Brad and Amber (PG-13)

Amber pulled her car to the curb in front of the Percy house. It had been several years since she had been here but Mary was in town visiting with her husband Mike and their two children and Mary's parents were hosting an open house so Mary and Mike could see family and friends.

Amber smiled as she approached the familiar home. She and Mary had been close friends growing up and Amber had many fond memories of her friendship with Mary here. The house was full of laughing and smiling people when she entered. A thrilled Mary gave her life long friend a hearty hug and the two women greeted each other warmly.

Amber was overwhelmed by the many familiar faces in the Percy house as she spotted old high school friends, neighborhood kids, and many of Mary's family members. Amber was struck by the number of married classmates who were present, some with their children with them. Ten years after graduating from high school, Amber was still single with no real prospects and she wondered if she had been left behind but she was happy to see the old clique was there. In addition to Mike and Mary, there was Lisa (who had married Jake and now had two kids) and Kara who had married a guy named Jerry who had gone to a different school. There was also Marie, now a successful young lawyer.

"Hey, good looking."

Amber turned to see Brad standing behind her. Brad had been part of their high school clique too, a fun and funny guy who hung out with Mike and Jake. He was a good athlete as well but by senior year Brad's partying and drinking caught up to him. He was kicked off the basketball and baseball teams for breaking team rules and he barely made it to graduation with various other troubles and violations. Following graduation, while most of the others went off to college or the military or the altar, Brad was getting in more trouble, arrested several times and eventually spending time in jail for substance abuse-related crimes. Most of the old clique had given up on him as his life spiraled out of control and Amber hadn't seen him in recent years.

"Brad," Amber replied with surprise. "I didn't expect to see you here."

"Nobody did," Brad admitted. "But Mike was willing to take a chance."

He was holding a can of coke in his hand. He was at least twenty pounds lighter than high school. He had a couple of tattoos on his arms and he his hair was cut short with a neatly trimmed beard. The last time Amber saw him he was being dragged out of The Greenville Tavern in handcuffs. He was homeless and unemployed at the time ("couch surfing" was how he phrased it) and his life was going nowhere fast.

"So, this is your coming out party?" Amber teased although she had to admit she was feeling slightly uncomfortable around Brad given his track record of arrests, substance abuse and drama.

"We should really go out sometime," Brad told her with a grin.

It was a line he used on her all the way through high school. When members of the clique were inter-dating and dating others, Brad would offer that line to Amber who didn't date that much in high school. It became a running joke between them but now, ten years later and given the circumstances, Amber didn't find the familiar line quite so funny anymore.

"It's nice to see you, Brad," Amber replied with a polite smile before she went off to mingle, visit and socialize with her other friends, still not sure what to make of Brad.

Amber noticed that Brad appeared to be the odd man out at the party. Mike was busy entertaining the many people stopping by to visit and people weren't paying attention to Brad, obviously skirmish and doubtful to socialize with a guy who had burned so many bridges and hurt so many people along his self-path of destruction. Amber almost felt sorry for him.

Brad Bremington had been a well liked and popular ladies man in high school but now he looked like he was being shunned and that was the last thing most of the clique thought would happen to the good looking, intelligent and fun guy they remembered from high school.

Later, Amber was standing in the bay window overlooking the back yard watching as Brad sat on a bench while some of the other guys chatted and goofed off with their young kids.

Mary stepped up to the window next to Amber and the two long time friends stared at the group in the yard. They looked a bit like the odd couple. Mary was short – barely 5'2' with a few added pounds after two children. Her long blond hair from high school was now cut short and dyed brown. Amber stood at 5'8" and she still looked the same as she did in high school with her long blonde hair flowing down her back and she was as thin as ever.

Amber had been just as pretty as the rest of the girls in the clique but she was much more reserved and stoic than the others, a follower rather than a leader, content on being one of the group without putting herself out there.

"Whose idea was it to invite Brad?" Amber asked. "I thought he was on the death list."

