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I eyed my wife. We hadn’t even gone to a park yet, but Disney was clearly already melting her usually analytical mind.
“I don’t know, don’t you think it’s kind of creepy?” Allison said.
“He’s so handsome,” Emily said, “I could see it.” I gave my wife a look and she shied away. “What?” she asked, “Don’t think I didn’t notice you giving Cassie the eye a couple of times, too.”
Had I been staring? I didn’t think so. But it wasn’t hard to imagine I had been looking a little, what with Cassie being Cassie and all.
“She’s always been gorgeous,” Mike said, “Imagine being Jack’s age with a woman like that.”
I waited for Allison to say something to her husband, but instead she turned to me.
“What do you think, Paul?” Allison asked.
“All of this is weird,” I said, “But who am I to judge if it works for them?”
Allison counted the words on her fingers, then cheered. Emily shook her head at her friend’s antics, but I could tell she was trying not to laugh.
“I’m going to get you, yet,” Allison told me, waggling her finger in my face. “Whole paragraphs. They’re coming, buddy!”
Whatever energy I had left was worn down by the walk back to our hotel room. I didn’t even have the strength to open up our bed. I flopped, face first, onto Mike and Allison’s.
“It’s still early,” Allison announced, “We should go to the pool.”
I groaned in response. I couldn’t imagine getting off the bed, let alone heading out for a swim.
“I want to go, too” Emily said.
“I want to die,” I said. My accent came through so strong, it was like Boris Badenov had entered the bedroom. I was too tired to care.
Mike, Allison, and Emily each took turns in the bathrooms, changing into their bathing suits. My consciousness flitted in and out as they went. I noticed Emily put on a black, conservative one-piece that covered everything and more. Allison had on something navy and utilitarian. Like something she might have competed in. Mike wore the standard male trunks; a blue, plaid pair.
“You’ll meet us there, Paul?” Allison asked as the group gathered their things to go.
“Sure,” I said. I was pretty certain I was done for the day. But at that point, I’d have made any promise that would let me pass out.
I felt Emily lean over and kiss the back of my head.
“See you in a bit,” she said, rubbing my back affectionately.
Then she was gone.
I woke up in near-darkness. The room was empty. Eerily quiet.
I looked out the doors to the balcony and saw a blackened parking lot staring back at me; the rows of streetlights mirroring the star-filled sky above. Though Emily and our friends were out and about, the sun had clearly called it a night. I’d slept for a little over an hour. I was so disoriented, I felt like I’d lost days.
When I looked at my phone, it showed me a text from my wife.
Emily, from about ten minutes before: Still at the pool. See you soon?
I groaned but got dressed. I found my bathing suit, a pair of green trunks, and pulled them on along with a t-shirt and some flip flops. At least I no longer needed to bother bringing sunscreen.
Outside, the resort was surprisingly lively. People had left the parks and were now filling the paths. Many of them seemed to be starting their evening, rather than calling it a night.
When I got to the pool, it was like stepping into the middle of a block party. People were everywhere; swimming, playing, or lying on the lounge chairs. Kids raced around while adults sat back and sipped large, obviously alcoholic drinks. Music blared, yet it was nearly drowned out by the roar of the crowd. It seemed like half the hotel was out and enjoying the atmosphere.
The only problem was, I couldn’t find Emily. I circled the pool twice, to no avail. I was certain people were staring at me – the weirdo wandering around the water. I was about to head back to the hotel room, assuming I’d just missed the group, when I heard a giggle.
It was strange. The laugh sounded like Emily and yet very much didn’t sound like Emily. Incongruous and familiar all at once.
I realized it was coming from a spot behind me. There was a set of stairs near the rock wall on one side that I hadn’t noticed till then. Or maybe I had seen it but dismissed it as an employee path or something like that.
I walked up that way and there it was: a big, bright, burbling hot tub, set deep into the fake lava rocks. It was perfectly private. Yet, standing there, I could also see the pool below, and beyond that, the glowing white of Cinderella Castle, itself.
In the spa, as I’d now expected, were Emily, Allison, and Mike. However, they had two other people with them. Though, at this point, I can’t say I was stunned to see them, either: Cassie and Jack.
