I have a confession to make: After Menasha Ridge Press published our first book–The Appalachian Trail Backpacker’s Planning Guide (yes, that’s quite a mouthful)–and before we finally had a dozen or so books to our names through a few different publishers, we did just about anything we could to bring in the freelance money. This included photography, map-making, book design and editing, writing articles for magazines, and even–yes, I’ll admit it–writing stories for magazines the likes of True Confessions and True Love. . . . Just a little bit conflicted about these being my first nationally published fiction.
I sold my first story in 1992 to True Confessions. Although I had changed the names to protect the innocent (okay, the story was completely fabricated to begin with), the magazine changed them yet again when they published it. You just can’t be too safe.
So here it is exactly how it appeared in the December 1992 edition of True Confessions:
I Took My Clothes Off For A Peeping Tom
It was with only a touch of self-consciousness that I stood naked in front of the mirror and carefully examined my body. It needed to be perfect tonight—legs smoothly shaved and silky, stomach muscles taut . . . . Perfect, I thought—at least, as perfect as my body will ever be.
A sheer, white negligee lay on the bed behind me. It, too, was perfect—brilliantly designed for the striptease I had in mind.
I pulled on the translucent panties, making sure the ribbons on each hip would loosen with a gentle tug. I didn’t want my dance to turn into a fiasco as I wrestled with knots. I slipped the negligee over my head and double-checked the ribbons that would allow me to remove the garment in an enticing manner. Then I began the dance I had been practicing for two weeks. Soon he would be watching.
As I danced, I thought about what had led me to this desperate action.
The first time I laid eyes on Dan Cafferty, my legs nearly gave way. I was dancing with my steady at the time, Mitchell Gardner, when I happened to turn my head. A pair of watching eyes seared me to the core.
When the dance ended, I rushed over to my best friend, Veronica, who was giving the party.
“Who is that guy?” I wanted to know. I pointed out a well-muscled back. His hair tickled the collar of his shirt; a friendly arm was slung around the shoulders of Veronica’s boyfriend, Daryl.
“Oh, that’s a friend of Daryl’s,” she informed me, a smile of indulgence on her pretty face. “You interested?”
I glanced guiltily at Mitchell, who was waiting patiently in line to get me a soda. I sighed. “No, just curious.”
“His name’s Dan Cafferty. He’s a senior. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
My legs were quaking, but I managed to smile and shake his hand. The deejay announced a slow song, and Dan pulled me toward the dance floor.
“I’m with a date,” I said reluctantly. I could see Mitchell in the background looking for me.
“Too bad.” Dan let go of my hand, and it was with heavy heart and legs that I made my way back to Mitchell.
I tried to enjoy the rest of the party, but eventually I complained of a headache and asked Mitchell to take me home.
There was only a month left in the school year, and as hard as I looked, I never saw Dan around school.
Mitchell and I drifted apart over the summer. I found a job working as a bank teller and found I enjoyed it so much, I was disinclined to return to school. Mitchell was busy preparing to go off to college on the West Coast, and, quite honestly, ever since I’d met Dan Cafferty, I had a hard time thinking about anything else. My job was my only relief, keeping me so busy, I had little time to think.
Three days before school started, Dan entered the bank. My stomach nearly dropped all the way to China when our eyes met. Smiling, he walked over to my window.
“Mindy, right?” he asked. I could only nod dumbly and grin like a fool. “You been working here long?”
“All summer,” I said, slowly regaining my composure.
“If I had known you were working here, I wouldn’t have been using the automatic teller.” He smiled, revealing perfect white teeth.
“Then I’m thankful it’s our of order today.” I returned his smile.
“You sound like a free woman,” he said, leaning against the counter and bringing his face closer to mine.
I blushed. “Mitchell is heading off to college. We decided it would be better if we let things go.”
“Well, I know it’s short notice and it’s Friday night, but do you have any plans?”
“Well, I had planned on cleaning out my sock drawer,” I joked.
“Then you’ll probably be too busy for dinner and a movie?” His eyes twinkled with merriment.
“Oh, I could probably squeeze them in.”
“Then I’ll pick you up at seven.”
He took me to the local diner, and we talked about ourselves over hamburgers and sodas. It turned out we had a lot in common. We both loved the movies, especially comedies, and dancing. We also discovered that we both loved animals, and he quickly made a date for the following weekend to take me to the zoo.
