Family Changing Room. I kept reading the sign on the door over and over. It had a stick-figure icon of a tall person holding the hands of two small people, one on each side.
We were taking a tour of our new local health club. It's a beautiful place, with two pools, indoor and out, and every modern exercise facility you can imagine. I was with my wife Carol, and our two daughters. Stephanie was eight and three-quarters (never to be confused with just eight) and Caroline was six. They were very excited about the possibility of having a pool to go to regularly.
I asked the young woman who was guiding our tour what the room was for.
"We don't allow children of the opposite gender in the regular locker rooms once they're age five. So, if you're a mom bringing your five-year old son, you can't bring him into the ladies'," she explained. "And you may not want to send him unescorted into the men's."
"Or a father with a daughter, same idea," she added, recognizing that she hadn't used the most relevant example. "And sometimes, families just prefer the privacy."
I watched my wife. She nodded and smiled, and said "That's such a great idea. We'd definitely want to take advantage of that."
I have to confess that I had an unexpected reaction. I didn't invite this thought into my mind, but it came anyway. I'll be in that small room with my daughters. My wife won't be with us - she's always too busy. And my daughters and I will undress together. All the way.
My mind raced ahead. And after we swim, we'll do it again.
Until recently, Carol had pretty much handled things with the girls. I was working long hours, and she relished the chance to take a break from her career and be with them full time. I loved them, of course, but hadn't been involved with things like bath time in several years. I hadn't seen them naked since they were tiny. And I couldn't recall them ever seeing me undressed.
Now my wife was returning to her law firm, and I was starting a high school teaching job that would leave me time to play daddy. The health club seemed like a great way to have things to do with the girls.
I was still processing my new-found feelings, so I let Carol make the decision on whether we should join. To my oddly anxious delight and to the effervescent joy of the girls, she said we should sign up for a six-month trial membership.
The next morning as we were getting dressed for work, Carol said, "You should take the girls swimming today."
"I should be able to do that. I can pick them up from school." I was surprised to feel my heart thumping in my chest.
"Do you think you'll use that Family Changing Room?" she asked. She's always had a sense of what I was thinking, which sometimes scares me. But she had her own motivation for the question.
I tried to be nonchalant. "I don't know. What do you think? They'd probably be okay on their own in the ladies'."
"I'm not comfortable with that," she said. "I mean, they've never been in a public place alone like that before. God knows what could happen."
"Okay," I said. "It's just..."
"What?" she prompted.
I stuttered a bit. "D-do you think they'll be shy around me? I mean, I haven't been very involved with them lately."
She laughed. "I think it's you who's shy. Don't be a baby," she laughed. "You're their father. They'll be fine and so will you. Just don't make a big deal of it." She kissed me and ran out the door.
I packed the girls' things in a little duffel bag. Matching one-piece swimsuits. Very conservative, chosen by their mother. But still so tiny. I was holding Stephanie's suit, and I thought it must be Caroline's since it was so small. Then I found Caroline's and marveled again. Packed some towels - I had forgotten to ask if the club provided them. Flip flops. Nose plugs. Sun screen. Inflatable water wings. I almost forget my own suit in the heat of the moment.
The girls were very chatty and giggled constantly on the way to the club. I was quiet. I honestly didn't know if I was nervous or what. I just wasn't sure how it would all unfold, so to speak.
We arrived and went inside. Stephanie was the first to recognize the looming issue.
"Where do we change, Daddy?"
"In here, honey." Pointing at the sign. Family Changing Room. Tall stick figure. Two short stick figures.
"Together?" She almost shrieked. Face turning bright red. Oh boy. Here we go.
"That's what Mommy wanted us to do. She wasn't comfortable with you going alone into the ladies' locker room." I used my most reasonable voice, looking around for other people. Fortunately the hallway was empty.
"NO. WAY." It was a final declaration. "I'm going in BY MYSELF," Steph asserted. And off she went. She closed the door loudly behind her, leaving Caroline and me standing in the hall, looking awkward. I heard the door lock.
