"Rock a bye baby, in the tree top, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock. . . ." My voice trailed off to a whisper as little Joey closed his eyes, settling into sleep. I covered him with his favourite blanket and tiptoed out of the room, closing the door carefully behind me.
"Hes asleep, maam," I said quietly, and Francine grunted in acknowledgement. She was sprawled out in an easy chair, still in her bathrobe and with curlers in her hair, a fag trembling on her lips as she thumbed through a ragged magazine with a glazed expression. Poor Joey, I mourned, born into this household. Poor me. At least I was almost of an age to leave, but poor little Joey was barely 2, and he had years and years to endure.
When she didnt say anything more, I thought Id better get busy and clean the house before my father got home. My stepmother might be a lazy slut, but shed given birth to Joey, the son Dad had always wanted. At least Joey would have Dads love to help counteract his mothers indifference and cruelty. I started tidying the living room, then moved into the kitchen to wash the dishes and get supper started. There was hardly anything to start with, and the cupboards were nearly bare. That was almost a relief! It meant I would have to leave the house and run to the market.
I felt almost lighthearted as I reported this to my stepmother, ignoring her tirade whilst I tried to appear I was paying close attention. I didnt want to be hit again, she had a quick temper and had knocked me silly a time or two over some imagined slight. I might call her a slut in my own mind, but I never made the mistake of being anything less than respectful to her face, not after that time Id called her a cow and shed put me in hospital when I was 12, shortly after shed married my father. I fell down, Father, Im sorry Im so clumsy, Father. I loved my dad, but he was a stupid man. My broken arm and leg and the bruises had healed slowly, and Id plenty of time to think about my rash tongue whilst I was recovering. When the casts were removed and I was released from hospital, I had reinvented myself as the model stepdaughter, respectful, quiet . . . and as far out of her reach as possible!
I skipped out of the house after Francine reluctantly gave me a few shillings. Oh, it was lovely out here, even though we lived in a poor and nasty part of town. Being outside always gave me a thrill, I was cooped up in the house most of the time, doing all the chores that she should have rightfully taken over when shed married Dad a year after Mum died, but Francine had revealed her true colours once shed moved in. If I wanted to live in a pigsty, Id let her take care of things. But if I wanted to live in a decent household, then Id just have to take care of everything myself. And I had, for the past 3 years. Theyd been the longest years of my life.
The brisk autumn air felt good on my exposed face, even as I happily shivered for lack of a jacket. If I hurried, I might be able to sneak in a visit to the library! I ran the rest of the way to the market, partly to keep warm and partly so I wouldnt miss out on my favourite treat, a new book.
I regretfully rushed through the grocery shopping. I would have liked to look around more and take my time, but the library was calling me, and I knew it closed at 3, so I only had 15 minutes to get there. I took my meager purchases (green beans, a small package of ground meat, and a luxury, tinned peaches!), and raced towards the building several blocks away. I was quite dismayed when I turned the corner and saw a group of Teds smoking on the corner in front of my destination. Turning around and going back wasnt an option, theyd already seen me, so I had to bluff my way through them and into the building. I knew I wasnt in serious trouble, because the gangs in the Dingle had unwritten rules of conduct, and children and women were off limits. I wasnt sure which category I was in, being age 14, but I felt fairly safe. Fairly. But that was before I saw Billy.
"ey, fellers, look who it is, its er fuckin majesty Brianna Cooper!" Billy Maguire sneered at me as I approached. I hadnt seen Billy in years, but he hadnt changed at all, he was still a spiteful, nasty lad. Wed had a run in when we were just children. My mum had read his mum the riot act for Billy trying to get my knickers off for a feel when I was 8, and Im sure Billy had been in big trouble. Hed never forgiven me for that.
I gave him a wide berth whilst trying not to appear I was giving him a wide berth. It was a fine line to tread, but Id grown up in these neighbourhoods, and I knew the ropes pretty well, as well as the rules. But it appeared that the rules had changed, or maybe Billy was stretching them just for my benefit. He reached out and forced me to a halt as I tried to walk past, digging his fingers cruelly into the soft flesh of my upper arm.
I stood still, knowing that if I struggled, it would only encourage him. "Let go of me, Billy, I want to get into the library before it closes." My voice sounded calm and collected, but only I knew how rapidly my heart was beating. I wished Id been a good girl and returned home once my shopping was complete.
Billy looked over his shoulder with a lewd grin, signaling the other boys in his gang. There were 5 of them in all and they closed around me, effectively fencing me off from any form of escape. I looked from one to the other, trying to quell my rising panic. They were all mean looking lads, around my age, but everyone grew up fast in the rough neighbourhoods where I lived. I didnt see a friend or ally in a single face.
But one of the rough lads looked a little familiar, and I tried desperately to remember how I knew him. Maybe from my stay in hospital? Yes, that was it, oh, what was his name? Ritchie? Yes, that sounded right, hed been confined to hospital for a lung problem when Id been there for my broken bones. Wed been friends during our respective convalescences. I fancied I saw a spark of recognition in his blue eyes as I stared at him and I let him see a little of the fear I was feeling, turning to face him and thus hide my plea from the others. I felt a faint flare of hope that maybe Ritchie would help me.
That hope was dashed when he grabbed me by the arm and tugged me out of Billys grasp with a snarl. He propelled me out of the group and pushed me against the side of the building, knocking the air out of my lungs. He stood so close to me that I could feel his hot breath on my face, and his body was pressing me into the brick wall. My sack of groceries was crushed between us, and he roughly grabbed the bag and threw it down to the ground. The other lads had stepped back, keeping a perimeter around us that allowed them close enough to avidly watch, but far enough away that they could dart glances towards the street and keep an eye out for passers by.
I belatedly started to struggle when he touched his lips to mine, his hands forcefully gripping my arms and holding them at my sides. That was when I realized that he was whispering to me, his lips touching mine as he breathed the words, the sound barely reaching my ears.
