Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: Chapter 73: The Last Chapter!

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day

THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

Chapter 73: The Last Cahpter

“You have fun now, little lady. And see if you can avoid breaking hearts in my hometown.” Katsu gave me one of his samurai hugs after pulling my bags out of the trunk.

“Thanks for the ride, you’re the best, baby. And don’t worry—your homeboys are safe. I’ve imported my date for the weekend.”

“Right.” He rolled his eyes. “Like that could limit your swagger, Miss Bachelorette.”

Bachelor, dude. Get it right.”

“Whatever.” Katsu slapped my butt. “You’re still just a slut to me!” I turned fast enough to land a punch to his shoulder as he retreated from the curb, laughing like a little kid. “Have a safe flight! Gimme me a call next week! Drinks on me—I want to hear the latest chapter!”

The plane took off into a crystal clear September morning. Fall color was hanging from the trees, and the Cascade and Olympic Mountains were bare and sharp against the backdrop of blue sky. I was flying to New York City to meet Paul Sever, one of my favorite people on the planet. We had met early in 2008 at a private fundraising event hosted by a customer, Flying House, to raise money for our city’s two gay choruses, Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus.

Paul Sever was a chef, writer, television personality, and the culinary director for one of Washington State’s gold medal wineries. His company was donating both the wine and the menu for the evening, and Paul was leading the kitchen. The guests were some of the city’s most active philanthropists in support of gay culture. Flying House had organized the first gay men’s chorus in 1979. At that time, singing in an openly gay chorus was a risky and even dangerous activity. By 2008, Seattle Men’s Chorus had become the largest community chorus in the country, with a three million dollar operating budget, and their event carried social and political clout to compete as a must-do for the city’s progressive elites.

This was a wine event, and Trish was in town after working her second season in the vineyards of Napa. I invited her, hoping there might be matchmaking potential for her favorite flavor: socially active, athletic, lesbian professionals. She signed on for the ride, but ninety-five percent of guests were gay men; I had completely blown my prediction of eligible women.

After an hour of schmoozing for business, I wandered into the kitchen, and found Trish with her nose deep in her wine glass, talking shop with the chefs.

“Baby, what’s in your glass?” I asked. I held my nose in the bowl: chocolate and tobacco. I took a sip, and handed it back.

“The good stuff,” she replied, in a stage voice for the chefs, “I finally got them to open a bottle.”

“The bottle was open the second after she walked in the room,” one of the crew chimed in.

“Yes, she has a way of getting her way,” I said to the handsome man in the apron, “You’re not the first.”

“I was thinking more about being the next,” he smiled back.

“I don’t know you—but I do know her,” I cocked my head toward Trish, keeping eye contact with the delightful stranger. “I would be careful about what you ask for.”

“I never ask for more than I can handle,” he wiped his hands on a towel, keeping his eyes locked into mine.

“You strike me as a man who can handle quite a bit.” I was charmed by his game.

“I give it all I have.”

“I’m sure you do.”

I guessed his heritage was Italian, with small, dark features that had been chiseled into masculine perfection. The smile lines around his spectacular blue eyes and the whisper of gray in his abundant and wavy hair held evidence of his maturity. He looked like he was in his early fifties, but that didn’t seem quite right; he seemed wiser.

“So, is this your party?” I asked. His demeanor and confidence broadcast celebrity chef material.

“I call the shots—they make it happen,” he gestured over his shoulder to the two men in the kitchen.

“But he has the key to the cellar,” Trish made clear.

“Give me that,” he took the glass from my hand, and picked up a fresh stem and an open bottle from the sideboard. He described the wine while pouring, a casual commentary on the red. The grace of his mannerisms matched the cool comfort of his eyes. He was old world and he was classy. I was enchanted.

Trish and I left the event not long after, but not before Chef Sever had my card in his wallet.

“I liked that man,” I said.

“Forget it, Vicki Marie,” Trish rained on my parade. “You only date black men.”

“Not quite, girlfriend.” The truth was much more interesting. “I only date cool men. They come in all colors.”

Six months later, I was in the center seat of a Boeing 757, with Vogue’s six hundred page fall fashion edition pressed into my lap. I hated center seats, but it had been a last minute booking on American Airlines, and I had scored a fair price. Paul had a couple of guest-chef events in Manhattan, and he had asked if I was interested in a four-day trip.

“Paul Sever—for the record—I am always interested in four days in Manhattan—and it’s September! Fall Fashion! Fifth Avenue! Yes, baby, yes!”

I simply adored dating Chef Sever. He could hold a table or an entire room captive with his story telling finesse. He had produced and starred in a successful cooking show long before there was a Food Network, and he had traveled the world for decades, cooking in the finest hotels and estates. He was born in Seattle, but his parents were immigrants: his spirit and soul came from the old country. He was a gentleman, a man’s man, and a romantic. He was sixty-one, seriously fit, and just about finished parenting his second son. Two years out of a long-term relationship, Paul Sever had his eyes open and his heart healed, and was wondering whether he might be ready for love again. That’s when he met me.

Paul Sever stretched himself when he decided to date me—not because he didn’t want me, but because he did. I’m sure the man would have preferred an exclusive ride with the hot blonde in the snakeskin pants. However, when he learned on our first date that I was a bachelor, Paul had nothing but respect for my lifestyle. And lucky for me, Paul was a man’s man and he acted like one; he let his dick lead. Paul’s desire overruled his love-bias, which gave me the incomparable pleasure of dating not just another sexy man with a big brain, but maybe the funniest, and classiest man I would ever know.

Paul had left for New York the previous day, and I was due in at JFK about five that evening. His first event wasn’t until the following night, so he had picked out a new restaurant he wanted to try for dinner. We were planning on a 9:00 p.m. sitting.