Ten seconds later the door opened slowly. Stephanie's head peered out. "I need my suit," she said sheepishly. This had sort of ruined her grand exit, and I couldn't help but laugh as I handed her the duffle bag.
She emerged about two minutes later in her suit, a look of defiant victory on her face.
Caroline was befuddled. She didn't see what the big deal was. She was holding my hand and looked up at me questioningly. "Our turn now, Daddy?" This eliminated my momentary fear that she would imitate her sister, behavior that was all too common.
So in we went. I closed the door quietly and locked it.
It was a nice room, with padded benches and new, clean tile. There was a small open shower area with a curtain separating it from the room, but no dividers between the three shower heads. I turned around to get Caroline's swimsuit from the duffel bag. I'm sure this took no more than three seconds. Still, when I turned again to hand it to her, she was completely naked. Her sundress and white cotton underpants were in a small heap on the floor next to her.
I'm sure I blushed, and I know I stared, but she didn't seem to notice. The word that kept running through my mind was perfect. So perfectly proportioned, so perfectly smooth, so perfectly natural. She'd lost her baby fat that summer during her first season of soccer. Her hips were barely visible, but her tummy ran in a flat straight line from her navel to the cleft between her legs. Perfectly formed thighs met there, highlighting her pale bare lips. They must be so soft, I thought. It wasn't a sexual thing, not then at any rate. Just awe-inspiring.
I managed to hand her the bathing suit and she began to put it on. I stood watching her silently until she looked up, obviously wondering why I wasn't changing. I had to make a choice. So I chickened out.
"You can go wait with Stephanie while I change, honey. Don't go anywhere else without me though."
"Okay," she said. And she slipped out of the door. I changed by myself, with the image of her perfect naked body burned into my retinas.
We had a great time in the pool. The girls couldn't really swim yet, but they're both athletic and generally without fear. I needed two sets of eyes to accommodate all the demands of "Watch me, Daddy!" as various feats of aquatic daring-do were accomplished. Breath-holding, side-jumping-off, and underwater-upside-downness were all spectacularly achieved. We were in the water for almost an hour and were thoroughly pruned.
As it came time to leave, I began to dread another scene with Stephanie. I decided to talk to her to head off a meltdown.
"When we go back to change, Caroline and I don't want to stand outside dripping. We need to go into the room together. You can wait until we're done to change if you want." I thought this was a reasonable compromise and it seemed to mollify her somewhat. From this I guessed that she was mostly concerned with me seeing her - she'd certainly been naked with her sister a great deal. They still took baths together sometimes. She rolled her eyes, but didn't argue.
When we got back to the Family Changing Room, I realized that I didn't have many options. Stephanie sat on the bench, towel around her shoulders, shivering and facing away from us. I told Caroline that we should rinse off in the shower, so we went in with our suits still on.
"It's nice and warm, Steph," I chided her. She poked her head around the curtain, and felt the water. Her chill won out, and she stepped in under the shower next to me. Just like the picture on the door, I thought. Tall person in the middle, little ones on either side.
Now or never, I thought. But I lingered under the warm water another minute or so.
Now or never.
"Caroline, we should rinse off our suits before we take them home. So take it off and run it under the water, honey." She peeled without hesitation and held it up to the running water.
I did the same with mine.
I felt like I was on automatic pilot. I still remember the scene as though I were watching it from above. But there I was, naked in front of my daughters. I tried to act as casual as I could, to not look to see if they were looking.
But I couldn't not look, of course. By the time I did, Stephanie had gone back to the bench and was toweling off with her suit still on. Caroline was staring unabashedly at my crotch.
"Is that your penis, Daddy?" Very matter-of-fact.
"Yes, honey." I saw myself say it, after a very brief pause.
"It's funny looking. Mommy told us about it." And she went back to rinsing out her suit.
