Intimate Studies - Charles E. Magness - ebook

Charlie and Mindy have just returned home from a trip into the wilderness of the Wind River Mountains, where they fell in love with each other and consummated that love. Now it's time for Charlie to return to college for his sophomore year; Mindy is to join him there as a freshman.College academic life is difficult and stressful. Making matters worse, Mindy will be required to live in a dormitory, while Charlie is to live in a house with three other men. So the two of them will have trouble finding the privacy they need to express their love for each other. And Charlie's record as a scholar leaves more than a little to be desired, while Mindy has never earned a grade lower than an A-minus. She expects him to earn more As than Bs—and nothing lower.Can the lovers cope with their differences? What will their lack of privacy mean for their love lives? Can Charlie make the grade? Will Mindy be able to forgive him if he doesn't? Will their love survive?Then, as they work these things out together, they find themselves in mortal danger. Can they save themselves and each other? How?

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Intimate Studies

Written by Charles E. Magness

Cover Artwork by Moira Nelligar

© 2014 Boruma Publishing, LLC

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite bookseller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Chapter 1

Mom, Dad, my sister Mindy, and I spent that Monday evening in early August chatting over a few beers. Mindy and I had returned from a backpacking trip earlier that day, and that was our main topic of discussion. They wanted all the details: where we'd been, what we'd seen, how we'd traveled, cooked, camped, and so forth. Seeing that they were in a good mood after we'd described our trip, Mindy mentioned that she'd like to take a course from the Mountain Odyssey Learning School. They seemed receptive to the idea, but they were non-committal. They would have to think about it, they said. Then, at about half past nine, Mom and Dad, who had to get up around six in the morning to be at work by eight, called it a night—leaving Mindy and me alone in the living room together.

In our conversation with Mom and Dad that evening, Mindy and I had left out the most important—to us—part of the trip. We'd been an especially close brother-and-sister pair ever since we'd been little. Before Mom had married the man Mindy and I now called “Dad,” we'd been the children of a single mom; children, born only 14 months apart, whose father had died in Vietnam when we were too young to know him. We'd lived with Mom in a small home, where the two of us had to share a bed—and we'd come to think of our bodies as mutual property. So maybe it had been natural that, together in the wilderness by ourselves for almost a week at the ages of nineteen and eighteen, we'd fallen head-over-heels in love with each other.

And I don't mean chaste-and-proper brother-and-sister love. We had shared that ever since either of us could remember.

No, this was man-and-woman love—which we had shared as man and woman. Which is to say: We had joyfully shared our bodies with each other. It had taken us most of that week to break down the barriers that came with what we'd been taught about incest. But, when those barriers went down, they fell with a resounding crash. Only two days earlier, on Saturday evening, we'd given each other our respective virginities. And, in a period of about 36 hours, we'd made love four superlative, mind-altering times.

After Mom and Dad left us, then, in the living room, we looked at each other. Looked at each other, that is, as in “undressed each other with our eyes.” But we both knew better than to undress each other with our hands—much as we wanted to. We knew, from the reactions of our motel neighbors that very morning, that making love quietly was not our style. And the house, though big, was open. Even in their bedroom, Mom and Dad would have only a single door between them and us. In fact, they didn't like for the television in the living room to be on after they'd gone to bed, because they could hear the noise.

We thought about going downstairs to the basement rec room for some “recreation,” but we decided that they might be just as suspicious about the absence of any noise as about too much of the wrong kind of noise. With proper preparation, we decided, we could use the rec room in the future. We settled for staying in the living room, talking about the coming college year, and snuggling while fully clothed—with a couple more beers to drown our sorrows. Naturally, as we snuggled, we both copped multiple feels of each other's more interesting parts. That we were able to do quietly—or, at least, with only a little soft moaning.

Finally, after an hour or so, we decided that we'd better go to our separate beds in our separate rooms. We'd thought, earlier, about heading for the same bed in the same room, but we'd quickly realized that the proximity of both those rooms to Mom and Dad's room would more than cancel out any gain, in terms of noise, we might accrue by putting a second closed door between us and our parents. And so, for the first time in over a week, I would be sleeping alone.

When we had climbed the stairs together, each with an arm wrapped around the other, Mindy stopped and turned toward me. Our arms encompassed each other, and, looking up at me, smiling and rubbing her wonderful little body against me, she whispered, “Big Brother and Little Sister!” It was the first line of the secret childhood litany we'd developed when we were about six and recalled during our Wyoming trip.

