“Finally,” Pat said to himself as he looked out his window. His neighborhood had had a massive thunderstorm front come through over the last two days, with more expected throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening.

He’d been on edge through the downpour. He felt frenzied from the continuous rain and wind of the last few days. Stormy weather tended to do that to him. Usually, in this part of town, he’d be sitting in either candlelight or the dark, trying to work through the aroused feelings within him with paper and pen.

Luckily, this time, they’d not loss power, and Pat was able to spend the time with more than just his writing. Internet chatting interspersed with playing video games and watching porn tapes did wonders for relieving frustration. Although, and he was probably treading on blasphemous grounds if his friends knew, he was thinking there’s only so many times you can watch porn in a day. Even the supposed good stuff.

But a vague silence had woken him from a nap and he’d gone to the front of the condo to have a look. The storm had abated for now. Mostly. The wind was howling and whipping bits of debris through the air and along the surface of the water in the street out front. The mini-creek that now flowed past the edge of the parked cars didn’t seem too deep, but he knew he shouldn’t take it for granted. A television show on PBS just that afternoon had said it only took six inches of flowing water to knock a man off his feet.

While it seemed unlikely to Pat, he pulled on his fly-fishing waders and went outside. In the short time it had taken him to get ready, the water had risen noticeably. He eased his way out past his most likely waterlogged Corvette, and stepped cautiously into the street proper. It was, indeed, deeper than it had looked from his apartment.

And the rain, naturally, returned while he was standing there.

Pat slogged through the churning waters growing ever higher along his street. If he hadn’t been expecting really important mail, he’d probably have let it wait until later. The storm drains were overwhelmed, however, and if he took too long the whole mail box would be swept away like all the little bits of debris, children’s toys, and unlocked bicycles he could already spot floating by. “Well, that might be stretching it,” he muttered to himself. “But, better safe than sorry,” he told himself as he got out his key and opened his compartment on the mailbox.

“Mmmm,” he said as he took in a deep breath. His skin tingled as the rainwater fell on it. He grabbed the half a dozen letters in his box and stuffed them inside the many layers of shirts and light jackets he’d thrown on. As he turned to go, he spotted a figure in bright yellow waving at him.

Valerie Starr was a neighbor from across the breezeway. Pat had spoken with her in passing, perhaps a couple of words now and then at one of the tenant meetings or a monthly get-together at the clubhouse, but he’d not say they were friends.

For one thing, Ben Starr was one of those mountainous men that wanted to lord over all they could get away with lording over, and didn’t take kindly to people being too friendly with Valerie. Pat never quite understood that attitude. He particularly didn’t understand it when it came to someone like Valerie.

She always seemed really nice, and was pleasant to look at too. But she had never struck Pat as the kind of woman that men like Ben needed to worry themselves over. She always had a smile for everyone, but wasn’t any sort of a flirt that Pat had ever heard about. And she didn’t even flaunt how she looked.

Valerie was not quite a foot shorter than Pat. She always seemed to be dressed to hide her shape, which he’d thought was just one of those things some females did…he knew his sisters tended to when they felt they weren’t quite fit or shapely enough. But the last several weeks, despite her wardrobe, Pat was sure Valerie had been losing weight, and supported his theory with the fact that he’d been seeing her beginning to wear more flattering clothes.

More flattering pants and skirts, he mentally amended the thought. She still had a tendency towards sweaters and other bulky tops. Pat suspected she was losing weight and getting back the shape of someone who hadn’t had three kids, but was still top heavy and not over the embarrassment that sometimes came with having such a full rack. But he thought Valerie was pretty cute…little bob of a haircut, librarian glasses…and she had a really killer smile.

Today, however, she was more hot than cute. She’d come out in what appeared to be just an ordinary shirt, than Pat realized how long it was and realized it was a sleep shirt. Over it, Valerie had thrown a simple windbreaker, and was just wearing ankle booties and slippers. It was the least dressed Pat had ever seen her, and Valerie seemed a little out of it.

It wasn’t anything specific Pat could put a name to or point a finger at. She just looked sort of off, like she wasn’t quite herself.

