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It wasn't that she minded making love--in fact, she was eager--but she was shy and modest and the time and place were very, very important.

"The Picture Window"

by Devereaux Williams



Vol. 2, No. 12,  February 1958

     Mary was as lush, lovely and alluring as a five-color nude tipped on a silk screen. Even more important where Jack was concerned, Mary was more than willing. But Mary was as shyly modest as an Edwardian maiden aunt, which was why Jack was wearing himself rapidly down to a nub of compound frustration that had him reaching for barbiturate tablets to sleep at night, and Benzedrine tablets to keep awake days.
     Their romance had begun suddenly, rapturously over Labor day weekend on a small, silver beach-girdled island off the New England coast. Jack had flown to the island for the holiday to visit an old college chum and his wife. Mary. a vague cousin, had been winding up a two-week stay at the same aluminum mailbox.
     They met, and the spell was on with the chime of a silver bell inaudible to everyone but the enchanted two. They merged rapturously, under golden stars and a golden moon, secure in the silent solitude of a ring of soft sand dunes, while the sea sighed softly, rhythmically just offstage. Them appallingly, it was Monday night, and Jack was boarding the plane that would fly him back to the city.
     "Darling," she whispered, her lips close to his ear, "this hasn't been...well..."
     "Oh, no," Jack protested. "This is for real--forever! When will I see you again?"
     "Whenever you wish," she replied solemnly. "whenever you wish darling. You know where I'll be staying."
     "Of course," he said. "Promise to call me the moment you get in."
     "I'll call," she vowed. "I'll call Friday afternoon."
     "Darling!" he said, and kissed her. She shivered a little, and he withdrew his lips. "What's the matter?"
     "Nothing," she replied, laughing a little to herself. "It's just...so public with all these people around."
     "We'll have New York in the fall together," he exulted, disregarding Mary's modesty. "There'll be theaters and foreign movies and all those wonderful restaurants and night clubs and concerts..."
     "...and us," said Mary, her eyes soft with unshed tears.
     "And us," he promised, giving her a final buss before turing, reluctantly, to climb the steps to the plane.
     Increasingly, as the autumn got under way, Jack remembered their parting words. Mary arrived the following Friday, as promised, and there began all the pleasures and excitements he had mentioned, the theaters, restaurants, movies, cabarets and concerts. But no "us." Do what they would, the increasingly in love, and increasingly frustrated, couple, seemed unable to find privacy for a renewal of the rapture they had discovered among the dunes under the silver stars and the golden moon.
     Jack shared a large and luxurious apartment with a couple of young me like himself. Since all three were moderately well heeled and promised to be more so, the place was a constant hive of activity. Even when Jack and Mary found themselves alone there, they felt unable to let go, knowing all too well that, at any moment, one of Jack's roommates might wander in with one or more friends and an armful of whiskey or champagne.
     As for Mary, she lived at the Barbizon, in a warren-full of other career girls, and Jack was unable to go above the ground floor on pain of instant excommunication from the human race and a probable execution.
     It was Halloween night, and they were walking around Central Park when Jack suggested they elope. Mary, snuggled close to him, squeezed his arm warmly but shook her head and said, "Darling, we can't. Naturally, I want to marry you, but..."
     "But what?"
     "But I promised mother, before she went abroad last spring, that I wouldn't marry until she got back."
     "Maybe if I sent her a picture?" he suggested hopefully.
     "No, Jack," she replies, sweet but stubborn. "I gave her my word."
     "Then, for Pete's sake, honey, let's go to a hotel."
     "Oh, darling!" Mary wailed. "That would make it so...so tawdry. It would spoil everything. I'd feel like a tart. You wouldn't want that, would you?"
     "If I don't have you soon," he said grimly, "I'm going out of my mind. And you wouldn't want that...or would you?"
     Mary began to cry, she sobbed, "Everything was so beautiful! And now..."
     "I'm a heel, darling," moaned Jack, full of self reproach. "But you must admit I've got something to be selfish about. You're so impossibly lovely."
     "I'm not," she replied stoutly. "I'm just an old-fashioned prude. I'm ruining you, and I can't help it.:
     "I'll think of something," he promised. Then, anxiously, "You're sure you still want me, darling?"
     "Oh, Jack!" This in a very small voice. "I want you more than anything...maybe even more than you do. Every time I remember Labor Day I...well, it does the most awful things to me."
     "Don't worry, honey," he repeated, snuggling her close in the curve of his arm. "I'll think of something."
     The break came the very next day. Jubilantly, Jack called Mary from his office and told her, "A client was just in, name of Maitland, honey. His family has a business in Corville, and he has an apartment there. He's going to Bermuda, and he's given me the keys, and the keys to his car, too. We can run up there Saturday to the Rochambeau-Carnot football game and be alone for the weekend. How does that sound?"
     "Wonderful!" Mary breathed into the earphone. "It sounds simply perfect."
     The drive to Corville, through the gold, scarlet of the autumn leaves, was glorious.
     Huddling close to Jack in the front seat of the borrowed convertible, Mary turned her blue eyes toward her lover and murmured, "Darling, isn't this worth waiting for? It's going to be so wonderful!"
     "If I remember how after so long," he replied.
     She slapped his shoulder and said, "You haven't forgotten, neither have I." Then, pensively, "But it has been a long, long time."
     "You can say that again, honey," he told her.
     "I can't help being the way I am," she told him. "It's just that...I want everything to be right. I think love is a very, very private thing, don't you?"
     "If you say so," he replied, his eyes on the road. He knew that, if he looked at her, he'd be unable to resist pulling the car off the pavement and making a grab for her right there in the open, and he knew, from sad experience, that it wouldn't work.