We were almost three hours into the flight, when the flight attendant, a tall brunette with an elevator smile, stood at the head of the aisle and shouted—yes, shouted—for our attention.

“We’re going to be making an unscheduled landing at O’Hare Airport!” she reported, her smile contradicting any potential danger in the information. “There is an electrical problem—which is why I’m not on the microphone—and the captain has ordered a change in flight plan!” Unscheduled landing? Electrical problem? I knew enough about aviation to know this was not good. But she was smiling. She seemed so calm.

“So, please, put your tray tables up and your seats back into an upright position! We will be landing immediately! Thank you for your cooperation!”

I looked left and right at my seatmates, and the few people I could see across the aisle. Everyone was following instructions. No one looked the least bit concerned, but my heart rate shot up and my mind was racing. I knew the role of electrical on aircraft. My husband Jon flew a small Cessna, and I had taken some classes. Electrical ran the flaps, the landing gear, the instruments, and the radios: electrical could also mean fire. I looked out the window and saw one puff of cloud in a deep and serene blue sky. I sat up taller and stretched my neck to get a view below. I saw Illinois, from ten thousand feet. This descent had been in the works for a while.

I pushed the magazine into my bag and pulled out my phone, debating the pros and cons of powering on my cell. The man in the window seat reached into his bag and pulled out a sandwich. The man in the aisle seat turned the page of his Robert Ludlum novel. Were we on the same aircraft? How could they not understand that “unscheduled landing” was code for fucking life-threatening emergency? I clutched my phone in my wet palms, the smell of tuna salad invading my nostrils; no, this couldn’t be happening. I was about to die, and my final conscious moment would be the scent of canned fish? That was just wrong.

I was sitting several aisles in front of the wings, so I had no idea if the flaps were responsive. I kept listening, waiting for the familiar sound. Was I close enough? Would I hear it? I wanted to call someone, but I was terrified that my cellphone would interfere with the radios. I hoped there was a backup system in the cockpit. O’Hare was one of the busiest airports in the world. They better have some way to talk to the tower. I tried to be conscious of my breathing. I needed to reverse the escalation of panic. My body was soaking from terror. I’m sure I smelled rank—but how would I ever know when there was a tuna sandwich twelve inches from my nose? I knew too much about aviation. Unlike my neighbors, I knew the truth and the truth was cruel—I was trapped—trapped and helpless in the middle seat of a Boeing 757 in an emergency descent into O’Hare with a seriously malfunctioning electrical system—was this how I was going to die? Shoulder to shoulder, with two clueless strangers, who were treating an emergency landing like a coffee break?

Suddenly, there were terrible loud, clunky noises. I stiffened in my seat. I felt my ass contract. They stopped, and then started up again. SHIT! I HATE THIS! my mind screamed. Was it the engines? The flaps? “This is so not good,” I said out loud, and felt for the first time the dryness in my mouth. No comment from window man or aisle man, but the sandwich was gone, and I could smell myself now. Please, please, please get the wheels down. Pull the nose up. Talk to the tower. I had to make a decision. I had to do something. But there was nothing. There was nothing I could do. And so I stared at the seatback in front of me, fixed my eyes on one spot, and made my breath my focus.

I thought I could be dead at any minute, and I thought about the reason I was in that seat in the first place. Dying en route to a four-day weekend seemed about as foul as canned fish. So this was how it happened? One minute, you’re paging through six hundred pages of Vogue, and the next minute you’ve taken your final breath? New York City was the destination, and Paul Sever was my date, and I definitely felt shortchanged if it was going to cost me my life. No, that was just fucked up. I had to find another script fast. I didn’t know how much time I had, but I couldn’t look at it that way. I would not leave this life in terror, with my mind fixed on such a shallow view.

The trip was not just a four-day weekend; it was another chapter in my life. This one was four days in New York City, but it could have been five days in Chicago, or three days in Miami, or any other city in any other country. I was a woman with a passion for adventure, and I found men who had lives that lined up with mine. This is what I did. I wouldn’t be in this seat if I were still married to Jon, or if I were acting my age, or if I had stuck with the expectations of my culture, and dated only one man at a time.

I had followed my heart. That was risky business, and I had a fifty-year biography that confirmed it. Almost everything worth doing was a risk, and I had done so much. Even having fun was a risk, sometimes just because you were born female, and your idea of fun stepped over a line; and other times just because you were human, and adventure called your name. All of these episodes flashed through my mind, crowding in at the same time. The thirty mile scooter ride in Vietnam when the monsoon turned the road into a river; the driver who picked us up when we were hitchhiking to San Francisco and held us hostage for miles; the fall on Mount St. Helen’s that dragged our rope team down the slope; the guy with the gun who cornered me when I was jogging and told me he was going to kill me.

I had been scared before, and I had felt like I was going to die before. All of those dangerous episodes affected me, but not one had the force to erode my courage. There was just too much to gain from living a life aimed at passion, and too much to lose if I had not. When I measured the possibility of my sudden death, against my entire life—instead of a four-day weekend—I could see clearly that I had reason to be on that plane. I was living my life. I had given it everything I could, and I’d never stopped. I wouldn’t be leaving finished, but who ever did? As long as there was passion, and breath, the dreams would just keep coming; there was no stopping that train. If this was it, I was leaving on track. No matter what I’d done—and I’m not saying I didn’t have periods where I’d lost my way—I had always found myself exactly where I needed to be. Over time, that had brought me peace of mind. I’d stretched so far for so long to find the peace that was mine.