"Listen ta me, girl, jus play along fer a bit, the libraryll be closin an the lady in chargell call a stop to this, I dunno ow else ta get ya outta this spot. Ya better watch yer step round Billy, es a mean un, an I think es out ta get ya."
His blue eyes searched my brown eyes from a bare inch away, we were so close together our eyes were almost crossed, and when he saw my dawning comprehension, he pressed his lips firmly against mine. My desire to struggle died down as I came to realize that this was, after all, a rescue of sorts. The relief was overwhelming, and I think I kissed him back out of sheer gratitude. I wanted to throw my arms around his neck, blessing all the saints and saying a prayer of thanks.
An adult voice shouted, "You lads there, stop this instant. Stand still, what are you on about?" I almost fell down as the pressure of Ritchies body holding me against the wall disappeared. I opened my eyes to see the 5 boys running off in different directions, and the librarian approaching me with concern on her face. "Are you all right, young lady? Who were those lads?"
I took a gulp of air, the relief of rescue washing over me, and I shook my head weakly. "I dont know, maam, Ive never seen any of them before." The woman looked skeptical, but she helped me gather my groceries and walked with me for several blocks before I left her at the bus stop. I raced home from there, keeping a watchful eye on my surroundings and vowing to never again get caught like that. I would definitely take Ritchies advice and watch my step with Billy.
Thankfully, my little half brother hadnt woken or needed tending, and my stepmother was still engrossed in her magazine. I quickly threw together a meatloaf and put the beans on to boil, even making a mean sort of cobbler out of the peaches and some flour, what luxury! I kept my thoughts occupied with dinner and tried to avoid thinking about this afternoon.
I had dinner on the table when Dad arrived home from his job at the newspaper, and we all sat down to eat. I was sickened by how my stepmother had dressed and made herself up just before Dad got home, acting the faithful and loving wife to him, and he just ate it up. When he left the room for a cigarette after dinner, she hissed at me, berating me for spending precious cash on the peaches, but I noted (to myself) that she had eaten the majority of the treat. Id given my piece to Joey, and hed made a big mess of it with all signs of enjoyment. I would have liked to taste it myself, but there wasnt enough to go around after Francine had served herself. I might be the cooking and washing and cleaning girl, but she always served the meals as if shed been the person slaving in the kitchen. I did the work and she took the compliments. I thought of myself as a sort of Cinderella, which was a story my mum had read to me as a child. There were a few differences, but the overall theme was the same. I wondered if Id ever find a Prince Charming, like Cinderella had. Books were my escape from life, and I wished Id been able to get a new one from the library that afternoon.
Lying under my thin blanket that night, shivering from the cool air, I allowed myself to reflect on my rescue earlier that day. I was grateful to Ritchie for his quick thinking, and I wondered if hed had to save any other girls like that. Or maybe hed only rescued me because I looked familiar to him. I wondered if hed had any other girls in a position like that and had taken advantage of them, kissing them and . . . who knew what else? I shivered again as I thought about it. Id never been kissed before, and I wasnt absolutely sure that this afternoons adventure counted as a kiss or not. After all, hed been whispering to me, not really kissing me. But our lips had been touching, so I guess that was a kiss. I found myself trembling, but not really from the cold. I felt a sort of guilty thrill at the memory of his lips pressed against mine. Once Id realized he wasnt going to hurt me, it had been . . . really nice, I think, and it made me feel shivery inside to remember how hed been holding me against the wall, touching me with his body, and with his lips pressed against mine. I tried hard to remember every second of that brief kiss, before finally falling asleep to dreams of daring escapes and thrilling romance.
The next several weeks followed the same routine. School in the morning, baby tending and housework in the afternoons. I was careful on my walks to school and my few trips to the market. I seemed unnaturally aware of everything around me, keeping a close eye on anyone I saw on my solitary walks. I didnt see any gangs, and I didnt see Billy . . . or Ritchie.
Father came home one night a few weeks later and hed had a windfall at the races, his horse had won and he was "in the money". Hed won a whopping fifty pounds, and I thought we were rich beyond anything I could imagine. He gave me five whole pounds to spend on myself and I was overwhelmed at his generosity. My stepmother was given twenty pounds and Father kept twenty five pounds for his own use. I knew that Francine would take my money first chance she got, so I determined I was going to spend it as I saw fit. Maybe I could save it as a start towards a new life. But I really needed shoes, mine were disgracefully worn. And Joey was growing so quickly, he needed some short trousers and shirts. Thinking about that depressed me, because my fortune would quickly dwindle with those requirements.
Sweating with nerves at my audacity, I brought the subject up after dinner. "Father, Joeys growing so fast, I really think he needs some new clothes. His are all too tight or short, and winters on the way."
My father nodded absentmindedly as he looked up from his newspaper. "Ask your mother for clothing money. And you should buy something as well, youve been looking a little ragged lately. Joeys not the only one whos growing, your skirts are getting dreadfully short, my dear." He smiled at me and went back to his reading.
I gritted my teeth. First, she wasnt my mother. Second, shed never part with a shilling, let alone a pound, for my welfare. Maybe shed part with some money for Joey, but I wasnt optimistic about that and I was right. When I talked myself into bringing the subject up the next afternoon, I got slapped for my efforts and I was told how ungrateful I was. She tried to make me give up my five pounds, but I refused as politely as possible, and escaped the house before she could retaliate. I felt badly about leaving Joey in that atmosphere, but Id never seen her hit him, and I had my own welfare to think of. Still, I worried about him the entire time I was away from the house.
I walked the long blocks to the department store, and lost myself for an hour. I kept close watch on the time, knowing I had to return in time to clean and fix dinner. But this was such a wonderful treat, I rarely went shopping. There were beautiful clothes on the racks, and shoes of every description, housewares and wonderful decorations. I was in heaven! I mentally calculated my pounds and shillings as I picked out things for myself and Joey. I finally settled on a new rust coloured skirt with two blouses in varying shades of rich brown, some underthings and a new slip, and a few shirts and underclothes and short pants for Joey. I figured I would have a little left over after this, but not enough for my much needed shoes. I inspected them critically, thinking I should be able to get by until spring, and I passed by the shoe department whilst averting my eyes from the temptation.
