Daze in the Valley
by Jay Cantrell
“What’s his problem?” Allie asked.
The other women watched open-mouthed as Adam stormed out.
“I’m not sure,” Rebecca replied. She glanced around the corner and saw the front door close. “I think we pissed him off. What were you talking about beforehand?”
“The same stuff,” Allie answered. “He was telling us why we should take less.”
“And we were arguing with him about it,” Trinity added with a frown. “Then Becs comes in and it’s like suddenly he isn’t an idiot because one of us is on his side. Yeah, I can see why he’d be a little upset. How long did you fight about it before you came to get us?”
“A few minutes,” Allie said. “It wasn’t really arguing. I mean, I guess I knew he was right. What he said made sense. I just didn’t like it.”
“You have to stop doing that, Allie,” Shelly said. “If one of us with a pussy tells you the moon is made of green cheese you accept it as fact. If Adam tells you water is wet, you bicker with him. It’s been that way for a few days. What’s up?”
“I don’t think anything is up,” Allie said. “He’s just, well… , he’s just been on my nerves, maybe.”
“Why?” Trinity asked. “I mean, has he done or said anything?”
“I don’t know,” Allie said defensively. “I don’t know why I’ve been shitty with him. OK? I’m sure he was has been sweet and lovable and wonderful. He always is.”
Sarah, Erin and Karlie heard the slamming door and Allie’s loud voice and came to investigate.
“Problems?” Sarah asked.
“Adam is on Allie’s nerves,” Trinity synopsized.
“Oh, that’s no shock,” Karlie said with a smile. “He’s always on someone’s nerves. It’s just Allie’s turn, I guess. What happened?”
“I’m serious,” Allie said.
“So am I,” Karlie replied. “Hell, there isn’t a day goes by that one of you doesn’t manage to tick me off in some way. It’s not always Adam but he does it, too.”
“Like what?” Allie asked. She really couldn’t figure out why she was pissed at Adam and was looking for answers.
“Leaving the cap off the toothpaste,” Karlie said.
“That’s me,” Trinity admitted.
“I know it is and the next time you’re looking at a peppermint enema,” Karlie said. Then she winked.
“I think I know what’s bothering you, Allie,” Erin said quietly.
“Good because I sure as hell don’t,” Allie groused.
“Right now, the projects he’s helping with don’t involve you,” Erin answered. She was ready for Allie to turn on her but she continued. “Trinity was with him during the AMS thing. Shelly has been helping him with his lines. Karlie has been fitting him for costumes. I’ve been working with him on photography. Sarah went out with him last night. That leaves you and Rebecca on the outside, sort of. But only for now. It will go back to normal in a few days.”
“I don’t feel neglected!” Allie said loudly.
“I do,” Rebecca admitted. “I think that’s why I’ve been so critical of him. It’s like an abused child. Any attention – even if it’s negative – is sought. I particularly get upset when he has time to hang out with Lucy or Anya and Katya. Are you sure you’re not doing the same thing?”
“I don’t care if he’s too busy to spend time with me,” Allie said. “I have you to spend time with. I had a great time with Shelly last night. Karlie and I went to the grocery store and I think we laughed the whole time. Even studying with you was great. I don’t need Adam Walters to make me happy.”
“I do,” Sarah said simply. “I need Adam just as much as I need all of you. I feel like something is missing when any of you get tied up on something and we don’t get to spend time together.”
“That’s what I meant,” Allie said. “I didn’t mean I don’t care if he’s not around. I don’t know what I mean.”
Tears formed in Allie’s eyes.
“Fine, I miss him,” she said. “There are times when I really want to talk to him or just sit with him and he’s off with Rachelle or Katey. He makes time to handle everything except things in this house.”
“Well, we really don’t let him handle much here,” Shelly said. “Look at the battle we put up when we all knew he was right. Talk to him. He spends time with Rebecca because she makes him spend time with her. He loves you Allie. If I had to bet, he loved you before he loved any of the rest of us. I think he loved you the moment he met you.”
Allie rolled her eyes.