All of a sudden, the aircraft slammed onto the tarmac, jumped up, crashed down, and then slid to the right. We were thrown in our seats; without seatbelts, bodies would have flown. We were moving fast, too fast; it didn’t feel right, it just didn’t feel right—I thought this might be it, then—“BOOM!”—a huge explosion. The cabin shook violently, and then we were perfectly still. I looked out the window and saw three, four, five fire engines, with their lights flashing, racing across the field, their hoses already spraying great arcs of water. I powered on my phone and waited for the signal, watching the carts as they closed in around us. Were we on fire? Were we fucking on fire? “Sis—?” I heard my brother’s voice. We’d hardly spoken since the letter. This was a long time coming.

“Yeah—it’s me. I need you.” Of course he was the one I had called. He loved me. I had a lifetime of evidence. “I’m in a plane at O’Hare, and we just made an emergency landing. There are fire trucks surrounding us, and they’ve got hoses going—it looks bad. I’m scared. Rick, help me. I’m really scared.”

“OK, OK, I’m here, stay calm. Tell me more, which airline?”

“American, bound for JFK, we left at nine. They said we had no electrical. The fire trucks are out there—they’re spraying. I’m afraid we’re on fire—I can’t see—I don’t know—I don’t know if we’re going to make it.” There was too much I didn’t know, and only one thing I did know—I wasn’t alone. I had my brother.

“Can I have your attention, ladies and gentlemen?” The flight attendant emerged at the front of the cabin.

“Hold on, Rick, hold on—I’m gonna hear something.” She wasn’t smiling, but she was poised. Her manners were surreal. Didn’t she know we were going to die? “We are safely on the tarmac, but the captain is having a problem shutting off the right engine! Once the engine is down, we will begin deplaning! Please remain in your seats!” I sure didn’t feel safe. I repeated her instructions to Rick.

“I got it now—it’s online.” He read to me, “Emergency landing at O’Hare…two minutes ago…plane went off the runway…let’s see—blew a tire…first responders are on the scene.”

“Is it on fire?” God please tell me. Fuck the attendant.

“Doesn’t say anything about fire, just that the emergency crew is on the scene. Are you OK?”

“Yeah—terrified—not hurt. Coming down was awful, Rick.” I didn’t tell him I thought I was going to die. I still wasn’t convinced I was not. “It was so fucking awful,” my voice was soft, almost a whisper. I needed to be private with my terror.

“Sis, I can’t imagine. But it looks like it’s under control. I’ll watch it from here, and call you if they’re any updates. You call me when you get off the plane—or before. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

I switched off the phone and immediately regretted it. I was alone again, and I wanted the comfort of someone I knew. Then it hit me—Kyle! I dialed his number, and got his recording, with the samba intro, followed by his relaxed, casual greeting,

“Hi, hello there, sorry I missed your call. Leave me a message, ciao.”

“Kyle—it’s me—Vicki Marie—I’m on the tarmac—I’m on the plane that went down at O’Hare—baby, are you there? Are you at the firehouse? I’m OK—just call me—I need you, now— call me.” I hung up and looked out the window again. Kyle was a Chicago firefighter. O’Hare was his firehouse. My baby might be out there. Dear God—dear Kyle—please be here, Kyle. I need you.

Five minutes passed, and then ten. I was alive, but the engine roared on, and we all stayed strapped in our seats. Finally the attendant reemerged. She stood only a few aisles away from me, and her shouting had become just a bit too much to bear. I wanted to shout too. “Get me off this fucking plane!” would be my opening line.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are still having difficulty turning off the engine! FAA rules prohibit deplaning while the engines are running! We appreciate your patience!” Not even possible. First, no electrical: then no way to kill the engine? Who the fuck maintained this piece of junk? My terror had hardly abated, and now I felt fucked with. I couldn’t take much more. How long could this go on?

It was a long twenty minutes before the engine was silent. There was applause in the cabin, but I didn’t clap. I exhaled my relief, but I had nothing but contempt for these bastards. I’d had twenty minutes to conclude that this plane never should have left the ground. Seconds later, a Chicago firefighter, suited up in emergency gear, stood at the front of the cabin. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Lieutenant Swan, with the Chicago Fire Department. The aircraft is secure, and we’ll be deplaning immediately, one aisle at a time. I know you want off, but I need you to stay in your seats. I’m going to come through the cabin now. Let me know if you’re injured.” When he came past, I reached across aisle man and grabbed his arm.

“Is Kyle Ross on duty—is he out there?”

“Huh? Yeah, Ross’s here—he’s driving an engine.”

“Tell him Vicki Marie is on the flight—Vicki Marie from Seattle.”

“Sure. You OK?”

“Yes, thank you. Thank you. Please tell Kyle.”

Moments later, I stood at the top of the cabin door, a carry-on in each hand. The steps to the tarmac were inflatable, blown up like a beach toy, white and puffy like a giant marshmallow. I was stunned, and for a minute I froze. It just seemed wrong; like a cartoon sequence in a movie; my brain didn’t trust it. Where the steps ended was a line-up of firefighters, maybe fifteen or twenty, outfitted in ER gear, sentries at their stations. They formed a human fence on two sides, creating a path to the buses that were parked on the tarmac. Everything appeared foreign. My brain wasn’t working right.

“Is Kyle Ross here? Do you know where he is?” The fire fighter was young, and his smile, too bright. I understood from his face that the crisis was actually over. The first responders had contained the emergency. He had reason to smile, what happened from here out was just mop-up.

“Yeah—Ross is here. He’s got the engine at the right wing— other side.” I turned toward the direction where he pointed, and could only see the wheels of the rig, the rest blocked by the plane.

Tell him Vicki Marie’s on the flight—from Seattle. Vicki Marie.”

“Will do. You OK?”

“Better now.” I walked between the wall of men, pulling my bag behind me, relieved to be out of that tuna trap and on solid ground. I boarded the bus and sat down, hugging my luggage in my lap, and looking out the window for Kyle. It was unbelievable. He was right over there. When would he know I was here?

I was in the terminal by the time my phone rang. I looked at the display and saw the familiar photo that always took my breath away; Kyle’s naked body, in my kitchen, ironing.