"He was," Mary said. "But Mike's willing to give him a second chance."

"You mean like a fiftieth chance?" Amber asked cynically.

"At least," Mary agreed with a sigh.

"Do you trust him?" Amber asked.

"I don't know," Mary admitted. "He's screwed us over so many times its hard to know what to think."

"He said we should go out again," Amber sighed.

"Oh, he's still using that line?" Mary laughed.

"He's the first proposition I've had in months," Amber admitted sadly.

"You should finally call him on it," Mary advised.

"What?" Amber asked with surprise.

"Why not?" Mary asked. "See what he says."

Amber stared out the window at Brad as he sat quietly on the bench watching the others without really being a part of the socialization buzzing around him.

"I don't want to get burned by him," Amber stated sadly.

"Mike says he's doing what he's supposed to be doing to stay straight and out of trouble," Mary remarked. "You've always liked him."

"That was before he was a felon," Amber sighed.

"We've all made mistakes, Amber," Mary said. "Do we pay for our sins forever?"

Mary drifted off to the party and Amber looked at Brad for a long time before she also re-joined the party. She lost track of Brad with all the other activities going on and later Mike said that Brad had left. Amber felt sort of sad that he was gone but it was nice catching up with Mary and her life in South Carolina and seeing all the other friends again.

The next day, Amber stopped by the Percy house to visit with Mary and the kids and she found Mike and Brad standing in the driveway about to head out to play a round of golf.

"Hey, Good looking," Brad said with a smile. "We should really go out sometime."

Amber nodded but she didn't say anything in response. She thought about what Mary had suggested (calling Brad's bluff) but she wasn't sure if she was ready to play that game with Brad given his checkered history.

Amber disappeared into the house and Mike gave his friend a glance.

"Why don't you ask her out for real?" Mike remarked as the two golfers climbed into Mike's SUV.

"A girl like her would never go out with a guy like me," Brad replied with defeat.

The following evening, Kara and Jerry hosted a pool party at their swash $400,000 house in South County. Kara was rapidly climbing the corporate ladder in the health industry and Jerry was a middle manager at a local successful business and the couple was doing impressively well financially.

Amber was among the last to arrive and she saw Brad sitting alone by the side of the pool while Mike and Mary played with their kids in the water along with Lisa and Jake and their two children. Jerry was cooking on the nearby grill and Kara was talking with a few other guests Amber didn't know.

"Hey, Good looking," Brad said with a smile when Amber approached. "We should really go out sometime."

"How 'bout tomorrow night?" Amber heard herself say before her brain had even comprehended her response.

Brad gave her a double take. "What?"

"Tomorrow night," Amber stated forcefully. "We'll take in a game at Beano Field. You can buy me a hot dog."

Brad rubbed the side of his face with surprise as he stared at Amber standing in front of him wearing a pink smock over her white one piece bathing suit. Brad was wearing a pair of Hawaiian swimming trunks and a Greenville Giants tee shirt.

"Ah, er, well, sure, okay," Brad said, totally caught off guard by her response.

"Good," Amber replied with a smile before wandering off to chat with some of the others.

Brad wasn't sure what to make of Amber's invite. Was she just being polite? Had she promised a favor to Mike? He had been asking her the question for fifteen years and never once had she responded in the affirmative. He didn't know what to make of it.

Brad spent most of the evening sitting in the pool chair nursing an ice tea while the others drank beer and socialized. He felt like a third wheel outsider knowing that he had shamed and screwed himself out of the inner circle with his horrible behavior and drunkenness. He didn't blame his friends for being distant but he appreciated Mike's willingness to give him a chance.

And now apparently Amber was willing to throw him an olive branch too. She was sitting on the side of the pool with her feet dipped in the water. Brad left his chair and sat on the stairs built into the side of the pool to watch those in the pool skylarking about. He could see the white of Amber's bathing suit between her legs underneath her smock as she sat on the side of the pool.