I smiled back at her, squeezed her, and whispered, “Best friends and lovers!” We'd added the last two words to the response only two days ago, right after we'd given each other our virginities.

She placed her head on my shoulder and squeezed me back as, together, we whispered the chorus to each other: “Now and always!”

She reached up for the day's last kiss, and, reluctantly, we parted—to go to our separate rooms.

I got ready for bed, and, just in case Mom—who couldn't bear the thought of one of her children sleeping naked—should decide to look in on me in the morning, I wore tee shirt and boxers to bed. It wouldn't do for her to learn how uncultured I'd become.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I awoke in the wee small hours, with a substantial fraction of the several beers I'd downed demanding release. Half asleep, I stumbled down the hall to the bathroom Mindy and I had shared since we'd moved into the house nine years earlier; once there, I peed out what seemed like several quarts more than I'd drunk. Then I shuffled back to my room.

As I got back into the empty bed, I found myself wishing that I could—as I had done many times, when I was a little boy, in the weeks after Mom had married Dad and we'd moved into this house—just walk back down the hall, crawl in bed with my little sister, and hold her little warm body close to mine.

For the first time in nine years, I felt lonely in bed by myself—and now there was an extra added attraction to sharing a bed with Mindy: She wanted to make love with me as much as I wanted to make love with her. Eventually, probably much sooner than I thought, I drifted back to sleep—feeling mighty sorry for myself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In my sleep, I dreamed. It was one of those dreams in which I was aware, somehow, that I was dreaming but could not control events. I dreamed that a faceless woman's warm, naked body backed up against me as I lay on my side. My arm encircled her, and my hand cupped her tit. In my dream, her nipple hardened in greeting as I rolled it between thumb and index finger. She wiggled her ass against my stiff cock, which nestled along the cleft where her thighs joined her body. My hand slipped from her tit, traveled down the length of her belly, passed through her pubic hair, and found her hot, wet furrow. My finger entered, found her clit, began tickling it; her ass clenched on my boner and, as her hips moved back and forth, stroked me. I recognized, but could exert no control over, a promising wet dream.

And then I woke up…

…to find that what I had been dreaming was real. Mindy had gotten into bed with me, naked, while I slept. She had backed up against me, and my hand and cock were doing exactly what I'd dreamt they were. The main difference between the dream and reality (aside from the fact that Mindy has a face) was that I had to pee—really had to pee. Evidently, those 12-ounce cans had each somehow held several quarts of beer—impossible though that seemed.

I kissed the back of her neck to announce that I was awake. And then it dawned on me that she shouldn't be where she was. “Mindy!” I whispered in shock. “What are you doing here? We can't get caught together like this!”

She snuggled in more tightly, clasped my hand against her mound, and wiggled her ass against me.

“Look at the clock, dope,” was all she said.

I looked, as instructed, realizing as I did that it was more than light enough for me to see. It was half past eight. Mom and Dad had left for work about an hour ago, and we were alone in the house. Somehow, in my pining for Mindy, I'd overlooked a central fact of adult life: Mom and Dad both worked. Five days a week, they would be out of the house from about seven-thirty until about five-thirty. Duh!

“I take it back. You're right where you should be. But I've got to pee. Don't leave.”

As I rolled out of bed to head for the bathroom, I stripped off my tee shirt and my boxers. Mom wasn't home to catch me being uncultured, either by being naked in bed or by engaging in any of the other activities Mindy and I planned for the next hour or so.

As always, my hard-on wilted when I peed; but on the way back to my room it anticipated what it would find in my bed. By the time I was back in bed next to my little sister, it had reasserted itself, making me proud to return it to the place where it had nestled before I left.

“Mmmmm!” we hummed in unison.

I wormed my arm under her waist as she lay there. Then I wrapped my arms around her, crossing them in front of her and taking possession of one of her perfect little tits with each hand. She wiggled herself back against me again.

“Big Brother, I was lonely last night in bed without you. I like having you near me when I sleep.” We had spent the previous week sleeping near each other—first in a pair of zipped-together sleeping bags, and then in a motel bed.

I replied: “I was lonely, too. I really like having you in bed with me.”

My cock was now up against the slippery wet heat of her pussy, and we were rocking our hips gently in opposition to each other.