Just like that, Caroline and I reached a level of comfort with each other that made me feel relaxed for the first time that day. We got out of the shower, and I toweled her off, both of us still naked. I dried myself as she got dressed, and we chatted the whole time. Stephanie sat resolutely facing the wall. We left her there while Caroline and I walked out, hand-in-hand. "Remember to rinse off your suit, Steph," I called back over my shoulder.
My eldest came out about ten minutes later, hair pointing in all directions. She was very quiet on the ride back home.
When Carol returned that evening, the pool was of course the first topic of conversation. Caroline gave a full list of her accomplishments without punctuation.
"I held my breath and I jumped off the side and I swam but just like a dog so Daddy said it's not real swimming so I gotta learn to do it the other way and I did a flip underwater but Steph helped so I didn't really do it by myself and I saw Daddy's penis."
"Wow, sounds like you had fun," said Carol. She was looking at me and trying hard not to laugh. But neither of us could contain it. I think we both nearly choked. Steph rolled her eyes and said "God, you're SUCH a BABY!"
When we were alone, Carol asked, "So it worked out okay, the changing room?"
"I guess so. Stephanie was very shy though. She wouldn't change while we were in the room together. I thought she was going to throw a tantrum, so I didn't push it. Caroline was fine - I guess you'd already given them Male Anatomy 101?"
"I told them the basics, yes."
I related the exchange with Caroline in the shower, and she laughed. "I had the same reaction to my brother's when I first saw it. 'What a ridiculous thing! What's all the fuss about?'"
"Do you think Stephanie is too old for this? Should we let her go to the locker room?" I asked. It was a sincere question.
"I'll talk to her, then we can decide," she said.
Carol came to bed after tucking the girls in. She said, "I had a talk with Steph. She's really just shy about anybody seeing her at this point. If she goes to the locker room, there will be a bunch of strangers seeing her. Once she understood that, I think she feels like she'd rather go to the Family Changing Room. But I told her that it's not fair to make you wait outside. I think she's okay with it now."
I gave a non-committal grunt, not being entirely convinced. After a minute, she asked, "Are you okay with it? Did it make you uncomfortable?"
I considered my answer carefully. "Once I saw that Caroline really didn't care, it was fine. Nice, even. I mean, it made me feel more like a real father in some way, if that makes any sense."
She was thoughtful. "It makes perfect sense. I still value those moments when I take a bath with one of the girls. It won't last much longer, I'm afraid."
The next trip to the pool came a few days later. Stephanie came with us into the Family Changing Room without protest. Caroline was naked and in her suit in one continuous motion. Unlike the first time, I didn't hesitate to undress. Stephanie was obviously stalling, waiting for us to leave.
This time, though, she looked at me.
She had taken off her shirt, but still had her shorts on. As I slid off my boxers her gaze fixed to my penis, an almost visceral stare. I looked at her eyes. I'd never fully realized how like Carol's they are, rich and deep and soft, brown with flecks of gold. I felt the intensity of her look, took in her immaculate shoulders and her boyish chest and the flat slope of her tummy and where it inevitably led. In this I had the first hint of something different between us.
I pulled on my suit, blushing profusely. Taking Caroline by the hand, I led her out of the room. "Take your time, Steph, and come to the pool when you're ready," I said quietly as we left.
In retrospect, I understand the difference in how Caroline and Stephanie regarded me. For the six-year-old mind, the penis was just an odd thing that I had and she didn't, and it was involved in some vague way in making babies, as was her vagina. And they were both where you peed from, which made the whole thing pretty gross.
But at eight, through the wonder of television and friends' whispers at school and more understanding of what her mother had told her about the process, Stephanie knew that the penis was how people had sex. As she looked at mine, she was thinking about how sex worked. She was imagining how it could go inside of a girl, perhaps wondering what it would be like when it happened to her. I hadn't expected this from my eight-year-old daughter. Welcome to now, I guess.
At the time, I just knew that it felt different with Stephanie. I was pretty sure she wasn't going to exclaim to her mother that she'd seen Daddy's penis. But she was thinking intense, private thoughts. I didn't allow myself to dwell on what they were.