The way the five of them were situated, however, was more unexpected. Mike and Cassie were so close to each other, they looked like a couple. On the other side of the spa, Jack was sitting next to my Emily. In fact, when I first saw him, it looked like he had his arm around her shoulder. But the next time I glanced it was gone.
Allison, seated closest to the stairs by herself, turned and gave me a wide, welcoming grin.
“There he is,” she called out as soon as she saw me. She had a drink in her hand, a colorful glass with pink liquid, and gestured it my way.
“We’ve been drinking!” Emily said, almost bubblier than the hot tub she was sitting in. Again, I wondered at where my reserved, geeky wife had escaped to. Maybe we’d left her at the airport. Like accidentally grabbing a suitcase that looked exactly like mine but turned out to belong to a stranger.
“We definitely have been drinking,” Cassie said. She showed me her own, mostly finished glass.
“Speaking of which, it’s time for the next round,” Jack said, popping up out of the water. “Let me get you something.”
He slapped my shoulder convivially (why did people keep hitting me on this trip?), then lumbered past. I stripped down to my suit and got in, sitting next to Emily. My petite wife had her brown hair up in the same bun as before and had kept her glasses on, as well. Along with the black straps of her bathing suit, she seemed oddly formal for the hot tub.
“I missed you,” Emily said. She leaned over and gave me a wet, sloppy kiss. Tongue and all. It made me feel very aware of everyone around us. “I’m so glad you finally showed up.”
My wife wasn’t a big drinker and I worried that alcohol plus hot tub had equaled trouble. I turned to Allison, sitting on my other side, who seemed to be the soberest of the group.
“She’s fine,” Allison said, “Don’t worry I’ve got you.”
“We’re playing a drinking game,” Cassie said from across the spa, as if that explained everything. She was wearing the same plum bikini from before. Again, I was taken aback by how close she and Mike were sitting. Practically cuddling. “But Allie realized we’ve all been drinking a lot, so we decided to play for other things.”
“I had to kiss Jack,” Emily said, a bit too excitedly. I startled.
“Just on the cheek,” Allison quickly cut in. “It was nothing.”
I nodded back at her in thanks. Emily’s announcement left me feeling oddly off-balance. I wasn’t too worried – Emily simply wasn’t the type to take things too far – but even if she was, I had Allison to keep an eye on things. And we were in Disney, not Vegas, how inappropriate could things get, really?
“Jack smells fantastic,” Emily said, dreamily, “Like wood smoke mixed with something amazing.”
Cassie laughed. “My husband’s cologne collection is unreal,” she said, “Honestly, it makes me feel a little inadequate sometimes.”
“You smell good, too,” Mike said, sniffing at the beautiful blonde. “Like peaches and cream.” Cassie rolled her eyes, but she was chuckling.
I looked over at Allison, aware of how left out she must feel with the other ‘couples.’ So I leaned over and took an oversized sniff of her hair.
“Coconutty,” I said, and the group gave a playful cheer.
At that moment, Jack stepped back into the spa. He distributed tall, icy glasses to each of us, then took his seat on the other side of Emily. She grinned at him, goofily.
“Back to the game!” Mike declared, once he had his new drink in hand.
“I think it was Allison’s turn,” Cassie said.
“Well, we’ve gotta give Paul here a chance to catch up, right?” Jack said. He smiled my way, patronizingly.
I dutifully took a sip of my drink. It tasted like a tropical-style Long Island Iced Tea, with way more alcohol than I would have expected from Mickey. I could see how my wife had gotten underwater so quickly. I had to stop myself before I sank beneath the bubbles, as well.
“We’re playing two truths and a lie,” Cassie said, “If we guess right, you have to drink. Well not anymore. Now you have to do a penalty of the guessers’ choosing.”
“That’s how I ended up kissing Jack,” Emily said, excitedly “Cassie said I had to. Oh, and Mike had to kiss Cassie. And Cassie kissed Allison.”
“I think Paul’s all caught up on who’s been kissing who,” Allison said, a bit of pink rising in her cheeks.
“This is so much fun,” Emily said, “I love Disney.”
Who was this woman?
“You haven’t even been to the parks yet,” Mike said, shaking his head in mock disdain. “OK, so I guess Paul should take a turn. You’ll know when he’s lying, cause he’ll be talking.”
