Ken and Meghan are a happily married couple going about their lives. And then along came Josephine, an enigmatic, strangely alluring woman who is not quite what she seems to be. This is an erotic story of the dynamics of marriage and relationships.
It is also, like Josephine, more than meets the eye. I will leave out the coding to avoid giving the plot turns away. Something new for me, taken up in response to a challenge by my wife, who more than passingly resembles Meghan.
It was an early Monday afternoon in mid-March and the Fitness Forever gym in Roseville, California was only lightly populated. There were a few muscle-bound males pumping iron on the machines or the free weights, a few people of varying ages utilizing the treadmills or the stationary bicycles. Behind the front counter, two clerks sat bored—one reading a magazine, the other talking on her cell phone to someone. The air was thick, humid, and smelled strongly of the disinfectant that was sprayed on the machines. From the ceiling of the main workout area, dozens of televisions played silently, some tuned to news programs, some tuned to sport channels, some tuned to the Fitness Forever corporate programming, which consisted mostly of music videos. From the overhead speakers the music that went with the videos blared.
In one corner of the workout area, thirty-eight year old Ken Patterson was utilizing a stair-climbing machine. He was wearing a pair of blue sweat pants and a gray cotton shirt. The shirt showed large sweat stains on the chest and back. His brown hair, cut militarily short and just starting to show the first speckles of gray around the temples, was damp with perspiration as well. His face was flushed red, his brown eyes staring fixated on the countdown timer of the machine. He had two minutes and twelve seconds to go. The machine was set for seventy-two steps per minute and had started its cycle at twenty minutes. He had climbed the equivalent of forty-three floors now and was going forward on sheer will power at this point. His breath heaved in and out of his lungs and his hands gripped the rails firmly. The pulse readout on the display told him his heart was beating one hundred and sixty-three times a minute.
On the stair climber to his immediate left, his wife, Meghan was in about the same shape. She had on a pair of black spandex shorts and a long white t-shirt transparent enough to show the black sports bra beneath it. Her shirt was damp and sweaty. Her long auburn hair was tied back in a ponytail that flipped up and down with each step she took. Since she was four years younger than Ken, her heart was fairing a little better. It was only kicking along at one hundred and fifty-two beats a minute.
“Two more minutes,” Ken panted at her encouragingly.
“Yeah,” she grunted back, without the energy to say further.
They climbed on, both of them watching the time display. Each second seemed to take a minute or more, each step caused a deep burning in their thighs and calves, each breath brought sharp, stabbing pains to their sides. And then finally, it was over. The countdown timer reached zero. The machines let out a serious of warning beeps to let them know they were about to stop and then came to a halt. Both of them just stood there for a few moments, trying to catch their breath.
“God,” said Meghan. “That was brutal.”
“Yeah,” Ken agreed, picking up his towel and wiping his forehead. “Maybe we shouldn’t have upped the workout quite that much.” Today was the first day of a plan to increase both the time and intensity of their normal workout. Instead of running for a mile and a half on the treadmill at a twelve minute mile and then spending twelve minutes on the stair climber at sixty steps a minute, they’d gone two miles at a ten minute mile pace and twenty minutes at seventy-two steps.
“I don’t know,” Meghan said, stretching her left leg to keep it from cramping up on her. “Anything that hurts that bad has to be good for you, doesn’t it?”
“As long as you can walk the next day,” he said.
“Walking is overrated,” she said. “Come on. Let’s go cool down.”
“Right,” he said.
They wiped down their machines with paper towels sprayed with disinfectant and then made their way over to the treadmills again. They climbed aboard adjacent machines and set them for a serene two point five miles per hour. This was their favorite part of the workout — the cool down, when they let their hearts, lungs, and muscles ease back into a normal workload.
Despite the fact that they came to the gym at least twice a week and sometimes as many as four times, both of them hated the place with a passion. They did not come here for the endorphin high or to train for marathons or to socialize with other gym rats. They both hated every second of every workout and dreaded their trips to the gym the way other people dreaded cleaning the bathroom or a trip to the dentist. The reason they came and pushed themselves to the brink was to keep their aging bodies in something like shape and to stave off health problems that both were genetically prone to.