“He was already in love with you when I met him,” she pointed out.
“Not really,” Shelly countered. “He loved the girl who used to live in this body. The one there now has taken some time for him to get used to. But you need to let him know how you feel. You too, Rebecca, he’s just a guy, after all.”
Adam had planned to drive away for a little while when he left the house. Rebecca’s SUV blocking the driveway and his car put an end to that idea. Everyone in the house had a key to his car but he had a key to no one else’s.
He muttered an oath and stalked off down the block. He turned the corner and found a seat to take stock of things on a piece of equipment that Walt’s dad had brought over.
It seemed to him that no matter what he did someone was pissed at him for it. If he had sat silently that evening, someone would have blamed him for letting them pack so much. If it wasn’t one of the girls angry that he hadn’t spoken up, it would be one of the others for being forced to wait.
It was that way with almost everything. There were too many personalities in the group for everyone to be happy with anything. The women at this house were just a subset of the group as a whole.
Rebecca had chided him for every fault – real and imagined – over the past week but Allie had become the worst about it. Every time Adam had seen her in the past few days she had glared at him or snapped at him or simply ignored his presence completely. She wasn’t that way with anyone else.
He caught a flashlight bobbing in the darkness around the corner of the house.
“Adam?” a voice asked. “Are you out here?”
He thought about ignoring Allie but there were too many hazards he’d crossed to get there for it be safe for her.
“Yeah,” he said.
There was a pause.
“Can I come join you?” she wondered.
“Be careful,” he said. “The planks are a little wobbly. I about landed in the ditch there.”
He watched as Allie picked her way through the construction site and across the planks laid to cover the hole where the sewage would connect to the system.
She found him sitting on a small earthmover. He extended a hand and helped her climb over the tracks and on to the seat with him. She didn’t sit beside him. She sat down on his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Sorry,” Allie said.
“Nothing to be sorry about,” Adam retorted. “Rebecca’s opinion is obviously more impressive than mine.”
“That’s not it and that’s not what I’m apologizing for,” Allie said softly. “I’ve been short-tempered all week.”
“With me,” Adam said. She didn’t miss the hurt in his voice.
“With you,” she admitted. “I guess I’ve just missed you.”
Adam turned his head slightly to catch a glimpse of Allie’s face. He couldn’t because it was pressed against his shoulder.
“I wasn’t trying to avoid you, Allie,” he said. “I’m sorry if I gave you that idea.”
“I didn’t get that idea,” she said. “It just seemed that way. Every time I would look for you – to share something with you or tell you something or just to give you a hug – you’d be somewhere else doing something with someone else.”
Adam thought back to the past few days. He hadn’t seen Allie for more than a minute or two at a time.
“So you thought being a little shit would encourage me to seek you out to spend time together,” he asked. He hoped his voice was light because he was trying to make a joke.
“I saw Rebecca get on your case and you’d snap back,” she said. “Then she would at least get 20 or 30 minutes to talk to you. I guess my twisted logic figured if I pushed you a little we might get to do the same thing. Instead you just threw up your hands and walked off. I had to chase you down.”
“I’m glad you did,” he said. “I was just sitting here thinking back to one of our first conversations. You told me you had a tendency to pull away when someone got close. I worried that you had begun doing that and I’d been too caught up to notice. I worried you might be ready to leave and I hadn’t done anything to make you stay. I’m sorry, too.”
“I’m not leaving,” Allie said. “I guess I just… , I don’t know. I wanted you to remember that I was there during the daytime too. I didn’t do it very well but I didn’t expect you to leave either.”
Adam gave a slight chuckle.
“With Rebecca, Karlie and Sarah, I can snap back,” he said. “Even with Shelly now – which surprised me. They take what I say as it is meant and don’t take it personally. Erin, Trinity and you, I can’t. Erin is so unused to having someone treat her decently that every time I say anything remotely negative, it goes straight to her insecurities. Trinity, too, now that I think about it, she isn’t insecure about herself. No, she is unsure about her place with all of us. So I have to really watch what I say. Then there is you.”