At the cash register, I watched anxiously as everything was rung up, breathing a sigh of relief as the clerk said "Thatll be four pounds ten". I wasnt sure what I would do with my remaining money, but just the fact that I had some money and new clothes made me feel wealthy. I parted with a few shillings for two Cadbury chocolate bars and carefully hid one at the bottom of my bag of clothes, whilst greedily savoring tiny pieces of the other during my walk home. I was about six blocks from home, on Arnold Grove, when I heard a door bang shut. I narrowly missed running into someone as he rushed from the house and onto the sidewalk. He didnt stop but kept going, heading the same way as I was walking. "Ritchie? Is that you?" I asked. Something about the walk . . . .
He turned and stared, a smile finally breaking out on his face as he recognized me. "Yer the bird from the library that day. ow are ya, luv?"
"Yes, thats me, Im fine, Ritchie. I never got to thank you for that day. I think you saved my life." I was unaccountably blushing as we started walking again, and I could tell he was watching me with sidelong glances as we walked side by side.
"Nah, its nuthin. An anyway, Billy wasnt interested in killin ya." He wiggled his eyebrows at me and I had to giggle, although the emphasis in his statement made me vaguely uneasy. I remembered my chocolate bar and offered him some as we walked. His eyes grew big. Chocolate was still a big thing, a real luxury where we lived.
"What, ya got a sugar daddy or a special ration booklet or somethin?" he asked as he helped himself to a small bite, sighing as he let it melt on his tongue, savoring the flavour nearly as much as I.
"Nah, father won a few pounds on the horses, and he gave me some money, so I bought clothes and things. But I had a bit left and decided I couldnt live another day without a chocolate!" We walked some more, nibbling on the chocolate and enjoying the thin afternoon sunshine. "Ritchie, do you remember me? Not just from the library, but from hospital a few years ago? I thought maybe you remembered me, and thats why you rescued me from Billy."
He stopped, forcing me to stop as well, and he looked at me carefully for a long moment. I felt funny with him staring at me like that, and I fidgeted. "Oh, yeah, thats where I knew ya from! Ya looked familiar but I couldnt place ya! Youre the bird with the busted wing . . . an a busted leg, too, right? Youd been in one helluva fight, looked like, all them bruises an all broken up. Youve grown up since then, I barely recognize ya!"
I was pleased that he remembered me at all, but I felt a little nervous at his statement about a "fight". "Id just fallen down, Ritchie, thats all." He shook his head and started walking again.
"Yeah, sure, whatever ya say," was all he replied, and I dropped that subject, although Im sure he didnt believe me. We talked about all the card playing wed done at hospital, and the hospital band wed both been in. Hed played the drums, and Id been given a triangle to play, because I could hang it on my traction sling and then strike it with the pick held in my good hand. We had a giggle over those memories. I had no natural rhythm whatsoever, and Ritchie had been required to tutor me in striking the triangle at the appropriate times. If ever there was an inept musician, that was me! But Ritchie had done so well on the drums, I wondered if he was still playing?
I didnt have the chance to ask, as wed arrived at my house. I heard my stepmothers shrill voice raised in anger, and I heard little Joey crying. "Err, Im sorry, Ritchie, but I have to go now. Its been lovely seeing you. I hope we run into each other again sometime."
"You live ere?" he asked and I nodded, feeling the blush creep up my face, wincing as Francine yelled again and Joey started crying a bit louder.
"My stepmother and half brother," I muttered in apology, anxious to make sure Joey was all right. Ritchie must have felt my unease, because he just nodded and opened the gate for me.
"Ill see ya again, Bree." He walked off and I scurried into the house. Everything was all right, Francine just didnt know how to handle her own son. All he wanted was somebody to pay attention to him, so I worked hard at that while I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning and cooking.
I knew I was in for a few bad days from Francine following my unexpected outing and "spendthrift ways", as she called it. But I hugged a happy secret inside, even after she yelled at me for being gone for so long. First off, Ritchie had walked me home; secondly, hed held the gate for me; thirdly, he remembered his nickname for me from hospital; and finally, hed said hed see me again. And on top of that, Joey and I both had new clothes, I had a little pocket change, and I had the total luxury of another whole chocolate bar to savor during the next couple of weeks! I dont think Id ever been so happy, at least not since before Mum died.
I was glad when Dad arrived home that evening, it meant that Francine would have to be nice to me. After dinner (Id tried my hand at Muligitawny soup, careful to keep the curry to a minimum . . . except for the extra bit Id thrown in at the last moment to Francines bowl), I showed Dad all the new clothes Id bought. He liked the shirts and trous Id picked up for Joey, and we dressed him up like a living doll in his new outfits. Dad asked me to model my clothes as well, and even though I knew Francine would be insufferable tomorrow, I turned model and tried my new skirt on with the nicest blouse. I thanked God that she was so much bigger than I, or else I would have lost my newest outfit before Id even had a chance to model it! As I came back to the living room, I twirled in my new skirt, knowing I looked grand. The rust coloured skirt brought out the auburn highlights in my usually mouse brown hair, and the blouse nicely complimented my eyes.
"And just how much did this cost, Brianna?", Dad asked me after telling me how nice I looked.
"Only 4 pounds ten, Father," I replied, still twirling in my skirt, liking the feel of the fabric against my bare legs. I stopped when my father pulled out his wallet and took out a five pound note, handing it to my stepmother with a comment of how well shed done in her shopping. Francine smiled and simpered and kissed him in thanks, the note disappearing into her pocket, and I felt ill. I wondered if it was worth saying anything? No, not now, Id never survive. But in a couple more years, Id be out of this house, and then Id tell everyone.