I shot the blond man a glare. I didn’t mind when Allison ribbed me about my reticence, but Mike managed to make it seem cruel.
“Go for it, Paul,” Allison said, then repeated the rules. “Two truths and a lie.”
I did my best to keep my accent neutral. Talking like an American wasn’t hard, I just had to flatten everything out in my mouth. Remembering to do it all the time, especially with alcohol, was the challenge.
“I grew up in Russia,” I said, “I work as a computer programmer. I once won a world championship at chess.”
“No cheating here, Emily,” Jack said, touching my wife’s shoulder, fondly. “Let us all figure it out.”
“It’s gotta be the chess one, right?” Cassie asked, turning to Mike. He shrugged back.
When I scanned the spa, everyone seemed stumped. But then I saw Allison was smirking. She looked very pretty that way. Her blonde hair was dark from the water. Her navy, one-piece swimsuit clung to her athletic body. But it was the fire in her eyes, the thrill of competition, that truly took my breath away. She was downright striking with that gleam – even Cassie came off as plain in comparison.
“It’s number one,” Allison said, “You’re from Ukraine. I remember you telling me the first time we met.”
I had to admit, I was impressed. Even I didn’t remember saying that to Allison. She gave me a winning wink, clearly proud of her own attention to detail.
“Wait, you’re really a world championship chess player?” Cassie asked.
“He played in a regional tournament when he was eight,” Emily said.
“They called it the Local Youth Junior World Championship,” I said with a shrug.
“Still, that’s impressive, Paul,” Cassie said.
I didn’t think it was all that incredible, there were only five other kids in the tournament, but whatever. If the beautiful blonde woman wanted to be impressed, I was more than happy to let her.
“Now to your punishment,” Mike said, rubbing his palms together.
“Paul can kiss me,” Allison said, surprisingly quickly. Then she recovered. “On the cheek, of course. That’s the going rate these days.”
I wasn’t going to argue. Given the choice of kissing someone in the tub, if it couldn’t be my own wife, I’d have wanted it to be Allison anyway. So, as required, I leaned over and gave the tall woman a quick peck. It was beyond chaste, but the group all ooh-ed like it was scandalous, anyway.
“My turn,” Mike said, and immediately listed off three things about himself in high school. It was obvious that he was tossing Cassie a softball and, sure enough, she caught it with ease.
“You may kiss me,” Cassie said, mock imperiously, before breaking into giggles.
Mike took her chin and turned her face towards him. He leaned forward and planted a little kiss on Cassie’s lips. It was nothing, truly nothing, but it felt momentous. Again, I glanced over at Allison, unsure of what her reaction would be from watching her husband be so forward with another woman. The athletic blonde raised her shoulders at me like, ‘it is what it is.’
Allison, herself, went next and, as expected, she didn’t make it easy on anyone. Allison’s competitive nature wouldn’t let her lose, even if it might have been better for her to do so. Even her husband blanked on the three options. Allison smiled, wickedly satisfied, as she told us she’d lettered in volleyball and swimming but had only done tennis at the JV level.
“OK, who’s next?” Jack asked.
“Wait, don’t I get to pick a prize for winning?” Allison asked. We all agreed that she could. “I’ll take another kiss from Paul.”
I didn’t know how to react to Allison’s attention. On the one hand, yes please. But I didn’t want to upset my wife. Or Mike, for that matter.
But before I could get further reassurance from our respective spouses, Allison pressed her lips to mine. She held them there for a beat. It wasn’t seductive, but I felt the spark of it anyway. As if I wasn’t already aroused, I felt myself stiffen further in my shorts.
It wasn’t just that I was getting kissed by a woman I found attractive, though that was certainly more than enough. The fact that it was in front of a group, including my own wife, only amplified the impact. I felt dizzy with it. Drunk despite only a few sips of my drink.
Allison pulled away, looking satisfied. She settled back into her seat, crossing her arms under her small chest. Her eyes bored into me.
Nervously, I looked over at Emily. My wife grinned my way, wide. She lifted her eyebrows as if to say, ’nice one, stud.’ Then announced that she would go next.
