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It had been a long, hot day – first a 60 kilometer bike ride through variously developed – or variously dying – bits of Berlin, complete with small, well-done on-site lectures by the three German women grad-student guides.
Then, afterwards, a semi-obligatory trip to a local night-club – complete with ten-foot visibility due to cigarette smoke. Ugh! And after that, dinner in an equally smoky restaurant. GOD, how he hated the European propensity for cigarettes, and the Euro-smokers’ insolent disregard of those who didn’t want to partake at second hand!
Their main guide was Ildiko, a graduate student in the German program, a developing expert in urban transportation systems. Jerry had met her the previous year, when she was a very junior student, but had nevertheless taken a leading role in arranging the visit. They had become reasonably well acquainted. In the intervening year just past, they had exchanged extensive emails about her plans, he volunteered to edit a complex manuscript of hers (written in good but nowhere near perfect English), and also helped her plan this year’s visit, of which she was in charge – a “reward” for last year’s good performance. A nice person, and obviously coming out of an intense shyness-shell, apparently as a result of this exchange program. It was good to see her blooming, gaining confidence.
It was also nice to discover that one of his last-year’s impressions of her seemed to be completely wrong – she had spent most of that first year’s get-together in close huddle with another pair of very nice but screamingly gay women grad students, so he had assumed from their overall “closed-groupiness” that she was also gay. Now, it was clear that she was simply quite shy, and those were her best friends in this little world.
His first clue about his error was her response when they saw one another, as guests and hosts met en masse at the airport. She was clearly delighted to see “My Americans” again, men and women alike, and she greeted each with a warm hug – including Jerry. And it was NOT a gay-woman-hugs-man sort of thing.
Also, last year she had always dressed in black – loose jeans and tee-shirts a specialty, utterly shapeless.
He had remarked to himself about her apparent lack of boobs, but a couple of times hardened nipples had showed through – obviously braless – especially during the goodbye dinner on the lake with its cold evening breeze. As a plus for his tastes, she was ultra-slender but definitely carried female hip-structure. She also had the most incredible mane of beautiful, jet black, tightly-wavy hair; it refused to lie down, stood out springy and glistening like the mane on a stone sphinx. And where last year she’d had a dense black near-monobrow, some serious shaping and restructuring had taken place – her eyebrows were now widely separate and quite attractively shaped. He wasn’t certain that he should say anything about it – but he definitely noticed and approved.
Odd, too, how, unlike most women carrying a head of such dense black hair, she had none on her forearms, not even wisps of sideburns, and certainly no trace of a moustache. Nothing new there, she hadn’t had them last year, either – the brow changes were probably a change in technique, but the other nil-hairiness seemed to be genetic. And still not a trace anywhere of makeup. None whatever, as a matter of fact, on any of the ten or twelve German women in the program – and precious little (not quite zero) on the American female contingent.
He studied her over the next couple of days – there was a real difference in her poise – much more in command, much less overtly shy. Her clothes were changed also – still all black, but very differently cut. Hiphuggers now, not the formless jeans of yore. Low-cut, snug without being flashy-tight. And showing an inch or two of belly between belt-line and blouse, too. Very different. Somebody, or something, had gotten to her. He wondered who, how? Maybe a touch of “queer eye for the straight girl” from her friends? Snug-fitted, well-cut blouses now instead of T-shirts, much more feminine and much more fashionable. Both fashionable and genuinely attractive.
He had pedaled along behind her for almost the entire day, today, just watching her butt muscles move and wondering if she had on any underwear at all? No lines, anywhere. Once when she was pumping hard going uphill he caught a couple of glimpses of the top of her butt-cleft. Intriguing – a much better view than merely studying the cobblestones. He tried not to let anyone see him doing so, and mostly succeeded.
Now, post-ride and post-dinner, the entire bicycle-tour group was sitting together in the smog in the club, chatting amiably over the roar of the upstairs band. Jerry’s and Ildiko’s knees were touching not by intent but from simple crowding at the table. At one point he waved at the smoke, and muttered to her “Sheesh! I’m going to have to leave soon. Can’t take this bad air for much longer!”
