a short story by Wallace m greensage
‘Hi Fraser,’ Todd said pleasantly when Fraser answered his mobile. ‘It’s Todd. Sorry I wasn’t in this morning when you visited.’
‘Hello Todd. No problem. I didn’t actually do much this morning without you there. But of course it was good to see…to see Charlotte.’ A vision had popped into his mind that he preferred to block out.
‘That’s what I wanted to talk about as well as apologising for not being here. I know you talked to Charley about the location of the pool and I wanted to get your views.’
‘I don’t really have any views, Todd. Actually, I was wondering why this is an issue at all. Why does it matter where it is?’
‘It doesn’t matter too much. It’s just that if we put it nearer to the deck it will be easier to get to and, of course, it will offer more privacy.’
‘Privacy? That again? Charlotte mentioned that this morning too.’ Todd glanced at Charlotte who was biting her bottom lip, eyes closed.
‘Well, you know how it is, Fraser. Between us men, I quite like to skinny dip and don’t want to scare horses and small children.’ He gave a short laugh.
‘Skinny dip? You mean without clothes?’
‘Well, yes. That’s how to skinny dip.’
Fraser paused then said. ’So this is something you both do, is it?’ Right on cue!
‘We have been known to…’
Fraser interrupted. ‘Todd, is it possible that I saw my daughter this morning through your front window? Was she…was she naked?’ he blurted out. Charlotte’s face drained of colour. Her hand went to her head in consternation.
‘Naked? Well…’ Todd wasn’t able to lie and his words died on his lips. This wasn’t on cue! He wasn’t immediately sure how to handle this.
‘I’ll take that as a “yes”, then, Todd.’
Todd and Charlotte clearly heard a voice in the background. ‘What’s going on, Fraser?’ Patience asked loudly.
Fraser took the phone from his ear. ‘I was right, she was naked this morning!’ was all he said. They could still hear him clearly.
‘Todd, put Charlotte on right this second.’ Patience yelled down the phone she had snatched from her husband.
‘I’m here, Mum,’ Charlotte whispered fearfully.
‘Charlotte, tell me this isn’t true. Tell me that Dad’s got it wrong and he didn’t see you…nude!’ Her voice broke on the last word.
Charlotte couldn’t bring herself to admit it. Todd stepped in for her. ‘Hello Patience,’ he said quietly. ‘In the privacy of our own home, and because we enjoy it, sometimes we don’t wear clothes. I know that you…’
‘You know nothing about me, young man. I guess that this is all your influence, isn’t it? You’ve forced her to become a nudist, haven’t you? Charlotte would never ever do this unless you…’
Charlotte found her voice. ‘Mum, Mum, calm down,’ she told her mother, gaining strength by the second. She no longer had anything to hide. ‘It’s not Todd’s influence, it’s simply that we choose to live our lives as we do and sometimes that means we’re naked together.’
‘But Charlotte, how could you?’
‘And we both like it very much, Mum.’
‘Ooh!’ Patience wailed. ‘Charlotte, the shame of it! Oh, I can’t talk any more. Here’s your father.’
‘Mum, Mum, don’t go like this…’ Charlotte cried down the phone.
A very quiet Fraser Duffy spoke. ‘Well, both of you, I don’t really know what to say…’
‘Fraser,’ Todd said, ‘maybe we should get together about this. We don’t want to upset you both and we don’t want this to come between us.’
‘Yes. Yes, I agree that we should get together to discuss it but let’s wait for a few days. Let your mother get used to the idea, Charlotte. This is a big shock for her, for us, but I think I can talk her round. I’ll try anyway, try to explain that you have your own lives to live, that you may not live by the same rules that dictate our lives. In this case, it’s a far cry from the way we…’ he didn’t finish but he it was obvious he was referring to their newly-divulged way of life and the way Charlotte was raised. ‘Maybe one evening midweek we will get together.’
‘Yes, let’s do that, Fraser. We’ll call you on Monday or Tuesday to arrange it.’ Todd paused. ‘So, how do you feel about this, Fraser?’ Todd asked meekly.