“Vicki Marie, baby, you OK?”

“Kyle! Yes, I’m OK now. But it was awful, baby, the worst.” Tears stung my eyes. Hearing his voice was like having his huge arms around me. In a split second, I understood how brave I had been.

“You in the terminal?”

“Yeah, baby. They’re getting us another plane. It’s so good to hear your voice. Are you on the tarmac?” I wanted him here, with me. Right now.

“No, I’m back at the firehouse. You’re sure you’re OK?”

I told him again, and then unbelievably, he burst out laughing. I was instantly disoriented; what could be funny right now? “I’m so sorry to laugh, baby,” he said, chuckling. “I’m glad you’re OK—it’s just that—you’re not going to believe this!” I don’t know what I believed, I just knew his delight was too much too absorb. Laughter was like a foreign language to my brain.

“When the passengers were deplanin’, I was sittin’ in the engine, holdin’ my position, and monitorin’ the radios.” I was listening, but I felt numb. Was the story funny yet?

“I’m listenin’, and the crew in the gauntlet start goin’ off on the radios wit’ each other,” Kyle chuckled, “talkin’ ‘bout one of the lady passengers, and how she was lookin’ all fine in tight jeans, with a sharp ass.” Was he rambling? Did I miss something? What was the point?

“And I’m hearin’ all this, jus’ chillin’ and I think straight up, ‘Well, I sure do like Vicki Marie’s fine ass in jeans,’ and jus’ then the lieutenant’s at my rig, an’ tells me there’s a blonde on the plane from Seattle who knows me. Next thin’, straightaway on the radio, the whole tarmac is talkin’ about my girl—she’s the fine ass in jeans—an’ she’s askin’ about me—swishin’ off the flight, and askin’ about me!” He was really laughing now. “Can you believe that, baby? I’m so sorry for laughin’, but it was just too amazin’—there I was thinkin’ about you—and then it was you! I tell you, it was amazin’, Vicki Marie—amazin’ how it could roll out like that!”

In my memory, I can see the smiling firefighter, the one I talked to when I first hit the tarmac. I remember the perimeter of men, the receiving line of safety—there were so many, there had to have been twenty. I attach Kyle’s story to the scene, move the pieces around in my head; and I see the picture.

The team of first responders is on the field, the emergency is clear, and they’re just mopping up; the crisis is over. Twenty men are done with their duty, and they’re chilling after the rush of the battle. Like soldiers after a conflict, like men everywhere being men, they see the blonde hair and her blue jeans and her eye-candy ass, and the unit decides—it’s playtime! And suddenly, there’s a game, they make it up on the spot, the radios are the mitts, and they start tossing the image of the sharp ass between them, an improvised game of catch on the tarmac at O’Hare. These are men, just being men—looking at a woman, and liking what they see. I get it now, because I get men.

And then I start laughing too.

THE END

 

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Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: Chapter 72

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day

THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

Chapter 72

I had seen plenty of chick-burlesque in the city over the last several years, which inspired me to hire a male stripper for my party. It was my birthday and I wanted a black man’s physique. Brown Suga was fun enough on the phone, and together, we decided to do a standard strip ploy, where we pretended that the neighbors had called the cops about the noise. He’d make his entrance dressed as an officer, threaten arrest, and then take off his clothes. We decided that I would make the playlist, and I told him I was going for an old-school sound: Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Prince; my original dance music mix, heavy on classic R&B.

He asked me, “So, who am I dancing for? Are there specific guests you’d like me to target?”

“Me! It’s my fiftieth birthday, and you’re my first stripper! I want all the action!”

Under the stars in Medellín,  my first reading after finishing the manuscript of "The Bachelor Chapters" 2013

Under the stars in Medellín, my first reading after finishing the manuscript of “The Bachelor Chapters” 2013

In the beginning, he sat me center stage in a chair, and I was expecting the coy choreography of a male burlesque routine. True enough for the first few minutes, until Brown Suga stripped off the cop uniform to his briefs, and then went live with that simulated sex thing on me. The crowd blew up. Brown Suga was a hunk of a man, with thighs and an ass designed for a comic book super hero, and a man pouch that was barely contained by the leopard spandex briefs. Unlike my evening with Kyle, there was no walking away from this scene; I had to mask my utter embarrassment at being the object of the action. The show was what mattered, so I rallied my courage, and turned my horror into theatre. Brown Suga led the way, slowly drawing down the leg zippers of my chaps, and teasing the audience like a pro.

“Grip that chair,” Brown Suga whispered, “here it comes.” And with one dramatic, matador, cape-arcing flourish, the man had me chapless and half naked in front of all of my friends. The audience went ballistic and our act went electric. There was no turning back, and as my feet hit the boards, I nailed my own stripper moves to match the black stud on stage. Prince’s anthem, “Cream” blasted through the backyard speakers, daring me to relish the audacity of my dirty dance. The song is a call to blow your horn— to seize your power—and I heard fifty years of destiny in the lyrics; it was suddenly as clear as my life had been long.

Like all girls, in the beginning, I didn’t even have the damn horn. But that was the prize, and I’d kicked ass for a lifetime to get it. I had a firm grip now, lips pressed against the pipe, blowing the loud sound that heralded my triumph: this was my tune; this was my time; this was my life.

It was close to midnight when the show ended, and my tribe went for one more drink. After dressing again in my cowgirl costume, I walked Brown Suga to his car, my arm wrapped around his comic book bicep.“Well, Mister Suga, that was not what I expected, but totally brilliant. Thanks for leading my strip debut!”

“Well you’re not what I expected either, Miss Vicki Marie. That was a gas! Thank you for redefining fifty in my mind—forever!”