Immediately, I could see where this was going. Mike had kissed Cassie on the lips, and I had kissed Allison, so Emily wanted to be next. She gave us what she clearly thought was a hard question, but Cassie guessed it right away (my wife had failed art in the sixth grade).
Emily sank back into the tub, obviously disappointed. I didn’t think she wanted a smooch from Cassie. Fortunately, the beautiful blonde woman, herself, came to the rescue.
“I think you should have to kiss Jack for your punishment,” Cassie said.
Emily didn’t bother to hide her excitement. She practically leapt out of the water, tackling Jack into the bench. Even the self-assured, older man looked stunned by Emily’s sudden ardor. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pushed her body into his, and kissed him, hard, right on the mouth.
Rather than a quick peck like we’d all been sharing, my wife was truly, fully, smooching Cassie’s husband. She held his body tight to hers – wet smacks and low moans coming from the both of them.
Finally, they broke apart. The group, used to doing little cheers after a shared kiss, was too stunned to say anything. We all stared at what had happened, like the air had been sucked out of the spa. Emily gave us all a stupid grin while Jack leaned back into his seat. He had the look of a man who needed a cigarette.
“Oops,” Emily said, realizing what she’d done, “I guess I got a little too excited there.”
“I think maybe we should dial back on the kissing,” Cassie said, looking at me, meaningfully.
I gave her an appreciative nod. It seemed that everyone was looking out for my marriage, except for Emily herself. Despite her apology, she was still staring at Jack, licking her lips, like reliving the kiss in her mind.
Despite my wife’s indiscretion, I found myself more amused than angry. After all, I’d kissed Allison twice (and had gotten hard from it, besides). Was I really going to begrudge Emily? Especially since everyone was agreeing to keep things under control. No, this was PG high school party stuff. There was simply nothing to be upset about.
But when Cassie went next, she raised the stakes. I’m not sure it was on purpose. Not that it would matter if it was. The result was the same. She leaned forward, conspiratorially.
“My first time was in the backseat of my Dad’s Lexus,” she said, “My first kiss was with my cousin. I love anal sex.”
I swear I heard the whole tub gasp. Everything around us, once so loud, seemed to mute itself. My heartbeat thrummed in my ears. This wasn’t playful information about a pet or a high school crush. It was personal and more than a little dirty.
Worse, there was no easy answer. Instinctively, we all looked at Jack, but he just pointed us back to his young wife. Cassie leaned back and crossed her legs, the essence of sexy assurance, and waited for our answer.
“Anal is the lie?” Emily asked, her voice so quiet I could barely hear her.
Cassie put a scowl on her face. Then she burst out laughing. “You got me, Em!” she said, “My first time really was in my Dad’s car.”
“And your cousin?” Allison asked, clearly taken aback.
“We were both eight,” Cassie said, “I think it can be forgiven. Anal was the lie – I’ve actually never done that.”
We all looked around, nervously. Had we dodged the bullet or taken it right to the chest? I couldn’t tell.
We turned to Emily to hand out Cassie’s punishment. But my cute wife faltered.
“No drinking,” Emily said, ticking off the options, “No kissing, either…”
“Everything else is fair game,” Cassie said. Holy crap did that sound like an enticement.
“I’ve got it,” Mike said, again, all too eager.
But then he paused. It seemed like he was psyching himself up. Rapidly, he moved his arm in a short, sharp jab.
“Oh!” Cassie gasped, startled.
It was obvious what had happened: Mike had poked the beautiful blonde’s boob beneath the bubbles.
“All good,” Mike said, giving us all a satisfied smirk.
Cassie didn’t seem too upset about Mike’s hasty feel. She glanced away, as if nervous, but I could see she was sneaking a smile. I raised my eyebrow at Allison. But she sat back, placid.
And just like that – the question, the answer, the ‘punishment’ – everything we’d been doing was taken to a whole new level.
Allison went next, listing off places she’d supposedly had sex: her parents’ bed, the floor of a closed clothing store, and the college locker room showers. We all assumed the locker room was the lie (clothing store seemed too specific and the bedroom too mundane), but it turned out wrong.
“In my parents’ bed would be gross,” Allison said, like the other two options were oh so sanitary.
“I tried to convince her,” Mike said with a dramatic shrug, and we all laughed.