She looked concerned, coughed lightly, and said bluntly “Me, too! I hate this smoke, and I don’t really like the music – it is not the right style or the right almanbahis loudness for me. Much too loud. The company is good, though!” She grinned at him, almost flirting. He was surprised and pleased when she asked him in a private aside “Shall we go get some air together? Then maybe we don’t even have to come back inside if we don’t want to!”
Their leaving was roundly ignored by all. Outside, the air was clean and the night bright. Jerry stood facing into the gentle breeze, holding his jacket wide to ventilate it, and said “Wow! Enough already!”
She looked at him, giggled, and nodded. “Yes. The others can have our share of the lung cancer from the smoke. You are probably tired after today, so shall we take the U-bahn to your hotel, or would you rather walk? It isn’t very far, and the night is cool, which is nice after the awful air in the club!”
They walked, talking about the day’s excursion. The streets were well-lit, not crowded, pleasant. He gave her face a more thorough analysis. At first, last year, she had struck him as just this side of ugly – but that feeling faded quickly. It was not that, not at all – things were much, much more subtle.
She had perfectly beautiful skin, genuinely nice lips, quite full and soft-looking – and exquisite, bright-white teeth. Nice eyes, large in a smallish face, dark to match her hair, pupils hidden in the irises. Her nose looked far too big, and gave the viewer an impression of receding jaw that was simply not true. It was, he thought, rather as if her face had been pulled forward half an inch along the midline plane, by a string attached to the tip of the nose, to give her a slightly zooming-through-the-air mien. An unfortunate concatenation of otherwise perfectly nice parts.
But closer study now totally changed how he saw her. An animated, open, friendly face. And her personality was quite sufficient to make up for any apparent physical blemishes, anyhow. She was a doll – tiny, perhaps five feet and an inch, perhaps 100 pounds. (“Put that into cm and kg!” he told himself!)
He wondered, tried to remember – had he ever seen her with a man, or relating to a man, or talking about “her” boyfriend, husband, lover, date, other-half? He didn’t think so – yet for all the others in the German group, be they straight or gay, he knew, or knew of, their partners. She was an enigma.
“Let’s turn here. That way we can walk past my new apartment building and you can see one of the new-style constructions. I just moved in two weeks ago, and it’s nice to have a modern flat. My last place was not so nice. But this is more expensive.” In three minutes they were standing in front of a six-story brand-new building, all brushed aluminum and little balconies and draped apartment windows. She pointed upwards. “I live on the top floor, story number 6 American, five German. In the back, on the corner so I have two windows. The river is just behind the building, so I can see across it. The city is pretty at night.”
Then, unexpectedly even to herself, she said “If you wish, we can go up and you can see my new flat. You would be my very first visitor. I’m not really moved in yet, everything is a mess and mostly still in boxes and bags, but at least I can offer you a glass of wine and the view. Perhaps a river tour boat with colored lights will pass by. And for wine, well – I have a bottle open and it’s much better than what we got at dinner. Much cheaper, too. But of course, it is getting late and you have another long day tomorrow, so perhaps you are not interested.”
Jerry looked at her for a moment, wondering if this were a come-on, and immediately decided that it wasn’t – she didn’t seem to have a trace of the personality traits needed for that. They were friends, nothing more. He accepted.
The tiny elevator was European-slow, but eventually got them to five. The apartment was small, definitely a one-person affair. Nothing yet on the walls, boxes in the corner unpacked, the room dominated by a completely full wall-bookcase. She opened the rear window so he could see out, let in the breeze. The view was rather pretty, with distant city lights and their riverine reflections.
She excused herself, returned with two glasses of cold white. Jerry toasted her for her presentation during the bike tour, which had been excellent. She accepted the compliment gracefully. The wine was good – he said so, and then kept on jokingly “…of course, what I really need is not more wine, but a shower! And maybe a trip to the dry-cleaner, too. To get rid of this incredible smoke.” Jerry shook himself like a dog shedding water.
Ildiko giggled, stood there silently and invisibly battling with some sudden new force inside her: the part of her that lost the little momentary war heard the winner say, as if spoken by a complete stranger, “If it is an urgent matter, then you could have a shower here!” She flushed red, and hoped it sounded like as much of a joke as had Jerry’s original comment.
He looked at her, grinned conspiratorially, and floored her. “Well! That’s a fine invitation… but, madam, in keeping with the spirit of almanbahis giriş our scientific backgrounds, we would have to take one together! Showering with a friend is a fine way to help shrink our own ecological footprints. Reduces waste and all that. Very ecologically sensitive and sensible.”
