It's a lovely summer Sunday, but no one's outside. We're all gathered about the television; my mother, two of my brothers, their wives, and myself. All but two of us are watching the television. My sister-in-law Elizabeth is looking at me, mouthing the words of the announcer that I might know them.
If Mr. Cronkite's word is true as always, a pair of astronauts will soon exit their space ship and walk upon the moon. In the history of mankind, this is a big event, no doubt; but it doesn't hold much personal interest for me.
I'd be staring at Elizabeth no matter what. She has plenty of gray hair and more than a few wrinkles, but I don't see a woman approaching sixty. The image I see, though but a memory from four decades ago, is much clearer then the grainy black and white image on the television.
I see a girl not yet twenty, standing several dozen yards away beside a dirt road. Her dress is close to the color of her eyes, so blue they make the sky seem pale. She's a head taller than I am, lithe and muscular in the way of a farm girl. Her hair flows halfway down her back like a magnificent golden waterfall. There's a cute little nose and cheekbones that make her smile seem even wider, but she's not smiling. Her mouth is moving, opening wide. She's yelling something.
* * * * *
I grinned, seeing Beth's lips move, along with the muscles and tendons in her neck. She then beckoned with a broad sweep of her hand, a far more practical approach to conveying the urgency of the situation.
As if yelling makes any difference, I thought, my smile broadening. Neither did the hand waving, really; I already knew why she fretted. She didn't want to be late for our last day of school. I had taken a few extra minutes getting into my good dress and fussing over my hair. With a sigh, I increased the pace of my walk. Having over a mile to go, running would have served little purpose.
A melancholy gripped me as my eyes lingered on my friend, waiting there like she had every morning for the past dozen years. She had been my best friend longer than I could remember. Being the only girls in two adjacent homesteads, we didn't have much choice but to be friends, yet I always imagined we would have struck it off in the most crowded of cities.
As girls we'd played together in the mud, the fields, the woods, and even the water. My sadness departed for a moment while I pictured Beth in her chemise and bloomers, fingers pinching her nose closed, jumping from the bank into the waist-deep murk of Wilson's Creek
More recently, we'd slipped into being young ladies instead of girls, but this only made us closer. We'd shared our hopes, our dreams, and most of our desires. We had even shared our thoughts on which of the other's brothers were the cutest. We'd shared everything, or so I imagined.
We shared a smile as I arrived.
Beth reached toward my shoulder, lifting with her fingers one of my pigtails, and the bow therein that had consumed too many of the minutes I was late. With a tilt of her head she played the rope of hair back and forth across my chest. "Nice."
I gazed down at my breasts, a pair far too large for the ideals of the day. With my lips forming a pucker, I looked back to my friend. "Really?"
"You're the berries, especially in yellow."
My smile returned. "Thanks."
Beth glanced back to my braided locks. "Your hair always reminds me of chocolate." Cutting her eyes back to me, she bounced her brow. "Or maybe you do."
I tilted my head. "Me?"
"Yeah. You know, sweet."
"Thanks," I managed to mumble. "So are you."
"Well," Beth began with a sigh, "guess we better get a wiggle on." She turned and started to walk. I fell into step on her left.
We had walked to school together hundreds of times, thousands even, yet I found that I remembered not one of them. With a tear sliding down my face, I determined this walk I would remember. Little did I know how easy a vow it would be to keep.
Beth and I proceeded at a pace that compelled both of us to keep our eyes to the road ahead, precluding conversation. Even had we said anything, I suppose it would have been just chatter in the awkward fashion of most conversations when an unwelcome change is imminent.
Thus, in spite of my promise, I recall next to nothing before we reached the barn-like structure that was the bridge over Wilson's Creek. Beth was on my right, on the outside where she always walked; I could feel a car upon the bridge, but she could hear one much farther away.
My calves burned from the exertion. I didn't have a watch, but I felt certain we'd made enough time to justify a brief stop and the shadowy cool of the old bridge beckoned.
I slowed and turned to my friend. "I need to rest."
Beth looked to me, her features tight with anxiety. "What? We'ze already gonna be late."
"Are you sure?" I protested. "I think we're doing fine."
Her chest heaved with a sigh. "Ok. But only for a minute."
I dropped my satchel, then brought my fingers to the back of my lower leg, massaging the muscle. "It's not fair. My legs are so much shorter." My gaze drifted the few degrees from my legs to my pudgy midsection. And they have to carry so much more, my self-conscious psyche added.
Beth knelt in front of me and, to my surprise, reached for my other leg. She turned her face toward me, her habit by now. "Here. Maybe I can rub the other and we can be on our way quicker."
I nodded my agreement, then looked away, hoping she hadn't seen in my eyes how much I liked the feel of her hands upon my body. For some seconds, the whole of my consciousness focused on that one muscle, and my friend's fingers upon it.
I might never have thought of anything else had not Beth's free hand found my chin and steered it toward her face. "Does that feel better?"
My head moved in a nod. In the next second my friend's eyes widened. Her hands leapt to my shoulders. She shoved me upward against the planks of the bridge wall, before flattening herself against me. Before I even had a chance to think, an automobile flashed past in a rush of dusty air that was replaced in the next instant by the sickly scent of exhaust fumes.
Beth and I turned our heads in unison to watch old man Hill shaking his fist at us from the driver's seat of his tin lizzy. My heart pounding against hers, we continued to stare as the vehicle shook its way off of the wood and disappeared in a cloud of dust.
Neither of us moved, except for our faces, these turning again to one another. My eyes wandered for a second while I tried to recall when we might ever have been so close. Maybe when we were girls, I reasoned, but never as young ladies. Young ladies don't...
I snapped my eyes back to her face, wondering if Beth was tormented by the warmth of my body in the same way I was by hers. The car was long gone, and the danger with it, but I could still feel our hearts beating almost in unison within our adjacent chests.
Beth opened her mouth. Thinking she would speak, I looked to her lips, but instead she leaned. My eyes widened. I inhaled a quick gasp, all I had time for before she covered my mouth with hers. My head inched back, but only for a moment. The next instant the pleasant warmth of her lips compelled me to lean into them.
Her taste was far from sweet, pungent even, yet I found my lips groping for more of her flavor just the same. This is wrong. This is wicked. I emitted a whimper before adding a third, more important, observation. This is wonderful.
Our kiss was over, like all things wonderful, far too soon.
Beth muttered something as our lips parted, but I couldn't quite see what it was. A heavy breath later she took a step backward. "We better go."
I nodded my agreement and we resumed our journey. Though Beth did not urge me onward, my legs moved at a pace near frantic. Yet something besides my calves burned, something a little higher. I couldn't quite identify what it was that smoldered so, but I liked it smoldering just the same.
For the remainder of our journey we each had our faces forward, again focused on the ruts of the road ahead that we might not stumble due to our haste. Thus I did not see my friend say anything over the next quarter hour, and I said nothing in return despite the multitude of questions fluttering about my head.