I thought that first week of school would never end. Fortunately, there wasn’t much homework yet and I was able to slide by, but I knew that if I wanted to graduate in the spring, I was going to have to buckle down and get my classwork done. If I didn’t graduate from high school, there was little chance of moving up in the bank.
Saturday dawned sunny and beautiful. The sky was a brilliant blue, and it felt like my heart was trying to fly up to the clouds. When Dan arrived to pick me up, he thrust a bouquet of wildflowers into my hands as soon as I opened the door. I couldn’t stop blushing because I kept remembering the touch of his lips on mine when he’d chastely kissed me goodnight the previous weekend. I wanted more, and I found that my daydreaming was beginning to disrupt my bank work as well as my schoolwork.
I enjoyed every minute of the hour-plus drive to the zoo. I had packed a picnic lunch—fried chicken, potato salad, and cookies—and we ate it beneath a large oak in a park beside the zoo. Once in the zoo, we spent hours with the big cats. Since it was a beautiful day, they were outside their cages, pacing back and forth. I had a hard time no comparing their muscular bodies to Dan’s. He’d been working with a paint crew all summer and was as tawny and muscled as a lion. I longed to run my hands over his strong back.
I’d never felt this way about a guy before. For the first time in my life I knew what raw sexual attraction felt like. But not only did I want him physically, I also enjoyed our conversations and the way he made me feel like an adult. My parents still treated me like a child instead of the seventeen-year-old that I was.
When we finally left the zoo and climbed back into his car, I was already dreading his leaving me at my doorstep. But instead of making the turn toward my subdivision, Dan continued straight toward the river. There, as the sun began to set, Dan roughly pulled me to him and said, “I’ve been waiting to do this all day.”
His kiss was gentle but I could feel the passion beneath it. It took every ounce of strength I had not to lose control and let my feelings take me where they so desperately wanted to go. This was only our second date, and I didn’t want him to think that I was that type of girl. I was still a virgin, and I decided it would be better for me if I waited. Dan didn’t push me. As soon as he felt me stiffen against and untoward caress, he began to back off.
“You’re right,” he whispered in my ear. “We shouldn’t push it.”
That night, as I drifted off to sleep with the memories of Dan’s kisses, I decided I would look into birth control. We already had a date for Friday, and I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to say no to him.
As the year progressed, we began seeing more and more of each other. I was only able to hang on two months before I succumbed to what my body had been wanting since I’d first spotted Dan on the dance floor. It was wonderful, and Dan was gentle, making me feel things I didn’t know were possible.
In December, Dan got down on bended knee and asked me to marry him. We began planning our June wedding. It would be small, with one attendant each. We decided to hold our reception in my parents’ backyard. A weekend alone in the city would suffice for a honeymoon, for we had more important things to spend our money on.
The one thing both of us were sure of was that we didn’t want children until Dan could afford to keep me at home. It had always been my dream to have my own home and several children and to raise them myself until they went off to school. I had already been putting money aside from my job at the bank, and I continued to do so with more fervor.
Dan began working overtime with the paint crew a couple of days a week so that we’d have money for a down payment on a house. A month before we were married, we found the perfect starter home in a quiet residential area. It was old, but I fell in love with the huge oaks that shaded the front and backyards. There were three small bedrooms—perfect for us to have two children! I couldn’t help but start planning how I’d decorate for my future children.
We began spending our free time at our new home, preparing it for our life together.
By July we had already settled into the routine of married life. Just being able to spend the entire night with Dan made me deliriously happy. I’d wake up in the morning when he got out of bed for his shower and dash into the kitchen to get the coffee going and pack his lunch. As soon as he left for work, I got ready for my teller job. Except for the two nights a week he was still working overtime, I always had dinner ready for Dan when he got home.
Weekends and the other three nights a week, we threw ourselves into fixing up our house. We painted it ourselves, a very pale yellow with white trim. I cringed when Dan balanced precariously on the ladder to reach the high spots.
Inside, we wallpapered and painted, sanded and refinished wooden floors, stripped linoleum and retiled. There seemed an endless amount of work to be done, but we had all the time in the world.