Allison was triumphant, and without waiting for anyone to tell her otherwise, the athletic blonde shot out and grabbed my dick.
I nearly jumped out of the pool, I was so shocked.
“Are you crazy, woman?” I shouted, not covering my accent even a little bit.
Allison cackled wickedly. “Very nice,” she said.
“I knew he had a ’talk’ button somewhere,” Cassie said, laughing even harder.
I looked over to Emily, hoping she’d stand up for me, but she was chuckling as much as everyone else. Her cheeks were pink with mirth, alcohol, embarrassment, and (no doubt) other things.
“Your go, Em,” Cassie said.
“I don’t know,” Emily said. For the first time that evening, I saw the shy woman I was so used to. I guess we’d finally found her limit.
“Go for it,” Jack said, kindly, “We’re all friends here.”
To my astonishment, Emily sat up and straightened her shoulders. Steeled herself. “OK, ummmmm, my first kiss was after my prom, my first oral was with the starting quarterback freshman year of college, my first time for real was with Paul.”
Everyone turned my way, but I raised my hands in surrender. I knew I wasn’t supposed to say anything. The answer was so obvious, I just hoped it didn’t show on my face.
“There’s no way the QB one is real,” Allison said, thinking aloud, “Emily hates sports. She couldn’t care less about them.”
Everyone nodded in agreement, then turned to look at my wife. Emily shook her head, vigorously.
“The quarterback thing is true,” Emily said, “He was kinda the it guy in college. He actually made it to the pros and everything. He was a backup in the NFL for a while, I think. Anyway, I’d had a crush on him since forever and… I wanted to experiment.”
“You go girl!” Cassie cried out, clapping her hands with delight.
“Oh, it was nothing special, trust me,” Emily said.
“So what was the lie?” Mike asked.
I sat back and smiled. I hadn’t heard the quarterback story before, but I knew it had to be true because I spotted the lie from the start – my wife had told me she had a serious boyfriend before me, in college, and they’d been intimate.
“Seriously?” Emily said, “Who has their first kiss at prom? That’s so cliche.”
I froze. But that meant…
Emily turned away from us as her face went red, “Paul really was my first.”
“I didn’t want you to think I was some geeky virgin,” Emily said to me, “You seemed so, I dunno, worldly. I thought you’d think less of me if you knew I hadn’t been with anyone. So, I made up the boyfriend thing.”
“I’m not like that,” I said. Anyone who thought of me as worldly needed to get themselves a globe.
“Oh, come on,” Cassie said, “The accent. The deep, dark eyes. Your whole ‘silent man of mystery’ thing. I can see it.”
I shook my head, like trying to get the bees out of my brain. Emily’s explanation made sense, I guess. But in the space of two sentences, she’d turned my understanding of her upside down. I found myself wondering, were there other things my wife had made up about herself? Or worse, other secrets she simply wasn’t telling me? Those little kisses from before suddenly felt far more ominous.
Emily had turned my way and was clearly reading it all on my face. Her lips made a wistful twist, then she mouthed the word, ’later.’
“So, you’ve only ever been with one man?” Cassie asked Emily, like she couldn’t believe it.
Emily bobbed her head, emphatically.
“Wow.” It was as if Emily had told Cassie we lived in a yurt in the Sahara or subsisted only on pickled herring. The beautiful blonde couldn’t process the concept.
“Well, OK, Emily,” Mike said, “You win a reward for stumping us.”
“Oh,” Emily said, as if it had just occurred to her. “OK, ummm…”
Her hand shot down into the water. Jack didn’t falter, but I could tell from the grin that spread across his face that my wife had gotten a grab. A split-second later, Emily ripped her hand back out of the water like it’d been burned.
“All set,” she said, giggling.
Jack gave her a knowing wink and Emily flushed down to her chest.
“Well, that’s a revelation,” Cassie said, “OK, I guess I’ve got to raise the stakes. I do side work as a cam girl. I’ve done a nude photoshoot. Jack and I have an open marriage.” She didn’t even blink as she said it.
“Jeez,” Allison said.
“Wow,” Mike said.
“Really?” Emily said.