After he drove away, I walked from the street back to my house and saw three young women on their way out—no one I knew, but friends of friends. As I stepped into the driveway they all spoke at once: “Vicki Marie!” “I can’t believe you’re fifty!” “You look so young!” I laughed at their outburst.

“Well, girlfriends, this is what fifty looks like—and I’m not the only one!”

They were probably no more than twenty-five, which was unbelievably for me, half a lifetime ago. What if I’d known the truth about fifty when I was their age?

“Ladies, trust me on this one: every age is the best age, and don’t you ever believe anyone who tells you different!”

I wished I had the power to relieve them of the inevitable anxiety of growing and aging. If only I could prevent the degradation of their self-esteem that was destined to seep in, again and again, and that would distract them from simply living their lives. It was so unfair. These women were twenty-five. How much different would it be when they looked into the mirror of their fiftieth year?

Yet, as we stood together in that gravel drive, exchanging our four open hearts, I knew something was possible. I was betting, maybe even praying, that my age-inappropriate wardrobe, on my fiftieth birthday, just might lessen the inescapable scourge of self-doubt in another woman’s life. Even a moment would be a victory. And then came their cheer: “Vicki Marie! We love your butt!

TOMORROW: Chapter 73 — THE END!

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 Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: Chapter 71

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day

THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

Chapter 71

In Seattle, the thermostat never hits seventy-two degrees at midnight, but that August, for one night in my life, climate records were broken during the Annual Forever Forty- Four—Finally Fifty—Birthday Bash and Western Roundup.

The horseshoe-shaped yard that surrounded my house was decorated with thousands of tiny white lights, and filled with more that eighty cowboys and cowgirls, plus at least two saloon dames. It was my birthday, but it was really a reunion of my lifelong community, most who’d known one another through the legacy of the endless parties I had hosted in my home for more than twenty years.

Turning fifty in 2008 was the beginning of a bold new decade. Looking for adventure in Cartagena, 2012

Turning fifty in 2008 was the beginning of a bold new decade. Looking for adventure in Cartagena, 2012

From the start, the energy of the crowd was high, with many guests rekindling bonds, and everyone making new ones. I was a fan of every person there. These were my witnesses and my influencers: my soul mates and my partners in crime. They had been with me during my different eras, all of them significant to my life, some for a season and others for a lifetime, all of them on site that night to root me on one more time.

My bone-white chaps were a hit, and so was my butt, celebrated by everyone as a symbol of the flamboyant chutzpah of Vicki Marie. Playful ass grabbing and bum bumping infected everyone, and I saw how my boldness simply made people happy. Love was in the air, and hedonism infiltrated the crowd. Before the night was through, I witnessed straight girlfriends making out with lesbian friends, and my lesbian friends stealing kisses from my straight boyfriends. There were friends who never smoke pot, toking away with those who do. And there were friends who never dance, shaking their stuff with abandon.

Many of the men in my life made an appearance, including Shaun, Lamar, Jason, Paul, and of course Dion. When I saw Andre on the back deck I didn’t even flinch.

“Happy Birthday, Vicki Marie! Look at you—fifty! And still the most interesting and beautiful woman in the room!”

“That’s my good fortune, and my lifetime plan. And don’t you ever forget that—loser!

“There you go, telling the truth again—and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’m regretful-ever after.”

We couldn’t possibly have smiled any broader as we locked into each other’s eyes and I sat down beside him.

It had been two years since he walked out of my life without a word, when I had retooled my heart to believe I didn’t need to know why.

“Why did you do that? Why did you never call me again?”

His answer was as surprising as my question. “It wasn’t what I wanted. But, I knew it was what you wanted.” I looked into his face, clueless and curious. “You’re going to have to give me more, Andre. That just doesn’t make sense.”

“It was your friend, Trish. When you went to the ladies room, she told me you weren’t interested in just one guy.”

In one sweeping flashback, I remembered how hurt I had felt, how confused and how mind-fucked. I had made up my own reasons in the void, and struggled to accept that strange way men just moved on. But I couldn’t help but laugh. It was too absurd.

“Andre Cassidy—you’re telling me that after six weeks of our enchanted courtship—you disappeared from my life because of something you heard when I left the room to pee?”

There were a million things I could have said next; a flood of reactions, swirled in protest, and threatened to swamp me. I was stunned by the truth, but I didn’t need to rehash the details. Instead, I went to what mattered.

“You don’t do that.” I leaned into his face, my eyes insistent that he understand every word. “You don’t open your heart, and draw another heart in, and then leave without a word.” I looked away, realizing that I felt like a teacher, not a jilted lover. When I turned to face him again, I could see that he’d been touched in some way, because his face was soft, and his eyes were kind. He was patient. Like he was waiting for me. He made it simple for me to say what came next.

“You broke my heart, Andre. I loved you.” It was the truth and I felt stronger for saying it. “I loved you for no reason that made sense, I didn’t even know you, but I felt—I knew—that you wanted to know me and that went right to my core.” He didn’t flinch. He just looked at me silently, and I could feel how much he cared. I put my hand on his thigh. The tenderness between us was urgent, and I went for the next thing that mattered, “So, this is the moment—because you now have my story—this is the moment where you tell me how sorry you are. And that you didn’t mean to hurt me.”

He looked into my eyes as he apologized, and then he put his arms around me. Andre Cassidy was a good man. That had always been true, and that hadn’t changed. He’d had every right to leave me, but he had no right not to tell me. I understood at last, that he really hadn’t meant to hurt me. It had been a misunderstanding: an unspoken assumption, and a heartbreaking mistake.

It was just before dark when I saw Wouter next to the bar, talking to Paul Sever. Wearing a hot pink T-shirt and white jeans, he had forsaken the western theme, but there he was. I was too far away to hear them, but the body language said it all—both men were laughing. Paul Sever’s plan that I invite my complete cast of lovers suddenly seemed precarious. I didn’t want Wouter talking with anyone who still adored me. It was ridiculous, but it crossed my mind that Paul Sever was at risk. Vaporization might be contagious.

