“Hi, Uncle Will.”
“Hi, birthday boy,” I responded teasingly. “Are you having a good day?”
“Yeah, I really am. Thanks.”
Jake is not actually my nephew. He’s the son of my cousin, Tom. Since Tom and I were close as kids and remained so into adulthood, Jake always thought of me as an uncle and he addressed me accordingly. That was fine with me. He seemed to be more of a nephew to me than a second cousin. We had seen a lot of each other through the years.
Today was an unusual situation. Tom was out of town in the midst of a long business trip. He traveled extensively with his job but whenever possible, he would schedule his trips so that they would not interfere with important events in his family. Unfortunately, this was not always possible and this current trip was a perfect example. Today was Jake’s fifteenth birthday. Typically on his birthday, he and his father would attempt to enjoy an activity together. Since Tom would be away this year, I offered to fill-in for him and do something special with Jake to celebrate his day. I was pleased when my offer was accepted. Jake had always been a favorite of mine and I planned an enjoyable evening for him. Perhaps it might prove to be an evening that he would fondly remember someday.
Jake had an excited smile on his face as he sat down on the front seat of my car and closed the door. He wondered where we were going because I hadn’t told him yet. It was a surprise.
“Please, Uncle Will,” he implored. “Where are you taking me?” He had been wondering all day. His curiosity was getting to him.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” I replied evasively in a self-knowing tone of voice. “Just be patient for a little while longer.”
I began to smirk at his discomfort and he grinned back at me good-naturedly. This was going to be a fun evening.
Carefully I pulled away from the curb and began our journey into the city. We would arrive at our destination in about forty-five minutes. As I drove in the heavy evening traffic, Jake and I made small talk together. Slowly, during a lull in our conversation, thoughts of my own fifteenth birthday began to drift into my mind. It was one birthday that I had never forgotten. The memory of it was still fresh, almost as if it had been celebrated last week instead of almost forty years earlier.
My parents divorced when I was a toddler. My fathered soon thereafter moved to New Jersey, remarried and began a new family. Through the years, I heard little from him and I seldom saw him. Although my mother remarried a few years after the divorce, my stepfather never seemed to have a lot of time for me. He was a corporate scientist who was very focused on his career and his research. He was a nice enough guy and he was always good to me. I have no complaints. We were just never close. As I approached my teen years, my mother became concerned that I perhaps needed some stronger, male influence in my life. She expressed this concern to her three brothers, my uncles, and they all began to make concerted efforts to fill this void. They were great guys and I loved them all. My favorite was the youngest brother, my Uncle George.
The two older brothers had families of their own and they began to include me in the activities that they would schedule for their own children. This is how I came to spend so much time with my cousin Tom, for example. Uncle George, on the other hand, was a single guy and our time together was always one on one, just him and me. He appeared to lead a fun-filled, happy life and he always seemed to have plenty of money. To this day I’m not entirely sure how he made his living. I often believed that Uncle George thought of me as the son he knew he was never going to have. He was available whenever I needed him. He always did his very best to show me a good time although he could be strict with me whenever he had to be. This was seldom necessary.
Whenever I think of Uncle George, I immediately recall a specific incident that occurred during my sophomore year of high school. It happened on my birthday. My birthday should have been a special day for me but as usual, I had heard nothing from my father. As I climbed into my uncle’s car that evening, I felt dejected and somewhat subdued from the disappointment. I was happy to see Uncle George. He would know how to make me feel better. I was certain of this because he always did.
Uncle George noticed my weak smile as I said hello to him and sat down on the front seat beside him. He could sense that I was unhappy.
“Cheer-up, Will,” he said to me affectionately. “You’re a special guy. I’ve got quite a surprise for you this evening.”
Immediately my curiosity arose. Uncle George was always true to his word. I had no doubt that he had something unusual planned.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“You’ll never guess,” he replied confidently. “Just be patient and relax. We’ll be there in forty-five minutes.” He grinned at me in his typical friendly manner. “You’re growing up, Will. I really think you’re going to like this.”
