I guess I've pretty much caught up. I worked over the weekend with pretty much everyone else. We've been trying to do more than just fix the major failure. We've been trying to get several small fixes in place, to delay our first set of corrective services. Monday we made new media and emailed a flash patch to Canada for the big customer. So far they haven't reported any other problems.

Most of the rest of the weekend I spent with Clarice. She really didn't look too good Friday, so Rob and I made her stay in bed all weekend while we ran her errands. Which was very hard on me, also having to work, but it was worth it. She was back at work Monday, but I think she's going to abandon the effort at the end of this week.

Next weekend we're having a baby shower for her, at my house. Bev's been taking care of all the details. Of course, now I have to make the place ready, and I've been annoying Brian again with the time I'm taking making arrangements. Saturday I'll kick him out of the house. Perhaps he and Rob can find something to do to entertain themselves.

Well, there's enough of the evening left to justify starting up the spa. So... bye :-)


Bev called just after I finished (and uploaded, even - I'm so proud of myself :-) yesterday's entry. I spent so long on the phone that I didn't get to start the spa. Brian went to bed early, in what has lately been his usual grouchy state. I stayed up to watch TV, and tried to clear some of my email backlog. At least there I feel that I accomplished something.

Apologies to all of you who've written lately and haven't seen a reply. Especially to those who've been missing the journal. I'll do my best, I promise :-)

Jill has been promising me for weeks now to upload another story. Unfortunately, she keeps being sidetracked by different projects... but there should be a new Jill story soon. (I hope :-)


Took some time out to buy a gift for Clarice for the shower. She's registered at a maternity / baby store.

I felt so out of place in there. Most of the women were pregnant or had strollers with them, and most were younger than me. I wanted to yell "It's not for me, just a friend!"

But isn't that the reason for getting married? Or a major part of it? Why else go through the expense and headache, just for the opportunity to pay more taxes each April?

Surely it isn't my reason. But if it isn't, what is? I don't know that I've ever thought about that. Not the day Brian asked, nor since.

But that's a lie. I may not have stopped to ask "what am I doing?" but the question nags at me even when I'm not thinking about it. More, lately. Very much more in the last couple of months. Not as a question to be answered, but as a low-level dread, as though I know everything's about to change, and haven't accepted how.

Why should it change? If everything's good between us, what about going through a wedding is going to make it better? And if it isn't, would getting married make it right? Or would it just make the wrongness permanent?

Things haven't been going too well between us. The stress of the extra time at work, of course, that made us both irritable. But we haven't been able to get back out of that mode, snapping at each other. I think it's the pressure of the wedding itself, which seems to loom over us. That I see it that way seems to me a cause for concern.

There, now, writing once again interacts with my life, because I find that in setting this down I unlocked an area that I haven't dealt with. Now that I've admitted that it's there, I guess I can try to work through it.

[A little while later:] A few glasses of wine help, too. Now the impending wedding seems less threatening, but no less problematic. It seems that I'm getting married more for Brian's family than for me. Brian wants it, obviously. I want it. Don't I? But it's Brian's family who are really expecting it.

Someone sings a song, a guy, where have I heard it? Something about catching a woman in a fishing net and grafting her onto the family. Ugh, those metaphors jar, but it really is something like that. I'll think about it tomorrow when my head clears. Or maybe I'll finish this bottle and think about it Sunday. It's a song that gave me the creeps when I heard it, but I wish I could remember it now, because it's seeming more creepy.

I guess the baby thing did affect me at the time, not just thinking about it later, because I went shopping for myself too, which I just don't do much now. I take Brian, or I don't go. Clarice doesn't go anywhere with me, of course. Everything was State Tax-free today, and will be over the weekend, so it was a good time to shop.

I didn't find anything I liked, and now it seems funny, if I did this now, tomorrow I would think I'd only done it being tipsy, but I was sober at the time. I went back to the office, got online, and ordered myself clothes I can't imagine me wearing. Well, yes I can, but not what I'd set out to look for. There's a metallic-sheen cami with a black open-knit sweater. Pants the same sheen as the top. I almost bought a pair of pleather pants, too.

The thing is, it isn't what I buy myself now, but it's the kind of outfit that I would have worn, not long ago. Back when I was single... which brings me back to maudled confusion and I think it's time for another glass. Goodnight.


