by SS Hampton, Sr.

"Do you remember?" Bruce smiled and asked as they
paused in their daily walk to stand with arms around
each other in the chilly late afternoon sunlight.

There was no need to elaborate. After three years
together both understood fragmentary comments by the
other that never required explanation.

Tiny colored flowers bloomed in patches across the
winter-frosted sand and on the tall Saguaro cactus
that dotted the brown landscape like ancient
sentinels. The sun was dropping rapidly behind the
distant mountains while to the east the full moon was
peeking over the flat horizon. An early winter was
creeping into the sleepy desert valley north of
Phoenix where the quiet planned community had sprung
up as if by magic.

Jessica was smaller than him and her once bright red
hair was streaked with strands of gray, yet for her
age she was still an attractive and well-formed woman.
She even had a tattoo of a rose on her left cheek
because they both liked roses. In a way the rose was
a connection between them because she loved roses and
he was always surprising her with roses, like the long
dark green stemmed rose she carried in her hand.

Bruce loved Jessica more than he could find the words
to explain.

"I wish I could see," she replied with practiced
memory, recalling an early fall night two years
before, when she rested her legs on his shoulders and
a pillow cushioned her rounded cheeks as drops of
sweat from his face pelted her breasts due to his
energetic thrusts.

They sometimes thought of those five words that
touched their lives in such an unexpected way.

During their first summer together Jessica excitedly
modeled for erotic black & white photographs for him.
He would have photographed her himself but he lacked
the sophisticated equipment of the professional. In
high heels, dark stockings, then fishnet stockings,
with a corset or black leather jacket, with and
without hat, with and without G-string, she posed
tirelessly, always smiling at him. The B&W
photographs were a wonderful testimony to their love
and he had them framed and mounted, even those where
the sacred, bushy mound that he worshipped, were
easily visible.

Though she was an outwardly conservative middle-aged
Ph.D. from the dusty plains of the mid-west Bible
Belt, she embodied a saying he once heard attributed
to the ancient Greeks. "The perfect woman is a lady
in public and a whore in the bedroom." Regardless of
whether the saying originated with the Greeks, it
described his lover perfectly.

Bruce, a cartographer, was also a skilled amateur of
artistic photography. Though he was a dedicated
zealot of film, he finally gave in and bought his
first digital camera. After he studied the
instruction manual it wasn't long before Jessica was
able to see what she once voiced. It was a simple
matter to set the camera on a tripod when they made
love. It was even simpler, when she was on her hands
and knees, to pause and take close-up photographs of
his dark shaft disappearing between her pale cheeks.

"Oh my God," Jessica whispered as they downloaded
their first photographs to the computer. The first
image was of her laying on her stomach while he thrust
deeply into her. "I'm fat!"

He laughed and replied, "You're not fat," and pulled
her close so he could kiss her cheek. Then he leaned
to one side so she could study the photographs. With
hands clasped over her mouth, eyes wide, from the view
she could never see to what they could never see,
until now, Jessica watched and chuckled nervously as
images filled the computer screen. She shook her

After the last images she kissed him passionately and
whispered, "Thank you."

In the following months Bruce photographed Jessica as
she pleasured herself, when she straddled his hips, or
as a thick waterfall flowed from her with waxy
slowness after they made love. It wasn't long before
their lovemaking became a threesome with the regular
addition of the digital camera. The camera sat
silently on a dark tripod, a non-judgmental voyeur of
the expressions on her face, the varied compositions
of their bodies pressed together passionately, or even
details of tensely interlocked fingers.

Despite the subject matter he always attempted to
bring artistic life to their images. Composition.
Graphic. Abstract. Spiritual. Each photograph said
a thousand words.

"Art is in the eye of the beholder," Bruce,
tongue-in-cheek, cheerfully counseled Jessica who
continued to blush in front of the camera, yet posed
without hesitation. In excited silence they would
download the photographs, evaluating each, sometimes
disagreeing forcefully, until they deleted all but the
best that they saved in titled folders.

Us1. Us2. Us3...

As the folders grew, an uneventful winter and early
spring, promising an unusually hot summer, passed
through the routine lives of the quiet isolated
valley. Then one hot summer afternoon, during a power
outage, a new acquaintance visited. He was a recent
immigrant from the chaos of Eastern Europe. After
strong drinks and playing poker, the laughter and
brazen jokes became an unexpected bet put on the
kitchen table by their squat, dark haired Slavic

Bruce and Jessica looked at one another in surprise
and shock, at him, then at one another again.