I waited until he was alone to approach him. “Wouter Wilson,” I said. “Look at you.” He was still beautiful, that’s for sure. But, it looked like he’d put on a pound or two; I could see just the slightest bulge of a hot pink belly. Of course it was small of me that I found that satisfying, but why deny it? My ass was hanging out. I was still hot.

“Vicki Marie! Happy Birthday, girl!” His smile splashed a huge white banner across his dark face. I was taken aback by his radiance. He was genuinely happy to see me.

I’d had a lot of practice managing the after effects of vapor-behavior. Men were in, until they were out. It’s what happened. I don’t know how many times I’d told Cisco: “Four days. I need four days to get over a man.” Day one was shock; day two was heartache; day three was anger; and day four was depression. On the fifth day I reveled in acceptance and was free of self-doubt and the discomfort of rejection. I’m not kidding. I had this down. It helped that whenever I was dumped, there were always other men enthralled with me; and of course, I’d avoided getting too close. But the key was to force my focus to the present. When a guy was gone, he could only occupy the past. I had trained myself not to look back.

It had taken much more than four days with Wouter, of course, but as we made small talk under the tiny white lights, I learned I was over wanting him. That wound had healed. But I still felt the tug toward rejection, the nagging remnant of my questionable worth. He had left me, without a word, after loving me. Why was that so common?

I didn’t know the answer any more at that moment than I had when Toni split. I only knew that it happened, and no matter what I did, that would never change. The only way to stop it would be to pull out entirely, and for me that would never be an option. But I finally understood, that not understanding was something worth hanging on to. It was a sign of my humanity; it was a sign I had a heart.

I also understood that I was too much—too much to contain inside my own thick skin. I wanted out, because I wanted to find my people. I had left my husband and the worthy comfort of domestic love, to take my chance in the wild. I had invented my grand bachelor plan, I had pushed the experiment into a lifestyle, and I had thrived under its influence. I had planned for all contingencies, drawn on a lifetime of experience, and every variable of emotion in a one-on-one exchange. I had managed to blow the myth of monogamy out of my zone of desire. But, there had still been love, and of course, the heartache. There was loss. Always there was loss. That wasn’t going to change either.

TOMORROW: Chapter 72

Subscribe to Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series at The Bachelor Blog and never miss a chapter! Or follow on twitter @vickimarie44

 Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: Chapter 70

Status

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day

THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

Chapter 70

“Hey, baby! I need you to get your French butt over here. We’ve got to take pictures of my ass,” I told Dion.

“What’s happening?”

“The invite for The Roundup. The chaps arrived. Hot, baby, hot. I love them. You will too.”

I hung up with Dion, and looked back at my reflection in the dance studio mirror: bone-white leather, with fringe on the outside-seam, and two medallions of beadwork, one on each hip. The cowgirl leggings were beautiful, heavy, and complicated. It took several minutes to understand how to push my legs into ass-less pants. But they looked great. I had thrown on an ivory lace thong, a cocoa-butter leather halter, and a straw-colored cowboy hat. Hah! Fear was receding, and facts were once again winning. Fifty looked mighty fine from the high side of forty-nine!

Writers can always find a reason t drink! Celebrating my first draft of the last chapter in Antigua, 2012

Writers can always find a reason to drink! Celebrating my first draft of the last chapter in Antigua, 2012

Why did I want to hang my butt out for my birthday? Fury. And audacity. This was a bitch-slap at the relentless limitations imposed by my presumptuous culture. Having arrived at the threshold of the fifties, I resented the opinion that a woman of age is expected to relinquish the only power that the patriarchy has ever encouraged her to possess. We spend all those years— and all that money—primping and posing and perfecting our itty-bitty oasis of recognition. Some women excel and some women opt-out and some women give up in despair, because the cultural bandwidth for female sexual power—like Barbie’s waistline—is notoriously narrow. Pussy power is personal and political—it speaks to how women see themselves, and how the culture sees women. I had arrived at that end date, where I could be dismissed, and not seen at all.

I had never let my age stop me from doing anything, but that didn’t mean I hadn’t spent way too much time in the roll up to forty, distressed over the inevitable. Contemplating fifty was an even bigger hump to hurdle. I was a sex positive feminist, with a harem of studs, and I still struggled with this bullshit.

Well, I was sending out a middle-finger message, to eliminate the residue of my own self-doubt, and overcome the fiction promoted by my culture. There is no universal expiration date on a woman’s power and influence. And just to advertise the truth of this reality, my cheeks were coming out for one white-ass reason: to prove those asses wrong. 220

TOMORROW: Chapter 71

Subscribe to Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series at The Bachelor Blog and never miss a chapter! Or follow on twitter @vickimarie44

 Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: Chapter 69

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day

THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

Chapter 69

“Of course you should invite all your lovers to your fiftieth—why the hell not?” Paul Sever and I were having dinner at his place, and he was adamant. Impossible, I thought. I had bachelor rules, after all, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was my gospel.

“So, you’re telling me, you’ve got no problem coming to my party, and breaking bread with the other guys?” Paul and I had been dating since April, the same time I started to see Wouter again. I dug the hell out of him.

“It’s your party, sweetie. It’s your life. I don’t have a problem with it, and fuck anyone who does!” I’d been thinking about inviting all my former lovers, but the current ones? Could I do that?