Maudled? I guess that was supposed to be "confused and maudlin". The song I was thinking of was Peter Gabriel, "The Family and the Fishing Net". And now that I think about it in the cold light of day, the way it came to me last night seems almost as creepy as the song. It isn't grafting, it talks about the wedding ceremony sacrificing the bride to her new family. I found it on the net here.

Silence falls the guillotine
All the doors are shut
Nervous hands grip tight the knife
In the darkness, till the cake is cut
Passed around, in little pieces
The body and the flesh
The family and the fishing-net
And another in the mesh

Jesus. Do I really think that?

Well, that's a thought for later. Brian's gone, and Bev and the girls will be arriving soon.


The shower went well. Clarice is badly stressed now, worrying about the birth itself, hurting when she walks - but she still glows. Friday she finished up her work for the next few months and left halfway through the day.

I didn't know most of the women at the shower, they were co-workers of Clarice and Bev, but they were a fun group. I guess in that business you can't take anything too seriously. You have to stay somewhat childish to relate to the kids.

Clarice and Bev stayed back for a time afterwards. Bev helped me clear up, of course we had to forcibly restrain Clarice from helping too. I found myself telling them how I was feeling about the wedding. Clarice thinks I just have pre-wedding jitters. Bev doesn't think any guy is worth that stress level.

Me, I think I'm somewhere between them. I can't believe that my doubts are just "jitters". That's part of it, sure, but being nervous about something ou want is one thing, not being sure why you want it, that's quite different. But it isn't that Brian is not worth the stress. He's worth it, if the idea of marriage itself is worth it.

I guess I keep coming back to "what do we gain from being married", and I haven't yet found an answer.


Water tastes horrible. This happens every year, but this year seems worse than I recall. The lakes drop, the temperature rises, and I guess the algae and bacteria in the lakes bloom. It seems to happen right around the time the temperature starts to cross 100 degrees regularly, which was a month or so back.

Right now we're running at highs of 102-104, and water that's so bad that you can't make tea with it (coffee masks the flavor a little). At least this year I stocked up on gallon bottles of spring water in time... at this point it's almost impossible to buy water from the grocery.


I've spent part of the morning putting Generations together in my format. Andy's Doghouse is temporarily offline, and the site's 60 days' exclusive use of the story expired well before the site was taken offline, I just never moved it back because I wanted to give them the referrals. Now that they've taken the site down, y'all can't read it, so it's time to fix that.

I'm working on a "cast of characters", too. I've made reference to people here recently who haven't appeared in the journal in a while, so I figure a quick synopsis (and perhaps links to where they've appeared) would be useful. I already extracted a list using a script, now I'll write a few more scripts to update the cross-reference. The two Larrys will be confusing :-)

[Later:] Quick change time again.

Ken called me at lunchtime. The customer in Vancouver has changed direction again, and wants to deploy quickly. They're very happy with their tests, and want a software and hardware person onsite next week. Could I go up there tomorrow, to spend Friday meeting with them to prepare the next week's schedule and work over the weekend with their engineers to help get set up.

So I'm home packing. I'll head for the airport tomorrow morning for a fairly easy travel schedule - I have a two hour layover in Seattle. If I have to change planes, I prefer a long time to do it. And it would be a long flight direct.

I took off work early. At home I found the clothes I'd ordered last Friday, sitting on the doorstep. They're.. ummm... exactly what I ordered :-) And I'm still not sure how I'll explain to Brian why I suddenly reverted to buying sexy outfits without telling him, and without there being an occasion to warrant the purchase.

So I postponed the moment by packing them.

Monday Brian's friend and former co-worker Tim should be joining me. Really, it would have made more sense for Andy, the engineering manager, and one of the software people, to have done this. Andy knows more about hardware than I know about the software, but I guess I'm the only management-level person we can spare, and Andy's working with the designers, heavily into another project.


I'm writing this on the Texas - Seattle flight. Just over four hours, then about two hours at the airport, followed by fifty minutes to Vancouver. I sent email to Keith last night, there's just a chance he could get away for an hour to say hi at the airport. Haven't heard back from him.

Brian was panicking about me leaving town so close to the wedding. Close? It's over a month away, and this is a one week trip. And it isn't that there are a lot of arrangements still to make. Most things are done, with just a couple that I can't do until closer to the time.

