The Summer Afternoon
She’d got up late. Really late. She’d arrived at the house the previous afternoon after a long train ride from the city. She had stared out of the carriage window as the scenery changed from drab urban sprawl to pleasant rolling fields dotted with farmhouses. How lucky her friend was, she kept thinking, to be able to spend the summer vacation among all this bucolic splendor. At the city university where they were both studying, there was a egalitarian sameness between students. They’re backgrounds and financial circumstances were hidden away, behind the daily grind of study. But when the semester ended, many returned to their respective parental homes, to take up whatever ‘real’ life they had temporarily put on hold.
When she got off the train at a deserted station in the middle of nowhere, her friend was there on the platform to meet her. They hugged like long lost war comrades and she was driven deeper into the rolling hills to an isolated cottage surrounded by wide expanses of neatly cut lawn. As she got out of the car in the driveway, she breathed in the fresh unpolluted air and felt every trouble and worry she had brought with her from the cosmopolitan jungle dissolve away. This remote rambling house that lay before her felt like it was part of some twilight world which had just opened its door to her.
Inside in the hallway, she dumped her bag down and her friend took her by the hand into the kitchen to meet her father. He was seated at a long wooden table in front of a notebook computer with some reading glasses half way down his nose, his eyes focused on the screen. As they came closer, he took off the glasses, stood up and extended his hand to shake hers. He was a typically middle-aged, with thinning hair and spreading belly, but as she looked into his eyes, she felt a fatherly warmth from him that she knew she would miss later when she left.There was something magical about this sanctuary of peacefulness he had created and she felt envious of her friend for always being able to return to it.
That evening, she and her friend drove to the nearest town to eat some pizza and share confidences over a drink in a bar. When the conversation came around to her friend’s father, she was curious about his solitary life. Her friend explained that since his retirement he had spent all his time writing a novel and if he wasn’t doing that he was tending to the garden or fixing things around the cottage. She asked if he didn’t have a girlfriend? Her friend laughed and whispered, “I don’t think he’s had sex in over ten years. At least not since he lost my mother.”
That night she had one of the best night’s sleep in all her young life. Without the urban sounds of traffic and distant sirens, she was able to dream endlessly into the late morning. When she woke, she could hear the sound of buzzing insects outside the window. She got up and looked down across the lawn. Under a tree, sitting on a blanket was her friend’s father, reading glasses again perched on his nose, scribbling notes in a small notebook. She pulled on a t-shirt and some shorts and padded barefoot down to the kitchen. On the table was a note for her from her friend:
“Didn’t want to wake you. Have gone to buy food. Dad will look after you!”
She looked around the kitchen and found some slices of bread to eat, then filled a glass with water and wandered out into the garden towards her friend’s father. He was still engrossed in his notebook when she was just a few steps away and she felt a little guilty disturbing his thoughts but she was curious about what he was working on. It wasn’t until she was beginning to sit down on the blanket next to him that he looked up. “I wondered if you’d ever wake up,” he said. She took a swig of the water in her glass before replying. “Princesses need their beauty sleep. Can I ask what you’re writing. I heard it’s a novel.”
He put down the notebook and leaned back on his hands. She felt as though he was trying to look relaxed but she sensed that her proximity was making him feel a little awkward, but she also liked the idea that her presence would do that to a middle aged man. “It’s a modern take on Voltaire’s Candide,” he explained, “But it won’t be a satire. Actually, my central character is a young woman just like yourself.” She’d taken some units on comparative philosophy at college so she knew a little about what he was talking about. “So Doctor Pangloss was right? This is the best of all possible worlds because God created it and he wouldn’t have created anything but the best?” He seemed impressed she knew what he was talking about and also pleased he had someone who could understand his ideas.
They spent the next few hours on the blanket chatting about Voltaire, Candide and the novel before going back inside for some lunch. They continued to talk as he threw together a large bowl of a delicious vegan salad for them to share. He was about to sit down with her at the table when the the house phone in the hallway rang. He went out to answer it and when he came back into the kitchen he explained that his daughter wouldn’t be back until late afternoon. “She thinks there’s a problem with the car, “ he explained, “she going to take it over to a mechanic friend she knows in town. There were at school together. I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with me for the rest of the afternoon.” She started to lift some of the salad out of the bowl between them onto her plate. “Maybe you can be my Doctor Pangloss and show me how this is the best of possible worlds,” she said as she handed him the salad spoon.
He smiled at her suggestion but in a way she did feel like an innocent abroad in a big scary world. Maybe this kind, gentle fatherly figure she was getting to like more and more could really explain why this world was the best one that could possibly exist. As she took a bite of a slice vinaigrette soaked fresh avocado, he seemed to be ready to accept the challenge. “Alright, he began,” you and I are sitting here surrounded by calm and peace, eating excellent food. There is no war, no pestilence, no famine. You’ll sleep soundly tonight and when you wake you can be certain that the world will be much the same. “But what,” she asked, “what if I have desires, inner desires that I need to fulfill. Spiritual and emotional cravings that make me take risks so my world isn’t safe anymore?” He thought for a moment as he conveyed another spoonful of salad to his plate. “Is it not the best possible of worlds that allows you to be able to take those risks?” He had some convincing arguments.
After lunch they took some more iced drinks and went back to sit down on the blanket under the tree. Compared with just a few hours earlier she could tell that he was feeling much more comfortable with her, but his initial uneasiness seemed to have been replaced by a restrained excitement. She even thought his face had become a little flushed, as though there was something interesting going on his mind that he wasn’t letting on. Something interesting and possibly something sexual? The distance between them on the blanket seemed much closer this time and there was a tension in the air that she wondered if he could feel too. Then, from seemingly nowhere, a quote came into her head. “Pop quiz! Can you complete this Voltaire quote: ‘Love is a canvas furnished by nature…”?” He looked at her, smiled, and she could see the way his gaze was moving across her face, absorbing the outlines of her cheeks, her eyes, her lips. Then he answered, “…and embroidered by the imagination.”
She wasn’t sure who leaned into who first. It was one of those moments when both people go silent and you are looking into each others eyes then one leans and the other leans at the same time. Then there’s a slight hesitation before your lips touch and you start to kiss. It was one of those things only the human animal understands. And as they kissed she put her free arm around his neck and he put his free arm across her waist and then his hand was undoing her shorts and she was undoing his shorts. As she reached into his pants to stroke his dripping cock, he was pushing his hand into her panties to feel the wetness of her pussy.
Clothes were quickly removed before he was the first to speak. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any condoms”. She replied as she lay back with her legs opened and pulled him onto her. “It’s alright, We don’t need one.” And then he was inside her. He pushed deep inside her before he began to pull out and began thrusting in slow, careful rhythmic strokes. She looked up at this face a few minutes later as he began to cum inside her. His expression turned to one that she could only describe as relaxed ecstasy as he finished the final stroke to leave his load deep inside her. As he sank exhausted down towards her, supported partly by the ground, she put her arms around his neck to hold him close. It was at that point she heard a car pulling into the driveway on the other side of the house, then a car door opening and her friend’s voice calling out, “anyone home?”. The two of them scrambled to put their clothes on and managed just in time to appear mostly clothed when her friend came around the corner and walked across the grass towards them. Without anything said, she knew they would pretend nothing happened. She also knew he would come to her room after she went to bed that night. After all, she had been assured this was the best of all possible worlds. Doctor Pangloss had told her so.