“I’m not insecure and I don’t take things personally,” Allie insisted.
“No, that’s true,” Adam said, a wry smile crossing his lips in the darkness. “You just get pissed off. An innocuous statement can get you riled up. If I’d told you what I really wanted to say, we would still be inside and you’d be throwing stuff by now.”
“Maybe,” Allie admitted. “Depends on what you wanted to say.”
“Oh, there is no maybe about it,” Adam said. “Because the first words that hit my brain were not kind at all. Luckily, I didn’t speak them, for once. I’m glad I didn’t because it wasn’t true. It was just a way to get to you. I care too much about you to hurt you purposefully.”
“So, I don’t care about you as much?” Allie wondered.
“No,” Adam said. “I didn’t mean to infer that. We’re all just so different. I wish I had more hours in my day. I really do. I’ve missed you, too. But every time I would catch your eye you looked so angry over something, I just peeled off and did something else.”
“Self-fulfilling prophecy,” Allie remarked. “Great.”
“You want to ride to Vegas with me?” Adam asked. “It will give us time to catch up.”
“I won’t be done Tuesday until after you want to leave,” Allie said.
“I’ll wait – for you,” he replied. “But I have to warn you. It’s not going to be a fun trip. The air conditioner barely works and it’s not a comfortable ride.”
“That just means I won’t wear very much,” Allie said. “Or maybe anything.”
“Your butt will stick to the vinyl seats and you’ll wind up with third-degree burns on your tushy,” Adam said. “It’ll probably take us hours longer because we won’t be able to go more than 35 or 40 miles per hour in places. I just don’t want you to agree and then be pissed because you didn’t get to have a nice cushy ride over.”
“No, I’ll go with you,” Allie said brightly. “We can put towels on the seat and stuff. I wish we could leave Monday. Then we could spend the night alone in that big bed – and maybe a few other beds – before the others got there.”
“And they’d skin both of us alive,” Adam said. “If you’re sure, I’d like for you to go with me.”
“I wish I’d brought a blanket out with me,” Allie said.
“Chilly?” Adam asked, wrapping his arms around her tighter and running his hands across her bare arms.
“No but I think it would be cool to just lay out here and look at the stars with you,” she said. “Maybe we can plan that for our date night.”
“Like if I get you alone in the dark on a blanket I’m going to let you look at stars,” Adam said, kissing Allie softly on the forehead.
“That, too,” she said with a giggle. “I might just keep you out all night and not turn you loose until the next morning. Come on, let’s go back inside. Think anyone will mind if I sleep on you tonight?”
“I have long ago quit trying to figure out what any of you will mind,” Adam said as he helped Allie off the machinery. “Are we OK?”
“Yeah,” Allie said. “I promise to find you and talk to you before I get pissy again.”
“I promise to try to make sure I’m available more often,” Adam agreed.
She was almost across the sewage planks when Adam stepped on behind her. She came close to bouncing off into the ditch. “You need to lose some weight, Mister.”
“I wanna piggyback ride!” Allie exclaimed as they hit firm ground. She didn’t wait for an answer. She just scrambled up Adam’s back. He reached over his head to hold her hands until she was perched on his shoulders.
“You’re facing the wrong way,” Allie laughed. “I hope Chad releases the ‘Sporty Spinners’ video soon. That was absolutely awesome!”
“We’ll do that again sometime,” Adam promised.
“You better believe it,” Allie said with a giggle.
The eight women left in the house (the six remaining basement dwellers plus Anya and Katya) were relieved to see Allie laughing as she returned to the house riding Adam. When they reached the porch, Adam reached under her arms and lifted her over his head. She laughed when he blew raspberries on the back of her thighs and then bit her bottom before he set her lightly on her feet.
“That looks like fun transportation,” Anya joked.
“Yeah, until he leaves teeth marks on your rump,” Allie replied with a smile. “Thank God the horses Walt created don’t bite.”
“Horses bite?” Katya asked.
“Oh yeah,” Adam said. “And once they do, you can pretty well bet on losing a chunk of what they get their teeth on. They just lock and jerk. I saw a guy who lost about half of his bicep that way.”
