The Fence

(by, 12 September 2002)

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The Fence

    Elaine looked over the fence at Lynne and Chessie. To her dismay, Lynne 
reached out and picked her pack of cigarettes up off the table next to her 
deck chair. She watched as Lynne cracked back the top of the box and slowly 
pulled a single cigarette from the pack, long and white, straight, perfectly 
cylindrical. The girl held the cigarette between the first and second fingers 
of her left hand as she closed the box again, carefully folding the foil back 
into place first.
    She picked the lighter up with her right hand as her left brought the 
cigarette to her mouth. Her moist full lips parted but her fingers never left 
the top of the filter. Elaine had never seen a cigarette dangling from 
Lynne's mouth-  then again, the girl never smoked when she was around and it 
was only over the fence or out the window that she did catch her at it. The 
lighter was brought to the tip. The flame flared and the cigarette caught. 
Lynne inhaled deeply and moved the cigarette away from her mouth languidly. 
She pursed her lips, utterly relaxed, and expelled a long stream of white 
    Her sister watched her and then went back to the pages of her novel. 
Elaine snorted derisively.
    'What is it ?' Vance asked, knowing that the sound was a mark of 
disapproval and that he was supposed to respond to it, although he didn't 
want to. As he asked he looked up from the article he was scanning and tried 
to brighten her mood with a smile. When she wasn't aggravated, she was 
wonderful, in so many ways. Unfortunately, that was a big when.
    'I just don't think it's right that Lynne smokes in front of Chessie 
like that.'
    Vance stood up, peered briefly over the fence between their yards. It was 
an odd fence- when Harry had put it in he'd been insistent on a full twenty 
centimeters between each board, and they were oddly angled. 'I'm only doing 
this because of the insurance, Vance,' he'd said, his Midwest accent poking 
through in the dips and rises of his annunciation. 'Neighbours should be able 
t' see each other.'
    But Vance was not thinking about the fence. He was not thinking about the 
dead, either. He was watching the way Lynne made love to the cigarette. She 
brought her hand to her mouth in most languid form imaginable. The cigarette 
was long and perfect- she had rounded off the tip but it was otherwise at 
nearly its full 100mm length.
    Lynne inhaled, her eyes closed so that there would be no distractions, 
just the heady joy of the smoke. Her inhale complete, she opened her eyes, 
turned her head towards him, and waved her hand and the cigarette as she 
    He smiled wanly, waved back, and then before he got himself in trouble, 
looked away.
    It was too bad. He really liked Lynne and Elaine was going to be a pain 
in the ass about this. 
    'I think that it's terrible she smokes in front of Chessie. Martha 
smoked in front of the girls all the time and that's why Lynne smokes. If 
someone doesn't do something, the same thing will happen to Chessie.'
    Someone was, of course, her, Vance knew. They were the girls' only 
neighbours at the end of the cul-de-sac. All summer Elaine had been traipsing 
across the yard with casseroles and cakes and other things- always grumbling 
about the fact the girls refused to eat meat- 'like normal people', she 
would say, forgetting that he himself refused to eat red meat. Elaine's heart 
was big, but so was whatever organ controlled her judgemental nature. It was 
not her most attractive quality- in fact, it was not an attractive quality at 
    'I think,' Vance said, his chivalry sufficiently well developed to come 
to the defence of the young woman, 'that first of all, Lynne is eighteen and 
she has the legal right to smoke in her own home, or yard, or whatever. 
Second, after what those girls have been through, if the worst that happens 
is that Lynne smokes in front of Chessie, well, I don't-'
    '- think that's so bad.' Chessie couldn't hear any of it. She had the 
headphones from her iPod tightly jammed into her ears, and Lynne was glad for 
more than one reason.
    She hated it when people made themselves difficult to like. She honestly 
did like Elaine, but there were times when the woman acted 47, not 27. It was 
hard to be critical of someone who cooked your dinner at least once a week 
through an entire summer, but then again-
    It wasn't that Elaine was wrong, in a sense. Chessie had started smoking- 
on the sly, thinking somehow her older sister didn't know what she was doing. 
And Lynne was not exactly thrilled with that- but Chessie was a smart girl, 
just as Lynne had been a smart girl when she had started smoking two years 
ago. Or started smoking, anyway-