Amber glanced at him and smiled while she chatted with Mary, Lisa and Kara. Could Brad's long sentence in the dog house be finally coming to an end? The rest of the evening went well with hot dogs and hamburgers and potato salad and plenty of conversation among the friends. Brad remained reserved, feeling vulnerable and unworthy around his friends after the hell he had put them through over the years. When he looked at Kara and Jerry's attractive home and saw how successful the rest of his friends were he realized just how much he had blown his own chances and screwed up his life.

Mary and Mike were happily married with a five year old and a three year old living in South Carolina where Mike was working in construction and Mary had a part time job with her catering friend. Lisa was a nurse and Jake worked for the post office raising two young children. Marie had just joined a law firm in Greenville. All of them had left him behind in his misery and addictions, his court cases and police record, his homelessness and joblessness. The urge to drink and use tempted him the most at moments like this – when he realized just how much he had lost.

"You okay?"

Brad looked up from the water where he had been memorized lost in his thoughts and sorrow to see Amber taking a seat beside him.

"It's tough sometimes," he admitted honestly. "I find myself on the edge."

"You're among friends here," she reminded him.

"Friends who never know what to expect from me," Brad sighed.

"As long as you stay clean and sober we'll stand by you," Amber assured him.

"Are you my friend?" Brad asked, glancing at her.

She shrugged. "I'd like to be," she replied.

He nodded in understanding. "Sometimes I don't think I'm worthy."

"You're no worse or better than the rest of us," Amber replied.

"I don't feel that way," Brad sighed.

"You're way too hard on yourself, Brad," Amber told him.

They were interrupted by the others and the rest of the night went by without much more interaction between them. Brad resisted the urge to flee from the gathering, feeling anxious, exposed, and extremely guilty but he hung tough and left with the rest of them at the end of the evening.

"Meet me in front of Beano Field at 6:30 tomorrow night," Amber told him as they walked to their cars.

"Thanks," Brad said with appreciation.

"Just make sure you show up," Amber said strongly, aware of his many disappearing acts and no shows in the past. "If you stand me up, I'm done with you."

"I understand," Brad said sheepishly, closing the door for her as she climbed into the driver's seat of her car.

"Goodnight, Brad."

"Goodnight, Amber," he replied, watching as she drove into the night

###

Brad was feeling jumpy and nervous all day although he had no idea why. It was just Amber. He had known her since middle school and meeting her at Beano Field really was no big deal but this was his first one-on-one social event in a long time and he didn't want to blow it. The thought of a taking a drink or finding a high tempted him a few times as the day went on and as the evening approached Brad considered chickening out but he knew he couldn't do that to Amber. She was willing to give him an evening of her time and he would never forgive himself if he bailed out on her.

There was a time in high school when he thought he might play for the Greenville Giants of the amateur Serguci Baseball League that played its summer schedule at Hillsboro's Beano Field but that was before he ruined his athletic career with drugs and booze. He hadn't held a baseball bat in his hands in eleven years and those glory days of his youth were gone forever.

Brad could feel his legs shaking as he parked his car down the block from Beano Field and nervously walked toward the park. He hadn't been to a game in years but he knew some of his old friends, classmates, peers and opponents were still playing the game and he wondered what they would think when they saw him sitting in the stands.

He saw Amber's golden blond hair dancing in the wind as he approached. She was sitting on the stone wall in front of the main entrance on the third baseline of the old park wearing white shorts and a pretty flowered blouse along with sandals. He was in his usual jeans and a tee shirt but he had showered before leaving for the park.

"Hey, Good looking," Brad said with a smile when he reached Amber. "We should really go out sometime."

She glanced at him with an odd look on her face. "Isn't that what we're doing now?"

"Sorry," he mumbled. "Just trying to break the tension."

"Who's tense?"

"I am," Brad admitted nervously.

She smiled and popped off the wall, taking his arm in his. "Come on, buy me a hot dog."