“I'll bet you say that to all the women you Do It with.”

“Well, every one of them so far. But at least I don't go around climbing into other peoples' beds to see what I can find—like some people I could name.” (We both knew—damned good and well—that we were each other's first and only.)


She pulled herself out of my grasp, unhooked her thighs from my prong, and turned over to lie, still in my arms, facing me. I nibbled on her left ear, causing a little shudder to run through her.

“Mmmm! That always gives me goose bumps,” she murmured. “It really turns me on.”

I kissed my way down from her ear to her nipple, moving slowly and making sure that my lips made hot, wet contact with her skin all the way down. When I finally reached her nipple, I took it into my mouth and sucked on it. She moaned in delight and thrust her chest forward, pushing her tit farther into my mouth. My tongue attacked, flipping her erect nipple up, down, up, down. She moaned again, and clasped my head. My arm was still under her, and I brought that hand down to the upper end of the cleft between her ass cheeks and stroked her there. My other hand, meanwhile, stroked up and down her side, from arm to hip and back, again and again. She was trembling now.

“Oh, Charlie,” she whispered, “kiss me and hold me.”

I released her nipple and brought my head back up. As her mouth sought mine, her hand guided my shaft back between her thighs and up against the heat and moisture there; her outer and inner lips opened to cradle my length.

She wrapped an arm around me. She worked her other arm under my neck and wrapped it around me, too. We kissed deeply, our tongues playing with each other. I held her tightly against me again, thrilling to the feel of her tits against my chest, her belly against my belly, and her pussy against my cock. Our hips rocked, and my boner slid back and forth along her lubricated cleft. I highly recommend this morning wake-up exercise.

“Let's do It!” I suggested.

“Sorry, Buster. I never do It with a guy the first time I share his own bed with him.”

“That's very virtuous of you. But I have to point out that the first time you shared my bed with me was before I got up to pee. This is the second time you've shared my bed with me.”

“In that case,” she said, smiling, rocking her hips with a little extra vigor and wiggling her shoulders so that her tits rubbed against my chest, “let's do It.”

“Okay, but only because you're rubbing your tits and your pussy against me. Again. And I can't help myself,” I replied.

“I'll bet if I just roll over on my back,” she said as she untangled herself from my arms and did just that, “my favorite big brother will help himself to some nookie.”

“I can't help myself; I'll have to help myself.”

This was getting complicated. But what I had in mind wasn't. I rolled to my knees between her legs—which had parted in anticipation. The blankets fell off behind me as I brought myself up, and I found myself looking down at her. She folded her legs up toward her body, keeping her thighs parted; the little brown triangle of fur that pointed at her nearly hairless mound spread out before my eyes. Her inner lips, swollen with desire, protruded a bit from her cleft. I did plan to help myself—and her—to some nookie. But, at that particular moment, another temptation was too great…

“Now that the snack shop is open, I'd better help myself to some breakfast first.”

I backed a little on my knees and leaned down, so that my face was only inches above her furrow.

“I wouldn't want to faint from hunger during strenuous activity.”

I was, however, about to faint from the fragrance of her natural feminine perfume. My little sister hadn't showered for 24 hours, and her seductive aroma was commanding, irresistible, intoxicating.

“Would you like the pussy, this morning, sir? I understand it's very nutritious; it fortifies a man for his daily undertakings.”

“Yes,” I replied, “and I've heard that little sister pussy is a real delicacy. I think I'll have a helping.”

I bent down, placed my elbows on the bed beside her thighs, and brought my hands up over her hips where her thighs were folded upward. Then I extended my tongue, and gently caressed her outer lips with it. She wriggled in pleasure, enticing me to delve farther into her cleft. I breathed deeply of her femininity; her scent made me giddy with desire. My cock jumped in response, and my tongue parted her outer lips to tickle the inner ones. I moved slowly upward, toward her clit. As I did, her hands found the back of my head, caressing me and gently holding me—encouraging me in my motion toward her most sensitive spot. She rested her feet on my back, where they pressed gently, providing even more encouragement by drawing my body toward her.

“Ooooohh!” she sighed. “That's so good, Charlie!

“There! Like that!” she exclaimed as I began to circle my tongue around her little jewel—tickling it gently. Her hands and her feet now pressed me against her. Her hips rocked in response to my tongue's circling motion, and I adjusted my own rhythm to hers.