Speaking of which, driving to the airport I heard ads for the local public radio station having a call-in show tomorrow about how to save marriage, which is becoming an outdated concept in modern culture. Something like that. Well, I won't be here to listen... perhaps I should call Clarice and ask her to tape it for me :-)

About to board the flight for the last leg of my trip. Keith didn't show :-( I called his office, but the woman I spoke to hadn't seen him, and - politely - told me she wouldn't be allowed to tell me where he was even if she knew. Which isn't surprising.

I used the time (and the earlier flight) to work on my idea for scripting a name cross-reference for the journal. I have a question, and I'd like feedback on the Storyboard... would you find it annoying to have every name appear as a link? I think it would be, but also think it would be a cool feature to be able to enable. The main feature will be a single link to a page with the "cast", but to create that, I'm going to modify the source pages, so that the cross-reference can be generated automatically. If I modify the source pages, then I'll have all the information you need to see something like Jill whenever Jill's name is mentioned, except that the link will go back to her entry in the index.

What do you think? Would highlighting like that be annoying?

At the hotel in Vancouver.

Now I understand why our travel secretary was so apologetic about the flight she sent me on. She said all the other flights she could find were full. I think she felt that a propeller plane needed an apology :-)

I was surprised to find that the international portion of the flight, especially, was a turbo-prop, but this was a comfortable plane. A little awkward to work on my notebook, but relaxing enough with the drone of the engines that I slept.

The hotel is huge. I can see over almost everything in the city, right out to the mountains. There seems to be water on every side. I guess I need to go get some Canadian currency. I got some change for a US twenty when I bought coffee, but other than using some for a tip, I haven't spent any of it.

I tried to call Clarice, but she and Rob must be out for the night. I don't really feel like calling Brian and arguing more about being away, but I guess I should, just to let him know I'm here. Then I'm going to explore.


I shouldn't be writing now. I'm still groggy from time change - my body's somewhere between 2 a.m. Pacific time and 4 a.m. Central - too little sleep, and far too many Molsons. (Maybe later today I'll write about how Canadians know how to party, even before the weekend. Right now I'd be more interested if they knew how to deal with the results, if there were any around to ask.) But this won't wait.

Clarice and Rob were out last night when I called. I must have missed them by less than an hour. About the time I called, they were probably preparing the hospital room for Clarice, or even tying her to the fetal monitoring equipment.

Yes, the baby decided to wait until I was two thousand miles away to make its entrance. Trying to tell me something? :-) It was over two weeks early, though Clarice said last weekend that she felt ready.

Anyway, I don't know much about what goes on at a birth, but I do know about the fetal heart rate monitor. Rob was quite specific about that. Because the baby's heart rate started to drop, and Clarice was wheeled away at high speed to surgery, where the baby was delivered by emergency caesarean. All of the effort Rob put into "coach" training - and for that matter, all of Clarice's delivery training - went for nothing, and he fretted in the waiting room until the nurse came to collect him. When he discovered he was the proud father of a six pound four ounce baby girl.

He called me almost immediately - after calling Brian, who told him where I am. Clarice was still pretty much out, anesthetized and with a morphine IV already in place, and he isn't committing to a name for the baby until she agrees - they've talked about it, both for a boy and a girl, but the final decision is Clarice's.

I'm excited for them. I wish I could be there to see all three of them. Rob promised to scan the Polaroid photo and email it to me, but it isn't the same. I'll send them flowers tomorrow. Today. When I wake up.

But to do that, I need to get back to sleep.

Talked to Clarice at last. Her voice is strange, hoarse and weary, but full of pride.

I'm proud, too. They've decided to name the baby after me. Mara Helen. She has four names, Mara Helen followed by Clarice's last name, then Rob's. Not hyphenated, her last name will be Rob's, which of course is the same as mine... so my full name is part of the baby's. I think that's cool.

My flowers arrived, and Clarice is very pleased with them. She said she was touched by how many people have called or sent something. And that Rob has been so good with the baby, and at looking after her.

Brian visited them this evening. He claims the baby looks like Clarice, but what would a guy know? :-) I'm looking forward to seeing her for myself.

The day at the customer site went well, though I was very tired this morning. The time change worked in my favor, fortunately, so I probably didn't look as wiped out as I felt.