Their friend, with alcohol-slowed words, repeated the

They jokingly smiled at one another over the ice
filled drinks and scattered cards. Jessica blushed,
shook her head unbelievingly, and walked to the open
window where the fading sunlight framed her form
clothed in white t-shirt and shorts. Her hair glowed
softly like the halo of an angel. She stood with arms
crossed below her full breasts, as if in contemplation
of an apple unexpectedly dangled before her, before
them, that burst into their private garden without

She looked at Bruce with a raised eyebrow and shrugged
non-committally, though there was a barely perceptible
accepting nod of her head.

"Sure, why not?" Bruce finally said as he managed a
small unbelieving smile. They laughed in strained
good-natured reverie and Jessica returned to the

She shuffled the noisy cards for a long time, stopping
twice to gather those that tumbled unexpectedly across
the table, then with uncoordinated fingers dealt them.
The cards whispered loudly toward the waiting hands.
They carefully picked their cards up and studied them.
One by one the rejected cards dropped to the table.

Jessica fumbled with the deck as she dealt

"Nothing," Jessica pressed her lips together grimly as
she revealed her cards.

"Two jacks," Bruce said. They exchanged guarded

"Three aces," the squat Slav winked good naturedly as
he swayed in his chair. "Good deal." Bruce and
Jessica laughed cautiously.

Jessica took her time to gather the cards, shuffled,
and dealt again. They studied the cards in the
deepening twilight and rejected those that failed to
find a place in their strategy.

Wordlessly Jessica rose and rummaged through kitchen
drawers, then placed slim, tapered candles around the
kitchen. The sharp smell of sulphur filled the hot
still air as she struck matches and lit the candles
before she returned to the table. She carefully
placed the last candle in the center and lit it. The
flickering flame cast a yellowish glow across their
partially shadowed faces.

She spun new cards across the table.

"Two kings," the Slav smiled at them expectantly.

Bruce replied, "Three hands, as agreed."

With calmer hands, as if accepting her jokingly
agreed-to fate, Jessica dealt the final hand. They
fingered the cards thoughtfully and laid the rejected
cards on the table. New cards hissed across the
table. With slow ceremony each laid their best cards

"Four aces," the Slav said triumphantly.

Bruce and Jessica sat in tense silence, looking at one
another. Surprise. Wonder. Questions. Choices.
Possibilities. They didn't have to exchange words to

Trying to poke fun at the bet, Bruce laughingly said
to Jessica, "I dare you."

Jessica looked at him in surprise. "I double-dare
you," she responded. Her brown eyes sparkled

"I triple-dare you," Bruce countered as he stared into
her eyes. She looked back thoughtfully with thinly
veiled surprise. The Slav looked from one to the
other with puzzlement. Bruce raised his eyebrows

Jessica smiled provocatively and silently rose from
her chair. She studied their faces, and then casually
walked to the hallway. She looked over her shoulder
pointedly at the Slav who rose and followed

"Be back in a few moments," he mumbled to no one in

As the Slav paused behind her, Jessica's full lips
silently mouthed to Bruce, "I love you."

Bruce watched them disappear around the flickering
candle-lit corner with mixed emotions. He sat with
arms folded across his chest, slowly nodding his head
as if in answer to a silent question. "Triple dare
you"? A simple childish phrase interpreted by adults
with dramatic consequences after strong drinks during
a hot evening.

After a few agonizing moments he rose and tiptoed
through the shadowy carpeted hallway to the edge of
the open bedroom door.

He put a hand out to steady himself as he heard the
murmur of soothing whispers opposed to anxious
whispers, then her muffled gasps. Were they doing a
"69" with their faces buried between each other's
sweaty legs? Then he heard the familiar rhythmic
squeaking of their bed. The wet slap of flesh against
flesh that once belonged only to them drifted into the
hallway. Were they face to face, kissing, while she
wrapped herself around him? Was she on her hands and
knees so he could grip her hips, as if she might try
to wriggle free, while her body and reddish-gray hair
swayed to his rhythm? He bit his lower lip as the
room became silent, then he heard the gritty rustle of
the bed coverings, the murmur of the Slav's voice
followed by Jessica's anxious voice. He closed his
eyes as he heard Jessica's short cry of protest, a
loud gasp, and then excited groans from his lover. Was
she laying on the bed with a pillow beneath her
stomach so that her ass were higher in the air? Could
she tell the difference in shape, size, and even the
pattern of rippled veins between "her cock" and "her
unexpected visitor?"