Soon she was sighing, and then moaning. Her coordination began to fail as she got louder and louder. And then she yelled nonsense as she thrashed and writhed under the action of my tongue. Her legs and her hands now held me tightly against her as she shouted, “I'm coming! I'm coming!”

As her orgasm took control of her, I stiffened my tongue and stroked her clit directly. She went off like a skyrocket. I could almost see the stars shooting out of her and leaving fiery trails around us.

As she began to come back down to earth, the hands that had pressed me to her pulled me away; knowing that her clit was now too sensitive to bear even my softest touch, I didn't struggle. Instead, I rolled her to the side, straightened out, and lay down on my side behind her—taking her into my arms, and sliding my cock between her thighs and along her cleft. I held her and stroked her tit as she continued her descent.

“God, Charlie! That was really, really good.” She was back.

I kissed the back of her neck, said, “I'm glad. It seemed good from here.” I was rolling her nipple between thumb and forefinger. She wiggled herself back into closer contact with me and sighed. She clasped my hand tighter to her tit. We lay there for a bit.

“We'd better do something about that big hot hard thing I feel up against myself.”

“I think 'that big hot hard thing' would like that,” I said as she untangled herself from me again. “Seems to me we were about to do something when I decided I needed breakfast.”

She was smiling at me. She reached over and kissed me.

“I think that was the plan.”

She wormed an arm under my neck and threw her other arm around me. She pulled herself in close, so that the full length of her lovely, naked little body was up against me. My cock was again between her thighs, now resting directly against her mound, parting her outer lips. It felt like it was doing a very creditable imitation of a metal rod. She wiggled against me and kissed me again, mouth open. I ran my hand up and down her side, reveling in her narrow waist, the curve of her hip. Our tongues intertwined. Make that a titanium steel rod.

She released me and rolled onto her back again. “I think you'd better put him in me. No interruptions this time.”

She was smiling with anticipation. So was I, as I moved over her. She reached up and put her hands on my upper arms. They rested there as she spread her thighs and brought her knees up. I raised myself far enough to get a view of my target and, shifting my weight, brought a hand down to align my crown with her opening. As I did, her hand slid down my arm and went on to part her outer lips for me. I placed the tip of my cock into her and brought my arm back to her side. She brought both her hands up to rest on the back of my neck. At the same time, she wrapped her legs around my thighs and helped me bring my hips forward. And, once again, Big Brother's cock glided into Little Sister's welcoming sheath.

“OOOooohh!” she moaned. “You feel so good in me, Big Brother. Just stay there for a minute.”

I looked down into her smiling face. Gently, I lowered my head, bringing my lips to hers for a soft, lingering kiss.

“I love the way you feel around me, Little Sister,” I said when our lips parted. I looked into her deep blue eyes. “You're so hot, so slippery, so tight.

“You feel so right inside me,” she murmured, looking back at me.

She reached up for another kiss, this one deeper, hungrier than the last. And when our lips parted this time, I felt her hips and her legs, which were still wrapped around my thighs, gently pumping me—and I began to move in and out of her.

We began moving slowly, almost imperceptibly. But it wasn't long before Nature took control, and I pistoned in and out of her for all I was worth.

She had one more surprise for me—and for herself—that morning. Just as I felt my own orgasm approaching, she shrieked, “Oohhh! My God! I'm coming again! Oooohh! God! Don't stop! I'mm! Commmming! Againnnnn!”

We rammed our naked bodies together one final time as I erupted inside her and she convulsed in her own climax. My cock pumped great jets of her big brother's sperm into my little sister's depths. We moaned, shuddered, and thrashed, clasping each other tightly, both of us trying to keep my pulsating cock as deeply embedded as possible as she contracted in waves around me.

And then a final paroxysm overcame me—causing every muscle in my body to contract in ecstasy. When it subsided, I collapsed on top of her, barely remembering to place my elbows where they would bear enough of my weight to prevent me from smothering her. I could feel her, still shuddering rhythmically, under me. She was still contracting, as if trying to suck more cum from me. I breathed in great gasps; I'd again forgotten to breathe while coming.

Slowly we subsided and recovered, still in each other's arms. I nibbled on her neck and her ears; she responded by stroking my back and my shoulders. I raised my head and sought her lips; found them and kissed her. Her arms stopped stroking, held me tightly to herself. Our bodies were still joined, and my cock had not yet softened when my hips bucked from a random post-orgasmic spasm—driving me more deeply into her. A spasm of her own caused her to contract again around me. We both moaned into the kiss we were sharing.