Seeing other students walking as we made our way into town, I breathed a sigh of relief and slowed my pace to something close to comfortable. This respite lasted until we were two blocks from the lump of red bricks that was Darcy Public School.
There, Beth grabbed my hand and rushed ahead, dragging me behind her. I saw the younger children begin to run as well. Glancing up, I saw the bell in the tower swing once before I shifted my gaze forward. With a grin, I twisted my hand from my friend's and stopped.
Beth turned, her lower lip falling agape as she did so. "Vicki!"
My smile broadened. "We're already late. Why run? And who's going to remember in fifty years anyway?"
My friend's eyes wandered for a second before returning to me. "You're right," she agreed. "Who cares?"
Thus Beth and I were late for our last day after all. We should have been quite embarrassed, I am sure, but as we took our seats, I found myself gripped by other emotions.
My friend's desk was turned opposite of the other students that she might face me and mouth the words of the teacher, the same as she had done for the past dozen years. I would never have even graduated without her, let alone been the recipient of a scholarship. If not for my presence, I suspect she might well have quit school; she had little reason to be there other than to help me.
With Beth mouthing the teacher's words this final day, I found myself seeing her lips instead of the words. A fright seized my spirit.
How will I make it without her? Hundreds of miles away, by myself, in a city. Must we really part? Can't we...
"It's alright, Vicki. Don't be scared. You'ze gonna do fine."
My jaw fell as Beth's mouth formed those words. Looking up, I saw our teacher still speaking behind her. My eyes returned to my friend. I licked my own lips then nodded my understanding, though that understanding did not equate to a belief.
Later I would wonder if she mistook the source of my fright to be the speech I would give after lunch. In a class of but a dozen, we had no valedictorian per se; being the only graduate to be accepted to a college, it fell to me to speak for my class.
Not only was the entire school assembled in the gymnasium that afternoon, but most of the town of Darcy as well. Beth sat on my right, that I might see her lips and the speaker at the same time. I suppose I should have been proud, but mostly I was scared.
"And now it is time," our principal announced, "to hear from the young lady who is the source of much pride in our town. As most of you know, Miss Victoria Campbell has been accepted with full scholarship to the prestigious Gallaudet College in our nation's capitol. Please give her a warm welcome."
With my best smile, I turned from Beth to the assembly as they all put their hands to one another in applause. Stepping onto a stool so that I might see over the lectern, I paused to gather my nerves. Most persons are apprehensive when addressing a large audience; that anxiety is magnified when you don't have the slightest idea how your own voice sounds.
I know the girl that I was must have spent evenings working on that speech, but four decades later I only remember the first sentence, and the last. The rest is lost to history, unless I have my notes packed in a box somewhere, to be discovered by those who go through my things after I pass.
"I know you are all counting on me to do my best," I began. Part of not knowing how I sounded was not knowing if I was speaking loud enough. I paused to look to my mother in the first row and saw her gesture upward with her index finger. Increasing the force from my chest, I continued, "and I won't let you down."
Momma smiled. I did likewise and went on with my speech in that volume, whatever volume that was. I suspect I put the assembly through several minutes of the trite and flowery stuff that fills a young girl's mind before I finally shifted my focus to my left.
"And a most special thanks to Elizabeth Monroe, without whom I'd be sitting home today, and everyday thereafter." With that I stepped off the stool, pausing to bow to the applause before returning to my seat.
A few more speeches from the faculty and then all twelve of us walked forward and received our diplomas. Then it was over, all of it; and we emerged from the bricks of the school, students no longer.
I turned to Beth as the sunlight enveloped us, unsure what words were appropriate for the occasion. Far less solemn ones than I had anticipated, it turned out.
"Your back is all dirty," she said. "From the bridge. Turn around."
I did so. Beth proceeded to slap the back of my dress, and me beneath it. I flinched beneath the first few blows, but by the third I had begun to smile at the feel of my friend's hands upon my body.
My smiled faded when Beth moved a palm to each of my shoulders, urging me to spin and face her. Her lips were pressed into a line and her eyes glazed with moisture, just like mine. I tried to find those solemn words, the ones I had attempted to conjure before, but none came. We just hugged and nodded, then got into our family cars.
The two little Fords bounced along the dirt road, the Monroe's in the lead, barely visible through the billowing dust cloud kicked up by the tires. Only as we slowed entering the shadows of the bridge did I catch a glimpse of Beth, leaning over the back of the car, her face turned toward me. A few seconds later their car exited the bridge, creating yet another pale brown cloud, obscuring the one thing in the world I longed to see.
* * *
The next morning, I was up with the sun. Even knowing the Monroe household rose on the same schedule, my responsibilities precluded me from rushing to their home. I helped my mother with breakfast, then went about gathering eggs, feeding the goats, and tending to other assorted tediums. The sun was thus nearing its zenith when at last I made my way at a sprint across the field to my friend's house.
Mrs. Monroe kinked her head, looking at me through the screen. "Beth went out a half hour ago. Said something about seein' you. Figured she was done headed for your place."
My heart fairly bounced out of my chest as I thought of where she must be. "Thank you!" I cried, before turning and dashing across the fields in the direction of the creek.
Ten minutes later, I was there. At first I panicked, seeing the bridge but not my friend. With a hand pressed to my beating heart, I crept up to the edge and looked into the shadows of the wooden tunnel. At once I saw her lean form silhouetted against the sunlight at the other end. My already thumping heart beat even faster. Beaming, I broke again into a run. A second later, so did she.
I knew why Beth had come to the bridge. She knew why I raced to meet her. We didn't say a word. Our forms collided. I wrapped my hands about her waist. My friend's palms found the edges of my jawbone, clamping my head like a vise. The next moment, her mouth was in motion. I licked my lips once and craned my neck upward.
There in the chilled shadows within the covered bridge, we kissed again. This time, it was no accident or impulse. Our mouths tangled with one another in a chaotic ballet of passion, a dance neither of us had ever practiced yet somehow we both knew.
She sucked on my upper lip while I nursed on her lower one. I felt her nibble once, maybe twice, before she drew the full of my lip within her mouth and ran her tongue over it. Eyelids fluttering closed, I felt her adoration pouring into my body, warming my very soul.
A few seconds later, Beth pried my face from hers. My eyes flew open. My chest heaved both from the exertion and the excitement. My friend released my head and took a step backward. For a trio of seconds we but looked into one another's eyes.
With a swallow, I uttered the three words my heart knew to be true. "I love you."
Beth's face lost all trace of emotion. That middle word wasn't one I had had many an occasion to use and, for an instant, I worried I might not have pronounced it correctly. Then her lips moved. "I love you too."
My eyes still locked on her mouth, I stretched upward, my lips leading the way.
To my surprise, and dismay, my friend's head retreated. The next moment, her golden locks swirled in the air, following the rapid twist of her head as she looked first right, then left, before turning back to me. "We can't stay here. Someone will catch us for sure."
With that she grabbed my hand and led me toward the end of the bridge. I didn't know where we were going, but I knew she was right; it would be disgraceful enough to be caught kissing a boy without my parent's knowledge. Kissing another girl would be nothing less than a scandal.