I spent all day in meetings, and a long time on the phone to Tim being sure we were all in agreement, but it seems that we're ready. The engineers here may be doing some preparation work this weekend, but they say they won't need me. I have my cellphone if they change their minds.

I wish I could go back home for the weekend. Especially to see Clarice and the baby.


I had planned to get an early night last night, but the maid service seems to think that if we're in Canada, we must want to experience the arctic, and turns the air conditioner to the point where icicles form on the vents.

Well, almost :-)

Certainly it was uncomfortable when I got to my room, so I took my notebook down to the bar and worked on my "cast" scripts. A couple of guys from Quebec invited me to the hotel dance bar. If I hadn't had the notebook, requiring a long wait for elevators to dump it in my room, and if I'd felt a little less worn out, I'd probably have gone with them.

As it was, I was still in bed fairly early. The room was much more comfortable after an hour with the air conditioner off.

Incidentally... I received email from Rose McCaine a couple of days ago. It seems that she and I often have the same idea at the same time. We have found a couple of times in the past that we're working on the same idea... I publish a story about a particular theme only to find Rose was working on something similar, or vice versa.

It turns out that Rose is also working on a list of characters. Neither she nor I is finished, so neither of us is copying the other, but when she read in the journal that I was working on the same thing, I'm sure she threw her hands in the air, thinking "she did it to me again!". So, for the record, Rose didn't steal my idea. And I didn't steal hers :-)

(Truth be told, I took the idea from a journal I used to read... now offline... which has a character list on the site.)

[Later:] Well, guess what?

Keith just called. And he's coming here!

He'd been out on the East Coast when he got my email, and today he was scheduled to fly back to Seattle. Since he had a refundable ticket, and since he was sorry to have missed me at the airport, he decided to head here instead of home.

The occasion calls for my new outfit. I'm glad I didn't go out last night, because I would probably have worn it then; this is better. I panicked for a moment when I couldn't find my strapless bra. I can't wear a regular bra with this camisole, and I didn't want to spend the day without one. But it was in my case, tangled in a tee shirt.

I wonder how well Keith knows Vancouver? I'm not going to be much use in deciding where to go.


I met Keith in the lobby. We kissed, and though he tried to draw it out, I pulled away and he settled for a hug.

He hasn't changed, and he does know the city. He showed me some of the more historic sections, the waterfront (Vancouver has a lot of waterfront) and we rode on the tram. He bought me dinner at a very expensive seafood restaurant, and showed me some of the more interesting night spots, confirming my impression that Canadians know how to party. As does Keith. He slipped his arm around my waist in one of the packed places in the early evening, and I let him leave it there even when we were in less crowded surroundings. It felt good.

We didn't get back until about one. Keith invited me to his room, to see what was on HBO. I almost turned him down, but we'd had such a great day, and I wasn't tired so much as tipsy from all the bar-hopping. So I said sure, and he led me up there.

"The Sopranos" was just finishing, which was annoying, that's a good show. His room is even higher than mine, and the view over the city lights and bays was incredible, so I stood at the window for a few minutes, shivering. Apparently his maid service is the same as mine. Arctic conditions must be the hotel philosophy.

Keith noticed how I was pulling the sweater around me, and adjusted the heat. "It will warm up soon," he said.

"Not soon enough," I replied.

He stood behind me and put his hands on my waist. "I could warm you up very effectively," he said.

I rolled my eyes, which of course he couldn't see. "Thank you," I said sarcastically. "I'm sure you could. But I need to warm up with my clothes on, if you don't mind. I'm off-limits, remember?"

"You're as off-limits as you choose to be," he said, squeezing my waist. Which was warming me up. Still, I almost left right then, I was uncomfortably cold. But I realized that my room would be equally chilly. On the other hand, I could turn up the heat and wrap up in bed to wait for the room to warm.

Which would work here, too. "I could borrow your bed until I stop shivering," I said.

"Sure," he replied, so I kicked off my shoes and climbed between the sheets, wrapping my sweater tightly around me.

"You can warm me up some more, if you like," I added, and a few moments later, Keith had his arms wrapped around me, my cheek against the stubble of his chin. I pulled the sheet high enough to lie against my face, and tried to relax.

"God, you're still shivering," he said. "Are you sure you're not sick?"

Actually, I wasn't feeling much too cold by this time, but his breath had tickled my ear. "It's just chilly," I said. "Don't you think it's cold?"

