Free Falling

A covert romance opens new worlds—and new dangers


| November-December 2006


I close the door to the girls’ bedroom, roll the old swivel chair against it, stand the laundry basket on end behind that. I turn and smile at Serge. He returns my grin. This is our favorite part of the day. I watch him wriggle out of his red T-shirt emblazoned with a huge mosquito and the caption “Minnesota state bird.” He slips out of his European-cut blue jeans, into the double bed. “Are you not coming then?” he whispers. I exhale, long and slow.

Until this summer I believed men’s underwear came only in white, as boxers or briefs, and I am still scandalized by his black bikinis. They seem so exotic, daring, a tad dangerous, and, like the things we do in bed, very exciting.

We met in England last year as team leaders at a camp. He followed up with a visit to the States late this summer. Our friendship is going places I have never been before.

I take one step toward the bed when the by-now-familiar sensation hits again. I am a million miles from here climbing a narrow mountain path. My feet slip, I go over the edge. In a panic I grab at grass, dirt, rocks, a branch, anything. Somehow I hold on. My heart pounds, joints quake, everything goes red, black.

The moment passes. I catch my breath, listen to the comforting murmur of my parents’ voices from the kitchen. My brothers have retired to their bunks in the boys’ bedroom, the youngest to rest on his laurels. He bested us all in Masterpiece, tonight’s family board game. To win, one must invest wisely in fine art, avoid forgeries, know when to cash in. My brother is good at identifying fakes. This scares me.

I drop my bib overalls, unbutton my shirt. My skin, almost as white as my underwear, makes a marked contrast to Serge’s olive complexion. I caress his face, comb my fingers through his long dark curls.






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