He reached towards her, gently cupped the side of her head in his hand. She had a quarter-second of absolute panic as his face approached hers – she was SURE he was going to kiss her, and she had no experience whatever in such things. All of her insides from collarbones to crotch seemed instantaneously to go loose and seriously squirmy, then molten. It felt as if all that mass of internal stuff were flowing down to pool in the bottom of her pelvis. It was very unsettling.
Then, as his face went past hers and into her smoky hair she heard him inhale loudly and force an artificial cough. When he didn’t actually kiss her, the panic was replaced instantly by an unexpected flood of intense disappointment that startled her.
His face re-appeared before hers, much closer now than before but still outside the “highly personal” kissing-radius, still smiling: she tried to decipher the expression – was he still in joking mode or not? Then he released her head and stroked his fingers through her hair, digging firmly all the way down to the scalp, the fingertips setting off little lightning bolts. She shivered slightly, unused not only to being touched that way, but equally unused to her own reactions to the touching.
“I could shampoo your hair for you if you’d like me to – I have strong hands and I know what I’m doing. And I like giving shampoos to my women!”
She was startled: he’d said “My Women” as if that included HER! She wondered for a moment whether that were the case in his mind, and if so, why? On one side, a piece of her mind noted this latest example of how English could so casually verb a noun – shampoo was STUFF, made instantly into an ACTION. Such an odd language, so hard to navigate sometimes. More importantly, Jerry had, she thought, just accepted the invitation. Had she really meant it seriously? Oh, God! Now, she’d either have to back out (embarrassing!) or go ahead (more embarrassing, even?)!
The rest of her mind was focused on him – she was fully aback now. She flushed red, looked out the window (but without breaking contact between fingertips and scalp, her inner imp noticed!), and murmured “That would definitely be a first time experience for me, Jerry. Two of them, actually. Two first-times. At once.” She looked at him – his puzzlement spurred her on. “I’ve never taken a shower with a man. And I have never had my hair washed by a man either. Not even at a – ” For a moment she struggled for the word. “…not even at a hairdresser’s shop.”
He looked thoroughly surprised. “Never? Neither thing? Not once, not ever?”
She shook her head and took a deep breath – she had wandered into a personal minefield now, and the navigation would be MUCH more difficult than handling English grammar. “Nobody has ever asked me before. So therefore I must ask you, are you serious? Surely you cannot be so.”
She took another slow breath, looked away from him for a moment, then very shyly found his gaze again. “Doctor Jerry, I don’t think you’d find my naked body very pretty, you know. I have no breasts, and my face, well, I’ve always been glad that I am behind it! Not altogether a very good combination, I’m afraid.”
Jerry considered his reply. A very odd situation, this – independent of his general high level of lustfulness, he liked her particularly well, and wanted to proceed carefully. Such obvious low esteem for her physical self was a huge flashing red light – the last thing she needed was any sort of reinforcement for that! Just on those grounds he felt obliged to continue – not that doing so would exactly be a burden. Plus, was he going to try to seduce her? That question really had not occurred to him at all – or, perhaps, was she doing that to HIM, playing a version of the classic “little old innocent me?” game? It could be hard to tell, but she just didn’t give the impression of enough experience to be that subtle.
He set down his wine and turned to face her, looked at her with friendly concern. “Ildiko, that is purely silly! You, as a woman, probably have absolutely NO IDEA what men find attractive. No woman I have ever met could correctly analyze her own looks in terms of what men like. Not about her face, or her body, either one! You really should know that not all of us Y-chromosome carriers are single-focus boob-men, despite Playboy and despite all the sexy-women advertising we are drowning in. You, my dear, have a VERY nice body, breasts or no breasts – can I say something else, and speak frankly?”
She couldn’t speak, just nodded – the effort required was incredible. “Ildiko, your body is quite, and I do mean VERY, pretty. You are small, solid, and thin from front to back. You have very good muscles. And I love watching them move under your clothes while we walk or ride…” Suspicions confirmed – she flushed brilliantly – he HAD almanbahis yeni giriş been watching – and watching HER, not some other woman. He was strange, this man. “You have beautiful features – your eyes and lips and skin are all truly nice. You may have small breasts, but I have noticed that you have very nice little nipples, which I find extremely attractive…” She blushed brilliantly again.