As the sun set on those wonderful late summer nights, we’d relax in our porch swing, nestled in each other’s arms, and murmur our plans for the future.
We’d only been married about six months when the recession started to affect the building market. An entire crew was laid off, and the crew Dan was on was forced to cover for them. Although it wasn’t double the work, Dan began working more and more overtime. At first it wasn’t too hard to handle, but as the months wore on, he began feeling the stress.
He went to work in the dark and came home in the dark, and the wonderful life we’d been building for ourselves began to fall apart. Renovations to our home stopped entirely. I ate dinners by myself, and since I hated to eat alone, I began to lose weight. But arriving home from work to the prospect of another lonely evening in front of the television left me feeling cold and empty, and I quickly lost my appetite. I even stopped cooking myself meals, preferring instead to throw a frozen dinner into the microwave. As Dan’s days got longer and longer, I began crying myself to sleep.
At my wit’s end, I finally suggested that he quit the overtime, but he insisted that not only might he lose his job if he refused to work but that we also needed the extra money if we ever intended to have children. When I offered to continue working and put the kids in day care when we had them, he nearly bit my head off.
So I was forced to sit back and watch Dan work himself to death. We rarely spoke anymore. He’d leave in the morning before the coffee had sufficiently opened my eyes much less loosened my vocal cords, and he would get home well after I’d gone to sleep. I’d often find him in the morning, stiff, upright, and sound asleep in his favorite armchair, the television’s volume turned down low so it wouldn’t wake me.
Weekends were the worst. If Dan didn’t have to work on Saturday—and he often did—he would sleep almost the entire weekend.
It was getting to where I couldn’t remember the last time we’d make love. And, after almost a year of marriage, I still felt the same passion for him that I had the day we met. Hard days and late nights had left Dan too tired to feel inclined toward sex or even conversation. He spoke to me mostly in grunts and yawns, and I was beginning to feel like he was blaming all this on my desire to stay at home and have children even though he knew I was willing to wait.
The strain was getting to be too much for both of us. I missed our conversations and cozy dinners. Even though it was still too cold, I missed the evenings we’d spent on our porch swing. I would have gladly bundled up and even faced a blizzard just to spend one quiet evening rocking in his arms. But mostly I was getting desperate for affection—a warm kiss on the cheek and a hug would have sufficed, although what I really longed for was the intimacy and passion we’d shared in bed. I wracked my brain for a solution, and that’s when the idea of a striptease occurred to me. Maybe I could entice Dan back into our bed with a provocative dance. I set to work that very night.
For the next two weeks I experimented with music and slowly put together a routine I felt sure would make Dan’s blood boil. For several nights, I studied music videos just to get some ideas for some tantalizing moves. Then I began putting things together. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t thinking or of maybe subconsciously I wanted it that way, but I left the blinds open in our bedroom when I practiced. Our bedroom window faced the house next door, not the street, and I had never seen a light on in the room opposite. I was pretty sure no one could see me. And if they could—well, I had to admit the idea was kind of exciting.
Finally, I felt as if my dance could not get any better, and I took off early from work on Friday so I would have time to prepare. I wanted everything to be perfect. I didn’t want anything—an unwashed dish, unvacuumed carpet, unmade bed—to spoil the mood.
After a relaxing bubble bath, I rubbed a scented lotion all over my body and accented my already thick lashes with a bit of mascara. A touch of lipstick was all I needed to complete the effect—Dan didn’t like lots of makeup. I brushed my hair until it shone and tossed my head to make sure my hair would swing right while I was dancing. It fell like a curtain around my face. I smiled at the impression—perfect!
Before practicing my dance one final time, I ran to the kitchen to get the champagne out of the refrigerator and put it on ice. I carried it back to our bedroom on a tray with two champagne flutes and two candles in the crystal holders we’d received as a wedding gift.
Tonight was the night. Dan wasn’t due home until well past ten, but for the first time in weeks he wouldn’t have to work the weekend. If I couldn’t seduce him tonight, I felt there was no hope for our marriage. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already tried. Wandering around naked hadn’t even produced a lifted eyebrow or a longing sigh. He wasn’t interested in me or my body. But how long could I go without the affection of the man I loved? We hadn’t even been married a year. I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever live a normal existence again. Surely marriages weren’t supposed to lose their flame this quickly.