He touched his upper arm so Katya could put the word into context.
“But they eat oats, not meat,” Katya protested. “Too pretty to hurt a person.”
“It’s the pretty things you have to watch out for,” Adam said, winking at her. “They have the sharpest claws. Horses have really blunt teeth and very strong jaws. And they do bite so be careful if you are around them.”
The conversation devolved from there into a discussion about who could share items and how much luggage everyone could reasonably bring. It would be convenient to simply rent a van and load up as much as they wanted but they were intent on staying within the budget they had established with Daystar and Dazzle.
They already knew they could pour money into the project and make a decent return. They wanted to prove they could create a quality product on a reasonable budget – and Sean had said repeatedly that there was no room in the budget for renting vehicles solely for the sake of convenience. And, of course, the only three individuals old enough to rent a vehicle in California were Celina, Timm and Veronica. The rest were younger than 21.
Adam went back to sorting through pictures. He got to the last card, filled with the sunset over the Pacific. The red sun reflected on the dark water and the three women were silhouetted against the sky. They were walking away from Adam when he took the picture – Erin in the middle, flanked by Anya on one side and Katya on the other. They were holding hands and swinging their arms. Anya was skipping slightly and had both feet off the ground with her outside foot in the air. He knew they were nude but it wasn’t evident in the picture.
He pulled it up to full screen and sat their looking at it until he felt a head on his shoulder.
“Cool,” Sarah said. “Where did you find that?”
“I took it this afternoon,” Adam said. He pointed to the screen and named the participants. Sarah pulled her head away and raced out the room. She reappeared a few seconds later with the others and shut off the lights as she entered.
“Damn, I’ve lost my job, haven’t I?” Erin said with a laugh. “That is really, really good, Adam. I thought that would come out great but the way you composed it is perfect. Jack couldn’t have shot it better. In fact, I’d like to e-mail him this. I bet he’ll want to post it in his gallery.”
“I thought it was, you know, a professional shot,” Sarah admitted. “Let’s see the others.”
Adam pulled them up and although they were decent, nothing fell into the category of that single shot.
“Well, one out of 52,” he said with chagrin. “Besides, it’s the filter and settings that made the picture. That was Erin’s doing. I just clicked the shutter – and you can tell I pretty well just clicked at random.”
“Sometimes that works out best,” Erin said. “I sometimes take 300 pictures to post 80. Still, you have to feel good when you get that one that’s really good. What do you want to call it?”
“Call it?” Adam asked.
“A portrait like that needs a name,” Erin said. “Well, a better name than DSC-000542-044. That appears to be its name right now.”
“‘Naughty Nudes at Night’,” Karlie suggested. Erin made a face.
“That sounds like Sarah’s next movie,” Allie said with a laugh.
“As if,” Sarah replied. Karlie just shrugged.
“‘Night Nymphs at Play’” Shelly offered.
“That’s not bad,” Rebecca said. “Anya looks like she’s kicking up her heels. It fits the swinging arms.”
“God knows Katya is a nymph,” Karlie laughed. “Or is that nymphomaniac?”
She gave the Russian girl a hug to show she was kidding. Katya was looking at the photo with fascination.
“This is me?” she asked incredulously.
The curves of the silhouette were in sharp contrast to the lines of sunlight on the water. It gave the subjects a womanly look that even increased Erin’s voluptuousness. The diminutive Anya didn’t look like a butt on a stick.
“That’s you,” Adam said.
“That’s how we all see you,” Allie said, adding her arm to Karlie’s around Katya’s waist. “You are a very pretty person – almost as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.”
Katya looked confused as she tried to parse through Allie’s sentence.
“She means you are beautiful,” Anya clarified. “But that does not compare to how sweet you are. It is a very dear compliment she pays you.”
Katya blushed slightly, then thanked Allie with a hug.
The Russian girl had felt fully accepted when she had been taken to the group’s bed the night before. She had lived in the house for almost a month and she had not seen anyone invited down there until she and Anya had been asked if they would join them.