The expression on Stephanie's face when she'd seen me naked was burned into my brain. Her eyes had burrowed into me, seeking answers. How does it work? How can that thing make a baby? It seemed that my little girl actively wanted to look at my penis. And somewhere inside me, hidden in an odd corner of my mind where I dared not shine any light, an astonishing and incongruous idea began to form: I wanted her to look at it.
I can't say that I began to arrange things around this notion, not on purpose. But our next visit to the club was a turning point. The Family Changing Room was beginning to change us.
It was a Saturday, and the girls had two separate soccer games. Stephanie's game was at 8am, and Caroline's was at 10 in another town, so Carol and I had to divide and conquer. It's a mystery how parents with more than two kids manage. I volunteered to get up early and take Stephanie.
As we were heading out the door at 7:30 that morning, Stephanie asked, "Can we go swimming after?" The club was on the way back from her game. Carol and Caroline would be busy until at least noon. So I said, "Sure, get your stuff." Steph smiled. My mind raced ahead. It would be just the two of us.
The soccer game was the classic gaggle of screaming girls and parents. The girls moved as one huge cluster around the ball like a miniaturized, squealing rugby scrum. The parents yelled "Kick it! Kick it!" with an uncontrolled fervor that would have been more appropriate in the days of the Christians and the lions. A few dedicated soccer moms even kept score and would no doubt have sober discussions at home about how taking soccer seriously today would lead to success later in life. I fortunately don't suffer from these dangerous parenting delusions. I just wanted Stephanie to have fun, and I could tell by her Tiggerish bouncing that she did.
In the car on the way to the club, she was pensive. So was I. I don't think we talked at all.
When we arrived, as we walked through the parking lot, she took my hand. She hadn't done that in public in at least a year. If I took hers she usually tolerated it, but her growing independence made her avoid most overt PDAs. (Public Displays of Affection, which I was told in no uncertain terms were "pukably gross".) I smiled at her, and she smiled back, and we walked hand-in-hand into the Family Changing Room.
Stephanie was in her soccer uniform. We sat on the bench, facing the same way. I decided to follow her lead. She took off her sneakers, and I did, too. The dusty knee-high white socks were next. She pulled her uniform top over her head, and I unbuttoned my shirt and slid it off.
We talked about what we wanted for lunch. "McDonald's maybe." "No, I'm sick of that. What about Wendy's?" "It's pretty far away, and the wrong direction. Maybe we'll just wait until we get home."
She stood up. I stood up. She now realized that I was matching her movements. I hadn't really thought about it, but my actions spoke to her. If you want to see mine, I get to see yours. Pretty juvenile, I know.
She was blushing but still looking at me. "Maybe we can pick up a pizza." Her fingers at the waistband of her shorts. My hands undoing my belt. "That's a good idea. What kind do you want?" Pushing her shorts down. Kicking them aside. Looking down shyly. I stepped out of my khaki shorts. "Hawaiian I guess. That's ham and pineapple, right?"
Her underpants were light blue, a large Hello Kitty on the hip. They fit her snugly. I had a side view. Her proportions precise, her bottom concise, an idyllic curve, a nascent roundness. Perfect curves in back, perfect straight lines in front. I was in my boxers. I think they were plaid.
She turned to face me. "Ya, ham and pineapple. But Caroline hates that. We'll have to get something else too." Her face and chest bright red. Her eyes trying to get inside the fly of my boxers. I waited. "Maybe just cheese." "Ya, she likes that." She looked at the floor. I waited. She bit her lower lip. "Sounds like a plan, then." "Ya."
In one motion, her underpants were at her feet. She stood with her arms at her sides and slowly looked up at me.
After a moment my words came unbidden. "You're so beautiful, Stephanie."
I guess it was the right thing to say. She smiled a little. And waited. It was my turn. I saw myself drop my boxers to the floor. It was another of those out-of-body moments.