We scurried out into the sun, only to turn and rush into the shadows again, this time down to the bank of the creek, amid the timbers beneath the bridge. There we kissed again. And again. Until several minutes later when Beth stopped and directed her gaze upward. My eyes followed hers. From the shaking planks above dust fell in a succession of cascades that mirrored the motion of the vehicle passing over the bridge.
Only when the old structure was once again still, did I look back to my friend.
"This won't do either," she declared with a sigh. "Do you know how noisy a kisser you are?"
With my lips forming a pout, I shook my head.
Beth apparently found some amusement in my expression, giggling before she continued, "We need someplace no one will find us."
I tongued my lips. "Where?"
Beth's eyes widened with her smile. "The pines?"
My own eyes sprang open. I nodded my accord.
Hand in hand, Beth in the lead, we hurried along the narrow animal trail that paralleled the creek. Ten minutes later we left the stream to climb a small rise cloaked by an evergreen copse. Beth stopped, looking to all compass points. I could tell by the way she held her head that she was listening, making sure we were alone. When she turned her head to me I knew from her smile that she had heard nothing.
I took a step toward my friend and she moved to meet me. I stretched my neck, expecting another kiss, but she brought her palm to my face instead, petting my cheek. Unsure what to make of her actions, I moved my hands to her sides and leaned into her form.
Beth's lips maintained their subtle grin as she moved her free hand down. Her fingers intertwining with mine, she pried my palm from her flank. Without breaking eye contact she eased our joined hands upward and clutched them against her bosom. A sharp breath expanded my own chest as I felt the warm softness of hers.
Her grin became a smile. She released my hand, and moved her parallel fingers to pet the side of my breast. "Why?" she asked, her lips barely moving. "Why did we wait so long?"
I shook my head. "I don't know."
"What if old man Hill hadn't nearly run us over? Would we have missed all this?"
My thoughts wandered to the bridge and yesterday, seeking the answer to her question. I thought of all the joy, and sorrow, we had shared in our lives. Sure, she had always been my best friend, closer than any sister could have been, the most important person in the world to me- but I'd never allowed myself to think of her in that way.
I blinked, and realized my focus had fallen to the rusty bed of pine needles beneath our feet. Prying my eyes to meet my friend's gaze, I shrugged. "I would never have kissed you first." I paused for a breath and a swallow. My view dropped those few inches to her lips. "But now that I have, I never want to stop."
This time, it was Beth's attention that wandered. "I've wanted to kiss you for a long time."
Beth took two breaths before she brought her full focus back to me. "You know Eloise Hatcher?"
The idea that the youngest Hatcher sister might engage in something squalid was no surprise, after all she did wear those fake silks stockings and high skirts, the new ones with the hem at the knees. But that Beth might have kissed her first, the thought forced my lips into a hard line. "Yes?"
"And Gladys Pierce?"
My eyes widened at the very thought. "The reverend's daughter?!"
"Yes," my friend affirmed. "I saw them kissing once, last summer."
Beth nodded. "Yes. Once."
"What else did you see?"
Beth shook her head. "Nothing. It seemed like the most wicked thing. I turned and ran. But then, when I was walking home, thinking of you, and what I wanted to do with you, that's when I knew it weren't wicked at all."
I shook my head. "I know it's not wicked."
My friend sighed, then looked around again before turning her attention to me. "Then why are we here, where no one can see us?"
I swallowed, then licked my lips. "Because they don't know how beautiful it is?"
"Yeah." Beth nodded. "That must be it."
I could barely make out those last few words; her lips weren't moving much, except towards mine. Our mouths met, chasing away any notion that our feelings could be other than divine.
We hugged as we kissed. I felt a pressure, a weight. Understanding my friend was leaning, urging me downward, I relented. We dropped, still in our embrace, to kneel upon the pine needles. My eyes must have closed sometime on the way down. The focus of my very being was the moving of my mouth over hers, until I felt her fingers on the buttons of my dress.
With a gasp, I pulled away, steering my suddenly open eyes to hers. "What are you doing?"
"We'ze gonna do more than kiss."
Beth shrugged. "I don't know, but we've seen the animals enough, we can figure it out."
"Animals?" I swallowed, recalling the occasions when I had seen critters mating. "But neither of us has a, uh, you know."
Beth's mouth flew wide in a huge fake smile. "You mean you don't got one?"
I smirked. "You know what I mean."
She leaned closer. "Yes. But do you know what I mean?"
I shook my head. "No."
"You've touched yourself, where a boy would, right?"
My head vibrated in another brisk shake before I gained control of my duplicity. "Ok," I admitted. "Maybe a little, when I bathe."
"Only when you bathe?" Beth pressed.
"Ok, a few other times too."
My friend leaned, urging my body backward. I relented at once. My back found the forest floor. Her mouth found mine. This time my eyes stayed wide; her lips were not the only parts of her exploring my body.
The hands that had sought to unbutton my dress slithered from beneath me and made their way along my flank. My own hands found the sides of Beth's arm, but they just rested there, shaking, while her fingers moved lower, onto my legs, down to my calves, then up again, under my dress.
My mouth fell open. I gasped twice in rapid succession, ending our kiss.
Beth withdrew her face. "You alright?"
Though I nodded, my friend had not awaited a reply. The tips of her four joined fingers made their way up the bloomers that covered my thighs. I felt a whimper resonate within my throat.
Beth's mouth rushed to mine, our lips meeting for the moment before her fingers found my sex. The next instant my loins clenched beneath the unfamiliar and unpleasant assault. I shook my mouth free. My friend's fingers stopped at once. She withdrew her head to look down at me.
"Slower," I said. "And not so hard."
Beth nodded, then tilted her head. "Like this?" Her fingers moved again. Slower. Gentler.
"Yes," I said, pausing for a swallow. "Like that."
For a minute, maybe two, her fingers roamed in vague circles, caressing me through my underclothes. Only when I began to push back, did she increase the pressure.
I allowed my head fall to the forest floor. Closing my eyes, I sent my consciousness to where my friend's hand massaged my essence. My fingers curled into her dress, pulling her body to mine. Her lips found my neck, but I barely felt her kisses. My tongue moved across the lips of my open mouth, mimicking the motion of my lover's fingers over my other lips.
A sensation began to build, intoxicating in its promise, but all too soon maddening in its elusiveness. My chest heaved with my mounting excitement, my body moving in ways I didn't understand, feeling things I had never imagined. At some point, my spine arched in a manner that would normally have been painful. Ragged breaths passed over first my quivering tongue, then between my still-parted lips.
Time passed, though I've no idea how much, yet my urgency found no outlet. My body shuddered. I whimpered. Tears emerged from my eyes. The shaking fingers of my hands sprang open, releasing the fabric of my friend's clothes. "What's happening?" I muttered, turning my wide eyes toward the pine boughs high above us.
Beth moved her face over mine. "You were almost there."
My friend shook her head. "I ain't sure, heaven maybe. Who knows? But it's wonderful."