Uncle George soon drove onto the expressway and headed toward the city. A mile or so before we reached downtown, he suddenly took an exit and drove into an old industrial area. Sporadically located among the factories were a few blocks of houses. Many of these houses appeared to be empty. This certainly wasn’t a very inviting neighborhood and instinctively, I locked my door. Although I really wanted to know where he was taking me, I didn’t want him to know that I was frightened. I sad nothing and we traveled in silence.
Finally, Uncle George turned onto a residential side street and parked his car in front of the second house from the corner. You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought to myself. He saw the expression on my face and began to laugh heartily.
“Don’t worry, Will,” he said. “Trust me. It gets a lot better from here.”
We left the car and approached the closest house. It was an old brick building. I noticed that it appeared to be in pretty good condition although it certainly could have used some fresh paint. Uncle George headed toward the sidewalk that ran beside the house and walked toward the backyard. I followed immediately behind him. When we reached the rear of the house, we stopped for only a few seconds. My uncle patted me on the shoulder as if to reassure me. This was certainly going to be a surprise. I had no idea what we were going to be doing.
“Okay, we’re here,” he announced with a smile. “Come on, Will. Let’s go in.”
Uncle George and I entered the building through the back door. We walked up the stairs and into a room that had formerly been a large kitchen. It had been converted into a small parlor with carpeting, two comfortable sofas and some chairs but no tables. The sole source of light was a small but ornate chandelier located at the center of the ceiling. It provided a soft light to the room that added to its feeling of coziness. Some light music was playing through a sound system. A wet bar stood in the corner where the kitchen sink had once been. A woman saw us enter the room and came over to greet us.
“Good evening, George,” said the woman through a pleasant smile. “Is this the young man you were telling me about?”
“Yes, he is,” he replied, also smiling. “His name is Will. Today’s his birthday. He’s fifteen.” George again patted me on my shoulder. “This is Sheila,” he told me. “She’s been expecting you.”
Sheila was a woman of medium height, probably about thirty-five years old with a nice figure. She had a rather wild hairdo with dyed red hair that was curled upward off her neck. Her red blouse was cut low and her black skirt was very short. A pair of high heel shoes covered her feet. She wore red lipstick and heavy eye makeup but she had no jewelry except for her earrings. She smelled heavily of perfume, a lilac type scent. She approached me and hugged me in a friendly manner.
“Happy birthday, Will,” she said enthusiastically. “I’m happy to meet you.”
Sheila took me by the hand and we walked the few steps over to the bar. She poured both of us a glass of white wine from a bottle that was chilling in an ice bucket. She took a sip from her glass as she handed the other glass to me. I felt awkward in that I had never been allowed to drink alcohol. As I hesitated, I glanced at Uncle George who still had a big smile on his face. I suppose I was more or less asking for his permission.
“Go ahead and enjoy your wine,” he chuckled. “It’s your birthday, Will. The rules are a little different here. I want you to have a good time.”
With that confirmed, I took a sip of my drink. I had never tasted wine before. It had a pleasant taste, very much the type of taste that I had always anticipated.
“We’ll see you a little later,” Sheila said to George. I saw her wink her eye at him as he smiled once more. Then, taking me again by one hand as I held my wine glass in the other, she led me through a doorway, out of the parlor and into the main area of the house. We walked past a closed door until we came to a wooden staircase. We walked up the stairs and entered the room that was located immediately across from the stairway. A dim light was already on. Once we were both in the room, Sheila closed the door behind us. She did not latch the door.
By this time I fully understood where I was and what was going to soon happen. I had never been with a woman, of course, and I was extremely apprehensive. I wasn’t certain that I was ready for this yet or that I wanted to be there. What could I do? Uncle George had arranged this and I didn’t want to embarrass him or disappoint him. I really wished that he had chosen to surprise me with a more mundane gift.
As we stood inside the room, Sheila could sense my nervousness. “Let’s sit down and drink some more wine,” she suggested calmly. “There isn’t a time clock here. We can take as much time as we need.”