We all turned to look at the door when the knock sounded. No one ever visited us. Francine didnt have any friends, and I wouldnt invite my friends into this house. Fathers friends always met him at the racetrack. I reached the door first and pulled it open, standing there in openmouthed shock when Ritchie said, "ullo, Bree, told ya Id see ya again. Can I come in?" I merely stepped back, inviting him in with a sweep of my hand. He walked in very cool like. He still looked like a Ted, but hed toned it down somehow, and he smiled a very nice smile to my stupefied father, holding his hand out in greeting. "Mr. Cooper, Im Richard Starkey, a friend of Briannas. How dya do?" He turned to Francine, and shook her hand as well. Father turned to me for an explanation, but I just shrugged. He looked back at Ritchie.
"Whats this all about, then? Richard, have you come calling on Brianna? Shes only 14, she isnt allowed to date until she turns 15, you know."
Ritchie smiled again and replied, "Oh, no, Mr. Cooper, youve got it wrong, sir. Im just a friend of ers, we met in ospital two years ago, and we ran into each other today. Thought Id stop by and ave a chat, see whats appened in the past two years."
My father smiled his acceptance of Ritchies story. "I see, well, theres no harm in old friends catching up on the times. Francine, why dont you make a pot of tea for us, dear?"
"Ill do it, Father. Would it be all right if Ritchie helped me make tea?" I didnt think Francine knew how to boil water, and I was certain shed put rat poison in my cup if she were forced to make tea. Father nodded, probably figuring that we couldnt get into much trouble so close to the living room, and he settled down and started reading the paper. Youd think he got enough of the paper, working as he did in the newspaper plant, but he still read it cover to cover each evening.
I took Ritchie by the hand and practically dragged him into the little kitchen, past Francine who narrowed her eyes at me while she smiled winningly at Ritchie, batting her lashes at him. The woman was shameless, and I was irritated and angry that shed gotten under my skin. I filled the kettle and put it on to boil before I could bring myself to look at Ritchie. When I finally met his eyes, my anger evaporated at his expression of sympathy. Before I could say anything, he came close to me and whispered in my ear.
"Don worry, luv, I can see shes a bad un, a real spoilt bitch. Im really lucky, don you think I don know it, me stepdads the salt o the earth, a great guy, Harry is!"
Little Joey toddled into the kitchen, a rather ineffectual chaperone as he sat on the floor and played with some blocks. I was glad Id cleaned so well this afternoon, the house was virtually spotless and I was happy Ritchie hadnt come visiting on a day I didnt get around to cleaning until after Father was asleep.
"What are you doing here, Ritchie? And wed better make some noise or else theyll come investigate why were being so quiet." After whispering that, I pulled some cups out of the cupboard, deliberately making just a bit more noise than normal, then spoke in a natural sounding voice. "Have you been well, then? Are you in school or have you found a trade?" I remembered that he was just a year older than I.
He replied in a normal speaking voice, too. "Well, Im startin work as an engineer, and just doin school one day a week. Ive been fine. How about you, no more broken bones, eh?" He dropped his voice back to a whisper and continued. "Jus thought Id stop back and see ya again, luv. I liked talkin to ya this aftanoon. Ya look real pretty tonight." He was standing very near me, and I was unaccountably nervous at his closeness. I stepped back and trapped myself in a corner, with the kitchen table on one side and the kitchen counter behind me.
I had to pause before I could reply to his innocent question. "No, I . . . uh, no, no more broken bones. Ive been very well, thank you." I continued in a whisper, "Im glad you stopped by, I liked talking to you, too." My eyes went wide when he leaned closer and gave me a kiss on the lips, his hands on my shoulders. I broke away from the kiss, my heart pounding fast at the contact, but I tried to speak in a normal voice. "So what do you do as an engineer?" He kissed me again before replying, and my knees felt weak. I was glad I had the kitchen counter at my back.
"Oh, a bit o this and a bit o that. Im just an apprentice, itll be a while before I start work on me own, ya know? But its a good start." He held my face in his hands and his lips were on mine again, his tongue pushing my lips open. I jerked back, my breath coming fast, and I knew I was blushing and sweating at the same time.
"Ummmm, well, Im still going to school. I didnt miss a lot of time while I was in hospital, I caught up pretty quickly after I was released. Are you, ummm, still playing the drums? You did such a good job of it in the hospital band." I put my arms around his neck, just as Id dreamed of doing nearly every night since hed rescued me outside of the library, and I kissed him. He broke the kiss after too short a time.
"Yeah, Im still drummin, cant seem to stop. I play with a local band sometimes, the Darktown Skiffle Group. Maybe you can come out an see us play sometime?" He kissed me again, his hands on my waist and his mouth over mine, his tongue tracing across my lips and opening them, exploring, his hands moving around to my back, holding me close in an embrace that we had to break as the kettle started to sing.
"Yes, Id like that, Ritchie," I said, gratified that my voice didnt reveal any of my palpitations. My heart was hammering, and my ears were tingling. I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I wanted badly to fidget . . . or something, Im not quite sure what. I tried to calm myself down before taking the tea into the living room, but I had to sneak another kiss before carrying the tray out.
I set the tray down on the living room table and poured a cuppa for everyone except Joey, whod followed us out of the kitchen. I was pleased to see that I didnt shake a bit while pouring, although I certainly felt shaky. We sipped and chatted as if we were a normal family, and indeed Im sure my father thought thats what we were. Once wed finished our cups, I took the tray back into the kitchen, and Ritchie followed me there. We had a few more stolen kisses over the washing and drying, and they only served to make me even more breathless. When the dishes were done, I asked Father if we might sit on the porch, and he gave his permission, but said it was getting late and we could visit only for a little while. I pushed Ritchie out the door, ignoring the glare from Francine.