We gazed at each other, my daughter and I, both surprisingly calm after all the build up. Like Caroline, Stephanie's bare sex was a flawless, integral part of the landscape of her body. Not prominent, but not infantile either. Just the outer lips visible, highlighted by her tan lines. Her longer legs and body gave her a very different look from her younger sister, though. Caroline unselfconscious without her clothes was a beautiful, natural sight. Stephanie, just two years older, having willingly stripped naked as I watched, was intensely provocative.
She was studying me. Her interest in my penis seemed to make her forget her own nudity. Her eyes roamed over my privates. She bit her lower lip again. I think she was about to say something.
It was very fortunate that I was having the experience this way, feeling as though I were watching it from a distance, because it seemed to prevent my brain from connecting with the rest of me. Specifically, I didn't get hard. My penis behaved itself.
And I chickened out. Again. I said, "We should get to the pool."
We kept chatting about pizza while we pulled on our swimsuits. There were still some barriers, and more changes yet to come.
Stephanie and I had a great time in the pool that day. A major source of tension had been removed when she'd finally let me see her undressed. We could laugh and joke again. The new tension that had replaced the old was still nascent. The sight of her wouldn't leave my mind, but I could put those images in a mental box and push them to the back of my brain. The box was wrapped all around with bright yellow tape, with big black letters reading SHE'S YOUR DAUGHTER, AND SHE'S EIGHT YEARS OLD.
When it came time to leave she joined me in the shower, both of us still in our suits. She knew the normal routine - take off the suit to rinse it - but I could tell she was watching for me to make the first move. But by now we all know that I'm a chicken, so I waited.
As before, Stephanie seemed to realize that I wanted her to take the initiative. Glancing in my direction, she shrugged her arms out of the top of her suit and slowly peeled it down. Her back was to me as she bent to step out of it, giving me an astonishing view of her rounded bottom and a momentary glimpse of her pale cleft. She turned and held the suit up under the running water, looked into my eyes, and smiled. Her face told me what she was thinking: See Daddy, I can do this now, and it's okay. There was also a question framed on her brow: Are you proud of me, Daddy?
It's better when I don't think. It's thinking that screws me up. I was so overwhelmed by her gaze that I just reached out. Her face was glistening with beads of water, her normally flowing auburn hair flattened around her cheeks. I gently put my hand on the side of her face and said, "There's my girl."
She beamed, and her expression cut through me like a hot knife.
I later thought about my choice of words. "There's my girl." In a sense, I was answering her question. Yes, you did it! I'm very proud of you, because I know that you're shy and that it was hard for you. But in another sense I was recognizing her as a new person. Now that you're naked, I see your real self. When you're dressed, it's like a costume that hides your true nature. Thank you for letting me see you without your disguise.
The moment ended far too soon. She waited under the shower and watched as I stripped off my suit and rinsed it. I felt her eyes on me again, but we were both more relaxed. She bit her lower lip. I could tell she really wanted to say something, but just couldn't quite muster the courage. I wasn't sure I was ready to hear it, whatever it was.
"If we hurry, we can see the end of Caroline's game." I'm such a coward. We dried and dressed, chatting about school.
In the car the lip-biting resumed. I could see wheels spinning intensely behind her eyes. She finally broke the silence.
"Yes, honey?" Please don't ask about sex. Please don't ask about sex. Please don't...
"Do you really think I'm pretty?"
Oh thank God.
"Of course, sweetie. You really are. I wouldn't lie to you." My sincerity and relief were palpable.
"As pretty as Mommy?" A very serious look accompanied the question.
My sense of relief vanished. Warning lights flashed before my eyes. This is a trap. Extreme caution required. What you say now could be used against you.
I thought for about an hour before saying anything, squirming under her persistent scrutiny. Okay, it was actually like 10 seconds. You know what I mean.
"Well honey, I think Mommy is the prettiest girl in the world." Safe so far. Stephanie looked a little disappointed, but nodded slightly. It was sortof okay with her for me to think that. I had her permission, but barely. Hadn't given her any ammunition to use against me.
"And you look so much like her, sometimes I get confused about who's who." She blushed, and laughed out loud like a little girl. Relief again.
