“By Your Side,” a short story

Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is the first part of many for this story, and I hope you enjoy!

*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.

HE WASN’T trying to get sprayed with the soapy water. But he wanted so dearly to be close to her. The tub was too small for a couple anyways; another body in the porcelain would cause too much splash and commotion for the maid, cleaning out the maintenance closet next door, to hear.

June got tanner the more she soaked. Perhaps it was coming on even before he’d arrived in that afternoon. She’d probably been lying out for days under the scorching blaze of the bulb in the blue sky, nothing standing between them. Everything else was beneath her— beneath everyone’s—feet, everything that was only sand and stiff drying grass.

            She’d come into the room he’d checked in to bathe, the small orange-painted one at the end of the hall. It was her way of showing gratitude for him driving back in her rusty orange Beetle.
            “It’s a charming place, I guess,” Noah said to her, sitting reversed on the desk chair he dragged into the small bathroom and rested against its steel back.
            “The charm has gone nowhere after twenty-two years here,” she replied, in the middle of shaving. “It’s not a bad place, but I guess it just depends on the mood I’m in.” He was marveling the sharpness of those blades, but more the slenderness of her legs stretched into the air; neon-red was painted on her toes, like cherries, curling under towards her heels. It didn’t seem to bug her that he was watching something so intimate.
            “So this solves one thing,” she went on, smiling up at him and lightly swishing bubbles away from her brunette locks coming out of her loose bun.
            “And that is?” he answered. He removed his t-shirt stained with his sweat. He’d have to find a tub of his own soon, to meet this lovely gal’s standards. She surely wouldn’t long for a man who’d driven 300 miles against the heat and bumper to bumper down the rugged coast with his brother Jay to watch her shave those long browning legs of hers.
            “You’ve shown me yours, you gotta see mine.” She giggled and buried herself behind the edge of the tub, like she’d never said something so naughty before. “It’s behind the office up the stairs, between the linens closet and my parents’ room. Has a water bed, too.”
            He couldn’t help but smile.
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