"I want to go there," I declared in a broken whisper.
"You will," Beth assured. "I didn't make it my first few times either."
"No. You got to relax and let it happen. Don't try and control it."
"Relax?" I queried. "How could I relax with you doing that?"
"You can," she insisted. "You almost did. Smell how close you were."
Before I could respond, her joined fingers found the tip of my nose. I flinched away, but recovered to return, taking a deep breath, sampling my own scent.
Bathing but once per week, I was accustomed to my body's odors. Some of those were on my friend's fingers, but there was something else too, a pungent musky tang. I found my chest swelling as I tried to take the scent deeper.
"Nice, huh?" Beth inquired with a grin.
"Strong," I said. My eyes went to her fingers, then back to her face. "Do you smell the same?
Beth nodded. "Close."
"Can I do you?"
"You could, but I've done myself plenty before."
"You have?" I knew it was a foolish question even before I had finished uttering it.
Beth shrugged. "Yeah. But I always thought of you when I did."
I could not have stopped the smile that spread across my face had I wanted to. "I still want to smell you."
"You will," she assured me, "but I want to try something else just now."
"You've seen how dogs do it?"
I kinked my head, dropping my brow. "Yes?"
"You know, with their butts together?"
"Our butts?" I gasped. "Together?"
Beth smiled. "Well, not exactly our butts." With that, she pulled her dress to her hips and rotated her body. Her splayed legs split mine. At last grasping what she had in mind, I held my breath while she scooted between my thighs. With my eyes wide, I watched her sidle closer. And closer.
"Pull your dress up," she demanded.
My hands rushed to comply even while my mouth asked a question to which I already knew the answer. "What are we going to do?"
Beth grinned. Her head shook a little, I think she must have giggled. "This." She pulled my right leg upward, forcing my hip to an angle that allowed her left leg to slide beneath my butt.
"Pull my leg," she instructed.
My eyes dropped to where her angled knee rested against my hand. Looking back to my friend, I moved my fingers into the crook formed by her calf and thigh. At the same moment, she wrapped her forearm about the trunk of my upper leg. With a nod, I pulled. She tugged.
Our bodies slid together, our sexes first touching, then rubbing against one another through the fabric of our underclothes. My eyelids fluttered. My head sought to fall, but I forced my focus again to my friend's face.
She stopped wiggling against me. Only her fingers moved, massaging their way from my thigh to the lowermost portion of my buttock.
"What do we do?" I asked.
Beth smiled. "Do whatever feels good."
Wearing a full smile, I allowed my head to fall onto the forest floor. That was too easy. It all felt good.
* * *
With the sun teasing the tops of the trees, we made our way home along the edge of the road. Though we normally strolled shoulder-to-shoulder, this time we had a full arm's length between us lest, I think, anyone see us and imagine we might be too close. As if to further that appearance that we had shared nothing, we shared nary a word before we got to the end of the Monroe's drive.
There we stopped, looking at each other, the dirt of the road, the grass, the mailbox, the sky, and, finally, each other again.
"I guess I better go," I said. "Momma's already going to be cross with me not being home to help start dinner."
Beth nodded. "Mine too."
My eyes fell. I swallowed, bringing them up again. "Can you still smell me? From there, I mean."
She shook her head. "I think we washed enough of it off so no one will know. Besides, we'ze only wearing these underclothes one more day."
"Tomorrow," I muttered tonguing my lips. "We can see each other tomorrow?"
Beth flashed a full-toothed smile. "First one that's done with chores comes to the other's place?"
"Deal!" I exclaimed with a nod.
"Deal!" Beth agreed. Not waiting for another word, she turned and sprinted for her house.
I made my way home at a somewhat leisurely pace, thinking of Beth, and tomorrow, and not much else. Silly me.
"Vicki!" My mother bellowed the instant I could see her lips. "Where have you been at? The men folk'll be in from the fields in an hour. Go fetch me another log for the stove."
* * *
To first my chagrin, and then my horror, I spent the bulk of Saturday on the tedious tasks of daily life. This was nothing unusual; it was common practice to do as much as possible so that the Sabbath might truly be a day of leisure. I had lived this way for eighteen plus years, but never before had it seemed so abominable.
Momma and I were in the middle of preparing dinner when Beth appeared at our door, unbeknownst to me. My heart all but froze within my chest when I glanced to see my mother and my friend conversing through the screen. I had to look twice to be sure it was really her. A few sentences later, Mother held the screen wide, inviting Beth inside. At once, my heart beat again.
"Your momma says I can help you with dinner," my friend announced.
My fists clenched, then shuddered, the only external sign of the excitement building within me. "Will you be staying then, to eat with us?"
Beth nodded. "I expect so. Something sure smells good."
I glanced to the stove. "Oh. It's the bacon grease Momma adds to the beans. They've been cooking all day. She says..."
Beth craned her neck to where I could see her lips move again. "I ain't talking about dinner."
My jaw fell. A second later, my head snapped every direction, confirming we were alone in the tiny kitchen. "Beth!" I gasped, looking back to my friend. "Can you really smell, you know, me?"
Her eyes wandered a moment before her lips curled upward. "No. But I sure want to. And that ain't all."
"Not all?" I queried.
My friend's lips moved as they did in school, when she was mouthing the words, rather than speaking them. "You've seen Daisy lick her coochie, ain't you?"
My mind flew to the Monroe's bitch hound. I nodded.
Beth tongued her lips. "Ain't you ever wondered what that would be like?"
My mouth fell open, my initial impulse being to deny my own wickedness. A moment later I found my head bobbing the truth my lips would not admit.
"It's ok," Beth whispered. "I've wondered too. Do you suppose it feels like this?" With that, she parted her lips, and drew her tongue along the length of the upper one.
My loins clenching their want, I emulated her gesture, imagining her tongue on my lips, and not the lips of my face. "Better," I said. "It might even feel better."
"There's just one way to find out."
My mind flew back, to my scent from our prior tryst, my most puissant scent. Smelling it was one thing, but tasting it? My nose wrinkled as I considered the prospect. "I don't know that's such a good idea."
"Applesauce," Beth snapped. "Where's another knife?"
I kinked my head. "What?"
Beth glanced down at the pile of potatoes in front of me. "I am supposed to help you with dinner, ain't I?"
This she did, though I had a hard time keeping my mind on the task, especially with my friend rubbing her form against mine at every opportunity. My spirits were soaring an hour later when we sat down to eat. I imagined what might happen after dinner, even if we could but steal a kiss.
It had conveniently slipped my mind that I was not the only one in my family with a fancy for Beth. Although all of my brothers ogled her in the manner of young men, George was the one truly smitten with her. I grinned watching my brother's exaggerated expressions and gestures, and the way he talked all too much and too loud, making something of a clown of himself in the way only a boy in love can. I grinned that is, until he displayed more courage than I imagined this particular boy in love to have.
"So, Beth, any chance I could see you tomorrow after church? Maybe we could..."