Brad paid the two bucks it cost to get them both into the park and they walked along the third base bleachers until they reached the snack shack near the left field line. Brad ordered two dogs, two cokes, and a fry to share and they stood in front of the shack watching the two teams warm up – tonight the Giants were playing the Miller City Mudhens.

When the food was ready, Brad walked Amber up the third base bleachers to near the top. There weren't many fans in this particular area so they had plenty of privacy.

"I always thought I'd be watching you play here," Amber remarked once they took their seats.

"Yeah," Brad agreed as he took a bite of his hot dog. "Just one more thing on my list of blunders."

"So, what's going on with you these days, Brad?" Amber asked, sounding laid back and care free as she ate her dog.

"I live in my sister's cellar," Brad replied openly. "There's a bathroom down there and a room for me to use. I work for my uncle cleaning offices at night. He took a big chance because if anything turns up missing I'll be the first and only suspect."

"Well, just make sure nothing turns up missing," Amber replied easily.

"You still at the bank?"

She nodded affirmatively. "I'm sharing an apartment with my sister and another girl," she revealed. "But I've been saving up my money for a down payment on a house of my own."

"Good for you."

"I don't see you around much anymore, Brad."

"I keep a very low profile," he admitted. "Better chance of staying out of trouble that way."

"Well, what do you do with your time?"

"Work, sleep, go to meetings, stay close to home."

"Doesn't sound like much of a social life."

"Less chance of meeting up with people I don't need to be with," he explained.

"Listen, Brad, I don't have time to mess around," Amber let him know. "I'm twenty eight years old and I'm not interested in playing any more stupid high school games. I've been through a few unsuccessful relationships in the past couple of years and I'm ready for something serious. Are you interested?"

"I thought we were just friends," Brad replied with confusion.

"We've always been friends," Amber reminded him. "Are you ready for something more?"

He sat back on the seat and smiled. "Wow, Amber."

"Well?" She asked directly. "I need to know if this is something worth my time. I need to know if I can trust you. I need to know that you're not going to go off the deep end again."

"Look, there are no guarantees, Amber," Brad replied with a sigh. "All I can do is take it one day at a time and try to stay clean and sober for today."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I abused drugs and alcohol for a long time, Amber," he revealed. "I'm an addict and a drunk."

"What happened to you?" She wanted to know.

"I know I was the happy go lucky guy in high school but deep down inside I was miserable, frustrated and a very lonely person," he told her.

She looked at him with surprise. "We were all insecure back then, Brad."

"Well, I used booze and drugs to not deal with it," he sighed. "I was living in my own little world of addiction. I was in denial so bad that I didn't think I had a problem. The demons in my head ran my life, controlled my thoughts and my actions and they came close to destroying me."

"You did get pretty bad," Amber acknowledged.

"I stole. I lied. I cheated. I destroyed relationships with my family. I violated boundaries. I broke the law. I maxed out every credit card I had. I flunked out of college. I embarrassed my family and friends. I lost my job. I got kicked out of my house. I went to jail. But all I cared about was the next fix, the next drink." He glanced at her. "Did you know that my addiction Drug abuse and dependencestarted when I was fifteen?"

"No, I didn't," she admitted.

"I had already experimented with drinking for a few years and it was something I really liked," he revealed. "Booze made me feel cooler. I remember the first time I ever drank. It was in 6th grade in Greg Marshall's garage."

"Sixth grade!" Amber asked with surprise.

He nodded in confirmation. "We were chugging beer. Boy, I thought I was the coolest. After that, my drinking progressed into habitual and by the time I was a Freshman I was pretty much a drunk."

"Wow," Amber said. "I didn't know."

"That's because I hid it pretty well," Brad replied. "I was an above average student and a pretty good athlete but I was sneaking ten shots of liquor from the obscene amount of bottles in my parents' liquor cabinet and getting beer from the older guys whenever I could and it just got progressively worse as all you guys plainly witnessed when I started missing classes and got kicked off the teams and all the rest of it."