It was an immediately uncomfortable situation. Not so much guessing the lie, that was hard enough. But it also meant that two of the other things Cassie had told us were true. Any option we selected, seemed like something unreal. Beyond anything the rest of us could imagine.
Everyone held back, unwilling to guess. There was no winning either way, no matter what we said. Finally, Cassie realized that none of us was going to risk taking a guess.
“I just do PR,” she said, shaking her head. Like the other things weren’t equally shocking, “No camming for me.”
No one said anything. Cassie glanced away, clearly coming on to the fact that maybe she’d revealed too much.
“The photoshoot was for my college boyfriend,” Cassie said, “It was fun. Kind of. Though I ended up regretting it later. And Jack and I aren’t open open. We just like to play sometimes. It’s not a big deal. You mean you guys have never shared?”
All four of us shook our heads. I don’t know why Cassie was surprised. Emily had just confessed to being with one man, total. Multiple mid-marriage encounters were clearly out of the question.
“Oh my God, you’re totally missing out,” Cassie said, “It’s so much fun.”
“Cheating,” Allison said, “It’s fun.” She said it flatly, without a hint of emotion, yet I could feel her judgement wash over me like an ice-cold wave.
“It’s not cheating,” Cassie said, cheerfully, “Jack’s there. Or he’s given me permission, you know, to play. We both do it. Share, I mean.”
Emily looked at Jack like she’d just found out he’d done time for murder. Her face was the picture of betrayal mixed with a pinch of apprehension.
“Cassie’s a young woman with a young woman’s appetite,” Jack said, “I can’t always keep up.”
“Oh please,” Cassie said, “You should see the hotties that he picks up.”
For the first time all evening, Jack looked embarrassed by what someone had said. He turned away. Wait, was Jack actually blushing?
“It keeps the relationship fresh,” Cassie said, “Exciting.” She realized we were all still looking at her with disbelief. “It’s like this,” she said, “Right now. This isn’t cheating, right? We’re all having fun together. So, what’s wrong with that?”
There was a pause, the group all clearly considering what Cassie was saying. This is different, I felt like arguing. But was it? After all, I’d kissed a woman who was not my wife and she’d grabbed my dick. My wife had kissed another woman’s husband and groped him, as well.
I guess, in my head, there was a difference between flirty fun and what Cassie was talking about. But I’d be lying if I said I could tell you exactly where that line was or how we would agree on who had crossed it.
“I think we should get back to the game,” Mike said, breaking through.
“Whose turn is it?” Allison asked.
“Hang on,” Jack said, “Cassie never got to do her thing for winning.”
“Oh right,” Cassie said, “Well, in the spirit of what we’ve been talking about, I think we should take things up a notch.”
Wait, seriously? How many more notches did she think we should be going here? I was already wobbly from the heights we’d climbed.
“I think Allison should show us her boob,” Cassie said.
“Why me?” Allison asked, not sounding totally displeased.
“I mean, if Emily wants to join in, she can,” Cassie said.
Emily giggled nervously, turning red. She was already pretty crimson so, at that point, my wife was practically glowing. So yeah, clearly, Emily would not be taking her top off anytime soon. I can’t say I wasn’t relieved to see the return of my more prudish wife right then.
“Why not?” Cassie asked. “Trust me, the way the night’s going, you won’t be the only one.”
“I don’t know,” Allison said, remarkably calmly. As if this was a perfectly reasonable request requiring careful consideration. “This is Disney. I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Cassie made a show of looking around. The hot tub was surprisingly secluded. And it’s not like we’d been interrupted at all so far.
“Take it off!” Mike cried out, ever the supportive husband.
“Just like, flash us,” Cassie said, “Pop it quick. No big deal.”
Allison rolled her eyes. This was a challenge, Cassie had thrown down the gauntlet, and the athletic blonde woman knew it.
“Go for it, babe,” Mike said, “Like Cassie said. No big deal.”
For a moment, I thought that Allison was going to take a swing at her husband. Instead, she casually reached for the side of her bathing suit and pulled it aside, like opening a curtain. One pale, round breast - even smaller than I’d have supposed – peeked out. The nipple was pink and crinkled. A second later, it was gone. Safely returned to its proper place.
