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CHAPTER 01: SALSA
Ella Bishop was a self-made woman. Where she lacked the experience and seasoning of an adult life most eighteen year olds suffer, she compensated by adopting traits from the past. She did so with a passion and this gave her a unique standing in Canyon Ridge. Ella was a stand alone classic amidst a sea of moderns, never quite fitting in with the modern trend yet always memorable. That was how she preferred it. Ella’s provocative quasi-Greaser look was inspired by her love of old movies while her direct attitude inspired by her mother, Anabella Bishop. They were more alike than either cared to admit. They even shared the same name, with Ella adopting the last four letters of the namesake as Ana had already claimed the first three. Ana saw it as a tradition of passing of namesake from mother to daughter while Ella refused to be anyone’s junior.
Both women possessed a no-nonsense practicality that I found incredibly attractive. I didn’t have to guess about meaning or subtext when it came to either of them. That was part what made my relationship with Ella so simple, and part of what got me in trouble with both her and Ana later on. Ana Bishop was just as easy to be friends with as her daughter Ella was, and as I had known since I first became sexually aware, equally as easy to be attracted to.
You see, as deep as I was in with Ella, I was in deeper with Ana. I’d never said anything to let on that was the case, but if Ella Bishop was the metric by which I measured other women, then her mother Ana was the gold standard of unobtainable femininity that no one could ever hope to meet. Looking back, I think that was part of my infatuation with Ana; she was unobtainable and as long as I was pining for the unobtainable then there was very little chance I would get caught up in a relationship that required much more than for me to just be there. No commitments or emotional entanglements. How could there be? Ana Bishop was the standard, the requirements a woman would have to meet in order to get inside my heart. Outside of Ana Bishop, I preferred the ease of casual sex and the limits of semi-relationships that went nowhere save for a bedroom or comfortable back seat. Ana didn’t know it, but she was the safe guard that kept my heart from being broken.
It didn’t hurt that Ana was married.
I don’t remember things ever being what one might call ‘good’ between Ana and Todd Bishop. Not that I was remotely qualified to judge such things as a child, or even as an eighteen year old. All I had for comparison was my own mother and father, and they were light years removed from the always brewing turmoil in the Bishop residence. Seeing the discord between Ana and Todd made me question the negatives of relationships as much as my own mother and father reinforced the positives.
Even at an early age, I can recall their marriage being a rocky affair filled with continuous arguments that paused just long enough for a remorseful respite and then it was back to business. The arguments were quiet as far as marital arguments go, but the majority of those fights amounted to venom spat under heated breaths and subtle attacks that always wounded in between the lines. Todd’s proclivity for subtext is, I’m sure, what led to both Ana and Ella being as direct in their communication as they both ultimately were.
Todd Bishop was the town electrician and general repairman. He owned a small storefront on main drag of Canyon Ridge that was sandwiched in between the Five-N-Dime Store and Janelle’s Beauty Salon. It was no secret that Todd preferred spending his off-the-clock hours at Goose’s Tavern, the local pub a few blocks down from his shop, over spending time with his family. To make matters worse, rumors about his infidelities had become so commonplace that most of the locals had accepted Todd’s alleged misbehavior the same way they accepted the annual snow fall that blanketed Canyon Ridge from November to March the following year.
According to my mother, their troubled relationship was par for the course. Mom and Ana had gone to school together, both had ended up married and pregnant young. For my mother, it was a post-graduation event that she gladly chose. For Ana, who found herself pregnant with Ella when she was sixteen, it had been an unwelcome and ultimately forced consequence. I knew from being Ella’s confidant and from basic observation that Ana Bishop, formerly Ana Villalobos, had essentially become trapped before she even graduated from high school. Whereas my mother was able to make her own choices, Ana was given no such consideration. Dreams of owning a charter boat operation on the coast of Northern California were replaced by the reality becoming a real estate agent in the mountains of Northern California. This unfortunate set of events ultimately led to her marrying Todd Bishop for all the wrong reasons.
There’s nothing wrong with being a real estate agent, mind you. It’s just that when you’ve dreamed of the freedom of the open sea and a boat casino oyna to call your own, anything else seems like a letdown. As the daughter of a staunch, first generation Mexican Catholic immigrant father, Ana discovered that getting knocked up at the tender age of sixteen presented complications to her plans for the future. The fact that Todd Bishop hailed from a second generation Irish Catholic immigrant family didn’t help matters any. So a wedding was, in no uncertain terms, in their immediate future.