The preceding night had been a revelation to Katya, who was used to being on the servicing end of sexual encounters in her life before Los Angeles. That wasn’t how it played out the basement. She had expected a group grope, with everyone just piling on everyone else.
Instead it was like five couples playing in the same room. There was much kissing and touching among the females and she felt as though every inch of her body had to been touched at some point during the evening. The feelings fascinated her. It wasn’t her normal explosive orgasm that left her breathless and needing to stop. Instead it was hours of constant stimulation and small crests. There were no taboos. She could ask any of them do anything for her and if it brought her pleasure, they would do it.
Katya was surprised that the stately Rebecca, who she pictured as holding the matriarchal role in the group, was such a giving lover. Rebecca didn’t shy away from any aspect of sexuality or sensuality.
Anya was the same way. Katya had not been intimate with her foreign counterpart. In many ways, it was because she was slightly in awe of the Slovakian. But Anya had done nothing less than worship Katya when they found themselves paired together. She didn’t expect Katya to be subservient. None of them did.
Nor did they send Katya and Anya from the room when it was time to go to sleep. Instead, they cuddled the two women into the group. Katya slept with an arm around Sarah and with Karlie snuggled up to her back. Anya and Allie slept draped around each other.
Now Allie had told her that Katya was a wonderful person. It was too much and Katya, who had learned in her youth that tears were for the weak, felt a droplet sliding down her cheek.
Karlie wiped it away and offered a kiss where it had lain.
The others left to continue sorting through their belongings, leaving Trinity with Adam.
“Babysitting duty?” he asked with a smile.
“Well, now that you mention it,” Trinity replied. “We probably should set up shifts for that. But I’m finished packing so I thought I’d hang out with you and look at naked women.”
“You’re finished?” Adam asked incredulously. “You’ll have to give up your ‘Vagina Club’ card if word gets out that you packed in anything less than 15 hours.”
“You just want me to give up a little of my vagina to you,” she said. “Well, I’m OK with it.”
She mimicked pulling her shorts down, bringing another memory – and a smile – to Adam.
“You wish, Stud,” Trinity giggled when she saw him following her movements.
“True,” Adam admitted. “Well, you’re welcome to stay either way.”
“Allie said she’s going with you to Vegas?” Trinity asked.
“Uh, yeah,” Adam replied. “I suppose I should have let you all decide that but since I’m the only other one in the vehicle, I thought I could decide.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Trinity said. “Don’t be so touchy.”
“Sorry,” Adam mumbled.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “I don’t think anyone is upset and I’m not sure anyone else really wanted to go with you. One of us would have but I think we’d prefer a nice soft car seat and air conditioning.”
“So would I,” Adam pointed out. “But it’s either me or Rachelle and she flat-out told Walt to go screw.”
Trinity nodded and laughed.
“Her exact words were ‘You can fuck yourself if you think I’m driving that damned thing through the desert’,” she related. “Then she mentioned something about hoping you were dumb enough to agree otherwise we’d have to hire a Teamster to do it. Thankfully, you are just that dumb.”
“Thanks,” Adam said. He was starting to wonder if everyone was going to give him shit.
“Jesus, I’m playing with you,” Trinity said. “You’d think you didn’t get laid by nine women last night the way you’re walking around like an old grouchy bear this evening.”
Adam blushed and Trinity pinched his cheek.
“Actually, I wanted to discuss a serious subject with you,” Trinity said.
Adam raised an eyebrow. It was rare for Trinity to be the one to bring up serious topics.
“Celina,” she said simply. “I want you to know that we – and I mean all of us – will support you whatever you decide.”
“Does that mean you haven’t decided what I should do?” he asked.
Trinity took a deep breath.
“We all have thoughts on the matter,” she admitted. “But none of those are important. You are the only person who knows how you feel about it and we trust you.”
She gave him a patented Trinity wink.
“Just don’t screw it up or you’ll never get to decide anything again,” she said with a smile.
Edited by BlackIrish; Proofread by ZoltanTheDuck and Lee.