The Orange Blossom Princess

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Billie walked back from the beach along his normal route. Though waves had been non-existent, as they usually were on the Gulf coast this time of year, he carried his board. Even an opportunity to fruitlessly paddle was better than nothing. Plus he thought it looked cool.  Just like he thought his OP baggies, his long scraggly sun-bleached hair, his checkered Vans, and his perpetual shirtless state looked cool.  As he approached Mrs. Sommers’ house, about a third of the way home, he saw her waiting by her mailbox.  Waiting, apparently, for him.  She was staring down at an old lawnmower.  Ah, jeez, what is this about? He thought to himself.“Hi there, young man,” the old woman said in her thick, lilting southern accent, her voice crackling and rasping the way old people’s voices did.  “William, isn’t it?”“Yes, ma’am.  Billie is what people usually call me,” the seventeen-year-old replied.  “Yes, Billie. Now, I remember. We met at the cul de sac barbeque,” she said, though they had met many more times than that.“Yes, ma’am.” “I wonder if you might help me.  My yard man quit on me.  I thought perhaps I could get this old mower going myself, but the pull cord is too much for me.  Could you give it a try?” Mrs. Sommers asked. Billie set his board against a palm tree and gave the decrepit mower a few hard pulls. He looked at the disappointed face of sweet old Mrs. Sommers, and immediately realized his quick kind gesture was going to turn into an involved chore.  So much for getting home for a wank before dinner. Indeed, it turned into a tortuous comedy as Billie fetched gas from his house, pulled and cleaned the spark plug, fiddled with the choke, and pulled the cord a couple dozen times before the mower finally coughed to life with a huge plume of noxious blue smoke.  After a minute of revving, he shut it down, then restarted it to make sure it was truly working, then shut it down again.“Oh, you’ve been so kind, my handsome young friend,” Mrs. Sommer said.  “I can take it from here.” Billie looked at her, in a cotton dress, already wilted from the heat, looking shaky in a pair of plastic gardening clogs, and chuckled to himself.  Then he looked at the yard, a hayfield after what had probably been a couple weeks of inattention and knew he would join an all-time list of shits if he let that happen.“You know what, Mrs. Sommers, I can probably knock this out pretty quick,” he offered to her obvious relief.  After thirty minutes, he was done, and Mrs. Sommers was waiting with a tall glass of iced tea. They sat on the front porch as Billie drank down the cold drink as quickly as he could. Mrs. Sommers — “Evelyn” he was invited to call her — thanked him profusely.  She stuffed a wad of bills in his fist, and before he had time to deflect, Billie found himself committed to a weekly grass-cutting gig. And so it began. His weekly visits turned into twice a week, as she had a long list of backed-up projects she wanted to finally tackle now that she had a helper.  Billie needed the spending money, and, much to his surprise, he found he enjoyed the old lady’s company.  And she clearly enjoyed his.  Indeed, it sometimes seemed as if she invented a project or two, or made the task as inefficient as possible, so that he’d be there more often and longer.  She bahis şirketleri was sweet, and she was full of great stories. Evelyn and her husband — an Army Air Corp officer — had been coming to the island for over sixty years, from when it was practically empty. Hard to believe given how developed and crowded it had now become.  They had come here for the first time, during the War.  Mr. Sommers — Stanley — had met Evelyn at a local county fair. She was the local “Orange Blossom Princess,” and he became smitten with her immediately.  Evelyn’s father was not too pleased with the tall, handsome flyboy, but he allowed for a couple chaperoned dates and, finding Stanley an apparently harmless young man, left them to their own devices.  He’d be gone soon enough, Evelyn’s father wrongly surmised. On leave days Stanley would pick up Evelyn in a Company jeep and they would drive through the citrus groves and sparse ranches to reach the little hamlets on the Gulf to picnic and play in the ocean.  Many of the islands were accessible only by boat, and they would hop on a tiny ferry or hire a rowboat for the trip across the bay. What became their favorite island was the one that both Billie and she lived on now.  