"Guess I'm used to it," he replied. "Not being a Texan."

"We southern belles have delicate dispositions, sir," I said, in my best Georgia drawl. "What's so funny about that?" I asked, annoyed, as I felt him shake with laughter.

"I guess... I just don't connect Helen and delicate," he said. "Delicate wouldn't be drinking Labatt's..."

"Molson," I corrected him.

"Molson from the bottle, or wearing a tinfoil top."

"Tinfoil?" I yelped. "Does this look like tinfoil? Since when was tinfoil gold? Does it feel like tinfoil?"

"Don't know," he said. "All I can feel is this stringy jacket." Then he lowered a hand to stroke my butt. "The pants don't feel like tinfoil."

I slapped his back, then sat up. "Stop it. That's not allowed."

Keith grew instantly apologetic. "I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to push you away."

"Enjoying yourself, were you?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Good," I said, "'cause you're warming me up just fine." I took off my sweater and lay back down.

"Speaking of freezing cold, where's Jerry?"

"Jerry?" he asked, then realization dawned. "Oh, Jerry. You really didn't like her, did you?"

"I figured she wanted a good writeup, not a good... whatever she was getting from you."

"Let's just say that after my negative treatment of her company, she found that her dislike of my reporting overcame her attraction to me."

"You make the company look good, you get laid," I said. "I was right."

I felt him shrug. "It happens. I'm prepared to believe she didn't see things so starkly. When she thought I would help her career she found me more desirable. We all play the game to some extent. I got some good information from her."

"Among other things."

"True," he agreed. "But she didn't kiss as well as you do."

"And how would you know that?" I asked in mock-indignation, drawing back.

"You don't remember your birthday kiss last year? I'm hurt!"

"I remember just fine, Keith. I remember well enough that I would have given you an un-birthday kiss when I saw you last, if Miss Icewater hadn't been around."

He stroked my face. "Well, let's compensate for a lost opportunity."

My nose was almost touching his, and even without my sweater I was feeling hot. "I think..." I began. I was going to say "I think this isn't a good time or place." At least, I think that I was. But Keith drew my face to his, and my lips brushed his. Then his covered mine, and smothered what I was trying to say.

I resisted for a second or two, just long enough for me to know that I was responding because I wanted to. My heart was thumping loudly as I opened my mouth to his.

Keith's hands found my waist, holding me tightly as I wrapped my arms about his neck, pressing his face to mine as our mouths worked together, each of us dragging the other into a deeper connection. When he slipped his hands down over my hips, and back inside my top, I stroked his back, and we moved against each other, seeking more closeness.

I felt him hitching up my top, working his palms higher, until he touched my bra strap, then felt his fingers on the catch...

"No," I said, breathlessly, breaking away and pulling his face to my shoulder. "No," I whispered into his ear. "Not that. Just holding. Okay?"

I felt him nod agreement, and his touch lowered back to my waist. His apparent disappointment didn't stop his mouth seeking mine, and soon we were pressing ourselves against each other as our tongues joined in growing excitement.

Keith threaded his leg between mine, pressing his thigh into my groin, and though I recognized what he was doing, I responded by pushing myself against him. The regular motion against my pussy turned my excitement into arousal. As our kiss continued to grow in intensity, I was growing wet, my nipples tingling within the tight confines of my bra.

His hands caressed my waist and back, then down over my butt, kneading and squeezing me, pressing my pussy hard against his thigh. I clamped his leg between mine, rocking my pelvis firmly against him, tendrils of pleasure tingling my clit. I released his mouth to kiss his ear, my breathing heavy as he drew my overstimulated body against his.

Then I pulled away from him, to lie on my back.

At that point, had he become demanding, I would have run. Had he left me completely alone to think about what I was doing, I would have run.

Instead, he stroked my face, then gently turned it to face his, kissing my closed lips, but drawing back before I could respond, kissing my cheek, my nose, my eyes, my neck, my throat... and back to my mouth, where I parted my lips to his.

Softly at first, our tongues occasionally touching, our kiss grew in depth, and I stroked the back of his head and his neck. My excitement was burning into me, becoming moist heat within, inflaming my nipples. When Keith ran his hand along my thigh, I trembled slightly as he circled my crotch before squeezing my other leg.