"No, really," I went on, playing out the act. "I can't even tell the difference. It's scary."
"You're silly, Daddy."
"And you're beautiful, Stephanie. You really are."
The next day was Sunday, and we decided to go swimming as a family. Carol took the opportunity to check out the regular ladies' locker room. She took the girls with her. I went to the mens', wondering if we'd ever return to the Family Changing Room.
We met in the hall on the way to the pool. I hadn't seen Carol in a swimsuit in a while. Seeing her together with Stephanie, I could tell that in a few years my joke in the car might become quite true. Two pairs of deep brown eyes, matching oval faces, shared perfection of skin. Bottoms of different sizes but remarkably similar shapes.
My wife smiled at me but didn't say anything. Stephanie and Caroline were whispering to each other and giggling uncontrollably. I couldn't contain my curiosity.
"So what?" Carol responded.
"How was it?"
"Oh. It's fine." When Carol says "fine" like that, it doesn't mean "fine." Like when I say, "I'm going to Paul's house to play poker" and she says, "Fine." Translation: "Don't wake me up when you come home."
I looked at Stephanie, who was having trouble walking due to paroxysms of laughter.
"What's so funny?"
Catching her breath. "Daddy, there's OLD PEOPLE in there."
I raised an eyebrow.
"Not old like you." My eyebrows arched further. "I mean REALLY REALLY old."
"What's wrong with that?"
"And fat," added Caroline, a bit late.
Stephanie and Caroline both simultaneously mimed sticking their fingers down their throats and vomiting. Carol gave them the icy look that was still effective in settling them down. "You're being very mean," she chided.
"It was SO GROSS," said Stephanie, a bit more quietly.
"It's just how people are. Everybody gets old, so you shouldn't say things like that."
"That doesn't mean we should have to LOOK AT THEM," said Stephanie. It's amazing how caustic an eight year-old can be.
Carol looked at me for help. "You guys will look like that someday," I ventured.
"I so totally will NOT!" retorted Stephanie. Carol gave me a glare that indicated she didn't appreciate my comment very much, either. We left it at that as we reached the pool.
After swimming, we made our way back down the hall. Stephanie and Caroline started heading for the Family Changing Room. Carol stopped and considered. "This way, girls," she said after a moment, gesturing towards the ladies'.
"Oh God Mom. Do we have to?" Major scrunchy faces from both girls.
She looked at me. I gave her my best 'It's entirely, completely up to you' shrug.
She sighed and walked towards the Family Changing Room. As the girls disappeared inside the door ahead of us, she said, "I'd be so embarrassed if they made a scene like that again. They're not ready to be in the locker room by themselves, for sure." I just nodded.
Carol and the girls talked busily while they showered and changed. I was pretty much ignored, which was okay with me. I waited until the three of them were drying off before I went into the shower. I was discreet as I toweled off and slid into my clothes. Carol smiled at me a few times. I made eye contact with Stephanie once. It felt like we had begun to see into each other's thoughts. It's really neat to have Mom here, she was thinking. It is, I thought back. I almost wish she wasn't, her face replied. We conversed and agreed without speaking.
That night Carol said, "I was so disappointed with the girls today. Don't let them go to the ladies' locker room by themselves. We'll get complaints." I nodded. I'm good at nodding when appropriate.
"And the Family Changing Room seems fine," she added. This time, I could tell that "fine" actually meant "fine."
Without ever talking about it, Stephanie and I had negotiated the rules of a game that we played whenever we went to the Family Changing Room. I would watch her, and follow her actions. This gave her the power to decide how and when our clothes came off and went back on. As she fully understood that I was ceding these decisions to her, she gradually became bolder.
I didn't really have an agenda in playing this game. I wanted her to feel comfortable. She would never feel like I was pressuring her. It would kill me to have anything like that come between us, regardless of what else happened.