We sat on the side of the bed for several minutes and chatted about insignificant things while drinking our wine. I don’t know if it was the wine or the chance to sit and relax but I soon found that my nervousness had begun to subside somewhat. Although I was by no means eager or confident, I felt a little better about my unexpected situation.
Sensing my change in demeanor, Sheila stood and lightly took me by the arm. She coaxed me to stand, too. We then walked to the bathroom located in the corner of the bedroom. Here, Sheila unbuttoned my shirt and pulled its tail out of my pants.
“You need to take a quick shower, Will,” she informed me. “There’s a bath towel hanging on the wall for you.”
“I don’t need a shower,” I replied. “I’m very clean. I took a shower after gym class this afternoon.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Sorry. It’s a house rule. Every guest needs to take a shower. No exceptions.”
Reluctantly I agreed and proceeded to take off my unbuttoned shirt followed by my shoes and socks. Sheila watched as I removed my remaining clothes. I felt extremely self-conscious. Except for my mother, I could not recall having ever been naked in front of a female. Mom hadn’t seen me in quite some time. Sheila hung my clothes on the back of the bathroom door. Then, after turning on the water for me, she helped me into the shower stall and closed the glass door behind me.
“Take your time,” she instructed me. “When you’re finished, you can come into the other room. I’ll be waiting for you.”
“Okay,” I replied as I felt my apprehension and nervousness slowly beginning to return.
Less than five minutes later, I finished my shower and dried myself with the bath towel. I hadn’t washed my hair so it was still dry. As soon as I had wrapped the towel around my waist, I followed Sheila’s instructions and reentered the bedroom. There I found her already in the bed with a white sheet covering her from her feet to just below her naked breasts. As I admired her chest, I truly believed that it was the most beautiful sight that I had ever seen. Up to that point in my young life, it doubtlessly was. As I approached the bed, I realized that I had already become fully aroused. My heart was pounding hard and my breathing was becoming more labored. I could feel myself panting.
Sheila smiled pleasantly at me with a kind and reassuring expression on her face. Without speaking, she gestured with her hand for me to come into the bed. On cue, I dropped the towel from around my waist and climbed in beside her. She immediately noticed my excited condition but didn’t appear to be surprised. I certainly wasn’t the first young guy she had had in her bed. My condition was probably quite normal under these circumstances.
“I appreciate your enthusiasm,” she quipped as she perused my body. As my face blushed red with embarrassment, she smiled good-naturedly. Unexpectedly I began to laugh lightly and almost at once, I could feel the tension beginning to dissipate from within me. Sheila had known exactly how to settle me down. Although I was still apprehensive, I believed that I was perhaps about ready for the adventure ahead.
Sheila reached out to me and gently rubbed my abdomen as she softly spoke to me. She told me to relax, follow her lead and enjoy myself. She promised me a wonderful time if I would do exactly that. Now that I had come this far, I decided that I needed to trust her. I wanted this evening to be a success. As she began to pull me closer to her, I was prepared to follow her directions and to do whatever she might tell me. Although I was obviously still nervous, I could feel excitement surging throughout my body. It was time to get started.
Uncle George was sitting on a sofa speaking with a woman when Sheila and I returned to the parlor. He looked relaxed with a cocktail in his hand. Before putting on my clothes again, I had taken another shower upstairs while Sheila got dressed. Unlike my earlier shower, this time I had carefully scrubbed my body with soap and had washed my hair. My hair was combed but still damp as we approached my uncle. He looked at us with an amused expression on his face.
“So,” he asked, “how did it go?”
“I think it was okay,” I replied sheepishly while feeling my face blush slightly.
“Okay?” Sheila asked. “He was much better than okay. He did very well, George. Will is quite the young man. He’s got a promising future ahead of him.”