"It was kind of pathetic," Amber noted.

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"As funny as it sounds now, I was totally against using drugs in high school," Brad announced. "I maybe smoked weed five times through the whole four years. But I went to some party that summer and somebody turned me on to cocaine and suddenly I was smoking weed daily and I started selling and buying drugs. I ended up trying every drug I ever heard of. All you well grounded friends were off at college or getting married or whatever. I was hanging around with the addicts and partiers and I fit in very well because that's what I had become. I lost all inhibition towards drugs and I started stealing, cheating, lying and betraying to support my habit until I finally crashed and burned and hit bottom."
"What finally did it?" Amber asked.

"Something came over me," he answered. "I heard a voice tell me that I'd better make some huge changes in my life if I wanted to stay alive so I let my family take me to a rehab."

"And that worked?"

"For a while," Brad said. "But I relapsed and stole my grandfather's coin collection which I sold off and that was the last straw for my parents. They had me arrested and I went to jail for a second time and as part of an early release program I got diverted to another rehab program and then a half way house and now I'm back, living in my sister's basement."

"But you're clean and sober," Amber said with encouragement.

"Today," Brad confirmed.

"Well, you can do it tomorrow too," Amber announced. "You've always had the willingness, strength and determination to succeed at anything you put your mind too." She gave him a long look. "I believe in you."

Brad glanced out at the baseball field where the two teams were playing the game. "You're very kind, Amber, but I'm an alcoholic and an addict. I've been in jail. I've made a suicide attempt. My self-worth was worthless. I was dying inside and struggling outside. I never knew how to talk about how I felt. I escalated in a downward spiral until it all came crashing down around me. Now I have to accept responsibility for my behaviors and actions and I need to stay clean and sober."

"Yes, you do," Amber agreed. "I'd be happy to help."

"You don't know what you're offering," he sighed.

"Look, Brad, I am happy with who I am and where I am and if the right relationship happens that would be fabulous," Amber told him. "I see a lot of people happily married and living their lives. I'm ready to be with someone and I get the feeling you need to be with someone."

"No one owes me anything," Brad replied. "I was the one got in trouble. I was the one who chose to destroy my life and my relationships with my selfish behavior. Now I'm clean and sober but I still struggle and if I'm to have any success I need to keep moving forward and avoid trouble and attend meetings while being grateful and consistent and staying clean and sober."

"Don't you want to move forward with me?" Amber asked.

Brad looked at her and smiled sadly. "I've never had a relationship sober," he admitted.

"You were the biggest ladies man in high school," Amber reminded him. "You slept with half the class."

"But I was never sober," Brad replied. "I had no discipline or self control. I was emotionally and morally bankrupt. I've been making amends to all the girls I used and hurt – if they'll talk to me, anyway. Making amends for the past is crucial to my recovery and my self-esteem and peace of mind. I can't deny responsibility for my screwed up behaviors and I've been apologizing to as many people as I can."

"You haven't apologized to me yet," Amber pointed out.

He studied her for a long moment. "Did I do something to you I don't remember?" he wanted to know.

"Well, you strung me along for starters," Amber let him know. "'Hey, Good looking, we should really go out sometime'? You must have said that to me a thousand times. Do you know how that made me feel after a while?"

"Not good," he realized. "I'm sorry."

"Why didn't you ever just ask me out?"

"Believe me, Amber, the best thing that ever happened to you is that we didn't go out," Brad assured her.

"But why didn't we?" She asked.

"Because I liked you too much," he replied openly.

She looked at him with surprise. "Oh," she said after a few moments of comprehending.

"One of the ways I can make amends is by making sure I don't do those sort of things again," Brad explained. "I'm paying restitution for all the money and other stuff I stole and the damage I caused. I've had closure on events and incidents that were eating me away. I mourn lost relationships due to my behaviors and it continues to hurt. There are things I must let go and with patience, I will."

"You don't have to do this all on your own, you know," Amber said.

"I'm not," Brad let her know. "I go to meetings all the time."

