Of course, no boy had come along like Eddie before. Tamera knew instinctively that she’d have an awfully hard time keeping her moral resolutions intact with a “wow” guy like him.
There was a noise then, interrupting her train of thoughts, and Tamera looked up as the front door opened and her mother entered. Carla West, thirty-five years old and widowed, staggered into the living room with a pile of grocery sacks. She was dressed in a light blouse and shorts, the long expanse of her tanned legs provocative against the white of the cloth. Her hair was askew, however, and perspiration beaded her face, and it was obvious that she was tired from the shopping she’d done. Still, there was a fresh, young beauty about her in spite of the fact she had a teenaged daughter; firm taut breasts, trim flat stomach without the slightest stretch mark to interrupt the silken smoothness of her skin, and the same kind of pouty, sensual face as Tamera’s.
“There’s another bundle in the car,” Carla said. “I’d ask you to get it, but I can see you’re not dressed.” She eyed her daughter’s bare sun-browned body with disapproval.
“Aw, Mom,” Tamera objected. “I was just resting like this.”
“Resting to do what? Strip-tease for the neighbors?”
“I’ve got more on now than when I’m wearing my bikini, for crying out loud.”
“Listen, honey,” her mother retorted waspishly. “I don’t care if you run around the house completely naked. In fact you have a lovely body and it’s enjoyable to see, compared to most girl’s figures. But a bikini is one thing, see-through panties and bra are another—and especially when the curtains are open and everybody passing can see you.”
“Oh,” Tamera said. “I forgot.”
“Uh-huh.” Carla sighed, exhausted and too uncomfortable to continue arguing, and sat down on the sofa to the right of her daughter. “What a mess at Goodermann’s today. You’d think it was the Fourth of July or something. I’m bushed.”
“I’ll get dressed,” Tamera offered, “and get the other sack of groceries for you.”
“No, no,” Carla replied wearily. “No need. I’ll get a second wind in a little bit.”
“I have to get dressed anyway,” Tamera said, rising out of her chair. “I mean, it’s almost time for Eddie to get here.”
“Eddie? Oh, yes, Eddie, the boy you were with last week. You’re going out with him again tonight?”
“The four of us. Jason—that’s Nancy’s boy-friend—doesn’t have his car running, so we’re all using Eddie’s. Last week Eddie’s was broken.”
“Where were you today?”
“At the park. Me and Nancy, we swam in the pool there. But it was awful crowded, you know? And it sort of smelled from everybody.” She wrinkled her nose with disgust. “It wasn’t very nice.”
“I worry about you,” her mother started to complain. “Out all day, gone most of the nights… I don’t know what to do at times.”
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’m a big girl now.”
“You’re the only one left now, the only one. Some women who’ve lost their husbands don’t try to be both parents to their children, never care where they are or who they’re with, but I do.”
“You want me to put away the groceries, then?” Tamera asked, knowing what happened when her mother got wound up on the maudlin subject of just-the-two-of-them.
“I’ve got so many troubles, I don’t even sleep any more.”
“Sure you do,” Tamera said. “Don’t take so many pills, that’s all. They’re not good for you.” She didn’t mention the pints of brandy that her mother kept by her bedside. “But honest, Mom, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Nothing a good man wouldn’t cure, Tamera thought. Her mother was a very lovely woman, with a good figure and svelte, smoothly tapered legs, and she should have somebody to replace the father and husband which had been missing for six years now. It wasn’t right that her mother should deny herself the love and passion of a man, not right at all—but Tamera knew better than to bring up that subject. The few times she had in the past, her head had been chopped off, for her mother considered such talk sinful. Her mother was definitely a product of her mother’s Victorian generation.
“Well, if you must leave me alone, you must.” Carla sighed. “You know that I’m tired and need you to help me.”
“I’ll be in early, Mother, and help tomorrow. You’ll be all right this evening, won’t you?” Sure she will, Tamera thought. Nothing the matter with her except neglect. That’s why all the aches and pains; she’s looking for sympathy and interest—why, the doctor as much told me that when I saw him last. Neglect and disuse, that’s all the matter with her, neglect of mind and body. Why couldn’t she break down her old-fashioned ways and be the real woman that she is underneath those imaginary black ankle-length skirts and whale-bone corsets…