We broke the kiss, looked into each other's eyes again.

“I really, really like making love with you,” I said.

“Oh, Charlie! I really like making love with you, too. And that was the best ever! I've never come twice like that before. I didn't even know I could.”

In spite of the way she continued to contract about me, I was now softening. I pulled out of her and rolled over to my left, onto my back. My cock, now at half-mast and coated with our juices, flopped wetly up against my belly. She rolled over onto her right side, placed her head on my left shoulder, her left hand on my chest.

We had lain there for a few minutes when her hand tracked down from my chest, across my belly to my now-limp cock. It was wet and slick, but that didn't stop her. She wrapped her hand around me and pumped a few times, taking advantage of the lubrication.

“We made another mess, I see,” she said with a little laugh. “Maybe I should clean it up.”

She got to her knees at my side, facing me. She bent over and took my shrunken organ into her mouth. Slowly, she sucked it in. I felt it begin to stiffen again. As it did, she withdrew and then sucked it back in. She repeated several times, and I felt her tongue fluttering against my crown, which was more sensitive than usual as a result of my orgasm. But it seemed that the best I could manage was half hard.

“That feels wonderful,” I said. “But I'm afraid he's done for the morning.”

She sealed her lips around him and pulled slowly away from me, sucking as she did so, stripping off the slick coating. She sat up and looked at me.

“Awww,” she said in mock sorrow. “But we do taste good together.” She grinned and smacked her lips. I had not known it was possible to make smacking your lips obscene. But she did. And I loved it. I sat up, put my arms around her, drew her close, and kissed her.

She was right.

We lay down again, side by side, her head again on my shoulder, my arm around her. We talked for a while about what we needed to get done that day. Mostly, it amounted to sorting gear, cleaning it, returning the items we'd borrowed, and storing the ones we hadn't. When we had that accomplished, we would start thinking about packing for school.

Then she asked, “Do you think Mom and Dad will help me with a MOLS course?”

“I bet they will,” I replied.

“I don't know. They didn't seem very positive about it last night.”

“I've been thinking about that,” I said. “They weren't negative either, and it occurred to me later that I wouldn't want to make a decision that affected us both without talking it over with you privately. I think that's part of being a couple. I think talking over joint decisions should be almost as private as making love is. I'll bet they just want to be sure that they're both on the same page before either of them will make a commitment.”

“I never thought of that. You're absolutely right about making decisions as a couple. Oh, I hope they'll do it!”

“Me, too!” I said. I rolled over and kissed her again.

“Mmmm,” she hummed. But then, “We'd better get showered; we've got stuff to do, and it's almost nine-thirty.”

We'd been sharing the same bathroom for nine years, but we'd never before shared the shower in that bathroom—at the same time. Showering together and then drying involved a considerable amount of touching, fingering, stroking, feeling, tickling, tweaking, pinching, hugging, nuzzling, licking, kissing, squeezing, sighing, giggling, laughing, and so forth—so it took us a while. And if we hadn't been hungry, we would've spent even more time “showering.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was late morning by the time we got to our chores. By the time we had tent cleaned, sleeping bags aired out, and clothing sorted for laundering or cleaning, it was noon. We saw no reason to pass on lunch just because we'd had breakfast about two hours earlier, so we spent a half-hour fixing and eating lunch.

After lunch, we folded the tent up and packed it—along with the fly, the poles, and the stakes—into its bag. We stuffed the sleeping bags back into their stuff sacks. Then we carried bags and tent down the block to Bob and Sally's house to return them. Sally was at home, and she invited us in for a cup of coffee and a report on our trip.

We drank the coffee and gave her the public version of the trip. As we left, about a half hour later, I felt a tinge of sadness.

“Mindy,” I said, once we were out of earshot, “I wish we could tell people about us. Being in love with you makes me really happy, and I want to tell everybody how lucky…what a 'lucky young feller' I am.”

“Me, too,” she said, smiling at the memory of the old codger in Wyoming who had told me that I was “one lucky young feller” because Mindy was a “keeper” who “had class” and “adored me.” I should take care to “treat her good,” he'd said.

She continued, “And I really want to give you a very un-sisterly hug right now, right out here in the street. But everybody around here knows us, and I can't.”