We sat down on the step and I looked over my shoulder at the house. If Father or Francine stood up and looked out the living room window, they could see us. Theyd also see us if they came to the door. But if they stayed seated in the living room, they wouldnt be able to see us. I sat close to Ritchie, our legs barely touching each other and we whispered, sneaking an occasional kiss, but it was very nerve wracking to wonder if anyone was watching.
Our visit was over much too quickly, and Ritchie shook hands with Father and Francine before he left, telling them it had been nice to meet them, and he hoped he could stop by again.
Father nodded thoughtfully and replied, "Yes, I dont see why not, youre a very nice young man. Brianna wont be 15 until next August, but you can certainly visit her as a friend, as long as myself or her mother is at home as well." I ground my teeth together, trying to keep a pleasant expression on my face. I wanted to shout "shes not my mother"! But now wasnt the time, not when he was giving me permission to see Ritchie on an informal basis! I walked Ritchie to the door, thanking him for stopping by. We shook hands, very proper like, and then he was gone. I closed the door with a sigh after hed waved from the gate and disappeared down the street. I turned around to see Francine glaring at me, but I ignored her mean looks, and went to finish the supper dishes.
After Id gotten Joey into his bed, I climbed into my bed on the other side of the room and pulled the covers up around me, hugging myself and trying to remember every moment of this magical evening. I sat bolt upright as a thought suddenly occurred to me. Oh, dear God, what if Id fallen pregnant from tonight? My friend Jennifer told me that girls got pregnant when they kissed boys with their mouths open and rubbed against them. I guess thered been a little bit of rubbing in the kitchen, and wed certainly been kissing with our mouths open. Of course, another girl in my class had a totally different story of how a girl fell preggers, but we didnt believe her. People werent animals! The story she told sounded revolting. I knew what boys looked like, of course, I had a little brother I tended, and I knew that babies grew inside a womans tummy. But to be honest, it was all a big mystery to me. Mum had never told me anything about that, I was only 10 when she died. And Father probably never considered that I was growing up. As far as Francine went, Id trust any information from her as far as the front door and no further! So I had to rely on Jennifer.
Oh, God, what would I do if I were preggers? I started crying, trying to be as quiet as possible, not wanting to wake Joey. But he heard me anyway and climbed out of his bed and crawled into mine, his dear little face twisted with worry as he patted me on the arm, whispering "Don cwy, Bwee." I hugged him and rocked the two of us, crying myself to sleep, convinced I was pregnant and wondering what would happen to me.
I didnt have school the next morning, so I started work on the laundry as soon as I rose. I thought that maybe I could drown myself in work and avoid thinking about my pregnancy. I wondered how long it would be before I started getting big. Maybe I could hide it? Oh, how would I tell my Father? Francine would probably have a joyous time and would convince Father to kick me out of the house. Where would I go, what would I do? I counted my meager pennies, in abject despair. Wed be on the streets, me and my baby, and wed probably die during the first cold winter. Once I was done with the laundry, I started on the kitchen, taking everything out of the cupboards and cleaning, scrubbing everything and every place. No speck of dirt was safe from me that day.
Towards afternoon, Francine made me sit down at the kitchen table. She sneered at me and said, "I saw how you were lookin at that boy last night, an I dont want any more babies in this house! Here, read this book, an dont get up from the table until youve finished readin it." She gave me a slim book and left the kitchen.
I looked at the book, it was called "A Womans Guide to Wifely Duties". I was afraid to pick it up, but curiosity got the better of me and I opened it. It had drawings and a few dark pictures and a lot of reading, it took me several hours to read the entire thing. I didnt want to believe it because it came from Francine, but it was all written down in a book so I knew it had to be true.
I came away from the table with the dizzying knowledge that Jennifer was wrong and the other girl at school was right. I read that you could only get pregnant if you were married, and that it wasnt a very nice thing for women to do but you had to do it if you wanted children. I was a little puzzled about that. It seemed to me that a marriage license wouldnt make a difference to those little bits of the man and woman, the sperm and egg, its not like either could read! And what about all those nice shivery feelings I got from kissing Ritchie and from just thinking about kissing him? Youd think it, sex, would be nice and shivery, too. Puzzling, too, was the last chapter of the book, about avoiding pregnancy. It said that not doing it was the best way, but a boy could also pull out before he put his sperm in the girl and that would prevent a baby from resulting. It also said that only bad girls had sex outside of marriage, and they usually got pregnant. So that contradicted the story that only married girls could fall pregnant.
It was all dark and scary and confusing. But I thought I probably wasnt pregnant from just kissing Ritchie, and I finished the housecleaning with a lighter heart. I still worried a little bit, though, because it was all so confusing. I was extremely happy and relieved when I started my monthly bleeding the following week (thank God for Jennifer, Id thought I was dying when that had begun a couple of years before, but shed explained what it meant, that I could have a baby now). I swore Id never do it before I got married, I was so relieved.
The next time I saw her, I told Jennifer all about the book, but she refused to believe me, so we had a fight and stopped talking to each other in school. It made me really sad, because she was my very best friend, but I thought wed probably make up sooner or later.
I didnt see Ritchie for a couple of weeks, but that was just as well, Id been in such turmoil after his visit. But he came round and knocked at the door one Friday afternoon and greeted my stepmother, asking if he could walk with me to the market when he found out I was headed out to shop for dinner. She could have cared less, Im sure, and just waved us out the door. My newfound knowledge of what happened between a man and a woman made me a little nervous, and I found myself sneaking looks at him while we walked to the store. There were still a lot of unanswered questions in my mind, the book had been very vague about some things, and I wondered if Id ever find out the whole truth of the matter.
Once we were around the corner from my house, Ritchie stopped me and pulled me into a little alleyway with a finger on his lips and a twinkle in his eye. "I missed ya, Bree," he said as he hugged me tightly, then he kissed me. It was even better than before, and my legs felt very weak as I put my arms around his neck and kissed him back, tentatively touching his lips with my tongue, all the shivery nice feelings coming back with a vengeance. His hands were on my arms, then moving up them to my shoulders, holding my face while he kissed me, then he brushed his fingers against my breasts. That woke me up from the kiss-induced stupor I was in, and I came up for air, panting and flushed and tingling where his hands had been a moment before.