Valerie canlı bahis şirketleri seemed to be calling at him, but the wind had sprung back up and, even at the short distance back to the dry areas by the condo unit, it disrupted her words. “D’oh,” muttered Pat. He motioned to her mailbox. She nodded. Pat mimed unlocking the door and retrieving whatever was inside, then turned back to Valerie and gave her and open armed, palms up, shrug.

She nodded and looked around. Valerie held up a finger, and slipped back into the shadows of her apartment’s entry hall for a moment. When she came back out, she had a baseball in one hand. In her other hand, she held a roll of duct tape. She set the ball carefully on the lip of a hanging plant, and tore off a strip of tape. Making sure Pat was watching, Valerie held up a key, then wrapped the tape about the key and ball. She tossed it lightly up and down on her right palm.

Pat laughed and cracked his knuckles. “Go on!” he shouted, not sure if she could hear him any better then he’d heard her. Then he got into a receiving stance.

Valerie wound up and threw the ball towards Pat. He reached for it, and shook his face with a slight sputter as it splashed right before him. He scooped it up and took the key from about it. With the key, he retrieved a large bundle of things from Valerie’s mailbox, and began trudging back to her with it firmly lodged next to his own letters.

“Thanks, Pat. You’re a lifesaver. Really, you are.” Valerie practically gushed when Pat made it into the dry areas with the mail. “It’s probably nothing that couldn’t have waited until later on, but it’s something different, right?”

She turned away and beckoned him with head and shoulder. “Come in and let’s see what kind of junk mail we got. I’ve been closed away inside since the storm began, and wanted to take advantage of the break in the storm…but now it’s raining again.” She sighed, and Pat thought he noticed a slight shudder pass through her body.

“Oh well…thanks again, you want to come in for some nice hot coffee? Haven’t been doing much except type on the computer and work at cleaning up the house, I know I could use some real life company.”

Pat considered the offer for a moment. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d heard Valerie say so many words to anyone, let along to him. And, while his first thoughts had been that he really wanted to find some dry clothes and that hot coffee wasn’t what he’d like to come in for, he nodded and said it’d be great. “Follow me then,” Valerie said as she turned to go back inside.

The little spin as she’d turned had flipped up the edge of her windbreaker, letting Pat see how tight and skimpy the sleep shirt really was. Valerie bent just slightly to drop the baseball back by the door where she’d picked it up, and the very base of her asscheeks were briefly revealed to Pat. “Mmm,” he murmured without realizing he was doing so and Valerie turned to glance over her shoulder at him.

“What was that?” she asked, a bit of a gleam showing in her eyes. She didn’t wait for an answer, just swept into the apartment and pointed Pat towards the first doorway off the entrance hall. “Go on in, I’ll go get the coffee started. Be right back,” her voiced trailed away as she continued on down the hall, “Just have a seat.”

Pat looked about the room he found himself in. Then he looked down at his squelching boot clad feet and the little beads of water that rolled down the waders. He felt around his jacket and shook his head…his breath catching at the sight of the spray coming off his hair. “Have a seat?” he said. “Yeah, right…I don’t think so. Not in here.”

It was a nice room, almost what you might call a parlor. Pat was reminded of the way his mother used to keep the very front room of the houses he grew up in extra neat and tidy. “Public rooms” is how he’d viewed them. They were places where you could let anyone…salespeople, missionaries from whatever religious group was in the neighborhood that day, the kids trying to get you to buy their magazines, or candy, or cookies…without worrying that they might have a wrong first impression.

Never mind that the impression they were getting was wrong to begin with.

Valerie’s front room had a lot of those qualities. Most of the horizontal surfaces around the room were full of knick-knacks. They sat on the mantle along one wall, on the end tables, and at the very edges of the shelves of the small bookcase by the entrance to the hall leading further into the house. Some of those same shelves also held little groupings of pictures displaying a nice looking family as it grew from a couple to a trio to the size it was today. More professional portraits of the three children (school pictures, from the looks of it) were hung amid paintings here and there about the room’s walls.

But, where his mother’s choice of things reflected her tastes and background in a fairly obvious way, Pat wasn’t sure who was reflected here. He stopped canlı kaçak iddaa before a rather artsy looking print hanging near the bookcase. It showed a woman reclining…well, most of a woman reclining. You had a good view of her shapely legs encased in ivory colored, patterned hose, garter belt just barely visible, and her hips and thighs turned to imply she wasn’t wearing anything else…even though that wasn’t expressly shown.