Our mouths were wide against each other, my arms encircling his head. Keith's fingers slipped under my top, trailing over my waist and belly as his mouth slid higher, sucking my upper lip. Working his tongue against it aroused me more, and I sighed.

Then he broke from my mouth, pushing my face back to the ceiling as he kissed my ear, sucking the lobe. His hand caressed my waist as he ran his lips and tongue over my neck, down my throat, stretching the neckline of my top as he kissed my breastbone, the fabric of my cami gently trapped between his cheek and my breast. He nuzzled slightly as he moved his face down to my exposed belly.

Keith gripped my waist with both hands, kissing my stomach and belly button. Then he held my hips, squeezing as he trailed his lips from my pants all the way up to my bra, pushing my top out of the way with his nose.

I felt him unsnap the fastening of my pants, opening the zipper. The fingertips of both of his hands ran down my sides to the waistband of my panties, then back up inside my top, lifting it clear of his face.

He kissed my breastbone again, the slight stubble of his chin brushing my quivering breasts, then raised his hands further, inviting me to let him pull my top over my head. I lifted my arms for him to do so.

He kissed my mouth again, my response matching his passion, and I unfastened his shirt, stroking the hairs of his chest, then holding him to me, my bra pressing against his nipples. I wrapped my legs around his again, and he obliged me by pressing his thigh into my crotch. Then he slid his hand down my back, inside my pants, running it over my panties to squeeze my butt.

Breaking away from my mouth, his lips again began to roam over my throat, my breastbone, but now they drifted to the exposed flesh of my breasts, kissing and nuzzling. His hand left my butt, stroking up my back. This time when I felt him working on the catch of my bra, I raised no objections, feeling relief in my aching nipples as he peeled away their restraints.

His lips circled my right breast, his tongue finding my nipple, making it swell still further. As he sucked I slipped his shirt down his arms to run my hands over his bare back. I rolled over to let him work on my left breast.

Still sucking, Keith pulled my pants down my thighs, and I kicked them off. Cupping his hand around my pussy, outside my panties, he squeezed, still kneading my breast with his tongue. I held his hand firmly between my thighs.

Then I drew his face from my breast and kissed him hungrily. I unfastened his pants, and after he slipped them off, I wrapped my legs around his hairy thigh and held him to me, the huge bulge in his underwear pressing into my stomach.

His hands slipped inside my panties, squeezing and kneading my butt. I shuddered as his fingers stroked against my pussy. Then he drew back, sliding his hand up my side and over my left breast. A moment later his left hand cupped my right breast, and he squeezed hard, pinching my nipples and kneading the flesh.

I gasped as he moved his leg sharply against me, pressing against my pussy in a slow rhythm, and I shook myself against him, tingling excitement flowing from the contact.

Pushing back slightly, I reached down to remove my panties, kicking them off without removing my mouth from his. Then I took his right hand from my left breast, and pressed it down between my legs. As his fingers penetrated, I released his lips, pulled his head to my shoulder as I kissed his earlobe, and wrapped my arms tightly around his back, trapping his left hand against my right breast and his right hand between my thighs.

Moaning, I rocked my pelvis against his palm, and as his fingers squeezed my clit the thrill of impending climax filled my being. His tongue circled my ear, and I shivered as I held him ever closer, my arousal stretching, stretching... and snapping as I came, groaning with pleasure.

Squeezing his hand tightly between my thighs, I drew back and lifted my breasts to his lips. His sucking intensified and prolonged my pleasure.

Running my fingers along the hard shape of his underwear, I rubbed my finger over the sticky wet spot, feeling his shaft twitch. Then I ran my hands over his stomach and down inside his underwear, brushing against his cock.

Taking it in my hand, I shook hard, feeling his shaft tense as Keith gasped. Then I released it.

"I want you," I whispered into his ear. "Do you have...?"

I felt him nod, my breast bouncing with the movement of his mouth. He rolled away, climbed off the bed, and staggered over to his suitcase. The distending of his underwear looked painful.

"Let me help you with that," I said as he returned, and his cock sprang to life as I pulled his underwear away. Then I drew him onto the bed, his hands all over me as mine were over him.

Opening the package he had retrieved, I held the condom at the ready while I stroked his shaft. Lowering my head, I kissed the tip of his cock, then slipped it inside my mouth and rubbed hard with my tongue. Keith's whole body tensed, and he moaned.