To her credit, Ana made the best of it.
Todd made good money, but it was common knowledge that Ana was the primary reason why the Bishop family lived in the north end of town. Such a thing was, in the end, inconsequential to most people. My parents certainly never made an issue of it. It was, however, an issue among many issues for Todd. On top of not wanting to be in the marriage anymore than Ana did, Todd was afflicted with a terminal case of pride. Divorce wasn’t all that uncommon in those days, and I think if he had been a little more at peace with himself, Todd would have done just that. Being married to one of the most attractive and successful women in town wasn’t enough to compensate for the fact that Todd Bishop absolutely refused to be seen as wrong at any time, for any reason. A divorce would have implied to at least a few people, a few too many for his comfort, that he had been in the wrong somehow. For that reason, coupled with pressure from both sides of their respective families, Todd and Ana Bishop had remained unhappily married.
The worst part of the whole mess was that for as much as Todd wanted out, he was extremely possessive of Ana and at times unreasonably jealous. Ella being a younger clone of Ana didn’t help Todd’s already unstable state of mind, and so his overbearing manner extended to Ella as well. If Ella were the exotic, thorny flower of Canyon Ridge, then her mother Ana was the plant from which the blossom grew. Like Ella, Ana was something of a local legend. She was the woman that every man in town fantasized about at least once during sex with his wife or girlfriend, whether he ever admitted it or not. Subsequently, she was that mom every hormone-cursed adolescent spent at least one private-time session time rubbing one out over.
To be honest, I’d had more than my fair share of breathtaking masturbatory sessions over Ana Bishop. Though she was only thirty-six years old, she barely looked a day over twenty-six. Ana was blessed with naturally tan skin, thick luxurious black hair that cascaded around her shoulders in pronounced curls and classically beautiful exotic features that all highlighted her curvy hour glass build. Like her daughter, Ana was a desert rose stuck in the evergreen mountains of Northern California.
When Ella and I finally arrived at the birthday party a half hour late, we found an event that was already in full swing. Ella had told me her mother was planning a birthday party for me and at the time I hadn’t thought much of it. At most, I figured maybe a few friends would show up and we’d all be treated to Ana’s famous cooking and poolside antics. This was not the case. There had to be at least thirty people present, mostly former classmates and a few that were on their way to becoming seniors in the fall. The music was loud, the conversation peppered with laughter and carefree ease.
The Bishop’s house was one of the newer structures that had been built in 1980 when the city started developing the land at the north end of the canyon, a grouping of small neighborhoods collectively known as Rich Town. Only families that made more than enough money bought property there, and between what Todd and Ana both made, their home was a mansion compared to the majority of the rest of town. As it was at that point in time, there were several houses under construction in the cul de sac where Ella lived, but the Bishop house was the only complete and occupied home. Thus, there would be no noise complaints tonight no matter how loud the music got.
As we entered the side gate, the aroma of heated citronella oil and authentic Mexican food filled the hot, dusky air. The large backyard was filled with bodies in motion, all in one form of swimsuit or another, some splashing around in the pool while others mingled on the expansive covered patio. Music was blaring from the radio near the sliding glass doors of the back porch. Among the small crowd, I saw Maggie Secord chatting with Catherine Smith, not too far from where the town stud Andrew Tate was surreptitiously adding a small quantity of alcoholic flavor into the punch bowl.
My eyes lingered on Maggie for a second or two, watching her as she and Catherine laughed at a joke. A quick pang of regret pulled at me when I looked at Maggie. I hadn’t been lying when I told Ella that I wasn’t broken up over her. What I didn’t tell Ella was that Maggie had me reconsidering my rule about not getting into serious relationships. Of course, I was still hot for Maggie. I wanted canlı casino her in the worst way, even then as Ella and I strolled up to the back porch. The orange and blue bathing suit she was wearing didn’t help matters any. We might not have consummated our dating relationship before it abruptly ended, but we did laugh. The smoldering memories of what did together in the back seat of my Delta 88 wouldn’t burn quite as brightly as the way she made me laugh. Maggie could perfectly imitate Katherine Hepburn, and usually did so when telling the crudest, lewdest jokes mankind had ever devised. Laughter had a way of breaking down barriers, and Maggie had definitely started chipping away at mine.