Fraser unexpectedly gave a slight chuckle. ‘I reserve my judgement for now, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Perhaps it’s all in the genes. Enjoy the beach tomorrow. I won’t ask which beach you’re going to. That really would be too much. Bye for now.’ He cut the call.
Charlotte and Todd eyed one another in silence, gauging each other’s reactions, unsure of their own feelings. Tears filled Charlotte’s eyes.
Todd gave a small smile that he hoped looked encouraging. ‘Well, it’s out there now, although not in the way we planned. Nothing we can do about it now. This will take its course, but I think your Dad will do his best to calm things down in the fullness of time. Hopefully, he’s right and your Mum will adjust to this.’
Charlotte couldn’t speak. She rose quietly, still dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. She gave Todd a weak smile and headed to their bedroom. She was drained. Todd wisely left her to it.
As they walked the short distance next door to Freya and Sven’s home that evening, Todd knew that after the events that afternoon that it was far too soon to think about letting their neighbours know. He was also sure that if they didn’t let them know by the time that the pool was finished, heads would soon be popping above the fence sooner rather than later to see what was going on. Better to be upfront about it. But Todd realised that that would be more than Charlotte could stand for the immediate future. No rush; cooler weather was approaching and they had time to approach that strategy.
‘Hi Charlotte, Todd,’ Freya exclaimed smiling, opening her front door to them, dressed casually, as they were. ‘Come on in. Todd, there was no need to bring wine, but thanks anyway. I’m sure it will find its way into goblets this evening.’
They went through the house to the deck, where Sven was entertaining two friends recently arrived from Sweden. They switched immediately to English and Freya joined them with a plate of snacks.
‘Charlotte,’ Freya said, ‘I have to apologise to you for my husband this morning.’
‘Apologise? For what?’ she asked puzzled, afraid for a moment that he had discovered her secret. Not again. Not after her father.
‘For my husband bothering you over the fence like that.’
‘I wasn’t at all bothered. It was good to talk to Sven, even if it was over the fence.’ Charlotte replied, trying to sound confident.
‘It was good that the fence was between you then,’ Freya continued. Oh ye gods, they knew she was naked! OK, well her it comes again. She was speechless, sure in the knowledge she had been found out. Yet another revelation – what a day!
Todd took up the conversation for her. ‘Why was it good that the fence was between them?’ he asked.
‘Because,’ Freya said pointedly, looking hard at her husband. ‘He was still in his nightwear! And he doesn’t wear nightwear!’
‘We never have,’ Sven laughed.
‘You mean that you were talking to my wife while completely naked?’ Todd asked mischievously. ‘Did you know that, Charlotte? No, don’t answer that!’ She couldn’t have answered anyway.
‘He was!’ Freya replied. ‘Oh. Charlotte, I’m so sorry you look so shocked. Have we offended you?’
Charlotte’s relief was short lived as Todd laughed. He wasn’t about to let this perfect opportunity slip by too. ‘I doubt it. Although you didn’t know it, she was naked too!’
Charlotte closed her eyes. Ground, she commanded, swallow me up!
Todd was of course in trouble from Charlotte that evening as soon as they returned home, even though she had realised that he had done the right thing. What Todd had said was too good a chance to miss but Charlotte only let him off the hook when he buried his face in her neck, biting gently, crooning for forgiveness. So there would be no issues next year with Freya and Sven when they happily romped in their new pool. Who knows? Maybe they would join them. That left only the neighbours on the other side and they were confident that they could find a way to let them know too over the winter.
It took a lot of questions and several discussions for Patience Duffy to even begin to recognise naturism as a lifestyle preference and to acknowledge the choices that her only child and husband had made. She resisted strenuously for many months and it was much longer before she to begin to acclimatise, but through it all, relationships remained largely unaffected. Fraser stalwartly managed to keep the family together. Charlotte and Todd had politely and as diplomatically as possible stuck to their guns. It was many years later, as Patience watched her grandchildren splashing happily naked in their pool, that the first tiny flicker of acceptance and understanding fought its way into her rigid mind.
Charlotte pondered the aside from Fraser that nudity was in her genes, but it was a long time before she and Todd learnt its true meaning. And that’s another story.
© Wallace Merlin Greensage