Johnny and Vicki Marie pose for The Forever Forty-Four—Finally Fifty—Birthday Bash and Western Round-Up Invitation, 2008

Johnny and Vicki Marie pose for The Forever Forty-Four—Finally Fifty—Birthday Bash and Western Round-Up Invitation, 2008

The idea grew on me. It was a milestone moment, not just another birthday, but an anniversary of my first fifty years. Of course I wanted all my guys to celebrate with me. My birthday party had always been a gift to my friends, an appreciation of their importance in my life. My lovers were substantially significant in my journey, and I had a lot of appreciation for every one of them. After all, they were the reason I had the confidence to wear the bloody chaps.

I made an inventory of the men I was seeing at that moment: Lamar Taylor, Paul Sever, and Kyle Ross. My list of retired lovers was loaded with outstanding men. Did I think any of these men would be uncomfortable or awkward? Not a chance. My collection represented male confidence at its best. The real question then was this: would I be comfortable? I didn’t take long to answer. This was my Fiftieth Birthday—and this was my life. I invited them all—even Andre Cassidy and Wouter Wilson.

TOMORROW: Chapter 70

Subscribe to Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series at The Bachelor Blog and never miss a chapter! Or follow on twitter @vickimarie44

 Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: Chapter 68

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day

THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

Chapter 68

“We have a job to do.” It was Wednesday morning with Cisco, the last week in June.

“Speak to me, my queen.” He took a bow, drafted for the challenge.

“It’s almost July, and as you know, The Roundup is the last weekend in August.”

“The Annual Forever Forty-Four Birthday Bash and Western Roundup? I think we should make it a national holiday.”

“I love you, Cisco, but first, two things: number one—I’m going to wear chaps.”

“Assless?” The young man was so on it.

“You know it, baby—so we have seven short weeks to make sure we can bounce a dime off each cheek.”

“You got it—I can do this.”

“This is serious. Now—second thing—I think I’m going for a big change this year.” I swept my arms above my head, framing the words on a marquee. “The Annual Forever Forty-Four— FINALLY FIFTY—Birthday Bash and Western Roundup!”

“No way!” He was stunned. The man was a believer in my brand. “What about Forever Forty-Four?”

“Here’s what I’m thinking, baby. Back in the day, I started Forever Forty-Four to make a point about women and aging— about me aging. Women lie about age because of the BS that our value decreases. I chose forty-four because it was already over-the-hill,” I copped a cover girl pose with one hand behind my head, “when clearly I wasn’t.”

Still aging, but with guns like these, I'm not complaining! My 56th birthday, NY, NY 2014

Still aging, but with guns like these, I’m not complaining! My 56th birthday, NY, NY 2014

“Body by Cisco!” His arm lifted his index finger into the air with pride.

“I think I need to own fifty for the same reason I owned forty-four. I’m not going to lie; fifty sounds fucking scary, Cisco, you have no idea.” He was barely twenty-six. He could have been my son.

“But the truth is—I’m in the best shape of my life. Plus, I’m crazy successful in my work, I’ve got a schedule to die for, and, my sex-life is a how-to on having fun! I’m dating four men—or maybe five—who knows? I lose track! Look at me, Cisco, look at everything I have going—fifty rocks!

The truth was suddenly more significant than my brand. I was pumping myself up. I could do this. I had to. “Fifty isn’t fifty! Fifty is the new thirty! Tell me I’m right!”

“I like it, and you’re right. Now let’s get on it. Station One: forty lunges with dumbbells. We got work to do.”

Fifty is scary because this culture got it wrong. Opportunity, adventure, and future did not expire at forty or fifty, or even sixty. Plus, that little glory list ignores the crown jewel of post-youth, the incomparable sparkle of wisdom. Wisdom is only available with age, and those of us who’ve aged, and paid attention, can’t help but reek of wisdom. Some acquire more than others and some faster than others. But it is optional; no one forces wisdom on us, and the unwise are everywhere. But not me, not now: I had arrived at this milestone with wisdom.

What did I know about my life on the south side of fifty? It was mine. I’d been self-cast as the leading lady in my lifelong script, and I’d crafted a role where I played my kind of heroine, hardwired for my style of adventure. I was born poor, and female, but still fortunate beyond measure, born in a nation with a blueprint for equality at a moment when it was uniquely possible.

As a kid, I joined millions to protest the war in Vietnam, became radical as a young feminist, came out as a lesbian, and nudged that cart along the road to civil rights. I had been married to a kind man who had held my heart, and I’d had a good run in a mature partnership. I had known deep love, more than once, and spent my fair share of time with her evil twin, heartache.

Art was my lifelong career, and it taught me how to make something from nothing. Business was my income career, and it taught me how to hear No, and not stop on my way to the next Yes; it taught me how to read people and listen closely so I could create plans and foster success.

I produced events to promote my art and donated the proceeds where it was needed. I had been given so much, and had learned the richness of giving back. With a community of caring people, I raised money and awareness for kids at risk, homeless women and families, and the health of the planet. I had joined millions of citizens to elect our country’s first black president on a platform of hope, and I had my ticket to Chicago for the historic election night results.

I hosted dinner parties for my expanding community of diverse Americans and outstanding immigrants. I sheltered friends in transition. I cared for a grandmother stricken with Alzheimer’s. I weathered an estrangement with an alcohol-dependent father, and then ached as I watched him wither and die. I buried friends during the AIDS crisis, and sat bedside with the friends who had pulled the cancer card. I celebrated a lot. There was so much, and there were so many to honor.

The view over my shoulder was nothing short of awesome. I was put on the planet to have a good time, to share my good fortune, and leave my mark. I knew what could be done in fifty years, and I was ready to own every minute of it. Looking ahead, I was not short on dreams, I was not short on fun, and I had the wisdom to know that would never end. Hell yes! Bring on the big five-o—and the leather chaps. It was time to show my fifty-year-old ass the bright light of day.