I wasn’t broken up over her, but I was more than a little unsettled that she made me wonder if it would be worth it to risk being so.
Among the party goers was a lonesome figure that had graduated one year before I did, Brett Long. He was a friend of mine, rough around the edges and plagued by a need to find trouble even when it wasn’t looking for him. Brett was a tall, lanky guy and as authentically red-blooded mountain red neck as a guy could ever hope to be. Even though the affair at hand was clearly a pool party, he was decked out in his black Wranglers, desert tan cowboy hat and a red t-shirt (complete with a can of Redman chew rolled into the sleeve). At the moment, he was busy chatting up Sarah Stark and Steve DeCantin by the barbecue pit that Todd had installed just before the Fourth of July in 1986. I only remember that detail about the barbecue pit because I was on my way to the movies with Ella to see ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ for the first time.
Given that he had actually combed his dark mullet and groomed the thin strip of fine black hair he called a mustache, I figured Brett had shown up to flirt, get his hands on some of the liquor that was undoubtedly being passed around by now and take his chances trying to get Ella to pay him some attention. Birthdays and celebrations weren’t his thing, and as he had told me many times before, they were never going to be his thing unless Ella Bishop was there to play with his thing. His infatuation with Ella was a well known footnote in the town lore, and Brett made very little effort to hide it. His chances tonight were likely going to be what they had been since second grade: zero.
Brett was, if nothing else, consistent.
I said my hellos and smiled my greetings as I worked my way to the back door. Everyone seemed like they were having a good time, and while I figured their attendance had more to do with free food and a spiked punch bowl than my birthday, it was still nice to feel special for a minute or two. Beyond that, I was already on the verge of screaming. Large crowds and I didn’t mix very well.
“Brett Long is hunting for you,” I told Ella from the corner of my mouth, “Cleaned himself up real nice like.”
“That’s sweet,” Ella replied, “And if I wanted to fuck an extra from Hee Haw tonight, I might help him brush his tooth to get that chaw aftertaste out of his mouth.”
In spite of the cruelty of her comment, I laughed anyway. Brett did have a halitosis problem due to the chew.
“This crowd is going to give me a panic attack,” I whispered, nervously eyeballing the sheer volume of people in attendance, “Half of everyone here never said a word to me in four years of high school.”
“Shut up and enjoy it,” Ella opened the screen door to her house and stepping inside, “Think of it as an end of summer blow out that just happens to have a Doug Kane theme. Besides, Mom wanted to do something nice so don’t be a prick.”
“Where are you going?” I put my hand on her shoulder, “You’re not leaving me alone down here. Christ, Maggie being here is enough to make me uncomfortable.”
“You said you were cool with her.”
“Then don’t use her for an excuse.”
“You’re not leaving me here alone.”
“I am going upstairs now,” Ella informed me, “I need a shower. I’m sweaty and I’m pretty sure if anyone ran a black light over me right now, they’d find a whole of you both above and below. I want to feel fresh, Doug. I need to feel fresh. I want to go for a swim in my pool and in order to do that I need another bathing suit. I lost my blue one today, somehow.
Now, I’ve got to choose between my red strapless halter and my floral pattern string bikini. I plan to get laid tonight, Doug. If not by you, then most certainly by Andrew Tate, who is, by the way, looking highly fuckable as he stands near the punch bowl flirting with Leather Heather. So you see, I have got to leave you alone for awhile and prepare for the hunt. Savvy?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“You’re a big boy now,” Ella playfully slapped my face and walked away into the house. She called over her shoulder, “Go say hello to mom and grab some food.”
I kicked my sandals off at the door, took another glance at the party, and gladly walked inside. The back door led immediately kaçak casino to the dining room. The polished, honey-hued hardwood floor was mercifully cool under my feet. The lighting was warm and atmospheric, comforting and inviting. The antique dining room table was loaded down with enough food and drinks to feed a small army. A large green ceramic bowl of salsa was within arm’s reach and I didn’t hesitate to grab a few of the homemade tortilla chips and dip them in. Ana’s salsa was legendary, the sort of thing that even if you didn’t like salsa, you’d like Ana’s salsa. Not too hot, not too mild. The after burn was sweet and subtle, bringing neither a tear to your eye or a burn to your asshole the next day.