    'That's just ridiculous, Vance, and you know it.'
    Elaine would going away later today and suddenly Vance found himself 
looking forward to her departure, which made him feel guilty. 
    'She has to be a role model for her sister and not just a self-indulgent 
    Vance shook his head. In his mind's eye he saw Lynne bringing that long 
cigarette to her mouth. Her lips, full and pink, never coated in lipstick, 
wrapped themselves around the filter. She drew on the cigarette and mischief 
twinkled in her eyes-
    'You're objectifying her', he thought to himself. 'God, I am so 
married,' he added internally.
    'You know I'm right,' Elaine said, taking his silence as some sort of per
verse disagreement.
    'No, you're wrong,' Vance said, looking her close in the eyes. He could 
see the surprise- no, make that the shock- in her eyes. He never did that. 
Oh, sometimes he refused to voice agreement with her- which was perhaps why 
she'd taken his silence the way she had. But now, now was a time to refute 
her absentmindedly judgmental stupidity.
    'What ?' she said, he voice pitch rising across the word like some 
sitcom diva. God, she was beautiful when she was angry. Unfortunately, she 
had never once, as far as he knew anyway, fucked angry. 
    'I said you're wrong. I really can't imagine how you can sit there and 
criticise that young woman. Christ. She doesn't have the luxury of two 
parents like you do, and it's just plain wrong to ask her to take the place 
of them with her sister.'
    'Play the sympathy card, Vance. That's right. Just because-'
    Lynne trimmed the ash from her cigarette, pulled on it calmly, letting 
the smoke fill her lungs. She could hear him lean closer to his wife and 
whisper tightly 'Lower your voice.' There was something about that fence. It 
collected and magnified the sound coming through it. Dad used to say that you 
could hear a bee fart through that fence. 
    She missed her parents, more than anyone who hadn't lost their parents in 
their late teens could know. And up to now, Elaine had never pissed her off. 
Of course, Lynne had the good sense not to, say, blow smoke in her face when 
she was bringing over an hot-cooked meal. This little discussion was probably 
going to be the end of that.
    'You know, I see Chrissie getting on that school bus every morning and 
Lynne decided to go ahead with her freshmen year of college. They keep the 
lawn mowed, the pool clean, they don't throw loud parties. They're good 
neighbours. And in case you've forgotten, you might be old enough to be her 
older sister but you're nowhere near old enough to be her mother. Neighbours 
is what we are and all we are- and if it wasn't for that car accident you 
would never think of parenting.'
    There was a certain fire in his voice- a certain anger- that she liked. 
He was attractive in a sort of 'I don't care that much because I'm married' 
way that was cute on him. His blonde hair had been tousled when he looked 
over the fence and there was a day and an half of stubble on his face that 
would make his jaw feel more real. He had a smell that could only be made 
better by mingling him in some sweet smoke.
    He would sweat while they were having sex-
    'So what is it, Vance ?'
    The sound in the woman's voice was naked and ugly. It reminded Lynne of 
some of her relatives in Iowa. On the surface, nice folks. They'd be the 
first to bring over soup when you were sick or a pie on your birthday. They'd 
smile at you and wave from their porch on warm summer days when the sun was 
cresting on the horizon. But in the cold of winter, sitting around the fire, 
they had a second personality, bitter, judgmental, unforgiving.
    'What do you mean ?' he asked, and Lynne could hear resignation in his 
voice. He knew what she meant and he was determined that she would have to 
say it to his face, make an accusation or accusations and she wanted to hear 
the reaction in his voice.
    'I mean, is it that you feel some bond with her because of those stupid 
cigars that you like to smoke when you're playing poker over at Mike's 
house, is it because she's young and pretty, or do you just like to watch 
women smoke ?'
    'Unlike you,' Vance replied, his voice uneven and betraying something 
that she had seen in his eyes more than once, 'I base my opinion- and that's 
all either of us have on this subject- on the facts, and not some 
pre-determined prejudice. I think Lynne is doing just fine and I don't see 
why she shouldn't smoke if she wants to. Maybe you ought to try it during on 
your trip to Las Vegas with your sister. It's very relaxing.'
    Lynne swore that she could hear Elaine toss her head back. 'I don't need 
to pump poison into my lungs and blood to relax. God, I'll be glad as hell 
when Vicki comes to pick me up.'
    That was Lynne's cue.  She got up, trimmed the cigarette on the way by 
the ashtray, and tapped Chesie on the head.
    Her younger sister obediently removed her headphones and the sound of 
Nickleback became instantly audible..
    'What up, El ?' 
    'How would you like to do a sleepover at Kellie's ?'
    Chessie's eyes opened up like saucers and Lynne thought she knew why. She 
was encouraging her sister to go somewhere she would probably spend the rest 
of the day and night smoking, and she still wasn't sure how she felt about 
that, but right now that didn't matter. She had seen a chain of events 
failing into place the way history played out in textbooks, and none of it 
worked if Chessie was around. Lynne had been hesitant to let her sister out 
much, partly because she remembered exactly what it was like to be fifteen, 
and partly-
    When you had only one member of your family left, you kept them close.
    'You do have a standing invitation, don't you ?'
    Chessie nodded, speechless.
    'Do I have to go and get the phone for you ?'
    'No,' Chessie said, indicating by her tone that the question was stupid. 
She got up and took off like a shot. 'Find out if Kellie or her sister can 
come pick you up.'
    Chrissie waved without turning around.
    Lynne took a long draw on her cigarette and thought about the 

