Even though basketball season was over, Merle and Lauren continued their garage ritual with Lauren assisting Merle in his practice shots and the two playing around the world and one-on-one as their ongoing developing relationship played out.
Merle's mother continued to stop by the garage when the teens were there to chat and visit.
"Does she think we're having sex?" Lauren asked Merle point blank after one such occasion.
"She thinks we want to have sex," Merle replied, repeating the line Lauren had previously delivered to him as he fired off a shot toward the basket.
"She doesn't want us to," Lauren said, retrieving the ball from the basket and passing it back to him.
"She doesn't want us making the same mistakes she made," Merle clarified as he took another shot.
"Did she tell you that before?" Lauren questioned, retrieving the ball and passing it back to him.
"In Trenton," he confirmed, shooting the ball toward the basket. "All the time."
"But not here?" Lauren asked, tossing the ball back to him.
"I told her about your father," Merle explained, taking another shot. "That put her at ease some."
"What did you say about my father?" Lauren frowned, retrieving the ball and throwing it back to Merle.
"That he would throw me off the Blue County Bridge if I violated you," Merle answered, holding the ball and staring at her.
Her eyes watered up. "What are you doing with me?" She sighed.
"I love you," he answered.
Lauren ran across the floor and jumped into his arms, knocking the basketball from his hands. Merle lost his balance and they both fell to the floor with her smooching him happily.
"You're too good to be true," she decided.
Mr. O'Keefe was in Columbia South Carolina for the first round of March Madness, Integrity Bus Company getting one of the contracts to transport fans and VIPS from the surrounding hotels to the playing venue.
Lauren invited Merle over for a Saturday night dinner. She dressed up for the occasion with an attractive yet modest dress, her brown hair pulled up in a bun.
The casserole she prepared was delicious and when they were finished with the meal and clean up, Lauren suggested they adjourned to her bedroom.
"We don't have to do that," Merle replied. "I told you I respect your virtues and I honor your father's wishes."
"My father doesn't speak for me," Lauren snapped.
"I know your values," Merle replied.
"I don't want to lose you," she cried, falling into him for an embrace.
"You won't," he promised.
"Just come into the bedroom," Lauren pleaded.
"We won't do anything?" He asked with caution.
She nodded and so he followed her into the bedroom.
She slipped out of her dress and jumped under the covers of the bed in her underwear and bra. Merle peeled down to his briefs and Saints Athletic Department tee shirt and joined her under the covers, both of them lying on their backs staring at the ceiling.
"How many other girls?" Lauren asked quietly.
"Let's not talk about my past," Merle suggested. "It serves no purpose. This is now."
"Did you bring condoms?" She asked.
"Lauren," Merle sighed. "There are other ways."
"What do you mean?"
"You know," he said awkwardly. "Hands. Tongues."
"Oh," she said after a moment. "You mean on each other? I'm not experienced with any of that."
"There's also The Still Life," Merle said, turning his head to face her.
"The Still Life?" She asked with uncertainty.
"That's what my mother calls it," Merle said.
"What is it?" Lauren wanted to know.
"We get naked, but I put duct tape over my dick and we just cuddle, embrace, and hold each other, stilly. The Still Life."
"No penetration?" Lauren asked.
"Or humping or grinding or climaxing," Merle confirmed. "Just cuddling. The Still Life."
"Are you pranking me?" Lauren asked suspiciously.
"Apparently, the Mormons came up with it," Merle explained. "At least that's what my mother says. As a way to preserve Chasity with a loophole or exemption of sorts."
"I doubt they taught that at Sunday School," Lauren deadpanned.
"Probably not," Merle agreed.
"I don't want to hurt or disappoint my father," Lauren sighed. "He's been through so much. I know he expects me to remain a virgin until I'm ready. Hopefully until I marry."
"I understand," Merle said.
"But people dry hump and fool around without having sex with The Still Life?"
"Pushing the boundaries without popping the balloon," Merle said. "For those who have a strong desire for sex but are sensible and steadfast in their convictions not to do so."
Lauren climbed over him and slipped out of the bed, prancing out of the room in her underwear. A few minutes later, she returned giggling with a roll of gray duct tape in her hand which she tossed onto the bed before removing her bra and sliding her panties down her legs, revealing herself naked to him for the first time.
"You're as lovely as I imagined," he assured her.
"Move over," she ordered lifting the covers up and slipping next to him on the bed. The covers flipped back, she motioned toward his underwear.
Merle cautiously slid his underwear down his thighs and his basketball pole stood at attention.
"Holy cow," Lauren said, staring at it with fascination for the longest time. "You know, I'd get ribbed a lot for being the only girl around the boy's basketball team," she said. "People would tell disgusting stories about me hanging around the locker room with naked guys and all that but this is the first time I've ever seen one."
"It's okay," Merle assured her.
Lauren ripped off several long pieces of duct tape from the roll and she stuck the strips from his abdomen to the bottom of his scrotum as if she was wrapping a Christmas present.
When she was finished, she rolled on top of him and rubbed her entrance against the duct taped pole while they kissed and cuddled, sometimes lying motionless staring into each other's eyes, the buildup of anticipation and excitement satisfying them in a weird way utilizing the Still Life Method as best they could.
"Is squirming technically moving?" Lauren wanted to know.
"There are several maneuvers to The Still Life," Merle answered. "The point is to remain a virgin."
"This feels good," Lauren smiled.
"Sometimes, there could be involuntarily grinding," Merle warned. "There are no real rules other than no intercourse."
"So we can get wiggly?"
"Within Still Life restrictions," Merle said.
"I'll still feel ashamed and guilty though," Lauren sighed.
"You don't have to," Merle assured her.
"Promise you won't break up with me because you're sexually frustrated?" Lauren requested of him, staring into his eyes.
"I love you," he said, giving her a kiss and patting her bare rump.
"My Still Life With Basketball Merle Jones," Lauren said happily.