.

They meandered aimlessly with frequent stops. There weren't many spectacular shells today, the storm hadn't stirred up the beach sufficiently to bring those ashore, but there were some pretty ones that Sloan would occasionally pick up to inspect and Ty couldn't help watching each time. The incoming tide still had a cool undercurrent to it. This time of year, it would become warmer by late afternoon if the sun was out all day.

Tossing half of a large sand dollar back into the water Sloan saw Ty watching her and the effect she must have been having on him. When she stood, she squeezed his hand and he looked into her face.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked and continued walking beside her.

She couldn't tell him all of what she was thinking but honestly said, "Same as you. It's been nearly six years -"

"In another month," he finished her sentence.

How does he always know what I'm thinking? I wonder if he knows what I didn't tell him. Does he know what I'm really thinking?

She always seems to know what I'm thinking. Why doesn't she know that the only one for me, is her?

"I don't like talking about it," she sighed.

"Me either, it just seems to plague me when the storms -"

She dropped his hand and pressed her finger to his lips and pointed to their neighbor from down the beach who had a plastic bag full of shells. The woman was facing them, but her head was tilted down where she'd squatted to pick up what appeared to be a large whole sand dollar.

"Good day miss Aonettie," they chimed together and waved.

The older woman waved 'hello' and went back to scanning for shells amongst the shards. When they'd moved beyond her, they resumed holding hands and swung their arms.

"At least they don't have them here," Sloan said at length.

"No, not many F5 tornadoes around here, but there are still storms."

"I guess there's weather anywhere but I like living at the beach; it makes me happy."

"Yeah, we made the right move getting out of tornado alley," he said decisively.

"There are almost none here and this part of the coast rarely gets hurricanes," she replied brightly.

"Don't jinx it; I never want to experience anything like that again. I couldn't stand losing - " he left the word unsaid.

"Me either," she replied, knowing he would have said 'you'. "You miss them too?" she asked softly against the roar of a wave.

"Sometimes, I have trouble remembering Mom's face now," he said sadly as he looked up to see clouds beginning to cover the sun.

"Maybe we could do another search. There are bound to be photos somewhere."

"It's all gone, Sloan. There was nothing left of that town. Maybe we can let them go now."

She remained silent. She knew Ty was right and she was having difficulty remembering their faces too. It was all so unfair. Their parents had been raised in the orphanage on the edge of that small Kansas town. They'd fallen in love there, raised a family and then suddenly been taken. In her mind she and Ty had become orphans a little over six years ago, too.

Can adults be orphans? she wondered.

Ty had been apprenticing with a local farm equipment repair shop, but on the day of the F5, they were together in town shopping. Sloan was preparing for her departure to college on a scholarship. Shortly after they'd returned home, the weather changed in an instant and they'd taken to the storm shelter below their room one last time together. When they were dug out of the rubble by rescue crews, everything along a twenty mile tract was gone, including their parents. They never spoke of the horror they shared during their hours in the dark together. Neither of them could even allow even the memory of the rules they'd broken or lines they'd crossed into their thoughts.

They didn't have much time to recover in the aftermath. With no family nor any material belongings left for either of them, she'd suggested he should come with her and apply to the college. Insurance money and decent grades meant college would be possible for him too. They both wanted to be far away from that place as possible, since it would continue to remind them of their loss in the disaster. Their closeness had been sealed in that cellar as they clung to one another. Some of the insurance went for rent, but they both got jobs to prevent burning through it. The money didn't replace their parents or the memories of their home, but it made living possible and they'd pursued life in a fashion.

"At least we have each other," Sloan said at last, snapping them back from their thoughts.

"Yeah, you're right," he said and squeezed her hand tightly. "You want to swim?"

They splashed out into the cool water together. It was still a little too cool today. This far north, hours of direct sun were needed to raise the water temperature and that clearly hadn't occurred yet. Sloan's skin was full of goosebumps and her nipples became very tight. The black triangles of her bikini shown how erect they were and Ty's glance at them made her flush. She was sure the chilly water had shriveled him up tight too, but couldn't see.

They were out to their shoulders before she finally relented, "It's still too cold!"

"Alright, let's go to the shallows," he said turning back.

They splashed one another and played as they retreated. His speedo hadn't shrunk as much as she'd imagined and she felt perhaps she was the reason. The wind picked up and the surf became rougher as they finally gave in and came ashore. They both observed the storm clouds moving in on them and hurriedly walked back down the beach. They were about halfway back when the sky opened up. The rain fell even cooler than the ocean had been.

"Shit, that's cold," he muttered as goosebumps rose on his arms and chest.

Sloan broke into a run and he watched her for a moment before following suit. Her form beneath what passed for a covering was exquisite and he maintained his distance from her. She turned her head to make sure he was with her and smiled. Despite the rain, his package was firm inside his speedo. It felt good to have that effect on him, especially since he had a similar effect on her.

When they reached the house, they skipped the shower beneath the cottage, but paused briefly to step in the large basin of water to rinse their feet and ran quickly up the stairs to the covered porch. Inside he closed the door and followed after her watery traipsed footsteps across the hardwood floor. He wasn't paying much attention to them because she was already loosening her top as she went toward her room. Ty watched her disappear inside and was treated to a brief glimpse of her topless when she closed her door.

Maybe she's doing it intentionally, he thought as he went to his room.

Inside her room she scolded herself for so blatantly flashing him. She stripped off her bottoms and prepared to shower with continued admonitions. It was terribly flirtatious and she'd never been so audacious. What's come over me? she questioned as she sat to empty her bladder and then wiped. The look of surprise and perhaps desire on his face held further condemnation at bay.

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