"My stepmothers not going to like me being gone for long, Ritchie," I said haltingly, breathing fast and not daring to move. What had the book said? Men had needs and if they were denied their base impulses, then they could get mean and abusive. Ritchie was bigger than me, almost a man, and I was suddenly afraid of what he might do to me if his needs were denied. I mean, my stepmother had put me in hospital with broken bones, Ritchie could hurt me worse! I started to tremble, feeling suddenly cold with fear.
I was surprised when he stepped back and nodded in agreement, gesturing me back to the sidewalk. "Cmon, then, lets get yer shoppin done. Yer cold, too, we need ta get ya back inside." He took off his black drape jacket and put it around my shoulders.
I was totally confused by now. Maybe he was too young to have those needs the book spoke of? I didnt understand at all, was the book wrong? Could men control their impulses after all? Who could I talk to about this? Well, not Jennifer, she hadnt believed me when I told her about the sperm and egg thing. Not Father, no, definitely not! Wait, did Father have those impulses too? Well, he must have, or we wouldnt have Joey! I sighed, wondering if Id ever figure it all out.
"Whats wrong, luv?" Ritchie asked me as we walked. I hadnt realized Id sighed so loudly, or maybe it was my silence that he was wondering about.
"Im just thinking, Ritchie."
"Must be some deep thoughts, then? You don look very appy, Bree."
"My stepmother made me read a book," I blurted out the first thing on my mind and then stopped, horrified that Id even brought it up.
"Yeah? What kinda book? I like books. Don ave much time fer readin though."
"Oh, it was just a book," I hedged, grateful that the market was in sight. I gave him back his jacket as we walked into the store, and I quickly selected my purchases. Carrots and potatoes, a tiny bit of stewing beef, some flour, an onion and celery. I wondered what else I could purchase, quickly adding up the total in my head, and finding I still had a little to spend. I supposed I could actually keep the change and not let Francine know about it, but that seemed dishonest. I debated, looking at the tinned peaches. I had just enough to buy a large can. Before I could even think about it, I asked, "Do you want to stay for dinner?" I held my breath as I waited for his answer.
"Well, is yer stepmom a good cook?"
I laughed in resignation. "I do the cooking, along with everything else. Im not a bad cook. I make a pretty good stew. But my cobblers fantastic." At least, I hoped it was good. No one had complained about it the last time Id made it, except for Francine, and that was just because Id spent her money. I picked up the large can and smiled, adding it to my other purchases. I cast a sideways glance at Ritchie. He seemed undecided. "Im really not bad," I insisted.
He leaned against a counter and looked me up and down. "Yeah, Ill bet," he murmured, and I flushed at his scrutiny, feeling funny inside. He laughed at my blush, then said, "Dya think yer folks will let me stay?" I nodded, feeling a little tongue tied, and I quickly added another carrot and potato to my bag. When the clerk rang me up, I held my breath again, hoping I hadnt miscalculated. I was a shilling short, and I dug in my pocket until I found a shilling Id hid for a rainy day. I was beaming with relief as we left the store for the walk home. I found something more to beam about when Ritchie put his arm around me as we walked!
Once home, I quickly got the stew meat to browning, knowing that the secret to stew was in the long, slow cooking of the beef. Ritchie helped me wash and peel the potatoes, and I chopped all the vegetables into bite sized pieces, adding them to the browning meat and stirring them a bit in the hot fat. Once they were somewhat glazed, I added water and some spices from the cupboard, then covered it and put it on the back of the stove for a long simmer. Next, I opened the can of peaches and made a cobbler, checking the time and putting it in the oven. My stepmother remained in her usual afternoon position, on the easy chair with her feet up. I tidied the kitchen and then went out on the porch with Ritchie, to await my fathers arrival. I was afraid to ask Francine if Ritchie could stay for supper. We sat and chatted, seated a careful distance from each other for my fathers benefit. When Dad finally arrived, I leaped to my feet and met him at the gate.
"Father, Ritchies here, can he please stay for dinner?" I whispered to Dad as I opened the gate for him.
"Well, you need to ask your mother about that, dear. Shes the one you need to check with. Hullo, Ritchie, how are you, lad?" He waved at Ritchie and went to greet him, while I silently fumed. I slipped in the house while they were talking and went looking for Francine. I knocked on her door and she opened it with a smile, which quickly turned to a scowl when she saw it was me. She had just finished putting on her makeup and she did look lovely, I had to admit it.
"Excuse me, maam, but can Ritchie please stay for dinner?" She pulled me into the room and shut the door behind me. I was trapped and stood with my back to the door, trying to be on guard.
"So, you want your little boyfriend to stay? Thats the way it is, eh? Hell be eatin us out of house an home before long, an there wont be enough to go round." She pinched me, hard, on the soft flesh of my upper arm, and I tried not to react to the pain. This was important to me, and I needed her good will.
"Please, maam, I wont eat very much, and its just this one time. It wont happen again, I promise." She pinched me again, apparently wanting a reaction, and I gave a little whimper, hoping it was sufficient to satisfy her cruelty.
She finally nodded grudgingly. "Just this once. An Ill be keeping my eyes on you an him."
A knock at the door heralded my fathers arrival, and Francine was instantly the loving and dutiful wife. I slipped out the door, rubbing my arm and thankful Id gotten away so easy. I practically skipped back outside, and asked Ritchie to come into the kitchen whilst I set the table. He helped me, and when everything was ready, I called Father and Francine to dinner. I had to sit Joey on my lap, because there were only four chairs, but that was all right, at least I was able to sit next to Ritchie, our legs brushing together during the meal.