A slight tinkle of metal on china behind him announced Valerie’s return. “It’s not quite finished brewing, but I thought we could go ahead and have a bit of cake or something.” She caught sight of where he was standing and what he was looking at.

Pat half turned towards her then gave a glance back over his shoulder. “You?” he asked with a nod to the picture.

Valerie rolled her eyes. “I wish…been thinking of getting some stockings like that though,” she said. Sighing, she added, “Would probably go to waste around here.” She smiled at Pat, who laughed lightly.

“Mmm…well, should you take pictures of them and wish to share,” he said with a wink.

Her face reddened slightly. Valerie swallowed nervously, sitting down and returning to the coffee service. “Maybe someday. When I finish…” she let the thought slip away, her eyes mostly kept down and away from Pat.

…”finish what?” Pat probed. “Finish remaking yourself? I can see the start you’ve made, and I barely know you. I’m sure Ben is as happy with the results as you are, yes?”

She shook her head just a bit and Pat nodded. He quietly took a plate of cake. “Come on, I’m too wet for this room. Let’s go to the kitchen and check that coffee. We can talk about why we’ve never really talked before. Or anything at all, really…What prompted you to begin making a change?”

The pair moved out into the hall and down to the other room. It, too, showed the sign of being carefully seen to and kept up. Everything had a place and nothing seemed to be out of place from what Pat could tell. He could tell the kitchen was used, though; it had that sort of lived in feel to it.

There was a smell that he couldn’t put a name to hanging in the air. It might have been a type of potpourri or very mild incense, but he wasn’t sure. Whatever it was, it fit the room nicely, and blended in with the sounds also.

From the counter by the stove, the coffee machine was just finishing up. The mild little drip it made mingled with the rhythmic hum and whirl of a washing machine that Pat could just make out running in the background somewhere.

“It’s just silliness,” Valerie was saying as she took their cups and began to fix coffee for them. “I read something that sparked a thought that I needed to try and improve some things, that’s all. How we would all get along better if we knew something more about what makes us tick. So, I decided to begin finding that out with me. It’s sort of a special present for me. My birthday is in a few weeks.” “My birthday was earlier in the summer,” Pat remarked. “I’m just about to crest the next hill. Forty is a hill, a milestone, isn’t it? I mean still. The way things seem to be happening with regards to keeping people healthy and fit these days I never seem to remember when I’m allowed to consider myself old.”

“You’re only as old as you feel.”

“True enough, I suppose. At least, that’s what they’d have you believe.” Pat took a deep breath and sipped at the coffee cup he held. “So, umm, what exactly did you mean by tick?”

Valerie laughed. “Well, I was referring to general interests, but you can read into it whatever you want.” The merriment in her eyes radiated out between them, and Pat ran a hand over his chin as he thought for a moment.

“Ah…well, let’s see…interests…do I even have those any more? I sometimes wonder.” Pat turned his head to glance in Valerie’s direction and found her eyes already on him. “I mean, I still have my writing. Sometimes, I manage to squeeze in a roleplaying session or a movie; but between work and helping out Allan, I’m more than a little tied up.”

He smiled, adding, “Not in a good way, either. You mean stuff like that?”

Nodding, Valerie said, “It’s a start. I know what you mean about finding time for such things. I never have the time for all the reading, writing, and movie-going that I would like. You’ve seen the kids. They’re good…very good…but three of them is still an awful lot of time and care. Now that they’ve all started school, I’ve begun to pencil in some volunteer time here and there, maybe a day in the gym or out biking, but have yet to get back to hobbies.”

Just outside the kitchen windows, the rain took a turn towards the heavy side. Pat felt what was coming before it happened. A large crash of thunder announced to everyone for miles that the storm was not only back, but bigger and closer than before. Valerie started at the noise, and Pat stepped in without thinking and laid a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s just noise, you know. It’s not going to bother canlı kaçak bahis you, really.” She gave him a dubious look. Pat smiled. “Honest. Some people even use thunder and rain as ambient sound within musical compositions.”