He grinned. “Perhaps you think men don’t notice? If so, you’re just crazy, that’s all. I was watching them moving about under your thin blouse most of today, especially when the wind blew against you. They looked like pencil-points under the cloth! They are extremely sexy little things, and seeing them was absolutely driving me CRAZY! But, Ildiko, in addition to being physically attractive, and this is MUCH more important, you are poised and sophisticated and you carry yourself well both physically and intellectually. After all…”
He paused, she waited – it was difficult to believe what she was hearing, but it certainly sounded WONDERFUL. Her heart was going at a brisk clip, and making itself known quite strongly. Her armpits were wet – why did she suddenly notice that silly detail? And -OhMiGawd!- it wasn’t just her pits, either! She tilted her head, signaling him to continue, but she didn’t dare try to say anything. She didn’t know what might come out, or how squeaky her voice might be.
“Ildiko, when I decide to make love with a woman, it is because I am attracted first to what is between her ears. The outer package, the body, is secondary. Necessary, of course, but definitely secondary. Most packages have all the required parts, and most of those parts are in working order on most people. But the brain is the biggest attraction, always. It is the center of the universe for everything erotic – for me, no brain equals no attraction. Attraction to just bodies is nice, but doesn’t last and is ultimately rather silly. And as for you… well, LADY, I honestly find you extremely sexually attractive. I have thought so ever since we first met last year, but of course I didn’t feel it was at all proper to mention such feelings. And I didn’t ever expect to be able to tell you that, but now that we are on the subject, perhaps you’d like to know it. You are a very sexy lady.”
She stared openly at his face, utterly dumbfounded. Her? Sexy? It just did not fit her understanding of herself, or of men’s tastes and desires. He waited while she digested.
Finally she took a long, slow, careful breath and said in a whisper “But Jerry, how can that be? I have none of the things men think are sexy… Especially I have no breasts!” She looked at him hard, determined to proceed. “Jerry, I have never even owned a brassiere! Not one, not ever. Isn’t that an important thing, an odd and unattractive thing, for a woman who is thirty-two years old?” She plunged onwards. “And I also do not think that my body is very sexual – it doesn’t seem to be constructed that way. I mean, I’m not sure that you are right about all the pieces being in what you call proper working order. Not when I think about the stories my women friends tell about THEIR bodies and how those bodies behave, compared to mine! Jerry, you should stop me if you get tired of my personal problems, but I’d like to tell you about myself.”
Jerry nodded, leaned in and kissed her quickly, light and dry. It was so natural, so non-sexual and purely social in appearance, that she didn’t even jump. “Please do, but only if you want to! Maybe we could pour some more wine first?”
She was grateful for the few seconds in which to compose herself – and wondered if he were so sensitive that he’d actually figured out that a little break was a good idea? She got the bottle and refilled their glasses.
“Jerry, all my life I have had very little interest in sex things. I know many of my girl friends who are VERY deeply interested, sometimes almost obsessed, with sex, but I have just never been very sexy, not a sexy person. I was always, how do you say it, the Ugly Sister, the Ugly Duck-baby – very intellectual, not interested in sexy stuff, and not at all pretty. It’s nice of you to say I’m wrong, but I have 32 years of experience saying that I am correct! I spent most of my whole life buried in books, never dating boys at all. Not AT ALL. That doesn’t mean I don’t LIKE men – I do like them, and a great deal more than I like women, really. I don’t have sex urges or desires at women, I’m not a lesbian like many of my graduate student friends. Just not interested in sex things, I guess. Believe me, Jerry, for a long time I was very jealous of my girl friends and their sexy adventures – but finally I just lost interest and quit being jealous. Most of my friends began having sex with boyfriends, usually a lot older than themselves, when they were about 11 or 12 years old. Some – not very many – waited until 15 or 16, I think. But not me – to get that far would have required someone thinking I was pretty and available and then asking me out. But I probably would have been too scared to accept a date, much less some sex suggestions – and besides, it never happened, the invitation. Now I’m 32, and to use your words, perhaps there is something seriously wrong with my machinery, with my packaging? I just don’t know!” The last few words were almost a despairing wail. She stopped, waiting, looking for his response.
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