TOMORROW: Chapter 69

Subscribe to Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series at The Bachelor Blog and never miss a chapter! Or follow on twitter @vickimarie44

 Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: Chapter 67

Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series: One Chapter A Day

THE BACHELOR CHAPTERS: A THINKING WOMAN’S ROMANCE

Chapter 67

“Hey, darling—I found a new club—and it’s all about you!” It was a sunny Saturday morning, and the doors were open. I was organizing my desk drawers when Steve walked in with his newsflash.

“Babalou’s, on the corner of 45th and Meridian. Last night they had a great band playing R&B—everyone dancing, some people dressing. The spot is sharp; with big leather couches, crystal chandeliers—and girlfriend, it was packed with your favorite flavor—nothing but brothers and brothers and brothers!”

His timing couldn’t have been better. I had just found the receipt for Wouter’s watch, and tossed it in the trash. I needed a distraction, and I needed a new man. It had been four long weeks since Portland, and my last moment with Wouter. With no word and no warning, he’d never called again.

Today is my birthday and this is the face of fifty-six. New York City, August 2014

Today is my birthday, and this is the face of my fifty-six. New York City, August 2014

First I’d missed him like crazy, and I’d cried like a baby. But it didn’t take long before I hated his guts. Who were these bastards? What was so fucking difficult about picking up the phone to say, “Thanks, babe, but I’m done here?” I had spent a lot of effort learning to accept people for who they were; but this time I was raging; men like Andre and Wouter were just plain evil. Gratefully, I had Lamar, and Paul Sever, whom I’d started seeing that spring, plus the erect attention of my long distance lovers. Once again, I was fortified; I had the bachelor team to ease my trashed heart. But I also felt dumb. I knew he was capable of vaporizing, that was second date information, the night he ditched me at the Century Ballroom. I’d been smart to steer clear, and a fool to let him back in. I was misled by the magic; I thought he had changed. Had I learned nothing from the equally evil Toni Rey?

Steve’s report was good news: a new venue to explore. I had long retired from email dating, and was meeting men the conventional way, in public spaces. And lucky for me, wherever I went, I found black, single men. I could count on it like I could count on the sun rising each morning. I had become a lure for brothers. Out with my girlfriends for drinks, and the handsome brother in the house would snag my eye. If I were alone with the newspaper at the lunch café, the dapper man at the other table would target me with his white smile. If I were cocktailing with colleagues at the charity auction, the fit man with the finest footwear in the room made his way to my side. It happened everywhere and all the time.

On a trip to New York, even my mother witnessed this bounty of biracial attraction with silent wonder. “What is it about you?” she finally wanted to know. It was happy hour at Grand Central Station, and we were drinking champagne. Moments earlier she had witnessed yet another drive-by flirtation on our walk up the grand stairwell. I knew exactly what she wanted to know. It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked.

“I’m a brother-magnet,” I answered, because that’s how I’d come to understand it.

“Oh my God, honey, it’s true!” She didn’t need to hear a word more. “You are a brother magnet!

Four years of persistence, and I had crafted a dynamic bachelor rhythm. I simultaneously dated three or four men, and I was always up for a new introduction. I had to be. The one thing I could count on was an inevitable vacancy. I wasn’t measuring my relationships by longevity, but by the quality of the time. There had been treasured short-timers, plus the enduring pleasure of men like Kyle and Lamar. I couldn’t believe how well it had worked out.

There had been significant sore spots, with vapor episodes, family backlash, and downright disenchantment. But even the love that had been stirred by Andre and Wouter hadn’t changed my view; I stood committed to my decision to cultivate multiple partners, because more than ever, I felt the bachelor title could contain the most authentic Vicki Marie.

I had retrained my female brain, believing that the highest satisfaction possible in life only occurred in the present tense. That didn’t mean I wasn’t affected by the fact that Wouter was gone, but I knew the ache of that loss was temporary, because I’d learned to de-emphasize past and future. Adios to the life-sapping rehashing of what had already played out. This change of view didn’t happen overnight. And just because I’d gotten good at it, didn’t mean I was even close to perfect. But living in the present had become the foundation from where I orchestrated dating decisions and expectations—juggling three men, or four men—there were times I had more. As complicated as that may sound, the fact was, by living in the moment, I had simplified my life. I had opened up more space for positive experiences, and the benefits were remarkable. I had continuous access to adventure and fulfillment.

I avoided thinking about a man when I was away from him, but when together, I aspired to be the most interesting and desirable woman in his world. Foreplay was a personalized event, and I became an architect of details. I made it my business to know a man’s business, and I would prep the evening with his made-to-order turn ons. The man liked Stella in an ice-frosty glass?—done. Did he mention he was a fan of old-school R&B?—just let me press play. A little Monday Night Football, with a steak on the side?—the grill is on fire. Red lace panties, the backless dress, mirrors on every wall?—I paid attention to what a man dug, and it was my pleasure to give him exactly what he wanted. A date with Vicki Marie was a walk into the Magic Kingdom, an adult Disneyland, where all dreams come true.

It was my job to get the man’s dick hard, but I raised the bar and aspired for more: I wanted a man to be aroused by the perfect blend of intellect spiced with sex, delivered in the savory package that could only be me. I used his favorite things to target his senses: sight, sound, smell and taste. My four-pronged assault was aimed to stimulate that mass between his ears with hedonistic sensation. That left the fifth sense. Touch was for me. I was banking on the payoff of a smartly designed seduction. Once primed and lit with fire, the burn that followed was mapped out to consume me.

TOMORROW: Chapter 68

Subscribe to Vicki Marie’s Sexy Summer Reading Series at The Bachelor Blog and never miss a chapter! Or follow on twitter @vickimarie44

 Copyright Vicki Marie Stolsen, 2014, Forever Forty-Four Publications, Publicity Rare Bird Lit, Tyson Cornell, Tyson@rarebirdlit.com, Distribution by Ingram, Available online and in bookstores in paperback, eBook, and audio format.