Then I unrolled the condom onto him, and straddled his thighs.

As I lowered myself to my elbows, I lifted my hips, crouching above Keith. He slipped his hand between my legs and stroked my clit. Then I slowly lowered myself onto his cock, letting myself focus on the feeling of its sliding deep, deep within. Still on my elbows, my breasts brushing his chest, I pushed my groin against his.

Keith toyed with my breasts, then lifted his face to them as we moved slowly against each other. Each time he sucked, I tightened around his shaft, and my stimulation grew.

I sensed his breathing growing heavy. As he started to move faster, I lay down along him, and pressed my lips to his. We bounced together, his arousal obviously growing with mine. He gasped, and I felt him come deep within me. Without prompting, he lowered his mouth to my left breast, and as he sucked hard, I soared, joining him in shared climax.

After he was through, he squeezed my ass, still rocking against me as I floated. "Can you come again?" he whispered.

"Better believe it," I said, nibbling his ear, and when I started to moan he squeezed and sucked my breasts to help me reach my goal. Goals, I should say. A whole hockey final of goals.

It had been so long since I had made love with a condom that I was reluctant to let him go, and insisting on one final orgasm was almost a disaster, but Keith managed to withdraw with the condom intact.

Having gone into such detail in our first sexual encounter, I almost hate to break off. I'd like to give details of the whole night, while it's still fresh in my memory, if only to help me relive the experience. But I'd take the rest of the day, and I need to sleep. Besides, it would get repetitive.

I think we dozed for an hour or so, but we were awake again in time to make love once more before the hotel buffet opened for breakfast. Now I'm back in my room. We separated to get some rest. At 1 o'clock we're meeting for lunch, then planning to visit Stanley Park. I've spent so much time writing that I only have couple of hours to sleep if I leave time for a shower, and there's so much I still want to say.

I know there will be many who read this and feel that I've let them down. I actually wondered at breakfast whether I should even write this up. But, hell, if I'm going to gloss over something like this, why bother at all? So I decided to go the other direction, and not skimp on detail. I guess all I can say is, if you're offended, go back to my first entry, and recall that I advised you to consider this journal as fiction. If you want to believe this didn't happen, please do.

Of course, I don't have the freedom to pretend that part of my life didn't happen, but, you know what? I don't want to. This is me. In a way, it feels like this is more me than anything else I've done in months.

Me, a respectable manager and spouse-to-be? Who am I trying to kid?

Not that I don't love Brian, and damn, I don't know what the consequences are going to be, but I know I just complicated the hell out of our situation. But what matters, in the long term? That I avoid problems, or that I'm true to myself? And yes, I know that my responsibility goes beyond just myself. But if I pretend to be something I'm not, sooner or later Brian will suffer, too.

I haven't allowed myself to be seduced in... God, a long time. Well, I tell you, I found Keith's attention to me before we went to his room exciting, but I had no intention of sleeping with him. I was a willing participant in my seduction, but seduction it was. I went along with Keith's desire because it was exciting. At first, being so close to intimacy but "knowing" that I wouldn't go all the way. Later, because I knew I would.

And I will again. My only disappointment right now is that I won't need to be seduced. I know I have some serious soul-searching ahead, but tonight I don't plan to hold back.


Keith called just before one. "I can get a flight to San José at eight tonight or one at six-thirty in the morning. Which should I take?"

"You kidding?" I asked. "Tomorrow's."

"Good, I hoped you'd say that," he said. "Then I won't check out yet. I needed to commit in the next few minutes."

I disagreed. "Check out anyway. Bring your bags down here."

"'Kay," he said. "I like that plan."

He arrived a few minutes later, bags in hand, then left to check out. I took a quick shower in his absence, and greeted him wrapped in a towel."

"I take it you're not ready to go eat, yet," he commented when he saw me.

I started unfastening his shirt in answer...

When we were through, he fondled my breasts casually as I lay against his side.

"I have a question for you," I said. "How would you feel if you were a month away from marrying someone who had promised to be faithful to you, and she told you she'd slept with a friend?"

"This is about you and Brian," he said, and I nodded. "Am I supposed to feel guilty?"