The stew wasnt my best effort, it was a little watery but it was still pretty good, I thought critically. Everyone ate with enjoyment, and I ate my small portion very slowly, trying to tell my stomach that it was getting more than it really was. The cobbler was ready and Francine dished that up, giving herself the largest portion, of course. I was surprised that I got a bit of the treat myself. I tasted heavenly! We rarely had any form of sweets, and the heavy syrup of the peaches had gelled to a lovely, rich flavor, and the peaches were delicious. Joey cried for more, as his portion was even smaller than mine, so I fed him some from my dish.
Father pushed his chair back with a sigh, and said "Fran, that was lovely, as usual. Youre the best cook in the neighbourhood!"
I was so used to this type of thing that Id never even thought to warn Ritchie to keep quiet. He looked up, startled, and said "But Mr. Cooper, Brianna did the cookin. I elped peel the potatoes, but she did the rest."
Father looked at me as I gaped at Ritchie, and Francine was looking daggers at me, but Father didnt see that. "Is this true, Brianna, did you cook this all by yourself?" He was smiling at me, a proud father at his offsprings first cooking attempts (little did he know hed been eating my cooking for three years), and I didnt know what to do besides nod.
"Well," I hedged, "Francine showed me what to do." She smiled slightly and I felt a wave of relief. Maybe, if I laid on the flattery, shed forget about this. "Shes a good teacher, Id reckon. . . " My voice trailed off to silence. Anything else Id thought to say stuck in my throat, and I had to take a swallow of water to get rid of the bad taste in my mouth. I quickly stood and cleared the dishes, and Ritchie helped me, casting curious glances at me now and again, but I just gave him a small shake of my head and led him into the kitchen.
Ritchie erupted when we stood side by side at the sink, but at least he remembered to whisper. "Whats that all about, Bree? You know yer the bloody work horse in this house, so whats that all about?"
"What do you expect me to do?" I whispered back hotly, my hands in immersed in the hot soapy water, my sleeves pushed up to my elbows.
"Ya can stand up ta er! Tell yer Da the truth! Shes just a bitch, livin the easy life while you slave away in er place!" He picked up the tea towel and began drying the dishes Id just washed.
"Shes bigger than me, and shes my fathers wife. I cant fight her, itll just make it worse on me if shes unhappy. Theres nothing I can do!" I turned away and scrubbed another dish with more violence than was necessary.
Ritchie dropped his towel and grabbed me by the arm. Unfortunately, it was the arm where shed pinched me the hardest, and his fingers dug into me at the exact same spot. I drew breath to yelp, then remembered to be quiet and let the breath out through clenched teeth.
Ritchie had a strange look on his face, and he eased his grip on my arm, but didnt let go entirely. He took my sleeve and pushed it up to my shoulder. Turning my arm this way and that, he stared at the bruises there, all in varying shades of healing, including the fresh marks from today. Francine wasnt stupid, and she didnt leave bruises where they would show, not any more, not since my hospital stay. I tugged my arm out of Ritchies grip and pushed my sleeve back down to my elbow, turning back to the sink. Two hot tears rolled down my cheeks and joined the soapy water as I scrubbed. I couldnt believe we were fighting over this, and then to have him see what shed done . . . . I was embarrassed, and fought with myself to keep from sniveling like a child. I washed several more dishes and put them in the rack to dry.
"Sorry, Bree, I didnt mean to hurt ya. Whats all that from?" he asked quietly, joining me again and starting to dry the dishes.
"Nothing," I whispered back. "Im just clumsy, thats all, I fell down last week, and I bruise easily." I kept my eyes on the dishes I was washing, and I wished there were more dirty plates to keep my hands occupied. I wished I hadnt asked him to stay for dinner. I wished Id had a better story to explain the bruises. I wished Mum hadnt died and I wished Dad had never remarried after shed gone.
"Ya don seem very clumsy ta me, not like ta cause that. Fallin down didnt cause that. Who did that to ya?" he persisted, drying the last of the dishes as I let the soapy water out of the sink.
"Nobody," I insisted. "I just fell down, thats all. Let it go, Ritchie, please." But he wouldnt, folding the towel and then turning me to face him, his hands resting lightly on my shoulders. I couldnt look him in the eyes, and he finally put his fingers under my chin and forced me to look up.
"Did she do that? Yer stepmom?" he asked quietly, his blue eyes searching my face for the answer.
I couldnt answer him. So I didnt say anything, I just jerked my head away from his fingers and stared out the kitchen window so I wouldnt have to look into his sympathetic but angry eyes. He pulled me into an embrace and hugged me, stroking my hair as I tried to keep from crying at the gentleness of his touch.
I pulled away from him, finishing my duties at the sink and wiping my face to ensure there were no traces of tears. "Would anyone like tea?" I called out to the living room, thankful Id had a lot of practice in keeping my voice steady. I put the kettle on after hearing affirmative noises, and I pulled out the cups and saucers, setting them on the tray. When the tea was ready, I carried the tray into the living room and we sat and chatted about the day. Ritchie was very quiet, and I could tell he was having a hard time being civil to my stepmother, but he tried, and I gave him points for trying.
When tea was finished, he helped me wash up, and then said he had to leave. I was devastated and waited by the door as Ritchie shook my fathers hand and thanked him for letting him stay for dinner. He nodded to Francine and made a hasty exit, barely pausing to shake my hand as he left the house. I waited at the door, but he didnt even turn to wave. And that was that, I thought to myself. I was sure Id never see him again, and I quietly cried myself to sleep later that night, muffling the sound with my pillow.
The weekend passed slowly. Father had a few days off and he puttered about the house, an unknowing buffer between me and my stepmother. Hed got a letter from his brother William, my uncle who had emigrated to America a year earlier, and I tried to pay attention as he read it to me, but my heart wasnt in it, even though Id loved Uncle Bill and Aunt Sarah and still missed them desperately. I quietly went about my chores and tried to avoid thinking about Ritchie, but he was everywhere in my thoughts. Id wash the dishes and think of him helping me dry them. Id chop vegetables and think of him peeling potatoes with me. Id wash the bed sheets and think of crying in my pillow over him. I was glad when Monday arrived and I could go to school. Jennifer and I made up that morning before class, and that made me feel a little better.