    Vance watched Elaine slide into the passenger seat of the Saab 
convertible. He had kissed her goodbye, although he was still angry with her. 
She smiled and waved, looking as though nothing was wrong between them.
    And nothing was. Oh, she had her moments where she was self-absorbed, or 
egotistically maternal, or annoyingly all knowing. But he did love her, 
    He watched the easy way that Jill pulled the car back out of the 
driveway. She smiled winningly at Vance and not for the first time, he 
wondered if he hadn't gone after the wrong sister. Oh, it was just the car. 
Elaine drove a Jetta, as brand new as the Saab, but not nearly so sexy. The 
plunging neckline of Vicki's top and postage stamp style of her short shorts 
were also a bit more exciting than anything Elaine had packed away in her 
    Of course, women like that didn't look twice at him.
    Or he got married and women didn't look at him, or-
    He looked across the yard and there was a woman looking right at him. 
Looking and smiling.
    Practically right behind his sister-in-law's car, a car had pulled out of 
the McMahon driveway. As it went by, Chessie leaned out the window and waved 
at him. He waved back, noticing how the wind had picked up as he shook his 
hand back and forth. Rain was coming later, hours from now, one of those 
August storms that brewed all day and erupted in the late hours of the night 
with thunderous intensity. Hopefully, Elaine would be long on the ground in 
Vegas by then. The Weather Channel, which she had studied intently this 
morning just for surety, had told her as much.
    He sighed, thought about the week ahead that he would have to himself, 
and began to turn and head back into the house. He was thinking of taking one 
of those cigars that he kept for the poker games and firing it up right in 
the house, just for a little sweet revenge. Of course, it would make more 
sense to do that in a week, when Lynne had completely and conveniently 
forgotten that he had disagreed with her and would wonder why he had done 
something so brainless.
    There was no winning-
    He looked up because he heard the sound of bare feet on grass.
    Lynne was walking towards him. She was smiling that sweet smile that only 
eighteen year olds wore- old enough to be an adult and know adult pleasures, 
young enough to be all blonde hair and blue eyes and round, firm breasts 
under a white top without the baggage of adulthood weighing her down.
    'Hi Vance,' she opened, a few strides away from him.
    'What up ?' Vance said.
    'Um, this is a little uncomfortable, but, well-'
    She paused, tossed her long wavy hair behind her shoulder, and decided to 
light a cigarette before continuing. She did it as though it was not 
intentional, as though she knew that the wind wouldn't make him a part of the 
experience. She felt her nipples harden from the wind, and enjoyed the way 
their sensitivity interacted with fabric and the air.
    Vance watched her pull the single cigarette from the box of Marlboro 
Lights 100s. Although it was certainly physically impossible, she managed to 
work the pack into the front pocket of her short shorts (so like Vicki's) 
without so much as denting a corner. She then pulled the lighter out of the 
other pocket and tried to use it to draw a light. Of course, that was im
possible in the wind, which seemed to pick up by the moment.
    Although she had stopped in the middle of something clearly important, 
she wasn't rushing or hurrying to get a light. She was just pausing to light 
up before continuing. 
    Vance did not let her struggle long. After three attempts without 
success, he took the lighter from her hand gently. When they touched, their 
eyes met and Vance felt something move inside his underwear. It was that same 
feeling he'd gotten that first second when he saw Elaine was mad, but which 
had faded the second she opened her mouth and spoke.
    She said nothing. He cupped one hand around the cigarette, used the other 
to create the flame. It met the end of the cigarette, which flared to life. 
She drew on it deeply, arched her neck back and exhaled, the smoke exiting 
her pert mouth. He watched it and that small stirring moved up into he 
stomach, where it suddenly felt as though he had swallowed a lead apple.
    He knew that feeling well. It was his sex drive struggling against his 
common sense. His sex drive always lost. He knew when he couldn't have 
something but looking at her exhale that smoke, so carefree, so clearly in 
control of herself, he knew that he wanted her.
    Of course, even thinking about it or having feelings in the pit of his 
stomach was absurd.
    'I just wanted to thank you for sticking up for me earlier.'
    'Oh, you heard all that ?' Vance asked, as she inhaled deeply again.
    'All of it,' she said, the smoke she exhaled this time floating away 
from him in the stiff breeze. 
    'Jesus, I'm sorry. Elaine can be-'
    'You don't have to apologise for your wife. I'm not one of those people 
who think that spouses are responsible for one another.'
    Lynne trimmed, inhaled, held the smoke and exhaled. He watched somewhat 
    'She was way out of line. She- I- we- have no idea-'
    Lynne reached out, took his hand, squeezed it tightly.
    'I don't want to talk about that. I've talked about it enough, it's not 
something that can be changed or forgotten or anything else. I want to ask 
you something.'
    He noticed she wasn't letting go of his hand and he wasn't trying to get 
it back.
    'Go ahead ?'
    'Do you have any big plans for the rest of the day ?'
    'I was planning to sit around in my underwear drinking beer, smoking 
cigars, and watching porn.'
    'I'll give you two better options- you can go off and do that and I can 
throw together a nice dinner, or you can lose the underwear and the porn and 
come over to my house right now.'
    His hand was still in hers.
    'You're serious, aren't you ?'
    Lynne drew on the cigarette. The smoke calmed her just as she was about 
to become nervous for the first moment.
    'Please don't be insulted. I know you're married, I know I'm probably 
just a kid,' she said, smoke puffing out of her mouth with each word.
    Most of those things were true, and Vance had never once seriously 
considered cheating on his wife, which is why he was surprised when he bent 
down and put his mouth over hers to kiss her.