Uncle George and I both laughed with Sheila over her comments. I had learned a lot that evening for sure. However, although I was pleased to have had the experience, I was now ready for it to be over. I had been raised in a good Christian family. Although I felt a certain sense of exhilaration and pride at what I had accomplished upstairs, I was already becoming burdened with guilt and shame at what I had done. There were too many conflicting emotions within me and I already knew that it would take some time for me to sort everything out. I continued to smile happily as I conversed with Uncle George and Sheila. Perhaps on Saturday, I would go to our church and speak in confidence with the youth pastor about this incident. Everything would be fine, I reassured myself.
As we said good-bye to Sheila and prepared to head toward the door, I watched as my uncle reached into his shirt pocket and gave her some money. I have no idea how much money he gave her and I never asked. My evening with Sheila had been his gift to me and I felt that whatever it cost was none of my business.
“Thanks again, Sheila,” Uncle George said to her. “This has been great. I’m sure that Will is going to remember his birthday for a long time.”
Still smiling, I politely nodded my head in agreement.
“You’re very welcome, George,” she replied. “It was my pleasure. Will is a nice young guy and I enjoyed meeting him. Please bring him back sometime.”
“We’ll see,” he said as he winked at me simultaneously. “Perhaps I will.”
With that, we left the building and walked to my uncle’s car. The weather was becoming cold. As he drove me home, I was relieved that we discussed other topics besides my evening upstairs with Sheila. He didn’t ask me to provide him with any details and I didn’t volunteer any information. He was satisfied in believing that he had provided me with a good time. That’s all he cared to know. In the years that followed, neither of us ever mentioned that evening to each other or to anyone else. It always remained our secret. If his other nephews ever received this same gift, I never knew. If they had, none of them ever spoke to me about it.
“Uncle Will, did you hear me?” asked Jake in a friendly tone, “or are you ignoring me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Jake,” I replied. “I guess I was concentrating on the traffic. What did you say?”
“I said that it’s been almost forty-five minutes. Are we almost there?”
I took just a few seconds to get my bearings. We were only a few blocks away from the house where my uncle had once taken me. I pictured young Jake with a glass of wine as a woman escorted him from the parlor into the main house. Somehow, I didn’t think that he was ready for such an experience yet. In retrospect, I realized that I had had my first experience much too young. Jake needed to progress at his own pace and to select a time, place and partner of his own choosing. This was something that he would be able to do someday without me.
We drove past the street where the house had been located. It appeared to be gone now, probably demolished in an urban renewal program. We continued to travel toward the east when I noticed the expression suddenly change on Jake’s face.
“I bet I know where we’re going,” he said confidently. As we were driving, he had been narrowing the possibilities in his mind. As we approached the downtown area, there appeared to be only one realistic possibility remaining.
“Oh, really,” I replied. “And where would that be?”
“We’re going to the hockey game, aren’t we?
As I smiled at him, he realized that he had guessed correctly. Immediately, I pulled two tickets from my shirt pocket and handed them to him. Jake had a big grin on his face. He loved hockey but he seldom went to the stadium to watch it. We had good seats for that evening’s game. The happiness and excitement in his eyes were priceless to me. I knew that I had made a good choice for him.
“Thanks, Uncle Will,” he said sincerely. “You’re the best.”
“Happy Birthday, Jake,” I replied. “You’re a pretty good guy, too.
As I pulled the car into the stadium parking lot, I wondered how long Jake might remember spending some of his fifteenth birthday with his uncle. I knew that some memories could last a very long time.
Ralph S. Souders was born in Chicago and grew up in the suburban village of Riverside, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Business Administration with a major in Marketing. He is married and has one daughter.
Since graduating from college, he has written a number of short stories as well as three novels. The first novel, Hans Becker’s Family, was a self-published suspense thriller that takes place primarily in Munich, Germany. His second novel, Ursula’s Shadow, is recently completed. A third novel, Dead in the Water, is virtually complete, undergoing some final editing and some minor rewriting.
He is in the early stages of his fourth novel, San Marcos. He expects to have it completed sometime next year. His website is www.ralphssouders.com.