Easily accessible by bridge by the late fifties, in 1942 the only way to get there was via a rowboat rented for twenty-five cents from a toothless former sharecropper that ran a bait shop on the bay.  A vivid storyteller, Mrs. Sommers stocked Billie’s imagination with near magical images as she described the crowded place he had grown up as instead a virgin paradise with nothing but scrub oaks, wind warped pines, and palmetto trees. By Mrs. Sommers’ telling, rolling dunes and sea oats occupied the space now filled by condos and sea walls, and tortoise and pint-sized beach deer outnumbered people one-hundred to one.  “There were a few houses out here, if you could call them that. A couple of hermits lived in shacks made from orange crates and driftwood, and the family that owned the grapefruit grove across the bay had a little cottage they used as a day refuge. And on the far north end on the inlet some Indians had a camp they used for fishing.  That was it.  When Stanley brought me out in those days we almost never saw a soul.  We didn’t even wear bathing costumes.” Billie reddened at Mrs. Sommer’s comment.  He couldn’t imagine the gray-haired, wrinkle-faced, matronly, sweet old lady doing such a thing.  He wasn’t sure but Mrs. Sommers seemed to enjoy his embarrassment.  Billie found he looked forward to her reminiscences and that his stays on the porch after his work was done extended to longer and longer.  Mrs. Sommers had a collection of scrapbooks which aided in the reconstruction of her life for Billie.  It started with pictures of her grandchildren, then her kids when they were children, and kept rolling back through time.  After a few visits, they got to scrapbooks filled with black and white snapshots of Evelyn’s and Stanley’s time as a young married couple in Europe after the War.  From the sound of it, Stanley had some kind of job interrogating Nazis that turned into a career at the State Department, and so they spent time in Italy, France, Austria, and Greece for many years after the War had ended. Billie realized from the bahis firmaları photos that the woman he now knew as the elderly Mrs. Sommers had been a beautiful and fashionable young woman. There were striking images of the couple in Paris cafes and Monte Carlo ballrooms, always featuring Evelyn in stunning dresses and outfits. There were pictures of them hiking in the ruins of Greece, and Billie found himself lingering on a particular image of Evelyn in culottes shorts that showed off toned calves and even a bit of thigh. Shots from their travels to the Mediterranean coast continued his path toward a most unexpected excitement, as even in a bottom fringed one-piece, Evelyn’s sexy body was evident as she lounged on yachts and beaches. The shock came with the final page, as there was a photo of Evelyn and another beautiful woman sunning themselves on the beach — in bikinis! “Do you know who that is?” Mrs. Sommer asked. Billie shook his head.  “Ever heard of Bridgette Bardot?” Billie shook his head again.  Evelyn rolled her eyes and pursed her mouth with apparent disappointment. “Well, she was a young actress then and a friend of ours. A photographer put us up to wearing those bikinis. It was very risque! France banned them entirely the following year!” Mrs. Sommers explained with pride and a hint of a mischievous smile.  Billie nodded along, and struggled to tear his eyes away from the photo of the beautiful young women. When Evelyn stood to get another book, he took the opportunity to adjust his growing erection.The last scrapbook was the smallest and most worn.  There were pictures of Evelyn on her parents’ farm. And some highschool photos and pictures of her from the Orange Blossom Fair, complete with a sash and crown.  And then there were pictures of Stanley, a strapping young man in an Army uniform as well as shirtless, rowing, or swimming.  And there were many pictures of the island. While not as vivid as Mrs. Sommers’ Technicolor memories, they validated her stories.  The place was unrecognizable to Billie.  Verdant paths through large trees, dunes that stretched for a hundred yards, empty, wide open beaches.  And, there was a picture of Evelyn.  She was sitting against a bank of one of those large dunes. Blonde hair seemed tousled by wind and water. She was smiling a Mona Lisa smirk and giving the camera a penetrating look.  