    She was incredibly tight. Not virgin tight, perhaps- he wasn't asking and 
he'd never actually had one-
    Tight enough that she was guiding him in with her hands.
    She was so taunt that the effort of just getting himself inside brought 
him to the very edge of orgasm. He had to fight to hold off the orgasm.
    He found himself thinking of his wife.
    It worked, but only for a moment.
    Then he came, and she certainly hadn't come to orgasm yet. He was 
embarrassed, red-faced and disappointed in himself.
    She wrapped her arms around him. His back was bathed in the sweat that 
she had known would be there. She leaned up, her mouth stroking his ear. 
'It's okay. It's my turn, that's all. While you recover- you know what to 
do, right ? There's something I've always wanted to try, but never- well, 
it's not the same when you're masturbating. At least I don't think it is. I 
want to find out, though.'
    He started to move, to slide down, reacting the way he would if it had 
been Elaine talking, but Lynne held him back.
    'Not yet, Enjoy yourself first. When you're ready- no pressure.'
    An half-moment later he did slide down, and as he did, she reached over 
to the table and found her pack of cigarettes. She lit one as he slid his 
finger inside of her. He worked with both his finger and his tongue- in turn 
getting hard again, but he would save that for when he was done. He managed 
to steal a look up the white sweaty length of her body just as she planted 
the cigarette between her lips and drew deeply on it. Curling up his finger 
and tweaking something that made her squirm, she looked down at him and their 
eyes met and then there was just smoke washing down her front, over her 
breasts, her face disappearing behind it. 
    She began to writhe, then moan, and then she became as taut as steel, 
holding in until she had her orgasm. Then she reached down with one hand, 
guided him back until they were face to face, and kissed him hard. Smoke 
mingled in their mouths until the kiss was broken and no mouth had ever 
tasted so wonderful to Vance.
    He broke the kiss, looked at her mischievous eyes, and smiled. He stroked 
hair back off her forehead as she turned her head and drew on the cigarette 
    'I do not want you to take this the wrong way, but I have just had the 
best sex of my life with the most gorgeous woman I will ever have sex with.'
    'I'm sorry,' Lynne said after a nose exhale. 'I hope the fact that I 
enticed you to cheat on your wife-'
    'If that was really a concern, I would not be here. I wouldn't do it to 
you, or to her. The second you touched my hand it was over. You have no idea 
what it's like living next to you.'
    She reached down, stroked him.
    'I could say the same about you.'
    She worked the cigarette with one hand and him with the other until he 
came for the second time.
    It was not the last.

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