Meghan had the obesity gene resting just beneath the surface. Her mother, her father, one of her brothers and both of her sisters were all pushing three hundred pounds. Meghan had discovered early in her life that if she didn’t exercise vigorously and regularly, her weight would quickly get out of control even if she ate like a bird. As she got older, this propensity seemed to get worse. If she let up on the gym for even four weeks she would pack on no less than ten pounds and her butt would swell up like someone had pulled the pin on a life raft. The aesthetics of the weight gain was only a minor factor, however. Along with the extra pounds, the members of her immediate family tended to develop heart problems to go along with them. Her father had already suffered two heart attacks and had undergone bypass surgery once. Her mother suffered from coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure. Both sisters and the brother had been told that if they didn’t get their cholesterol levels down they wouldn’t make it another ten years.
For Ken it was diabetes and hypertension. Both his father and his mother had developed diabetes before their fortieth birthdays and both were now entirely dependent on insulin injections to keep them alive. Ken had already been told by his doctor that he was “pre-diabetic” and that if he didn’t keep himself in shape he would likely have to start taking oral diabetes medicines within a year or so just to keep his blood sugar under control. This was something that Ken could not allow. It was more than just a matter of health but of livelihood as well. Ken was a commercial pilot who flew cargo aircraft for a living. A diagnosis of diabetes requiring medication to control it would automatically disqualify him from holding the Class 2 medical certificate he needed to keep his job.
“So what’s for dinner today?” Meghan asked when she’d regained enough breath for a normal conversation. It was Ken’s day to cook the meal they referred to as dinner in their household. Meghan, a copy editor for the Sacramento Register newspaper, had to be to work by 3:00 PM so dinner would be served at 2:00 PM.
“Well, I was thinking some sort of fish,” Ken said as if pondering it.
Meghan shook her head and rolled her eyes a little. “No kidding?” she said. Part of their fight against health problems and obesity involved carefully regulating their diet. As such, they ate fish of one kind or another at least five days of every week. It had become somewhat of a friendly challenge between them to find some way of making the fish days (as they called them) interesting, or at least not overly repetitive.
“I actually have something new for you today,” he told her. “A little something of my own creation.”
“Uh oh,” she said warily. “That last time you freelanced you came up with those ground swordfish burgers. Not one of your finest hours.”
“Oh come on,” he said. “They weren’t that bad. They were just a little dry. If I had put a little more garlic butter in the mixture they would have been perfect.”
“Need I remind you that Hannah wouldn’t eat it either?” she asked. Hannah was their four-year-old Springer Spaniel. She had indeed refused to eat any of the leftover swordfish burgers.
“She’s just a finicky eater.”
“I’ve never seen a dog spit out meat before,” Meghan said.
“Oh, shut your ass,” Ken growled, snapping at her spandex covered butt with his sweaty workout towel.
She giggled a little, knowing she’d won the little marital sparring match. “Seriously though, what are you making? What could you possibly do with fish that we haven’t already done?”
“You’ll just have to wait and see,” he told her.
“Hmmph,” she grunted, knowing she would get no more out of him. “What a rip.”
“And no peeking while I’m in the kitchen either,” he said.
They walked on, their feet slapping on the treadmill canvas, the sweat gradually starting to dry on their skin, their heart rates gradually dropping into the 110s. When the timers on the machines reached five minutes, they shut them off and stepped down, gathering their towels and water bottles and cell phones and then heading for the door, glad that another trip to the torture chamber was behind them.
There was an icy late winter wind blowing outside and it chilled them quite nicely as they dashed across the parking lot. Ken used the remote on his keychain to unlock the doors of his BMW 535i. He did not bother opening Meghan’s door for her. They had been married for eight years now and it was understood between them that when they were sweaty and on the verge of being frozen in place by the winds of March it was every person for themselves when it came to automobile entry procedure.
Ken started the engine and began the ten-minute drive home.
“Did you see the weather report for the mid-west?” Meghan asked as they waited at a red light.
“Yeah,” he said. “I saw it.” Several of the televisions in the gym had been tuned to headline news channels, which showed national weather forecasts as part of their fifteen-minute repetitive updates. He tended to keep an eye on such things on nights he was scheduled to fly. So did Meghan.
“There’s going to be thunderstorms in eastern Nebraska,” she said. “Maybe even tornados.”
Eastern Nebraska — specifically Eppley Airfield in Omaha — was his destination tonight (and pretty much every night that he flew). Omaha was right in the heart of Tornado Alley and March was right in the heart of tornado season. Both Meghan and Ken had reason to fear unsettled weather in association with flying.
“It’ll be okay,” Ken reassured her. “If the weather is too nasty at Eppley, they’ll divert me somewhere else.”
She didn’t have much faith in that answer. “They didn’t divert us to another field back in Florida, did they?” she asked.