The bed, a witness to endless moments of passion that
once was theirs alone, loudly proclaimed the act of
two people lustily joined together.

On trembling legs, as her cries became louder and the
witnessing voice of the bed became a rapid tattoo,
Bruce returned to the candle-lit kitchen, poured a
strong drink, and sat down.

He stared at the pale blue kitchen wall, at the dark
hallway, and at the squeaky-clean patio door through
which he could see the shadowy desert in the light of
the rising moon. The digital camera, the other
rejected member of their threesome, sat silently on
the kitchen island. The lens stared at him
accusingly. He watched the blank face of the digital
clock as he guessed at the time...fifteen
minutes...twenty minutes...thirty minutes.

Finally Bruce heard the careful, soft tread of
footsteps on the carpet. The footsteps slowed.
Silence. He held his breath. Jessica appeared at the
corner of the hallway. Her eyes were wide, her hair
was tangled, and there was a sweaty sheen to her face.
She wore her white shorts low on her hips and her
t-shirt was darkly stained by sweat. Her hands were
clasped in front of her though her thumbs tapped each
other repeatedly...

Life continued as before, though the summer heat
tightened it's grasp on the desert valley. Despite
the unspoken tension Bruce and Jessica quietly,
singly, resumed their ordinary routine, pretending
that nothing unusual had occurred.

It was more than a week before they made love, and
they were hesitant and uneasy as if they were first
time lovers. Yet, the years-long familiarity with
each other's bodies and the emotional connection
between them soon overcame any hesitation they felt.

After that night the tension began to fade and before
long they welcomed their silent one-eyed partner back
into the bedroom.

The summer heat began to withdraw before the coolness
of the fall, but with one last effort the heat seared
the valley on the same day that Bruce lost his job due
to the recession. Though the news was unexpected and
a shock, they had their savings they could live on for
awhile. Jessica even began to look for a job.

Winter swept out of the mountains to the north,
coating the desert sands with white frost in the
mornings. The grayness of the wintry skies was a
mirror of their inner feelings as the job hunting
failed to produce satisfactory results, though both of
them were at least working part-time. At least the
hours gave them more time to go walking together.

"I wish we could do these photographs better," she
said as a blustery winter night embraced the valley.
They walked hand in hand along a lonely sidewalk that
wound among string marked plots of empty land.


"Yes," she nodded, and explained, "You know, more
angles, and more spontaneous photographs of two people
making love. Better."

"Better," Bruce echoed.

"Better," the Slav, whom they had not seen for months,
nodded slowly as if to understand the meaning of the
word, as he stood by the bedroom window in the bright
wintry afternoon sunlight.

"Better," Bruce replied as he readied the digital

"Better photographs," Jessica echoed sincerely as she
sat on her haunches on the bed with her hands in her
lap. Her nude body was firmer since she started
working out and jogging during the summer. "Better
photographs of two people fucking the hell out of each

"Better," their Slavic friend said again, looking from
one to the other. His gaze lingered on Jessica. He
licked his lips, and shrugged with apparent
indifference. "Why not?"

"Thank you," Jessica beamed.

"Uh, how do we begin?" The Slav scratched his rear
cheek after piling his clothes on the floor.

"What would you do if it was only the two of you?"
Bruce replied caustically, which he immediately
regretted. "Just do what comes natural, and when I
tell you to slow down, or to pause, then do it. It's

"Well," the Slav smiled as he kneeled on the bed and
reached for Jessica who raised her arms to receive

Bruce remained where he was as the man and Jessica
embraced, kissed, and began to fondle one another. He
watched with a whirl of emotions as the man kissed his
lover's throat and worked his way along her shoulders
and down to her breasts, pausing at her rigid nipples
framed by dark aureoles.

He knew the hardness of her nipples and the feel of
tugging on them gently with his teeth. Now another
man's lips and tongue explored those tiny dark pillars
with a familiarity gained months before.

