a short story by wallace m greensage
Todd had called Charlotte to tell her that he wouldn’t be home until mid-afternoon and assured her that she could then have his full attention. He expected that by then his case would be closed. As she listened to Todd, she set out lunch for herself and her father.
‘What’s all this extra fencing for anyway?’ he asked.
‘To keep out nosy neighbours when we finish the pool,’ Charlotte replied, giving her prepared answer to the question she was certain he would ask.
‘Having problems with the neighbours, are you? I thought you said that they were nice people.’
‘They are, on both sides. But we don’t want to share our privacy, Dad.’
‘I hope that you aren’t thinking of wearing anything too revealing, my girl!’ he remarked. ‘Even if you do have high fences.’
Charlotte looked at him before answering. How reserved he is, she thought. He would be horrified to know that I won’t be wearing revealing swimwear or any other swimwear for that matter. ‘Well, actually Dad, we are naturists now.’ She thought it, but she couldn’t bring herself to say this though, although she knew it was a perfect opening. Another missed opportunity slipped away.
‘Of course I won’t be wearing revealing swimwear, Dad,’ she replied meekly but truthfully after a pause. ‘But what would be so wrong if I did, in privacy, in my own home?’
Fraser Duffy stared at his daughter. ‘Charlotte Duffy, you were brought up better than that,’ he berated, using her maiden name and pointing with his knife. ‘If your mother heard you say that…’ He didn’t continue. ’Especially after those baseless rumours at work after your holiday in the summer. Anyway, let’s not talk about that. It was too ugly at the time and it’s not worth dragging up again now. I never did tell your mother most of that anyway, after your assurances’
Charlotte rose to clear the table, not wanting him to read her face. She had lied several times to her father since the summer holiday that had introduced them to naturism, if only by omission most of the time. She had at the time laughed off rumours of her naturist involvements that had mysteriously begun to circulate around the manufacturing plant at which both she and her father worked, and contrary to his recollection, she had not actually given any assurances. She didn’t feel good about any of this deception and she knew she was digging a bigger hole for herself and Todd if they were to continue their naturist life. She didn’t see how she could ever come clean to them but also knew that this secrecy was going to be hard to maintain.
‘Better be on my way, love.’ Dad said, himself rising from the table. ‘That was a lovely lunch.’
Charlotte turned back to him. ‘Thanks for coming round, Dad. It’s always good to see you. Try to bring Mum next time. And thanks for your help with planning the pool.’ He hadn’t actually done anything that morning except inconclusively deliberate about the location of the pool.
As he drove away, Charlotte stepped back through her front door, bothered by the contrast in the life her parents thought she led and her actual life. She didn’t see a resolution; it may always be a secret. If so, she would always have to lie to them. This made her truly uncomfortable at best and cheap and mean at worst. She slipped out of her clothes distractedly, dumped them on a kitchen chair and returned to preparing food for the beach tomorrow.
Damn, I forgot the coffee tray from the lounge, she thought to herself as she finished preparing salad for later. She hated to leave dirty crockery lying around, preferring to clear up as she went. As she went into the front room, she noticed her father’s toolbox by the side of the armchair in which he’d been sitting to drink his coffee. He had forgotten to take it. Never mind, I’ll call him in a while and maybe we can drop it off on our way to the beach tomorrow, she decided.
As she straightened from picking up the coffee tray, Charlotte caught a glimpse of movement outside the window. They hadn’t yet put up the planned net curtains; it wasn’t urgent as during the day it wasn’t easy for people to see in from their little-used cul-de-sac because of well-established shrubbery planted long ago by previous owners. But if people actually came into the garden and near to the window, they would surely have been able to see in.
And there was her father right in front of the window, looking in. And there she was, standing completely naked with a tray in her hands. He seemed to be squinting towards the window and as she carefully backed out through the door into the hallway, she saw him move right up to the glass, cup his hands to shield the light and peer into the room.
Charlotte was horrified. What if he had seen her? How was she going to explain this? She wasn’t ready for this. She hurried into the kitchen, put the coffee tray on the table and, in panic, looked round for her clothing. There, where she’d distractedly dumped them on the kitchen chair. She didn’t want to have to explain the housecoat again, so soon after his visit. As she slipped her top over her head, the doorbell rang. It only rang once more as she pulled on her skirt and ran barefoot to the door, pausing on the way to slip her underwear into a drawer in the hall stand.
Breathlessly, she jerked the door open, her arm over her ample chest so he wouldn’t notice she was braless. ‘Oh Dad, you’re back!’ she asked as innocently as she could muster. ’Did you forget something?’
‘My ruddy toolbox,’ he replied, striding past her. ‘Stupid of me. Can’t do a thing without my tools.’
‘Where did you leave it?’ she asked, shamming.
‘In here, I think,’ he answered as he went into the front room. ‘I tried to look through the window to see if I could see it, but I couldn’t see in properly. I thought I saw movement though. Were you in here?’
Oh good God, she thought. He saw me but didn’t see me! ‘Here it is by your chair, Dad.’ She answered, avoiding his question. She tried to lift the heavy box and then decided to leave it to him. ‘That’s too heavy, Dad. You should clear out the heavier tools.’
‘All my tools are essential, girl!’ he replied adamantly. ‘Clear tools out? You do have some strange notions.’
He headed for the door again. They repeated their farewells and then he was gone, none the wiser about her nudity when he peered through the window. Charlotte stood leaning her back against the door, breathing deeply. Ye Gods, that was close, she said to herself.