Falling in love isn't all that it's cracked up to be, and that goes double for the first time. Triple when one of you is married, older, living with your best friend—and totally fucking nuts.
Her name was Lena. The first time I laid eyes on her was at a ballgame, the summer I turned 17. I was fielding a ground ball at third base while she and her brand new husband were taking their seats in the stands, just off to my right. They had come to see his son Johnny pitch an important game.
Lena didn't look anything like the other mothers who came to see us play. She was tall, beautiful and wore her fiery red hair very long and loose. Her legs were the most gorgeous things that I had ever seen growing out of a miniskirt and her breasts were the stuff that a teenage boy's dreams are most certainly made of. Six months earlier, Johnny's father Frank was the most pitied man in the neighborhood, what with how his wife Angela had died so unexpectedly. Now there wasn't a guy within a hundred miles who didn't want to be him.
But it didn't take long to figure out that Johnny's father had followed what was in his pants more devoutly than what resided between his ears. Twice that summer, there were cops at their house after neighbors complained about hearing Frank and Lena violently fighting. Evidently these brawls took place very late at night, when Lena would return home after being out and about with anybody but her husband.
It was also a widely held belief among local merchants that Lena liked to help herself to various types of merchandise, without first stopping at the cash register to pay for them. Frank, I learned years later, privately made good on any and all such claims, no questions asked. Rumors had also surfaced that Johnny's new stepmother moonlighted at a strip joint on the Queens side of the 59th Street Bridge. However, and though many neighborhood guys might have attempted to verify this charge, no hard evidence was ever put forth, at least that I know about.
None of this stuff mattered to me. I was completely hot for this woman. (Remember when you were 17?) Besides, Frank and Lena acted like a pretty normal couple when I was around. Sometimes they'd argue, sure, but it never seemed any different than with the other parents I knew. All I really cared about was the spectacular view I was being treated to, on an almost daily basis.
Lena wasn't the type to hide her natural gifts, especially when she was in her own home. Being a Mets fan, I would never hang with Johnny or his old man when they watched the Yankees on TV. But that was before Lena showed up. That summer, the three of us saw a ton of games together in their living room. They saw the games, I should say. My eyes were always on Lena and her tiny short-shorts and half T-shirts, and especially her braless breasts as she and they moved frequently and determinedly about the house (seemingly, I sometimes imagined, for my benefit).
The trouble started when Johnny's grandmother got sick. Frank and his two brothers took turns spending nights with the old lady at her apartment, but since he lived closest, just a few blocks away, Frank was on call the most. After a couple weeks of this, Lena started to look pretty restless. I guess she didn't have any friends in the neighborhood because nobody ever dropped by to see her. It was mostly just her and Johnny alone in the house, or the three of us. Then one night, it was just me and her.
Johnny was spending a couple days with his cousins on Long Island and so with Frank sleeping at the old lady's place, Lena was gonna be all alone that night. I'd run into her outside of Aldo's in the afternoon and when she asked if I'd keep her company, maybe swing by for dinner, I said sure.
It was hot as blazes outside but when I got to the house Lena wasn't dressed in her usual shorts and T-shirt; she was wearing a tight white dress, a nice one, and pretty short. Her long red hair was halfway down her back and I'm pretty sure that she was wearing makeup. Dinner turned out to be Chinese takeout, which was already on the table when I arrived. She even offered me a beer.
"Can I ask you something?" she said, pouring us both a coffee after the Chinese. "You don't have to answer if you don't want."
"How come you haven't been snatched up yet?"
The question alone made me a little uncomfortable, but it was when Johnny's stepmom stood up and got behind me that things got totally exciting and unexpected—and weird.
"You're such a good-looking boy, so strong," I heard her say. "I mean, not like they can't be chasing after you."
She was massaging my shoulders, but more importantly pressing her large breasts into the back of my neck.
"I don't know," is all I could manage.
I felt both of Lena's hands working their way inside my shirt and down my chest. Her hair was falling all over me; I could feel but couldn't see it because my eyes were closed shut. She reached into my pants and started stroking me, but only for a few seconds. When I felt her back away, I opened my eyes and saw that Lena had come around in front of me, on the opposite side of the kitchen table. The top of her dress was pulled down over her breasts.
There wasn't a single thing that I could think of to say. This had to be a dream. No way I'm getting laid by the hottest woman I ever saw, just because her husband and son aren't around. Just no possible way.
Which, as it turns out, was the truth.
"I think you'd better go," Lena said a few moments later, fixing her dress so that her breasts were no longer exposed. "Much as I'd like to fuck you, it's a terrible idea. Plus your friend and his father would kill you if they ever found out. You know your way out."
I'm sad to report that I never stepped foot inside my friend Johnny's house again.
Last year, a few guys from the old neighborhood got together for a reunion. Most of us hadn't seen each other for nearly 40 years, including me and Johnny. Over a private drink, he asked me whatever happened to us back in the day, why I'd dropped him so fast and without so much as a warning. His father had recently died and Lena hadn't been his stepmom since she and Frank divorced more than 30 years ago, but still I couldn't bring myself to tell him the truth.
"I've always regretted that, Johnny," I told my friend. "And all I can say is that I'm really, really sorry. If you could ever bring yourself to forgive me, I'd really like that, but if not, I'd understand."
Johnny just kept quiet for a while, but then he got off of his barstool and came close to me.
"I don't wanna know," he said, seeming like he really meant it. "I'm just happy we got to see each other again."
Then my best childhood friend gave me a big bear hug, kissed my cheek and took off. I haven't seen him since.