     They lunched in a fine old inn, in the lovely old college town, amid crowds of exuberant students and alumni and their women assembled for the game.
     After lunch, more liquid than solid, they made their way across a corner of the campus to the stadium.
     There were more drink passed during the game, whose playing was to remain somewhat foggy in Jack's memory, and then, because Rochambeau had won, a party at one of the fraternity houses afterwards. By 8 o'clock, a definitely tiddly Jack punched his way through a swarm of admiring Greek-letter brothers toward a Mary who was engaged in balancing a highball glass on the coral-pink tip of a single forefinger.
    She saw him, and her lips parted in a warm smile of greeting. As she did so, the highball glass tottered and crashed to the floor. Mary said, "Oooops!"
     There was a cheer from the surrounding males, and someone went for a fresh glass. Jack somehow abstracted her from the herd and said, "Hey, honey! I thought we wanted to be alone?"
     She considered this thoughtfully for a moment, the nodded solemnly. "'Course," she said. "You want a loan, I'll give it to you...jess long as there's interest. You interested darling?"
     "Desperately," he replied. Clamping a tight hold on her arm, he guided her out of the revelry and into the car. She sat back beside him, smiling a trifle foolishly, as he took a corner on two wheels. "Hey, was that Walnut Street I just passed?" He asked.
     "How would I know?" Mary smiled loosely. "If we were in a boat, instead of a car, I could trail my hand over the side in the water like this."
     He reclaimed her, before she fell out, and backed up to check the street that he had just passed. It was Walnut, and he turned left, hazily following directions. He crept along a couple of blocks and found a tavern going full blast.
     "Come on," he said after parking the car at the curb. "Gotta go in and ask directions. Not gonna leave you here alone."
     They went inside, hand in hand.
     It was pandemonium, as the victory celebration was in full swing. There was a girl dancing on a table with her skirts held high, and much necking at the tables in the back. Three more drinks were poured down Jack's gullet before he managed to elicit the information from the bartender that Maitland's place was directly next door.
     He had to try out a half dozen keys on the ring Maitland had given him before he found one that worked. To his fuzzy gaze, the dim light inside seemed to reveal nothing but a vast number of sofas. "Mus' be couch-happy," he murmured, shaking his head. "Wonder where the bed is?"
     "I found it!" caroled Mary in triumph. "This way, darling. My, it's big and soft! And there's a picture window."
     He found her through a small door and up a couple of steps. The bedroom seemed narrow, but it was perfectly furnished. He reached for a lamp, to turn it on.
     "Don't!" Mary whispered. "Let's undress in the dark. 'Smore fun that way."
     It was Labor Day weekend and the sand dunes all over again, only better. Passion and rapture rose and fell and rose again as all the frustrations of recent weeks were paid out in a perfect fusion of bodies that were never still.
     Finally, exhausted, Mary murmured in his ear. "Isn't it better this way, darling...with just us and no worried about the rest of the world?"
     "You can say that again," he replied sleepily...
     He awakened in a condition of happy hangover and saw Mary's ash-blonde curls on the pillow besides his, felt the warmth of her body against his. He reaches for her, and she awoke and her lips curved in a smile of sheer sensual delight as they turned and reached for him.
     Then the perfection of the moment was shattered by a deep masculine voice from somewhere above them and close by, a voice that said, "You two kids must be crazy to do it here...not without selling tickets anyway."
     It belonged to a uniformed policeman. Furious and embarrassed, Jack got his eyes into focus and said, "What's the idea of breaking in here without a warrant?"
     "Well," replied the cop, looking slightly embarrassed, "what's the idea of...of going to bed in Maitland's Department Store show window?"
     "Wh-a-a-at?" Shouted Jack. Only half conscious of Mary's squeal of dismay and her dive under the covers besides him, he looked at the picture window, saw the row of grinning and shocked faces looking in at them, noted the reverse lettering on the broad glass itself.
     "Ohmigod!" he exclaimed, diving under the covers himself. "Where's Hubie Maitland's apartment?"
     "Two doors down the street," replied the cop, beginning to grin as understanding came. "Just the other side of the saloon. But you gotta get out of here. There's people going to church outside. Maybe I can put up a screen."
     "Do something...anything!" cried Jack, feeling his skin grow hot from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head at the thought of all those people looking in.
     Luckily, the chief of police, a college town veteran, was understanding. He let Jack off with a sizable contribution to the Police Widow's Fund. But it was a shattered Jack who drove glumly back toward the city.
     The thought of what he had done to his so-shy, so-modest love lay curdling within him like a large oyster dropped into a jar of alcohol. He was unable to meet Mary's eyes with his own bloodshot gaze. In his numb despair, he was not aware she was speaking to him until she tugged sharply at his sleeve for the third time. Then he said, "Yes, dear?"
     "Darling," she said, "there's a turn-off ahead...just before those trees."
     Automatically, he turned off, onto a farmer's rut road, leading behind the clump of gaily leafed trees into a pasturage where cattle grazed solemnly. He stopped the car and looked at her, desolate.
     But blue eyes sparkled at him, and a soft, alluring voice said, "Jack, didn't we leave some unfinished business behind us in the store window?"
     "Uh..." he replied alertly.
     "Didn't we?" she asked insinuatingly, her body close to his.
     He got it then...and couldn't believe it. "But in front of all those cows!" he said.
     "Darling," she said, pulling him toward her, "just because we can't charge them admission is no reason not to..."
     "You can say that again," he told her, his despair dropping magically from him. "You can say that again!"

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