"Damn it," I complained, "stop being such a... a guy! This isn't about you. I wouldn't have slept with you if I didn't want to, didn't what we just did make that clear? No, I'm gonna have to deal with this, and I want to know, how will it affect Brian? How would it affect you?"

"Dunno," he said. "I think... I think I'd feel like shit. Why would she fool around on me? Am I not enough for her?"

"So it's okay to seduce a woman about to marry someone else, but not okay for anyone else to sleep with a woman about to marry you."

"Hey," he objected, "I thought this wasn't about me."

"No," I agreed, "I'm sorry, you're right. But is it okay, in your book?"

He thought for a time. "Okay. I'm uninvolved, so yes, from my point of view it's okay, if it's okay with you. I can't know what your relationship is with your boyfriend, so I can't be responsible for it. Even if I did know, I wouldn't be responsible, if you were willing."

I nodded. I was that. "So, turning it around. I'm going to marry you in a month. I meet a guy I'm really attracted to, and I go to bed with him. He's not involved, so it's between you and me. Why should I not have been willing?"

"You promised you'd be faithful."

"There is that. But I gave you permission to see other women."

"You did?" he asked. "Hmmm... but you never specifically told me you'd see other men?"

I shook my head. "No, I didn't."

"Even if you hadn't promised me you would be faithful, if we're getting married, I think I can assume that. So yes, I think I'd have a right to feel hurt."

"And if monogamy isn't an option for me? If I've been fooling myself for the last year, isn't he going to be hurt more if I'm not true to myself? I can't be me, and be a one-man woman. Not now. Maybe not ever."

"If that's the case, Helen," he said quietly, "why the hell are you getting married?"

I rubbed my forehead. "That, Regis, is the million-dollar question."

"So, am I an experiment?" Keith asked, sardonically. "You didn't want me, you wanted an excuse to abandon monogamy?"

I laughed. "Oh, no, Keith. Quite the opposite. It was only my new-found monogamous relationship which kept me out of your bed last year."

"Last year... disappointment would have been an understatement. I wanted you."

"I know, Keith. That birthday kiss tested me, too."

His hand cupped my breast. "I still do. Want you. More than ever."

"Well, then," I said, stroking his hardening cock, "since you ask so nicely, I guess you can have me." And I drew his face to mine.

We walked around part of Stanley Park, which is enormous, and really lovely. The whole walk is ten miles (or is that ten kilometers? Yeah, I think it's six miles), so we didn't do the whole thing, but I think I'd like to before the end of the week. The view across the bay is incredible; North Vancouver is a lot like the shots of New York from the harbor. To be standing in open parkland, looking across at the mass of buildings, is a strange feeling.

It was late afternoon when we left, but sunset isn't until late at night this far north. I called Brian, succeeding (I think) in keeping my doubts out of my voice, then we went to eat.

We were back at the hotel around nine, stopped for an early nightcap at the bar, then headed for bed, where we took things as slowly as we could. For a time.

"I wish I didn't have to go to San José," he said as we lay together.

"Don't start with that crap," I objected. "I like you, Keith. I don't want to feel I'm obligated to you, or vice versa. I'm not part of your life."

"I wasn't thinking you were. I was thinking about how much tomorrow night will be a letdown."

"Oh, you told me you weren't bedding Jerry any more."

It took him a moment to figure out what I was saying, then he laughed so hard the bed shook.

We did manage a few hours' sleep before Keith had to leave at five a.m. In a way, I wish I was going with him... not so much because of Keith, but because the LinuxWorld Expo he's attending was really worthwhile last year, and this year should be even better. But last year I had a scheduling excuse, this year a scheduling conflict.

Spent the morning working with the customer's engineers preparing the testbed. I've been surprising myself lately with just how well I understand our system. Less than a year into this job, and without a great background in the engineering, behind either the hardware or software, I think I can do as good a job as any of our software people could. Not Tim; for that matter, not Andy or Brian, but what they know is truly only for the initiated.

Tim arrived at about one. He'd gotten a direct flight, no turboprop for him. Unfortunately, we didn't know exactly when he was due to arrive, and we'd already eaten lunch. All Tim had had was an airline breakfast. Added to which, one o'clock is three Central, so he was about three hours overdue for lunch already, with no prospect of anything but candy until evening.

So as soon as we were through, Tim and I ate dinner, and I came up to my room early, where I wrote this entry and tried to get my thoughts in order.