"That's not what I meant."

He looked at her sheepishly. "You know, after not talking about feelings for so long I now appreciate the spiritual value of simple conversation," he said with a grin. "It reminds me that I can be useful to others and that I am not alone. There are only two things that can mess up my peace of mind."

"What's that?" Amber asked.

"My own behavior and circumstances beyond my control," he answered. "I take care of what I can and what I am responsible for but the rest is up to God. I need to live like I mean to stay sober without worrying about potential doom. Before, I always lived in fear so I drank and did coke hoping to bury those fears but all I did was compounded them. I still have fears and anxieties but they don't control my life. Believing in myself is a daily struggle with my doubt and self destructive past but faith keeps me going. I thank God every day for what I have. I am grateful and as long as I stay grateful things will be okay. Life is good enough."

He glanced at her and frowned.

"You probably think I'm crazy," he sighed.

"Not at all," she replied with an encouraging smile.

"I was a fraud before, Amber," he told her. "But I work hard to avoid the pitfalls that plagued me in the past. Life has its ups and downs and I'm still more often than not a bit of an odd man out. I mean, after years of dysfunctional and ruined relationships, I still find myself in a place where I don't always have family or close friends around. Sometimes I have a hard time with my day. Loneliness. Depression. Fear slips back in but I need to face it fresh every day."

He sucked in a long deep breath and stared at her.

"So," she said finally. "Are we going to go out or what?"

He laughed. "You'd still have me after hearing all that?"

"I always liked you too much too, Brad," Amber let him know.

"I have no idea what I'm doing," Brad admitted.

"Who does?" Amber wanted to know. "Everybody is afraid and uncertain, Brad."

"I suppose," he agreed.

"We can take things slow," she suggested. "See where it goes."

"Okay," he said tentatively.

They left in the third inning and went for an ice cream cone and Brad was actually feeling pretty good about the situation when they said their goodnights and went their separate ways.

###

Mary and Mike being home gave Brad and Amber an excuse to hang out together during the rest of their visit. They joined in on a number of activities involving Mike and Mary – dinner out a few times, a backyard barbeque at the Percy house, another evening of swimming at Kara and Jerry's place, and a picnic in the park.

It was a bit like the old days with the long time friends hanging out together only now some of them were married with children. But Brad appreciated the second chance to be with his friends, sober this time and without an agenda. He knew he had done some stupid and hurtful things over the years and while the clique had been willing to forgive him for his trespasses he still felt guilt and shame for his horrible behavior. He once smashed up Mike's car. He stole jewelry from Mary. He broke into the summer camp of Marie's uncle at Sun Rise Lake and stole several guns and computers to sell for drugs. He walked out of restaurants without paying the bill. He had sex with Lisa's underage sister. He broke into Jake's father's workshop and stole tools to sell. He had done countless horrible things.

His parents still didn't talk to him, refusing to accept that he was a new and different person after all the empty promises and pleas for a second chance only to be lied to, stolen from, and used time and time again. He had publically embarrassed and humiliated them with front page news stories and countless court appearances and his father, a well known Greenville business man, finally disowned him when it was discovered that Brad had stolen nearly five thousand dollars from the company.

But Mike and Mary and now Amber were willing to trust in and believe him now that he had been clean and sober long enough to prove that he was doing what he needed to be doing. Only time would verify that he had finally moved beyond the temptations and addictions of his past. Every time Brad was a few minutes late it was easy to feel suspicious or uncertain and Amber admitted to Mary that she had a empty feeling in her stomach one night when Brad didn't answer his cell right away (it turned out that he had turned it off while watching a movie with Mike) but everybody understood that it would be like that for a while.

The others were amused when Brad and Amber started sitting together at the various functions during the remainder of Mike and Mary's stay but that was okay with everybody. It had been a few years since Amber had broken up with JT, a nice guy who just couldn't get over his 'mommy issues' as Mary phrased it and the clique wanted to see both Amber and Brad happy again. They hoped that maybe they could be happy together.