“I want to spend my life with you, Little Sister. But I don't want to spend it hiding our love. “

“We'll find a way, Charlie. We have to.” I could hear the note of determination in her voice. It cheered me, because I knew what that note meant: When Mindy decided that something needed to happen, that thing happened.

“We have to,” I agreed. “And we will.” She smiled at me and I smiled back.

A minute or two later, when we were back home, out of sight of neighborhood eyes, we did share a hug—one that would've scandalized any of the neighbors if they'd seen it—and a very un-fraternal kiss.

It was, by then, well after one, and we still had things we needed to do that afternoon. We needed to replenish the white gas for my backpacking stove, I needed some new wool socks, and there were other little odds and ends we wanted to get. Mom had told us, the previous evening, that we could use her car, but she expected, in return, that we would stop by the supermarket and get the things on the list she'd also left us (along with some money). On the other hand, we didn't have to worry about supper, because she and Dad wanted to take us out that evening.

It was becoming apparent that if we tried to work on everything together, we wouldn't get done that afternoon. So we decided we'd split up. I'd stay at home, finish up the laundry, and pack away the camping gear, while Mindy would take the car and run our errands.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was going on five o'clock, and I'd finished with all of the chores I'd needed to do, when Mindy returned with sacks from a variety of locations about town. She handed me one from a local outdoor shop. In it were three pairs of new wool socks of just the kind I liked. I was thanking her when I noticed, in the bag with the socks, the empty wrapper from a chocolate candy bar.

“And thanks for the empty chocolate wrapper, too,” I said with a grin.

She had the grace to blush. She pulled another empty wrapper out of her pocket.

“I got us each one,” she said. “I ate mine as I left the store. But yours kept calling me… Then I couldn't figure out what I'd done with the wrapper.

“I'll make it up to you.” She said it contritely, but with her evil grin.

“Some things are better than chocolate,” I replied, with my own evil grin.

“Yes…a very few things.”

“And,” I went on, still grinning, “I'm just guessing that you're going to enjoy the payback as much as I am.”

“Oh, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I will!” The evil grin morphed into a truly diabolic one. She stepped up close to me, ran her hands up my chest to my neck, and pulled me down into a deep kiss while I held her firm little body against myself.

She broke the kiss. “But later. Mom and Dad will be home soon.”

“Mmmmm,” I said. “Chocolate breath!”

And I dove in for another kiss. As I did, my right hand found her left tit, cupped it, squeezed gently. She kissed back. Moaned a bit.

When we finally decided that we'd better stop groping each other, it was a bit after five, and Mom and Dad could indeed be home at any minute. So we started unpacking the sacks she'd brought.

I'd put the stuff from one sack away, and I was just reaching for another one when she grabbed it.

“That's 'girl stuff.’ It's mine.”

“Hunh? Like what?” I asked, rather stupidly.

“Like new panties, girl deodorant and girl shampoo—you'd say both are 'stinky'—Tampax, stuff like that,” she said.

“Is it that time of the month?”

Neither she nor Mom made any secret about their periods. I could count to 28, but until last week I'd had no particular reason to track Mindy's monthlies. Now, I realized, my little sister's periods were a matter of some interest to me.

“Not for about a week and a half. But we Girl Sprouts are always prepared.” And she disappeared into her room with the sack.

Moments later, Mom walked in to find me putting stuff from the last of the grocery sacks into the cupboards. Dad wasn't far behind.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was around nine when we got back from dinner. Dad opened a bottle of white wine, and we all sat in the living room with a glass. We chatted a little while, continuing a conversation we'd begun over dinner.

Then Dad changed the subject.

“Mom and I have talked about Mindy taking a course from the Mountain Odyssey Learning School next summer.”

Mindy and I were all ears.

“Yes,” said Mom. “We think it's a good idea. From what you two have said about your trip last week, it sounds like she'll be spending more time in the backcountry in the future. We'd like to think that Mindy knows what she's doing out there as well as you do, Charlie.”

Mindy was glowing. “Oh, Mom! Dad! Thank you!”

“Well,” Dad allowed, “there's a catch. Actually, it's a double catch. There are two conditions.”

“Dad, I'll do anything. I really want to take a MOLS course.”

“It's not just you. Charlie got you into this. He gave you the idea, and he'll have some responsibilities, too.” But he was smiling.

“Dad,” I said, “I'll do whatever I can to help Mindy with this. I know she really wants it.”