Valerie sighed. “I know. I studied music for almost a decade between grade school and getting my bachelor’s degree. Thunder storms just make me uneasy. Don’t know why, or what to do about it.”

“You deal with it, like any other fear or compulsion. Make it have as minimal an effect on you by interacting with it and getting yourself used to its being around you. What have you got finishing up in the wash?”

“How’d?”

A light laugh escaped from Pat as he stepped back to give Valerie some space again. “You’d mentioned you were doing housework. I haven’t ever been in a house with work to be done that didn’t include laundry. And, besides, I can hear the washer going through its final spin cycle.”

“You have too fine an attention to details.” She moved through the dining space to the far side of the kitchen and folded back a pair of doors covering a small washer and dryer room. Just then the washer clicked and thumped and settled down again. Valerie leaned over after opening the top and pulled out a piece of white cloth. “Sheets. Sheets and pillowcases and other assorted bedding,” she said.

“Perfect. Throw it all in a basket and put it on the table there.”

His instructions were met with a roll of the eyes and another dubious look. “Trust me, ‘kay?”

Valerie shrugged and began drawing forth the linens from the washer. They were bright and reflected the light of the kitchen. One by one, she piled them into the waiting laundry basket and then picked the whole thing up and set it on the dinette table. “Alright, what now?” she asked.

“We hang it up to dry, of course. Come on, follow me,” he answered as he tossed a bag of clothespins into the basket and gathered the whole thing up and headed for the now open sliding glass door to the backyard. “That means you have to walk, Val.”

“You’re crazy! It’s pouring down rain out there”

“Yep”

“It’s thundering and lightning and the wind’s blowing and…and…”

Pat walked over and held out the basket to Valerie. She took it automatically. He stepped around behind her and leaned his body closely up to hers…his voice a soft asp upon her shoulder, hissing in her ear. “Move or would you rather I made you?”

She swallowed nervously. Her head shook back and forth a few times and she stammered out that she was moving. Pat watched her step through the exit onto the small patio right outside the door. She paused to regard the water falling in great sheets…dripping steadily at the edge of the ceiling formed from the balcony on the second floor…and met Pat’s eyes in his reflection in the glass.

He narrowed his gaze. He could feel a devilish smile slowly emerging, but he kept it at bay and just let his eyes bore into Valerie. He watched as she bit her lip. Valerie was unsure of why she was listening to him, but she didn’t stop doing so. When she turned her body to squeeze the basket through the backdoor, Pat saw the beginnings of hard nipples pressing through her shirt even before the mist began to dampen the fabric, and let the smile come.

“So, what sort of typing have you been doing?” Pat asked as Valerie stood holding the laundry basket. He motioned for her to set it down to the side of the door, ducked out into the storm and undid a length from the clothesline. Valerie’s eyes widened and he laughed when she relaxed and breathed more easily when he strung it up along the small enclosed patio outside the kitchen door. “Well?”

Valerie gave a light shrug. “It’s nothing much. I’ve been hanging out on some forum type places, bouncing messages back and forth and bantering with people. Occasionally, I’ve slipped away to check out stories and poems posted by people I know. There’s some impressive stuff out there.”

“I know. I hang out in quite a few of those places myself. Sometimes, the immediacy of a chat room isn’t as intimate as leaving a part of you exposed and coming back later to see what people have remarked about it.”

Valerie relaxed a little more. Her body had grown a bit stiff and on guard as Pat had rehung the clothesline. “So, you write yourself?” she asked, the curiosity evident in her voice.

“Well, when I manage to kick my butt into gear, yeah. I need to get back in the groove of writing regularly. I managed to get out some new poetry recently, and that’s at least a start in that direction.” He noticed the slight fidgeting Valerie was doing and smiled.

“You write too, don’t you?” Pat asked.

Valerie nodded. “I just have such a passion that needs released sometimes. I think my music used to do that, but when the girls came I found other things to put that energy towards. Now, however, that feeling is building again, and writing seems to be calling to it.”

“What’s Ben think about it?”

A sigh slipped from Valerie and she shrugged. “He was really supportive, until he found out what I was writing about.” She stooped to pick up a sheet from the basket and began draping it over the clothesline. “He’s fine, long as ‘no sexy stuff’ is involved.”

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