When Mike and Mary headed back to South Carolina at the end of their visit, Brad and Amber had to find new reasons to get together and socialize in safe and non-threatening ways. A movie here, a Serguci League game there, dinner out occasionally all seemed like easy going ways to get to know each other again without worrying about the romantic and sex stuff for a while.

Brad told Amber the worse of his drunk and high stories and the terrible things he had done while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He hoped to go back to school and finish his degree and do something with his life besides clean offices at night.

Amber told Brad about her disappointments in life, feeling left behind compared to Mary, Lisa and Kara who were all happily married and even Marie who was an impressively successful professional woman.

"Yeah, but for an impressively successful professional woman, Marie sure does date losers," Brad pointed out.

Amber couldn't disagree. Marie allowed the shit to get beat out of her while she dated Billy all though college and then she lived with Roger for a few years who left her for a stripper. Marie's last relationship ended when the guy admitted that he was bisexual and now she was dating some guy who was "between jobs".

"That's why I've waited a long time after JT before taking a chance again," Amber admitted to Brad during one of their conversations about their hopes and dreams, disappointments and fears.

"I'm not sure if I'm the guy who wants to take that chance with, Amber," Brad revealed in all sincerity.

"Well, the good news is I already know about all your faults," Amber replied.

"That might not be such a good thing," Brad sighed.

"Look, chum, life is full of chances," Amber told him bluntly. "Are you ready to take one or not?"

He looked at her and grinned. "Yeah," he decided. "I am."

About a week later, Kara and Jerry went out of town on a long weekend and they asked Amber if she would house sit for them. Amber then invited Brad over for a Friday night cookout and swim.

Once again, Brad was feeling nervous as he drove to Kara and Jerry's house, not sure what to expect or how he was going to react to any situation that might present itself. But Amber was all smiles when he arrived, standing at the grill on the back deck cooking steaks and they ate on the deck, enjoying potato salad, corn on the cob and lemonade.

"You can have a beer if you want," Brad let her know. "I'm okay with people drinking in front of me."

"That's okay," Amber replied. "I've realized that I've been a lot of time lately in bars and taverns trying to meet guys and drinking too much."

"Most of the women I meet are in the meeting halls," Brad replied.

When they were done eating and cleaning up, Amber asked Brad if he was interested in a swim.

"Sure," he said. "It's a nice evening for a dip."

He was already in his bathing trunks so he headed for the pool. Amber was still in her work clothes so she excused herself and went into the house, returning a few minutes later wrapped in long yellow towel. Brad was in the pool taking a swim and Amber sat on the pool's edge. The pool was private with a fence around all four sides and plenty of trees for added protection.
"It's a beautiful night," Brad observed, glancing around as dusk began to settle.

"It is," Amber agreed.

"Aren't you coming in?" Brad wondered.

"Okay," she said warmly, standing and letting the towel drop, revealing to Brad that she was naked underneath!

He could make out the curves of her breasts and the thin patch of blond hair between her legs as she walked down the steps into the pool. He didn't know what to say! He watched as she swam toward him and she came up within a few feet from him. As she popped out of the water, Brad saw her breasts for a brief moment again.

"Jesus, Amber," Brad managed to say.

"I forgot to bring my suit and Kara's much to petite for me to wear her stuff," Amber replied with a shrug. "I hope you don't mind."

"Don't you?" Brad asked with a swallow.

"I thought it was time," Amber replied.

"Do you swim naked a lot?" Brad asked.

"Not really," Amber replied as she stood before him in the water. "Usually at night. I feel freer and natural you know?"

"I guess," he replied.

"You should try it, Brad," she suggested.

"Ah, that's okay," he said. "Getting naked when you're sober is definitely weird."

"I did it," she reminded him. "Take your shorts off and swim the length of the pool," she dared.

Brad stared at her for a long moment trying to figure out if he could truly trust her. "What the hell?" he finally said.