I stood in front of the mirror to inspect my body. Perfect. The recently lost weight had left my stomach flatter than it had been in years—even my breasts, which tended toward fat, had lost a cup size, making them perkier than usual.
Taking a deep breath, I prepared to practice my dance one last time. It was already after ten, so Dan could be home any time now.
Pressing the play button on the tape player, I began the undulating moves of my striptease. Hips weaving back and forth, chest thrust high, I slowly removed my negligee.
I had reached the part of my dance where I was wearing nothing but my translucent panties when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I froze, arms crossed protectively across my chest. The movement had come from the window. My eyes locked on another pair staring forthrightly through the open blinds. I screamed.
I ran straight to the phone and called the police before returning to my bedroom and quickly pulling on a thick terry cloth robe. By the time the police arrived, I was shaking and in tears. I’d been stripping for two weeks. How long have I been watched? I kept asking myself. How long?
A concrete block beneath our window was covered with blurred, muddy footprints. It gave testament to the fact that someone had indeed been there watching, but whether or not the block had been placed there that night or much earlier, the police had no way of knowing.
Seeing the open blinds, they suggested that I close them at night. With a light on in the room, they explained, it was easy for people to see in from the outside and difficult for me to see out. They also told me it was doubtful that the peeping Tom would be caught, although it was very likely he was someone from my own neighborhood.
How my cheeks burned! How could I have been so foolish? And then Dan burst into the house, terror causing his eyes to blaze. He had arrived home to find the squad car in our driveway. I had lots of explaining to do.
Dan was very understanding. Over champagne I told him everything: How I thought he was no longer interested in me sexually. How I missed our talks, our lovemaking, our just being together. Finally I explained about the idea of a striptease, how I had been preparing for this night for the past two weeks. Tears slid slowly down my cheeks as I confessed that I hadn’t even bothered to shut the blinds, almost daring our neighbors to spy on me.
Dan was firm in admonishing me for my carelessness but was intrigued by the idea of my dance. With the champagne working, it didn’t take long for him to convince me to perform for him. Making sure the blinds were tightly closed, I turned off the lights and lit the two candles. I rewound the tape and once again pressed the Play button . . . .
I often wonder if the dance would have worked if Dan hadn’t known the whole story. Unprepared and tired, he might have found it silly. But having shared my fears and desires with him, it had an especially magic effect.
The next morning as we snuggled in bed, Dan informed me he would only have to work another couple of weeks overtime before a second crew would be hired. Renovations at the hospital would require extra workers, And, best of all, Dan said, he was being promoted. He was going to be in charge of the hospital crew.
“Foreman,” I sighed.
“It will mean the same amount of money but without the overtime,” he explained.
I hugged him tightly. Perhaps children wouldn’t have to be put off indefinitely, after all.
More than a year has passed since that awful time in our lives, and not all of it has been easy. Every time Dan calls and says he has to work overtime, I cringe. But I try to be understanding. As foreman he has a lot more responsibility, and I truly believe that it will never again get as bad as it was.
Besides, when Dan isn’t here, I no longer have to eat alone, nor must I avoid the porch swing. I enjoy sharing it with our infant daughter, Patty. The creaking and movement gently rock her to sleep, and to me there is nothing more precious than the weight of her tiny head upon my shoulder. Veronica Patricia Cafferty is the light of our lives, born this past spring just as the daffodils began to bloom. I immediately began talking about all the children we were going to have—I was so in love with Patty, I wanted a half dozen more—when Dan’s eyes took on a serious look. There was going to have to be a compromise, he said.
Although I’ve always wanted a lot of children, Dan and I finally agreed we’d have only one, or two at the most, more. He had a hard enough time sharing me with my parents and Patty, he said.
Last fall, when we discovered that I was truly pregnant, we celebrated by going to the zoo. A sonogram in December informed us that we were going to have a little girl, and we set to work decorating her room. It’s a sunny little place just perfect for Patty’s sunny disposition. Just to bring in a little extra money, and to keep my insurance, I continued to work at the bank up until Patty was born. But now, staying at home all day and caring for my daughter and husband, I find that I’ve never been happier. And, although we occasionally have our ups and downs, I think Dan and I have learned that it’s never too late to talk.