"No!" I insisted. Every face at the table turned to me. I gulped. My brain raced, trying to imagine something we might do together that George could not easily invite himself to. "We're, uh, going swimming, Beth and I." My eyes roamed for a second before settling on my friend. "Right?"
"Yes," she began. "We'ze gonna..."
I lost the remainder of the sentence as Beth turned to George. My eyes followed hers to his face, a selfish grin breaking upon my countenance as a sulk seized his.
My inappropriate glee lasted another quarter-hour until my brother's pluck once again surfaced while the women folk cleared the table. I didn't even know what was said until I turned back from the wash basins to find Beth two paces distant, staring at me.
"George asked to walk me home," she announced with a most solemn expression. "And your father insisted. He thinks it's a little late for young ladies to be out by themselves."
Without replying, I snapped my eyes to the window and the tiny bit of daylight that remained, recalling how many times Beth and I had been out long after sunset. I knew exactly what my father was really thinking, and it was dark indeed, though it had nothing to do with the retreat of the sun. It was my turn to sulk.
* * *
"Today, I should like to discuss the sanctity of the institution of marriage, the solemn union of a man, and a woman."
I cringed, and settled a bit in my seat. Like any effective speaker, Reverend Pierce had a way of making me imagine that he spoke only to me. He went on about the holy institution, and my shoulders shrank with my spirit, inch by inch. In retrospect, I suspect he gave that same sermon every spring, but that day it seemed particularly pointed, particularly odious. I wanted so much to steal a glimpse at Beth to gauge her reaction, but, sitting in the front pew where I might see the preacher's words, I dared not turn.
It was not until after the service that I found my friend in the mingling throng outside the chapel.
"What did you think of the sermon?" I inquired, a common question in the post-discourse socializing, but in this case a serious one as well.
Beth shrugged. "I don't know what the big deal is about hooch anyway. Ain't never tried none and don't plan to. My dad though, he thinks prohibition is one of the worst..."
"No," I said, leaning toward her. "Not that little bit at the end about temperance. The part about marriage?"
My friend's eyes wandered for a second before returning to me. "What about it?"
I stole a glance about, then took a step toward the open field, away from the horde. "I never thought much about getting married before, you know?"
Beth fell into step beside me, her face still toward mine. Her head shuddered in the slightest of shakes. "No. I don't."
"You've never thought of getting married then?"
"Of course I have. Marriage is serious."
I swallowed, the motion in my throat mimicking my spirit. "Boys then. You think about boys?"
"Are you jealous?"
That last word was like an arrow straight to my conscience, stopping me dead in my tracks. Turning toward Beth, I cast a glance back toward the chapel to be certain no one was within earshot. I laughed at my foolishness, not knowing for sure how far earshot was.
"Can anyone hear us?" I asked, returning my face to my friend.
Beth shook her head. "Not if you don't yell."
My eyes fell to my chest. I watched my bosom twice expand and contract within the yellow of my bodice before I looked back to my friend. "I might be jealous," I admitted. "I don't know, it's just, well, I've never felt like this before."
Beth smiled. "I feel the same way about you. And you don't need to worry about me and boys just because I walked home with your brother."
"We're still going swimming then?" I inquired. "After all, we don't have any chores."
My friend's chest shuddered with a chuckle. "We had church. Same thing."
My jaw fell. "Beth!"
She shrugged. "You'ze the one that wanted to see each other on the Sabbath. And I know you didn't mean see, did you?"
"You're right," I admitted with a nod. "I don't want to just see you. I want to smell you. And more."
Beth cut her eyes back to the congregation, then back to me. "You will." With that, she pulled from her pocket a crumpled flower.
My eyes bounced to the slender white petals and the large, round yellow center. "A daisy," I noted, looking back to my friend.
"Yes," she said. "Daisy. You washed for church last night, right?"
I nodded. "Yes."
Beth grinned, then licked her upper lip. "I hope you didn't wash all the flavor away."
I inhaled a large breath as she extended her hand and the modest flower toward me. Accepting it, I nodded my understanding, and my agreement. "Same place?"
My friend nodded in reply. "Same place."
* * *
With my heart racing my feet, I arrived at the pines mid-afternoon, expecting to rush headlong into the arms of my beloved. But she was not there. Consoling myself that one of us had to get there first, and that it just happened to be me; I waited, my eyes trained on the path by which I expected her to arrive.
The minutes ticked by. I began to feel more alone than I could ever recall. With a swallow, I glanced about, wondering what sounds were in the forest that I would never hear; unwittingly reminding myself that Beth would not be my ears, or anything else, for much longer.
A melancholy gripped me. I wandered from the flat rise to the bank of the creek, idly tossing twigs into the current and watching them float away, feeling in my gut that the moments of my life were slipping away in much the same manner.
My thoughts went to the future that was my downstream, a college in a distant city, away from everything I had known. I felt so small, so alone. So scared. A tear crept from the inner corner of my eye and slid along my nose. I wanted Beth more than ever, not just as a lover, but as my best friend.
As if some genie had granted my wish, I felt fingers upon my shoulder. My head snapped to the hand. With a smile breaking across my face, I turned my gaze upward to hers.
"Sorry I kept you waiting," Beth offered. "Dad wanted to sit around and talk about the sermon, especially how he disagrees with the reverend, you know."
Nodding my understanding, I rose, expecting an embrace, just a hug. Instead, I received a firm shove. My eyes flew wide. My mouth gaped. My arms spun circles in the air. In a motion that seemed to mimic the lethargy of the twigs floating downstream, I fell backward into the creek.
When I took my weekly bath, it was a cold one, water pumped straight into the basin, but the chill of the stream still caused my skin to goosepimple at once. My teeth clattering, I stood, shaking the water from my head. Then I looked to the bank, my eyes bulging with much surprise, and a little annoyance.
My friend's grin had broadened. "Told your momma we was going swimming, didn't you? I know you wouldn't want to lie on Sunday!"
With a bounce of her brow and the swing of her arms, she jumped toward me. Emitting a shriek, I dodged to one side, though leaping as she did Beth sailed over me with ease, entering the creek with a spray that re-drenched my head.
When my friend reappeared, only her shoulders and head pierced the surface. Still smiling, she brought her fingers to the top-most button on her dress.
With a grin of my own, I moved into the deeper water of mid-stream, and reached for my buttons. A minute later Beth had wiggled out of her dress. She held its wet and crumpled form aloft until I did the same with mine. With a glance, she stood and flung her dress to the shore. Mine followed a moment later.
When I looked back, Beth was moving toward me. She stopped two arms-lengths distant with the water teasing the bottom of her breasts. My eyes came to rest on the bandeau that contained her bosom, an undergarment I'd only seen in a catalog. It looked so sleek, so modern, compared to my baggy chemise. As if to ease my fashion disquiet, my friend crouched, sinking back beneath the creek until only her neck and head broke the surface.