The interior of the house was an uncompromising physical expression of Ana herself. Colorful and outspoken, but nowhere near obnoxiously overstated. The walls were painted in soft desert colors ranging in tone from red to gold, the palette designed to allow her collection of ethnic artwork and decorations to shine. Every so often, ceramic masks dotted the walls. These were masks that Ana had painted herself, and the craftsmanship was as eloquent and focused as she was.
I arrived in the kitchen and found Ana Bishop washing up the last of the pots and pans she had used to prepare the chicken and beef for the night’s meal. Her long, wavy dark hair was pulled up in a makeshift bun, exposing her slender neck and shoulders. A colorful wrap was fastened around her waist, teasing her hips and legs. Like her daughter, Ana had no qualms when it came to what she chose to wear. As such, the flimsy, form-fitting beige tank top she wore complimented her impossibly exquisite curves while clearly teasing the multi-colored tropical bikini top she wore underneath.
Assisting her in clean up duties was Sara Cole. Sara was a friend of Ana’s that lived in Redding, about an hour south down the interstate, and she always seemed to be visiting Canyon Ridge for one reason or another. Sara was drying off silverware as Ana passed each clean utensil to her. Her naturally tight-curled hair was styled in elegant rows and braids that hung down to her bare shoulders. She wore a simple, light blue paisley strapless sundress that hugged a short and stacked figure nearly identical to Ana’s. Her dark, mocha-toned skin contrasted her apparel in a way that made her look like Jamaican royalty.
“Douglas Kane,” Ana greeted me as she shut the water off, grabbing a dish towel to dry her hands, “Happy eighteenth birthday.”
“Thank you,” I said, reeling from the smile she had graced me with. Ana had no idea just how bad of a flutter she could create in my stomach with that smile. No matter how many times I saw it, my gut reaction was always as though I were experiencing it for the first time. I continued, “You didn’t have to do all this, though.”
“Stop it,” Ana said, “Your family is out of town and no one should not be alone on their eighteenth birthday.”
“Your salsa would have been enough.”
“Aren’t you lucky then?” Ana replied, “Plenty to go around.”
“Happy birthday, Doug,” Sara Cole smiled and hugged me tight. Sara’s hugs were just as fantastic as Ana’s in almost every way, and I enjoyed every moment of the embrace.
“Good to see you,” I said, “Business or pleasure?”
“I was on my through to Portland for business,” Sara said, “Had a few days to kill and got drafted into chaperoning this party. So, yeah. Pleasure, too?”
“I don’t need a chaperone,” I insisted, and then to emphasize the point as my little brother David might have done, I added, “I’m a big boy now.”
“I can see that,” Sara nodded and then motioned to her dress. The ridiculous amount cleavage it revealed coupled with how form fitting it was made me feel light in the head. She twirled a small pose for my consideration and then asked, “What do you think? Ana let me borrow it so I wouldn’t roast.”
“I think you’re going to cause whiplash if you walk around in that,” I said.
Ana and Sara shared an amused look.
“Well now,” Sara said remarked, “Compliments will get you everywhere.”
“As long as everywhere has salsa,” I said, “Best present ever. Thank you for making it for me.”
“You are very welcome,” Ana pulled me into a hug. Hugs from Ana were notable for a few reasons. First off, like Sara and Ella, Ana was extremely well endowed. The sensational feeling of her breasts pressed against my chest was enough to give me waking wet dreams. Secondly, her hugs were full and open embraces. When Ana hugged me, it was as genuinely comforting as it was erotic. Third, and this is the most important detail, her hugs made me feel safe. I know that might sound odd. One could make the argument that all hugs could make a person feel safe, but there was something intrinsically different about a hug from Ana Bishop. The fact that I was secretly attracted to her on a profoundly deep level probably informed that need to be close to her. Either way, hugging Ana had always felt like coming home.
“You’ve gotten huge,” Ana commented as she broke the embrace, patted my chest and whistled, “Have you been working out? Look at you strutting around in just your shorts, showing off for the girls.”
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