No, they certainly had not. That had been back in 1998, May 2, 1998 to be exact, the only time in his life that Ken had ever felt the specter of death breathing down his neck. He vividly remembered the feeling of terror he had felt at that moment. Even now, almost eleven years later, it still had the power to send chills through him. He shoved the memory back in its hole before it could take hold of him. “I’ll be fine, honey,” he told Meghan. “We go through this every spring. Wind sheer already took its shot at me back in Florida. I’m safe from it forever now.”
“You can’t know that,” she said stubbornly.
“True,” he said, “but I can strongly suspect it. I’ll be fine. I promise.”
“And you’re flying with that new girl tonight,” she said, her tone almost accusatory.
Ken suspected that this was what her concern was really about. After all, the forecast was only for “scattered thunderstorms” and “possible tornadoes”, which was actually pretty tame for this time of year. It was, however, his first night with a young female pilot who had just been hired and assigned as his first officer. Meghan wasn’t usually the jealous type, but the thought of her husband spending nine hours alone in the intimate confines of a cockpit with a twenty-something year old woman was obviously rankling her. Ken supposed this was to be expected. After all, he did have a history of unauthorized fraternization with a female crewmember on his aircraft. Meghan knew this very well since she had been the crewmember in question.
“She’s a fully qualified pilot who has been cleared on the A-300,” Ken told her.
“But she’s brand new,” Meghan said. “She doesn’t have any military flight experience.”
“Hardly any of the pilots we hire have any military flight experience,” Ken said. “That’s why we hire them.” Early Bird Cargo Airlines was, in fact, about the lowest rung on the commercial pilot ladder. A privately owned corporation that operated out of Mather Airport outside Sacramento, their fleet consisted of six Airbus A-300s that carried mostly low-priority cargo that was subcontracted to them by the larger carriers. They managed to stay in existence by cutting costs to the bone. They subcontracted out their maintenance, aircraft loading and ground shipment responsibilities. Their aircraft were all twenty to thirty year old cast-offs that had been retired from airline service. And, most significant, they only hired pilots who were willing to work for fifty to seventy dollars an hour less than what other cargo carriers and passenger airlines paid and who were willing to work without benefits, profit-sharing, or retirement. For the most part, this meant young pilots who had gone through private aviation schooling instead of military training and who did not have enough hours logged to qualify for the better-paying jobs. Early Bird was a stepping stone airline, a place where inexperienced pilots could work for a few years to build up those hours and then move on to someplace else. Ken’s new co-pilot was one of three they’d just picked up and put through their training program in the last two months.
“It makes me nervous that someone like that will be flying half the legs for you,” Meghan said. “You’re up near the top of the seniority list. Can’t you request a more experienced FO?”
“Only if I want to give up my line and start working the Oklahoma City route,” he said. “That’s longer flight time when I’m on but fewer hours per month. That would suck on several different levels.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” she said, frowning in displeasure. “But promise me you won’t let her land if the weather is bad in Omaha.”
“If it’s her leg it’s her leg,” Ken said. “It would be insulting to take the plane from her.”
“So insult her then,” Meghan told him. “You’re the pilot in command. If you think it’s safer for you to handle the landing you have the right to do it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Ken told her, having no intention whatsoever of doing what Meghan wanted.
Meghan, of course, knew this. “At least promise me you’ll take over if there’s a chance of wind sheer,” she said. “That’s all I’m asking.”
That was a hard thing to promise since there was virtually always a chance of wind shear whenever thunderstorms were in the vicinity. He did the best he could though. “I promise that if it seems like wind shear is a problem and that she’s not able to handle it, I’ll take over.”
She looked at him, her green eyes probing his face, trying to gauge the sincerity of his promise while her mind tried to think of a way she could word a counter-promise that was more in her favor. Finally she decided this was as good as she was going to get. “Okay,” she finally said. “But if you die in crash because that bimbo was at the controls in a wind shear, I’m going to piss on your grave.”
“Deal,” he said, reaching over and patting her bare leg affectionately.
She reached down and grasped his hand, giving it a conciliatory squeeze, letting him know she would let the subject drop for now. He smiled at her and then let his hand slide a little higher on her leg, until his fingers were flirting with the hem of shorts. He probed underneath, just the tiniest bit, just enough to feel the baby soft skin on her upper thigh.
“Hmm,” she said, letting her legs fall apart just a bit. “Are you after something?”
“I was just wondering something,” he said.
“If you have to piss on my grave, can you be sure to wear the yellow summer dress and the red thong panties?”
She slapped his hand away, though the motion was playful and not angry. “You’re an asshole,” she told him.
“An infected asshole?” he asked.
“An infected incontinent asshole,” she assured him.