I was too taken aback by the appearance of Allison’s tit to be aroused by it. Too stunned to truly get a glimpse. Her breast was there – cute and tantalizing and kind of incredible – then gone again.
“See?” Cassie said, “Fun.”
“Very fun,” Mike said, his voice cracking.
The energy of the tub changed. I could feel it, like a warm wind rolling over me. From what we’d been doing, from what had just happened. From Cassie’s big reveal about her marriage, and Emily’s confession about our own. From the alcohol. From everything.
It felt dangerous. A live spark running too close to powder. I was certain things were only going to get more explosive as we went forward and it left me torn between excitement and concern. I very much wanted to grab Emily and get out of that hot tub. I very much wanted to stay and see what would happen.
Suddenly, the lights around us went dark. A deep male voice echoed across the pool area. “Ladies and gentlemen…”
“Fireworks,” Allison said with a gasp. “I forgot you can see them from here.”
We all turned around in the hot tub to face the lake. In the distance, Cinderella Castle shone even brighter than before. Music swelled loud around us. The sky lit up with color. We oohed and ahh-ed at the impressive display. The pops of bright pigment punctuated each powerful note.
Roughly ten minutes later, the show ended in a dramatic flourish. But the momentum of our own, private performance was lost. Our drinks were empty. Even the hot tub started to feel lukewarm. It says a lot about the evening we were having that a full-on fireworks display was the cut-off, rather than the climax.
“I think it’s time for us to go back to our room,” Allison announced, “We have an early wake-up in the morning.”
The three of us nodded in agreement. Though I noticed Emily’s gaze lingered on Jack. And Mike was looking longingly at Cassie.
We got out of the hot tub, grabbed towels from a nearby stand, and dried off, then got dressed. After all of our suave flirting, this felt particularly awkward and clumsy. All of us stumbling around getting ready to go.
We said quick goodbyes (no kisses this time, just little waves) and agreed that we would get together again if the opportunity arose. My rational mind greatly doubted that we would see Cassie and Jack again, but my intuition told me a very different story. Too many coincidences not to knot it all together.
We walked back to our longhouse in weary silence. I expected there’d be conversation, or at least an attempt at a postmortem. But no one spoke.
Emily was clearly feeling the alcohol; I had to save her from stumbling a few times. Allison and Mike didn’t banter or jab, they just marched arm-to-arm, lips tight, like marines on a mission. I was used to being comfortable in quiet. And yet I found myself wishing that someone would speak.
We went to our room, opened the foldaway bed, and went straight to sleep without a word. Somehow, there was nothing left to say.
Allison’s alarm was far too insistent and way too early. Even the morning sun seemed sleepy as it seeped through the curtains. I blinked myself back to consciousness. I heard a long loud groan and rolled over. Emily looked back at me, her faced pained.
“I think I drank too much,” she said.
“I know you did,” I said.
I heard noises coming from the bed behind us. Mike and Allison were also slowly waking up. Two pairs of feet landed on the floor and loped off to the bathroom together. The shoji-style door slid closed with a rumble. The shower rushed on. I was pretty sure the two of them were talking, but between the thick door and the heavy water, I couldn’t clearly hear the words.
“Wait, did I kiss Jack?” Emily asked. But something about the way she said it made it clear she already knew the answer. “Fuck. I screwed up.”
Emily’s admission didn’t shock me, though the curse word kind of did. My wife wasn’t naive, but she didn’t cuss all that often, either. The casual nature of the word in conversation was yet another strange event in a recent succession of them.
“And you kissed Allison,” Emily said, abruptly accusatory.
I nodded. I mean, it had been a quick peck, but still. She’d also grabbed my groin (and Emily had felt up Jack), but I didn’t feel like it was worth reexamining the entire evening.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I’d been married long enough to know when it was time to whip out the magic words, even if I didn’t mean them.
“Everything that happened, it felt so scary and wrong,” Emily said, “But it also was so much fun because of that, too.” She giggled, then groaned. “Stupid brain. Anyway, it was neat. Different. I’m not saying we should be one of ’those’ couples.”
I knew she meant Cassie and Jack. Their confession about an ‘open’ marriage had stuck with all of us.
“But it was exciting,” Emily said. “If we saw them again, I mean while we’re here on vacation. It wouldn’t be so bad, right?”