But I couldn't entirely hide (or hide from) the other prominent thought in my brain. I enjoyed seeing Stephanie naked. I was in the shower at home when this idea first fully formed itself. I was washing my hair and closed my eyes to rinse. The image I found painted inside my eyelids was Stephanie in the Family Changing Room. She was bent over, her back to me, stepping out of her swimsuit. Her legs were just far enough apart that the lips of her smooth sex peeked out between her legs.
I was on my morning testosterone high. The image sent a jolt straight to my cock. My eyes popped open, leading to a painful curse-ridden few minutes while I got the soap off of my stinging corneas. Through it all I was as hard as glass.
I've always been pretty rational. I mean, I can rationalize with the best. At some level I knew that I should have had a feeling of self-loathing. But I didn't. I hadn't done anything wrong. Guys have all kinds of fantasies all the time. Brittany Spears dresses up like a schoolgirl and sings "Hit Me Baby One More Time." I can't control what I think. It's not like I'm going to molest her.
So it seemed okay to me that I liked to look at my daughter naked. I couldn't fully conceal this from my daughter. It must have been obvious from the way I looked at her. She loved knowing that I found her beautiful, and she understood that when she took off her clothes I thought so even more. At this point, neither of us really thought beyond this simple exchange of visual and emotional intimacy.
And so Stephanie began to play our new game with increasing enthusiasm. On our next visit, I noticed that she undressed down to her underpants before unpacking her swimsuit from her backpack. I kept pace, stripping to my boxers before opening my own bag. We talked about the new version of High School Musical while we rummaged for our suits and towels. I waited as she turned to face me. She reached for the waistband of her panties, and a few seconds later I hooked my thumbs under the elastic of my boxers. It was almost like a game of Simon Says.
We were now able to regard each other in a more calm, measured way. No need for stolen glances when she knew that she could see as much of me as she wanted. Her eyes still rested mostly on my penis, but they strayed elsewhere as well. I'm in respectable shape, so hopefully she wasn't recalling her experience in the ladies' locker room.
I drank in all of Stephanie's tiny, perfect form. So flat in front, so rounded in back. I traced the inner line of her slender legs up to the cleft where they met, and up over her elegant tummy, across her boyish chest. I lingered in the soft warm pool of her eyes and waited until she pulled on her own suit to step into mine.
On our arrival two days later, Stephanie dropped her backpack on the bench and then proceeded to take off every stitch before opening it to retrieve her suit. As I dutifully followed her lead, I smiled with the realization that she was gradually extending the time that we were naked together.
When we returned from the pool that day, Stephanie stripped off her suit immediately and carried it with her into the shower. We'd always worn our suits into the shower before, taking them off only at the last to rinse them off. As she skinned it off her lithe body, she gave me a defiant look. I'm in charge, she was saying, so drop your pants. I did as I was told.
Since Caroline was with us, we didn't talk about these developments. They formed an unspoken language of their own. It was a language rich with trust, and love, and butterflies in the stomach, and curiosity, and daring and nervousness and uncertainty. And increasingly, for me at least, it was a language of desire.
It was bound to happen. Up to this point there had still been something surreal about our experiences in the Family Changing Room. With Caroline present, the unspoken interaction between Stephanie and I was almost a separate reality. I was able to keep my emerging feelings at a safe distance.
The next Saturday was another split soccer schedule for the girls. Carol had worked late the night before, so I took the bullet and got up early to take Steph to her game. As we were getting ready, I called across the hall to her room.
"Bring your stuff if you want to swim after."
She stepped into her doorway to answer me. She was wearing only her underpants.
The sight was jarring to me. It was the first time I'd seen her in any state of undress at home since she was much younger. She smiled. Her eyes said, See Daddy, I can do it here, too.
"Okay," she said. We looked at each other for a good ten seconds before returning to our tasks.
After her game (which they actually won, I think) we arrived at the pool. As she had before when we came there by ourselves, she took my hand in the parking lot. As her fingers intertwined with mine, my mind flashed back to the image of her in the hall that morning. I closed my eyes briefly to get a better view of the memory. As I did, my body started to betray me.