With her smile gone, Beth locked her eyes to mine. Ripples extended from her neck for the next quarter minute. Then, the surface of the stream calmed. My friend's smile returned. A pale gray shape rose from within the brown of the creek. Her hand emerged from the water, dangling the bandeau aloft for a second or two before she flipped the garment to the shore. My eyes followed the flying fabric to where it landed amid the mud and weeds.
By the time I looked back, Beth had stood. A sheet of water ran down her body, but my eyes only noticed the streams that detoured about her bosom. Never having seen another girl's breasts before, I found myself mesmerized. Beth's were so dainty, conical in form, with large subtle pink areolas topped by nipples almost crimson.
My view locked on a single drop of water clinging to one of her fully erect nubs. "So pretty," I muttered.
Beth glanced down, then cupped each of her breasts with a palm. She then looked back to me and waited for me to bring my gaze to her lips. "Are you sure? I always thought they were pointy and ugly."
"No," I said, envying her hands. "They're bigger than I thought."
"Yeah," Beth began with a frown. "At least the brassiere helps smooth them a bit."
"I didn't mean it like that!" I clarified at once. "I like them just the way they are."
"You'ze just saying that?"
"Yours are the berries." With that I stood. The upper halves of my bulbous breasts floated to the surface, their form visible through my chemise. "Mine are way too big," I noted, looking down. "I tried wrapping them once, but it hurts to flatten them the way most boys like. I don't know why they think flat breasts are better anyway." My lips locked in a line, I looked upward, awaiting her reply.
I saw Beth had released her own bosom. Her eyes were locked on mine. Only her lips moved. "Me neither. I hate squishing mine. Stupid flappers. I don't know why they wants to look like boys." She hesitated, her eyes seemed to grow as they bore into mine. "Girls are so much prettier."
I tongued my lips once before I agreed. "Yes. Especially you."
I looked down to the water, and the pudgy frame concealed beneath the surface. "Are you sure," I asked, looking back to my friend. "I look in the mirror and all I see is a short, fat brunette."
Beth's gaze never wavered. She took a step toward me. "That's exactly what I see."
My jaw fell. "What?"
My friend took another step. "I see a fat little brunette too, but I think she's beautiful."
Fat and beautiful. Two words I never expected to hear in the same sentence, yet why couldn't I be both?
With a swallow, I at last dared take a step forward. Then another. Beth did the same, until we stood toe-to-toe. For a handful of seconds, we but stared at one another. Then I tensed, feeling her hands, invisible in the murk of the creek, cradle my breasts. With my eyes locked upon the spectacle, she took the weight of my bosom in her hands and began to massage me through the thin fabric of my undergarment.
I watched until she leaned, bring her face into my view, waiting for me to look at her mouth instead of her hands. "Nice," she whispered. "I like big ones too." Her eyes fell to her breasts, then leapt back to my eyes.
Within a second, I grasped her meaning. My hands emerged from the creek, fingers spread forth as if to warm them on a radiator. A shiver traversed my body the instant the tips of my digits met her bare flesh. Her skin was textured by the cool of the creek, yet the softness still beckoned. Looking into her eyes, I squeezed.
Beth smiled. She ran a thumb over one of my erect nipples, sending a shiver through my body. I looked down to her breasts, then did the same with one of my thumbs. Her shoulders crept upward at once and my gaze with them.
"Yes," she whispered. "It's so much better when you do it."
A grin gracing my lips, I continued to explore her bosom while she did the same with mine. Over the next several minutes each of us in turn increased the vigor of our massage. With our hands thus mimicking the motion of one another I became locked in something of a trance.
Such was the depth of my reflection that I tensed with shock when Beth released my breasts and took a step backward. Without a word she stooped. Her chin disappeared beneath the surface. Ripples emanated from her submerged jaw for the dozen seconds before she stood and threw one shoe to the shore.
I smiled. Following her lead, I began to disrobe. Our eyes never left one another as we threw shoes, socks, and clothes upon the bank. Wearing a broad smile and nothing else, Beth held her bloomers aloft and waited for me to do the same.
With the undergarments still traveling in an arc toward shore, we started toward one another. We said nothing. Our bodies and lips embraced the instant we met. My eyes closed as I savored the feel of her mouth upon my lips, of my hands upon her body, and of her hands upon mine.
Beth's palms soon cupped my breasts, her thumbs running circles around the nubs at the apex. I responded in kind, squeezing her bosom, petting her nipples. I felt her breath on my cheek and forced myself to inhale as well that we might continue our kiss.
I was still concentrating on breathing through my nose when Beth's hands moved. My eyes flew wide as her fingers slid to the soft sides of my abdomen, down to my hips, then in again, the tips tracing the path to my inner thighs where she began to massage my supple flesh.
We broke our kiss at that moment, pulling away to look into one another's eyes. Beth's chest heaved with a massive breath, then her fingers moved again, pressing in between my thighs, pushing until I relented and spread my limbs enough to grant her access to what lay between.
A smile spread across her lips as she worked the edge of her palm into the cleft of my sex. Her fingers began to stroke my folds and my body responded, rubbing back against her pressure.
"You're furry," she noted, still grinning.
My eyes fell to the water, then leapt back to hers. "I don't mean to be."
Beth's grin parted to reveal her teeth. Her head shuddered with what I knew to be a chuckle. "I like it." As if to prove a point, she grasped some of my pelt with her fingers, then drew their tips along the length of a few of the hairs. "I'd like it even better if this were my tongue."
With that, she shoved her parallel fingers beneath to the lower limits of my sex. I felt the whimper in my throat as she pushed one of those fingers into my folds and drew it upward at a snail's pace. We were motionless until her finger found the apex of my crease where her touch sent a spark through my loins that became a shiver that ran all the way to my shoulders.
Her eyes locked on mine, Beth whispered. "A tongue sounds nice, don't it?"
I opened my mouth to speak, but ended up just nodding instead.
Beth's fingers left my loins. She turned and waded toward the bank. With a gulp, I followed. My wide eyes were glued to her form as she took that long step onto the bank, revealing every inch of her succulence.
I was hardly finished with my ogling when she turned, leaned, and extended her hand, an invitation I at once accepted. A second later my friend pulled me to shore and into her arms. I stretched, expecting to kiss, but she leaned back, her eyes roaming that portion of my body not adjacent to hers.
My gaze fell to join hers, hoping she saw something beyond the pudgy curves that greeted my eye. I could not help but notice the contrast between the softness of my form and the firmness of hers. How can she really find me pretty? I wondered. The boys are always looking at her. No one ever looks me.
When I looked back at her face, the expression I found there erased all doubt from my soul. A smile broke across my face, mirroring that which I saw on hers.
"Ready?" she whispered.
"Yes," I affirmed with a pair of brisk nods.
Beth's hand slid to grasp mine. Turning, she led me at a tiptoe upward through the short grasses of the bank to the flat rise of the copse, where I saw a ragged quilt spread over the pine needles. My friend did not stop until we both stood at the edge of the cloth, wiping our feet.
My eyes fell to where I scrubbed the dirt from my soles upon the fabric. Again I saw my figure next to hers. This time, I didn't see a chubby girl and a slender one; this time I saw two young ladies, two best friends who belonged together as much as anyone ever had.