Mom spoke up again. “The first condition is that you, Mindy, have to do your best at school.”

“Mom,” said Mindy, “I'd do that anyway!” She managed to sound disappointed.

“That's what we thought,” Dad said, smiling. “We just wanted to make sure. But now for Charlie's part of the deal.”

“Yes,” said Mom, also smiling. “That's the hard part.”

“Charlie,” said Dad, now very serious, “You've been doing okay at school, and we haven't been displeased. But you, your mother, and I all know that you can do better.”

I gulped. Last year I'd brought home mostly B's with an A and a C in the mixture, and I had an idea of what was coming. I looked at Mindy. She was bubbling over. It had never been in me to disappoint my little sister, and Mom and Dad both knew that.

“Mom and I have thought about this a lot.” He looked at Mom, who smiled and nodded. “We know that you can do what we're going to ask you to do.

“Your part in this is to bring home only A's and B's—with more A's than B's—for both the fall and the spring semester this coming year.”

I gulped again, and I said, “I'll do it.”

I didn't say, “I'll try,” although that was what I really wanted to say. I'd been well and truly had; I was in a box from which there was no escape. I'd better be as smart as Mindy (and, evidently, Mom and Dad, too) thought I was, because “try” wasn't going to be good enough.

Dad smiled at me. It was, I saw, a genuine smile, without even a trace of “gotcha.”

“We know you will,” he said, simply. He believed it, and so I had to.

Then he stood and raised his glass. “Let's all drink to our new commitments.”

We all stood and raised our glasses, clinked them with each other's, and said, together, “To our new commitments.” Mindy sipped at hers, while Mom, Dad, and I (especially!) drained ours. Mom and Dad put their glasses on the coffee table.

“Mom and I have to get up tomorrow, so we're going to bed now. There's still some wine left in the bottle, and I don't think there's any good reason why you two shouldn't finish it to celebrate. It's in the fridge.”

Dad offered me his right hand. I gave him mine, and he took it into both hands and shook it. Meanwhile, Mom hugged Mindy. Then Mom hugged me, while Dad hugged Mindy. Wordlessly, Mom and Dad took each other by the hand, smiled at us, and headed upstairs together.

Mindy, still bubbling, looked at me. When I heard the door to the master bedroom shut, I said, with an air of desperate, forlorn helplessness, “Mindy, I don't know how to study. Will you teach me?”

“What a dope!” she said, grinning. She stepped up to me and took me into her arms. She laid her head on my chest, my own arms went around her, and we hugged. Suddenly, I was ten feet tall again, and I knew that Mindy would return to the Wind River Range the next summer—with MOLS.

We stayed up for about another hour, snuggling fully clothed—as we had the night before—on the couch and finishing up the third or so of a bottle of wine Dad had said we could. We talked, mostly about what a MOLS course was like. She was still in seventh heaven over Mom and Dad's promise that she could take one, and seemed unconcerned about their conditions. I wished I could be as unconcerned, but I took some comfort from the fact that neither Mom, Dad, nor Mindy seemed to have any doubts whatsoever that I would be able to deliver on the promise I'd made.

When the wine was gone, we decided to head for our separate beds. It was nearly eleven, then, and I found that I wasn't feeling nearly as sorry for myself as I had been the night before. I would still be lonely in bed, but tonight I hadn't forgotten—the way I had the night before—that Mom and Dad would be gone in the morning.

I had barely closed the door to my room when there was a light tap on it. I opened it, thinking it was Mindy. But it was Mom. Uncharacteristically, she, the original naked-lady-about-the-house, was wearing a housecoat. I hadn't even known she owned one.

“Can I come in for a minute?” she asked.

“Sure, Mom,” I said. “What's up?”

Had she somehow caught on that Mindy and I were…?

She came in, leaving the door open, and sat on the chair I usually threw my clothes on when I took them off. She was smiling at me as she motioned me to sit on the bed. I did so, looking at her with a big question mark still written on my face.

“Charlie,” she began, “I just wanted you to know how proud you made me this evening when you promised to help Mindy.”

“Oh, Mom, I couldn't even think of doing otherwise. You know how I've always felt about my little sister.”

“Yes, I do. But you didn't hesitate, and you didn't even try to give yourself an out. You said 'I'll do it,' and not 'I'll do my best.' You've grown up to be a wonderful young man.”