I wanted to debate it, but I’d be arguing against myself. While seeing Emily around Jack made me nervous, I had to concede it was exciting, too. Not to mention my own fun of flirting with Allison. A wide smile spread across my wife’s face.
“Oooh, you liked it, too, didn’t you?” Emily said, like she’d had a revelation. “Do you have a crush on my work friend?”
“You do,” Emily said, “I can see it, sort of. Blonde and tall.” Emily looked down at herself – petite and brunette. “A little variety, maybe?”
I shook my head, no. It was nothing like that.
“It’s OK,” Emily said, “I’m not mad at all. Maybe a little jealous? But maybe that’s part of the fun of it, too. Look, I love our marriage. Our life. But sometimes…”
“It’s nice,” I said, “To do something different.”
“I’m sorry about the ‘kids’ thing at dinner,” Emily said. It was a sore subject for the both of us, so I was amazed that she even brought it up. I guess she really was feeling badly about everything. “I know you want them, and I do, too. Truly. Eventually I’ll stop taking the pill and we’ll start a family. And maybe… Well, maybe this might be a way where I could start to feel more ready for things like that. You know?”
I nodded. As a promise it was more of a muddle, but I understood what Emily was saying. She wasn’t ready to be a mom, she’d said that to me many times. A week like this one, where Emily was free to act not her age, I could see how that might help her feel better about everything that was holding her back.
“It’s weird, but everything that’s happened makes me feel closer to you,” Emily said, “More connected.”
“I will order the massage oils and silk robes,” I said, pretending to sigh in exasperation.
“Nothing like that,” Emily said, “Just little things, like last night. If it even happens again. Which it probably won’t.”
I nodded my agreement. The evening had been enjoyable. But even if I didn’t want things to continue, I didn’t feel like I could tell my wife ’no.’ I knew she’d resent me if I did. Especially after her revelation that she’d only ever been with me.
So, better to agree and be the good husband. The one who trusted his wife not to take things too far. And what was the big deal, really? Were we going to be having wild, six-person orgies in Disney? I doubted it.
I heard a rumble as the bathroom door opened and Mike stepped back out. He had a towel wrapped around his waist, his blond hair dripping. He gave us a nod hello, then started digging through his suitcase.
“Allison’s going to want us to get going pretty quickly so we can rope drop,” Mike said.
Emily sat straight up and gave Mike a confused look, like a dog hearing a new command. Fortunately, she was still in her cover-up from the night before, so she wasn’t giving him a show.
“Sorry, I forgot you guys don’t know the lingo,” Mike said, “Rope drop means we get to the park before it opens. It’s the best way to beat the crowds for the rides.”
“What about breakfast?” Emily asked.
Mike responded by reaching into his bag and tossing two granola bars onto the bed. I realized he was serious. I forced myself to get up. I wanted a shower before we headed out; I felt gross with all the hot tub chlorine hanging off of me.
“Allison’s in the first one,” Mike said, as I stumbled past him towards the bathrooms. I’d thought it was strange that our room had two different showers, but for the second time I was truly appreciating it.
As I went down the short hallway, I thought about what I’d learned the night before. What Emily and I had agreed to.
Like I said, our marriage had reached the point where everything was expected. Routine. I wouldn’t say we were in a rut, but then not much had changed in the past seven years, either.
If I was Emily’s only experience with intercourse, I could understand her becoming curious about what might have been. And if a little experimentation led her to feeling better about a family…
So, yes, I was fine with Emily getting a little flirty. And, if I was honest with myself, I didn’t mind moving things forward with Allison if given the chance. But I told myself it was Emily’s thing to drive, not mine. I’d let my wife lead the way and, if nothing else happened beyond our hot tub adventure, I would be OK with that, too.
However, I was pretty sure we’d already reached the end. We weren’t going to keep running into Cassie and Jack in a theme park filled with thousands of people. And I couldn’t imagine things escalating beyond what we’d already done. I was fantasizing about my wife’s married best friend for God’s sake. What did I think was going to happen? I shook my head, wincing at my own silliness.
I walked up to the second bathroom door and slid it open. The air was fogged, and I guess my brain was too, because I didn’t put it together immediately.
Then Allison shrieked.
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