With an exaggerated breath, I bounced my view and my courage upward. "I love you," I declared.
Beth flinched and I understood my volume had been a tad on the loud side. A moment later, she recovered to smile and whisper, "I love you too. I always have, you know?"
I nodded, my eyes clouding. "I know. I just didn't know how much."
Beth's chest heaved with a massive breath. "Then it's time I showed you." Putting her hands to my shoulders, she leaned, a pressure to which I at once acquiesced. My friend followed me to the quilt, urging my body prone. For some seconds our eyes but roamed the pale flesh of our exposed bodies. My gaze kept leaping from her smooth skin to my far furrier form. Then our eyes found one another. I saw nothing resembling repulsion in her features, but I still had to know.
"Am I too hairy?"
With a shake of her head Beth grasped my hand. Spreading my fingers, she moved that hand to her mouth, where she suckled my smallest digit, then next, and each other in turn, before finally giving my thumb a firm nibble.
With a wink, she ran her tongue down the back of my stubby digit, onto my wrist, where she began to kiss, her eyes still locked on mine. When she got to my forearm, she slowed her pace and increased her force. I felt her suck my skin into her mouth, pinching my flesh with her lips before releasing it.
My eyes flew wide as I felt something else, a sharp, subtle stab. She'd sucked some of my hairs into her mouth too, pulling on them with her teeth. I cringed, thinking my furriness must disgust her. I imagined it an accident, until she did it again. Then she extended her lips and grabbed just my hairs, and gave them a gentle tug.
My jaw fell, my mouth becoming as wide as my eyes. I knew what she was expressing, and it was anything but disgust. I recovered control of my mouth and smiled.
Beth removed her lips from my arm. Releasing my wrist, she slid atop me. She looked down into my eyes; her mouth was open, but not to speak. Her lips joined mine. While we kissed, her hand worked its way down my abdomen. I squirmed a bit, knowing well where it was bound. My belly pushed upward as if to meet it, and encourage it onward.
Again I felt the tremor of a whimper within my throat as she ploughed her hand into my folds. Her fingers began to rub my sex, but not with the gentleness she had earlier shown. I gasped, terminating our kiss.
She said something, but she was too close for me to see it. My eyes went to her mouth, then back to her eyes. With a grin, she moved those lips directly over my eyes and mouthed the words again. "Ready to go there?"
My head vibrated my affirmation before my mouth could speak. Just as well, because her mouth was back on mine, her lips rubbing, imitating the massage that her fingers applied to my sex.
Upon the quilt, my ass began to wander, first pushing against her pressure, but soon moving sideways in subtle jerks as if trying to adjust her fingers to that special place, the one that made me tingle all over. I didn't even know where that special place was, but I felt a warming inside me and I knew the special place was somewhere on the way to there.
For some blessed minutes I felt my exhilaration build. My body began to shudder, demanding something further, but I didn't know what is was, where it was, or, worse, how to get there. My eyes blinked. I thought I might weep.
Beth's lips left mine at the same moment her hand left my sex. My tongue stirred to protest, but her hand was over my nose before my lips had formed the first syllable. Instead of exhaling an objection I inhaled a most pungent bouquet. Devoid of all the normal bodily odors, I sampled only the sharp muskiness of my own raw excitement.
My friend's mouth appeared above her fingers. "Do you like it?"
I started to answer with my voice, but noticed my mouth curled into a grin so broad it seemed a shame to break it. I extended my tongue between my just parted teeth and gave her hand a token lick.
Beth's eyes widened. "Now there's an idea!" Though her hand remained over my nose, the rest of her body spun. I felt her other palm come to rest on my thigh. Then I sensed it, her breath, blowing on my sex, first teasing, then warming it, both outside and in.
My eyes closed. I breathed once through my parted lips before I forced myself to use my nose, to smell what my lover smelled. My eyes still closed, my mind wandered, from the warmth of her breath upon my lower lips, to the closeness of her chest upon my tummy, to the pheromones invading my sinuses.
But it was all just a tease. I extended my left hand to my side, finding my lover's flank where I began to pet her. I felt her hand begin to move on my thigh, shorter strokes, but in the same rhythm. With a smile, I moved my right hand to grasp the wrist about my chin. Then I extended my mouth upward and gave her palm a long, broad lick.
Almost at once, she licked me back, her splayed tongue bathing the length of my crease. My loins clenched, pulling away from the unexpected sensation. An instant later, I pushed my hips upward toward her waiting mouth. I licked her hand a second time and again my lover's tongue graced my folds.
My loins tightened. My thighs shuddered. My left hand flew from Beth's body. The fingers of this hand joined those of my right in grasping the wrist still above my chin. My friend's hand thus secured, I licked it again, then closed my eyes and squirmed as I felt her tongue mimic my action.
Extending my tongue, I pulled her palm to my face and waited. Beth did the same, pushing her tongue to my sex and leaving its warm moistness there. With the ends of my mouth trying to curl upward in a smile, I pushed my tongue betwixt two of her fingers. My hips bounced of their own accord when my lover replied in kind.
I paused for a breath. My body squirmed its impatience. Moving my right hand upward, I squeezed her fingers together and drove my tongue into the cleft between them. Beth did the same, pushing her tongue into my folds, matching my motion. This time I didn't stop; I licked her hand again. She licked me back. Soon our two tongues moved in concert, one bathing her fingers, the other bathing my folds, each of us tasting my essence.
The stroke from my lover's tongue first upon, then within, my lower lips reached into my core, somehow warming places she could not physically touch. My ass began turning slow circles on the quilt. Though my body stirred in a physical sense, it was but a trifle compared to the rousing within me. This time I recognized the sensation, and relished it. I pushed my tongue to where my lover's fingers met her palm. Into that gap I rammed my tongue, pushing, driving, burrowing even.
A second later I felt it, her tongue, teasing my vestibule, then delving within; swirling, caressing, licking, loving. I removed my tongue from her hand long enough to gasp, then panicked, thinking she might remove hers from me. Eyes wide, I slammed my tongue back into her fingers, then issued a second, mouth-open gasp as she plunged her tongue farther into my depths.
Somewhere therein, a tingling commenced. My hips surged to meet her pressure. My body undulated, matching the waves of passion coursing through my being. Ragged breaths passed through my nose as the tingling spread, becoming an itching, a feeling so benevolent as to be heavenly, yet wicked in its need to be scratched. I rode that swell of pleasure for some minutes; could have been two, might have been twenty. Time didn't have meaning. Only Beth's tongue within me mattered, yet no matter how it licked, no matter how it swirled, no matter how she loved me, the tension only mounted, the itching only spread.
My hands trembled my frustration, shaking her fingers across my now stagnant tongue. My head fell to the quilt. My chest shuddered with a whimper. I just knew I'd never go there.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Beth's tongue left my entryway. Her hand left my face. A grimace seized my countenance, but only for a second. Before I could voice my want, her hand found where her tongue had been. A finger shot inside of me, caressing the depths her tongue could not reach.