He pulled down his shorts and tossed them up and out of the pool. He started swimming towards the other end and when he looked back he saw that Amber was right behind him. He stopped when he reached the deep end of the pool, grabbing onto the wall to hold himself up. Amber soon reached the wall too.

"Doesn't it feel much more natural?" She asked.

"A little weird maybe," he replied.

"I think it feels great," Amber said.

As she clung to the wall next to him, Brad looked at her. The glow of the pool illuminated just enough to clearly make out her naked body under the water. He could see the curves of her breasts and that her nipples were hard. He could vaguely make out the swirls of hair between her legs and when she turned the right way he could see her round buns.

Amber swam out towards the center of the pool where she floated on her back, her breasts sticking out in the air and her mound of hair between her legs in plain view.

"Now that's a sight you don't see every day," Brad joked.

After a few moments, Amber rolled over and swam back towards him, hugging the wall when she arrived and moving closer while looking into his eyes.

"I've never had sex sober, Amber," Brad said quietly.

"It's okay," she replied softly.

He reached for her and pulled her towards him, feeling the curves of her breasts on his chest and the mat of her soaked pubic patch as it rubbed up against his leg. He felt his dick hardening and his heart started beating faster. He was still holding onto the wall with one hand supporting them while his other searched for the mound between her legs. He looked into her eyes and she smiled as his hand reached her spot. He paused for a moment and looked at her again as she waited in anticipation. They kissed for the first time and it lasted a long time.

Finally, Brad pulled Amber even closer to him and then he kicked off from the wall heading towards the shallower water and when he could feel his feet touching the bottom of the pool, his hands quickly found her breasts cupping them in his palms.

"Oh my... yes, Amber moaned.

"I feel like it's my first time, Amber," Brad whispered.

"It is," she replied as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

He could feel his cock rubbing along her naked body underneath the water as he sat on the bottom step of the in ground stairs. As she continued hugging him, her legs rose up and she wrapped them around his waist. He could feel her mound of hair on his stomach as she let her body slowly slide lower. He looked into her eyes as if asking for the go ahead. She smiled and nodded her head so he held her by her hips and pulled them towards him.

"Having sex for the first time ever sober is scary as hell," Brad said nervously.

"Shh," Amber said as she placed herself on him. "This is one hundred percent honest."

When it was over, Amber lay her head on his shoulder as he held her in his lap on the steps of the pool.

"Sober sex is scary as hell but that was the most amazing thing I've ever experienced," Brad marveled. "Every touch and every sensation was made sharper by my complete hyperconsciousness of the realness of your beautiful body."

"See what you were missing?" She purred.

"I'm totally sober and showing you my body," Brad remarked.

"I must be pretty special," Amber giggled.

"You're perfect," Brad assured her.

"I don't like the way my stomach, ass, and thighs look l but I got naked for you because I trust you that much," Amber told him. "And I wanted to see your body too."

She was running her hands over his curves deliberately, examining his tattoos. "Sober sex was probably really strange for you too," Brad realized. "You were probably just as nervous as I was."

"If not more," Amber admitted. "But when I first got naked and you were looking at me, really looking at me, stripped bare in more ways than one, it was scary because it was so truthful. You really opened your eyes and connected with me. You were totally transparent and while I felt vulnerable and exposed I knew it was going to be okay."

"I've never felt the things I'm feeling right now," Brad told her. "This was sharp, salient, and completely deliberate sober. I can't help but feel. Every muscle contraction has a meaning."

"I want you exactly the way you are," Amber whispered. "Don't overanalyze what just happened."

"Sex feels good," Brad told her as he continued to squeeze her buns under the water. "Sobriety is an opportunity to become just one person with you. Sobriety is an opportunity…."

"Shh," she said, putting a finger to his lips and then kissing him. "Just spend the night with me."

"Okay," he said.

They climbed out of the pool, dried each other off with the one towel and headed for the house, hugging each other underneath the towel.