Hesitantly, lips pressed tightly together, Bruce began
to slowly circle the bed, almost on tiptoe, as if
afraid to draw attention to himself. He discovered he
was clenching his teeth and he forced himself to
relax. He saw that Jessica was watching his journey
from the corner of her eyes, when they weren't closed
or when the man wasn't in her way.

Bruce wondered how Jessica felt about being in the
arms of another man while her long time lover paced
slowly around the bed, observing and waiting with
professional interest for erotic opportunities. He
saw that she grasped the man's hair with her slim
fingers as they kissed.

He slowly kneeled beside the bed and focused on the
contrast of dark strands of hair between her long pale
fingers. As he looked along the length of the bed he
saw how the man's hairy, fleshy arm disappeared under
her, lost between her firm waist and the rumpled
bedcovers. The camera, now part of a foursome,
clicked quietly. He saw the tip of the tongue probe
her belly button and the gentle tug of her pubic hair
by teeth that resembled pale piano keys. Click. He
studied the thick, calloused fingers that pressed into
the smooth flesh of her thighs, spreading her pearl
colored lips so that the rough tongue could probe her
inner wetness. Click.

Without realizing, Bruce cursed the slowness of their
former threesome as the man's face dipped eagerly
between Jessica's legs. He tilted the camera,
catching in sequence the thrusting of Jessica's hips
against the man's face while her hands gripped his
hair again. He nodded with impartial professionalism
that hid a tremor of excitement. He knew he had the
image he wanted. And there were more
once-in-a-lifetime images to capture.

Like a neophyte circling a newly discovered shrine,
Bruce excitedly photographed Jessica and their Slavic
friend, searching for a story of a thousand words in
each image. She no longer watched him out of the
corner of her eyes. She was lost within the renewed
memory of arms that once held her, of a familiar heavy
form that again pressed her into the bed and fixed her
in place through the rapid thrusting of a passionate
visitor that found it's way back into her heat and

They were unaware of Bruce leaning over the bed,
focusing the lens on Jessica's face. Her eyes were
tightly closed, her mouth hung open slightly, and she
rubbed her sweat-dampened head against the Slav's
head. Her cries grew louder as the bed shook and her
body rocked from their exertions.

After taking several photographs of her sweaty
orgasmic face Bruce stepped back in silent awe. This
was how they were. This was how she was with him.
Except... Her Slavic partner wrapped his thick arms
around her, held her tightly as his hips rose and fell
with a rapid drumming while her legs were wrapped
around his waist, locked at the ankles with toes
curled as her hips rose to meet his deep thrusts.

When Jessica let out a muffled shriek as she bit her
partner's shoulder, Bruce started in surprise.

"Wow," her partner gasped when he finally rolled off
of her.

"My turn," Bruce announced calmly. Jessica's eyes
opened with surprise as he tore his clothes off. His
touch would add to her sharp memory of being embraced
by a lover. Their sweat would mingle with and wash
away the sweat of another lover. And his hot flood
would surge thickly, overwhelming another pool that
rested within her, the woman he loved. He grabbed
Jessica's ankles, pulled her toward him with a sudden
strength, and put her legs on his shoulders.

"I love you," she whispered...

"It's been a long time," Bruce said as, holding hands,
they continued through their quiet middle-class
neighborhood. Tiny stars winked at them from the
wintry darkness except for those lost before the glow
of the full moon. She playfully waved the large rose
at a bright twinkling star like a magical wand.

"Incredible," Jessica agreed as she leaned her head
lovingly against his shoulder.

"A long time, in thought and time," he added
thoughtfully. "Three years ago I would have never
thought this could happen. Never."

With the coming of dawn her new website, planned by
them and created by him, would open. Her sultry wet
rhythms of the past year, with other men in Phoenix,
Taos, Gallup, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, and even Salt Lake
City, that he photographed and filmed, would be
available to the world.

He loved this woman. Though he couldn't explain or
even understand the turn of life events, he knew that
their hearts still belonged to each other as strongly
as ever.

Her face would never be seen, but she would always be
known, courtesy of the tattoo on her left cheek, as
the mysterious Rose...
The Rose by SS Hampton, Sr. © 2002. All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce or distribute without the expressed written consent of the author.
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All Text, Codes, Graphics © 2002 ENE. All Rights Reserved.