Her mouth was back an instant later, this time at the apex of my folds. She sucked that part of me that needed attention the most, that special place on the way to there, a tiny button I barely knew existed. Within my friend's mouth her tongue flicked over the blessed knot of flesh that I would only later learn had a name.
A smoldering began inside of me, feeding the itching. My body began to move in ways I did not will; squirming, trembling, wanting. My mouth flew wide. Air escaped, taking no doubt some sound with it.
Still suckling, Beth switched hands, the one that had teased my essence rushed back to cover my face. Her other hand jumped from my thigh, a finger driving deep within my waiting passage.
Again I inhaled my own aroma as her fingers and tongue worked their magic. My eyes rolled in my head, lids fluttering over them. My hips surged, then fell, then surged again, my ass bouncing upon the quilt. Gripping her hand, I pushed my face into her fingers, rutting my sniffing nose against my own secretions.
Beth's face rode my sex as I bucked, her mouth never letting go; if anything, she sucked harder. Her finger plunged as far within me as she could reach, touching things I still don't know the names of.
The smoldering became a fire that spread throughout my loins, then surged beyond. There in my tingling button, still cradled between my lover's lips and tongue, I felt an eerie heat, like the feeling one gets after hitting one's thumb with a hammer, only magnified a hundred fold.
My thighs snapped together, clamping the sides of my lover's head. My hips bounced upward again. This time my rigid, quaking ass cheeks stayed aloft. My spine traced a subtle curve to where my shoulder blades found the quilt beneath me. Thus suspended, my body trembled.
My mouth flew wide. I'm sure some sounds emerged, but I doubt I would have heard them even had my ears worked. I gasped, trying to breathe, but my chest was like my body- frozen, as if in the grip of some otherworldly vise. There was a moment, just a moment, where something resembling an ache rippled through my straining muscles.
Then, with a gentle tremor, I was there. My body fell, quaking through its release, every fiber of my being tingling with a euphoria that defies words. No matter how many times you say orgasm, it is just a word until you experience one.
I opened my eyes to find my teeth clamped on the outer edge of my lover's palm.
Before I could pry my mouth from my lover's hand, she gave my thigh a playful nip. My hips jerked as if to evade the sting, and the shock. She shifted too, her hand springing from my mouth to my shoulder as she pivoted.
I looked up into her face. Her creamy skin glistened with a sheen, the aroma of which drifted down to my flaring nostrils.
Her lips moved. "You've marked me. Taste it."
I closed my eyes and kinked my head backward, lifting my mouth to meet the lips I knew were already approaching.
An hour later we were a hundred yards away, the quilt tossed amid grass tall enough to hide us from everything except sun. We lay in a loose cuddle, our warm bodies moving against one another in the slow certainty that came with knowing they belonged together.
"Do you think cavemen used to sun themselves like this?" Beth asked.
I grinned. "You mean cavegirls?"
She giggled. "Yeah. Cavegirls."
"Do you think maybe they did other things, like we just did?"
I leaned, inhaling that portion of my fragrance that lingered upon her face. "I suppose they did."
Beth moved a finger, easing a stray brown tendril from my face. "I wonder if they had to hide, like we do."
My eyes wandered for the heartbeat it took me to reflect upon the matter. I found Beth smiling when my focus returned to her face. "I don't know," I admitted. "I hope not."
"It just seems wrong," I said, "that we can't let anyone else know how we feel."
Beth nodded. "I know. I want to shout 'I love Vicki!' from the highest hill; push my face into everyone's and say, 'Smell what I did to her!' I want them all to know I took you there."
Recalling the experience, I beamed. "I want to take you there too."
"You will," Beth assured me. Cradling my cheek to her bosom, she combed my tresses with her fingers. "Let's don't rush. We have all summer."
All summer. It seemed like forever when she said it, the way she said it. Yet, I knew even then it wouldn't be long enough. It couldn't be long enough. Too soon, I'd be bound for college whereas Beth would be staying on at the farm, until such time as my brother George finally got up the nerve to ask her out in a formal manner.
I realized I was being a bit selfish perhaps, not telling her what I knew. With a gulp, I sat upright. "There's someone that likes you. More than likes you even. Everyone knows it."
My jaw fell. "You know?"
Beth smiled through a giggle. "You just said everyone did."
"I didn't mean you. How long have you known? Did he tell you when he walked you home?"
Beth smiled. Her lips moved in the subtle fashion that is a whisper. "I've known a while; you see- I like him too."
My brow fell at once. Any semblance of a smile left my lips. My mind raced back to when we had discussed our brothers. "Yeah. I guess you did say that. Reckon I just wasn't listening."
My friend smiled, then used her fingers the comb my hair. "Don't worry. I like him true, but I love you; and I ain't married yet. Me and him got the rest of our lives. Me and you got just the summer. We'ze gonna do it all. I'm gonna lick you so much I'll be able to close my eyes and taste you for the rest of my life."
She was right. We had that summer. Ninety-two marvelous days. We spent each one together. I cried for many more days after that, wanting so much to go home and be with her, but I knew that summer was gone, like all things wonderful, over too soon.
George turned out to be braver than I expected. Or maybe Beth helped him along. When I came home at Christmas, they were already engaged. I suffered through being my best friend's maid of honor the next June. After that I went back to Gallaudet and made a career of proving what a deaf girl can do, returning home for shorter visits in ever-increasing intervals.
* * * * *
My focus snaps back to the present. Though I stare at Elizabeth, her eyes are closed. She's smiling. I imagine why she might be, and my lips curve upward too. Can she really taste me when she closes her eyes after all these years? I start to close my eyes, but realize I can taste her even with them open.
Next to her, George waves at me, and then points to the television. I look to the screen where a man named Neal bounces upon the gray of the lunar landscape. We've missed it, Beth and I, missed the first step on the moon for simple look at one another.
With a smile of my own, knowing I would trade any view for one of her, I turn my attention back to my old friend. Her eyes are open now. Her mouth is stationary, in neither a smile nor a frown. She loses a tear. A second later, I lose a pair. For everyone else this is a day to remember, but not for Beth and I, we have our own memories of a summer we went there together, a place with a brilliance beyond that of the moon or the stars.
Perhaps I should be contented that we had our summer together, yet I have never been able to console myself thus. Even now I find that wicked, selfish streak that has always been a part of me hoping that my brother precedes me into the ground, that I might have another chance with my beloved. But I know it won't be the same, it can't be the same, as that late spring morning long ago when more than the lips of two girls met inside the old bridge over Wilson's Creek.
The Bridge Over Wilson's Creek
Copyright 2005 by Penelope Street
Posted with permission at The Athenaeum.com
All other rights reserved.
Special thanks to Jessica and Stella for their editing assistance.
This is a work of fiction. To the best of the author's knowledge, none of the events depicted ever occurred. Victoria and Elizabeth are fictional characters. Their views, opinions, and experiences are invented as well and are not meant to promote anyone's personal beliefs or agenda.