I mentioned that Carol had worked late the night before. In fact she'd had a very busy week, and we hadn't made love since the previous Sunday. This was unusual for us. We generally couldn't keep our hands off each other for more than a day or two. I was running at an abnormally high hormone level.
I felt it coming on and pretty soon realized that I wasn't going to be able to do much about it. This wasn't going to be a short, passing little bout of swelling. This was going to be one of those monstrous, insistent, impossible to ignore hardons. An erection for the ages. Immune even to thoughts about getting kicked in the nuts and nuns that look like Pete Rose.
By the time we reached the door to the Family Changing Room, I was so stiff I had trouble walking. Fortunately I was wearing my favorite khaki shorts which have some room to spare. My sevenish inches felt like ten. Somewhat constrained by my boxers, it extended down my leg in a most uncomfortable and awkward way. (No, I never measured myself. Carol had insisted on doing it one night in college when we were high. She's always been good for my ego.)
Stephanie tossed her bag on the bench and quickly pulled her soccer jersey over her head, chattering away about some girl on her team who used to be her best friend but wasn't anymore. I don't remember why the falling out occurred, as I was having trouble listening. There was blood rushing through my ears, which is amazing since I really felt like all the blood in my body was in my cock.
Stephanie looked at me. My turn to take off my shirt. So I did, more slowly than usual, trying to buy time. We sat on the bench and took off our shoes. I was able to use this moment to surreptitiously adjust myself so that my cock was up against my belly. Sweet relief from pain, but it did nothing to reduce the swelling.
Stephanie stood up in front of me. In one motion, she took down her soccer shorts and her underpants together and stepped out of them. Now totally naked, she gave me the look. Your turn, Daddy. No need to say it out loud.
I tried to distract her by asking a few questions about her friend. She gave me short answers, and continued to give me the look. We fell silent. Her eyes showed disappointment. And finally she broke the rules, giving voice to our tacit agreement.
"What's the matter, Daddy?"
I looked at the floor, knowing that I was bright red.
"I can't right now, sweetpea."
"How come? It's your turn."
She bit her lip. "Are we being bad, Daddy?"
"No, honey. It's not that."
"Am I bad because I want to see it?"
That didn't help. I shook my head but didn't say anything. Her disappointment was turning to guilt and sadness.
"I won't tell Mommy," she blurted. "I'm not a baby like Caroline."
It surprised me to hear her say this. I hadn't been thinking in those terms, and it was shocking to realize that Stephanie had been. Was she really old enough to see her mother as a rival? For a moment, the notion of Carol discovering the nature of our game had the promise of deflating me. But when I saw the look on Stephanie's face, I knew that she completely meant it. This game was just for us. Blood rushed back to my penis and it spasmed, releasing a substantial stream of precum. I felt the warm thin liquid diffuse into the waistband of my boxers.
I looked her in the eye. "We haven't done anything bad, Steph." Not yet, I almost added.
"So what's the matter, Daddy?"
I had to decide whether to break our trust. In the end, I couldn't.
"My penis is hard." I heard myself say it, softly but clearly.
She looked confused. "What do you mean, Daddy?"
A second later she figured it out. "Oh," she said flatly, cutting off any response.
I guess Carol had told her enough about the mechanics that she made the connection.
I saw the realization spread from her wide eyes into a deepening glow on her cheeks. The red tide moved over her chest and all the way down her legs. She looked almost sunburned from a long day at the beach. She folded her arms in front of her, hiding herself. At the same time, her eyes searched my crotch. Now that she was looking, she saw the evidence outlined in my shorts.
"Ya," I said. "I'm sorry." I didn't know what else to say.
She nodded a little, looking very pensive, and went back to the bench. She pulled on her swimsuit and headed for the door. As it was closing behind her, she glanced back. I was still sitting on the bench, looking embarrassed and confused. She hesitated for a moment before coming towards me. She quickly bent over and kissed me on the cheek, and then ran for the pool without saying a word.
I've never loved her more than I did at that instant.
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