She clutched a dark blanket — probably an Army blanket – to her.  A shoulder was exposed, as was a long, toned leg. Somehow, Billie knew that Evelyn was naked underneath that blanket.  The image of Evelyn, the young Evelyn, staring out with an imploring look, consumed Billie.  Mrs. Sommers seemed to notice.  “You’ve seen that image before, I would guess. Stanley had it turned into a painting when we moved into this house after he retired.  It’s in my bedroom.”  Billie, not quite able to look away from the faded black and white photo, said, “Um, I don’t think I have.”  Mrs. Sommers took the scrapbook from Billie and motioned for him to follow.   Above the ornate, four poster bed was, indeed, a painting.  A young beauty of cornsilk hair and brilliant blue eyes stared out at him. The artist had replaced the drab olive army blanket with a flowing white dress, but the imploring gaze remained.  Billie stared back. kaçak bahis siteleri Awestruck.  He wasn’t sure how long he had been staring when he was startled by Mrs. Sommers carrying in a refreshed iced tea. “It’s beautiful,” Billie said, still looking up at it. “My kids hate it.” “Why?”“They say it doesn’t look like me.  But Stanley thought the artist had done a marvelous job. And I think the kids have a hard time thinking of me as anything other than their middle-aged — and now old — mother.  They think I only had sex the three times.” Mrs. Sommers laughed. Billie nodded without acknowledging the joke. “I think your husband was right,” he said, barely louder than a whisper. “The artist did do a marvelous job.” Billie returned the next day. It was a project he had been dreading: trimming the overgrown run of dense jasmine bushes that formed the boundary of Mrs. Sommers’ backyard. It involved borrowing his Dad’s clippers and ladder, and tediously and strenuously going around the entire perimeter of the yard. Up and down, up and down to trim ten or twelve inches from the seven-foot bushes, then stooping to rake and bag the clippings, then doing it all over again. He was at it for hours, with Mrs. Sommers bringing him a steady stream of water, lemonade, ice tea and snacks.  It might have been the hardest he had ever worked in his short life, but the time passed surprisingly quickly and painlessly.  The images of Evelyn looking back at him from the old photos and that ethereal painting occupied his mind the entire time.  At last, he finished the final corner and turned to take in the whole of his work. He was pleased with himself until he saw what appeared to be a gaping hole in the very center of the back row. What the fuck? He asked himself.  Billie carried the ladder over to the offending area, climbed it once more, and leaned to peer into the hole. What the hell could have caused the entire center to collapse? Mrs. Sommers probably isn’t going to like this. He couldn’t see anything but a black void.  He risked another step on the ladder and leaned further out. Suddenly, the void itself seemed to spin and Billie could feel the back legs of the ladder tilt off the ground, and before he could recover Billie fell headfirst into the hole. Billie awoke perhaps seconds, perhaps minutes, later, staring up at blue sky from under the bush.  He wiggled his fingers and toes and moved his head from side to side.  He seemed ok, and then wormed his way along the ground back onto Mrs. Sommers’ lawn.  He half expected to see Mrs. Sommers there with a worried face and yet another glass of tea, but she was nowhere to be seen. Everything was very quiet.  He could hear the sound of surf far away, something that was usually washed out by the white noise of suburbia until you were actually on the beach itself. He sensed he was still a little out of it, mentally.  He walked toward the house. “Mrs. Sommers? Mrs. Sommers?  I fell and I think I should take a break.  Mrs. Sommers?” he called.  But no response.  He unconsciously rubbed his feet on the floor mat in the kitchen and then walked through the house. It was unlike her to leave with him there.  She was not in the Florida room.  Or the Living room. He checked her bedroom, somewhat excited to see the portrait above the bed again.  To his shock, it wasn’t there. He rubbed his neck in confusion and then turned to seek out Mrs. Sommers on the front porch.  When he did so he caught his image in the full-length mirror on the closet door. 

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