When classes were over for the day, Jennifer and I walked out of the building, and I saw a lone figure standing by the fence. My heart leapt in my throat when I recognized it was Ritchie. But maybe he was here for one of the other girls, I thought. But even if that were so, I was glad to see him, and I said hello as we approached him. His face lit up with a smile, and I felt my knees go weak at the sight. Jennifer looked at me very closely, then at Ritchie. She made a little face, then said she had to be going, and she gave me a tight hug and a kiss, along with a whispered comment that made me blush. "Dont forget to tell me all about it, Brianna, looks like youll know the truth for certain before I will!" She skipped off towards home, and I was left standing on one side of the fence while Ritchie stood on the other.
"ow was school?" he asked me.
"Fine. It was fine." There was a pause.
"Well, can I walk ya ome?"
I nodded, smiling foolishly, and we set out to walk the eight blocks to my house. We were silent for the first few blocks, then I broke the silence. "I thought you were mad at me last week."
He put his arm around me. "Nah, luv, I was mad at that bitch thats married ta yer Da. I couldnt stay any longer without wantin ta bash er in the face." We walked another block, and I was hard pressed to keep from skipping, I was so happy with his arm around me!
"I call her the slut, but only in my mind," I admitted, afraid to say it any louder than a whisper.
Ritchie laughed. "Well, is she?"
"Is she what?"
"I dont know. It just seemed like a good thing to call her." I hesitated, looking at my feet as they traveled along the pavement. Very quietly, I added, "I called her a cow once, to her face, but that didnt go over very well, and I never tried it again."
Ritchie nodded. "Is that when she sent ya ta ospital?" he asked quietly, looking at me as we walked.
I nodded without thinking, then realized what Id admitted and I bit my lip, looking down at the ground. It was said, or at least confirmed by a nod, and I couldnt take it back now. Id never told anyone about that, not my dad, not the nurse or sister at hospital, not even Jennifer. I think maybe I wanted to be tricked into telling Ritchie about it. It felt good, almost a relief, to have someone else know about it, but I couldnt talk about it, not now, so I changed the subject. "I dont think youd better come over for a while. I like seeing you, and Dad likes you too. But. . . . ." My voice trailed off. How could I tell him that she was meaner to me after hed been visiting? But he nodded, seeming to understand before I had to explain.
He stopped me at the block before mine. "Id better go, luv. Ill see ya around, right?"
I nodded, and he kissed me quickly, then turned and walked off. I didnt know when Id see him again. But at least he wasnt angry with me, I thought with relief. I sighed and went into the house to start my afternoon chores.
This became a routine for the long winter and into spring. Ritchie would meet me after school one or two days a week and walk me home. Wed stop for a few minutes on each walk for some kisses, and he always set my heart to beating rapidly. Every so often, wed run the first four blocks, stopping in a small park halfway between home and school, our run giving us an extra few minutes together. The feelings hed start in me were really strange. Hed be kissing me and hugging me and touching my breasts, and Id be all flushed and panting and . . . I dont know, it was like I never wanted him to stop. If sex was really just for the man, with the woman closing her eyes and enduring it, then what were these feelings I kept having when Ritchie kissed me, or when I dreamed about him at night? The book had to be wrong, there was something more, something I didnt know about yet.
Ritchie came by the house only rarely, and he wouldnt stay long. But I was pretty sure of seeing him at least once a week, and I lived for those days when wed stop in the park on the way home. Six months passed like this, and I felt like I was leading a secret life! I was becoming more and more restless, and I was wanting something more; whenever wed start kissing, it seemed to always end much too soon, leaving me even more restless when we had to stop and race home. I didnt want to stop, once wed start kissing, and it got harder and harder to leave him at the corner before our house.
He tried to get me to come see his band on occasion, but I didnt dare sneak out of the house. I promised him that once Id turned 15, the first thing Id want to do was to come hear him play. My father liked Ritchie, and I was certain Dad would let me go on a date with him after my birthday. I didnt want to push things right now, though, or he might not give his permission.
The last day of school was in June, and it was only another two months until my birthday! Ritchie met me at the school gate that day and we raced towards home. We stopped off in our park on the way, it had become our usual snogging place more and more often lately, and we traded a few kisses whilst sitting on our park bench. He made me stand up and then led me towards some thick bushes.
"Cmon over ere, I wanna show ya somethin." Bending down, he showed me that there was a concealed path through the bushes, and he led me into a secluded little area hidden from any prying eyes of passers by. My heart was beating rapidly as we settled onto the soft grass. I was scared and thrilled all at once, and he put his arm around me. We lay on the grass kissing, and I could feel his fingers on my shirtfront, trying to unbutton my shirt with one hand whilst stroking my face with the other. I was in a fog, his kisses always did that to me, they made me lightheaded and breathless, dazed and hungry for more. I moaned at the touch of his rough fingers on my breast and I fidgeted, kissing him hungrily.
Ritchie broke the kiss and bent his head to my chest, pushing my bra aside and kissing my breast. Oh, the electricity Id felt from his fingers was nothing like this, his soft wet lips and tongue playing over my flesh. Oh, dear God, there were such incredible sensations washing over me! His breathing was as rapid as mine, and he groaned softly. I was fidgeting so badly now that I couldnt keep still, my hands were clutching his arms and I was almost vibrating with some kind of inner tension. He lifted his head from my breast and kissed me again, almost roughly, and I didnt think my heart could beat any faster, it was just pounding in my chest. He finally broke the kiss and lay back on the grass with a groan.
"Jeezus, Bree, we better stop now, or Im not gonna be able ta stop," he whispered hoarsely, the sound of his panting sending shivers through me. But his words brought me back to myself, a little, and I blushed and started to straighten my clothes. He sat up and stopped me, pushing me back onto the grass and then going right back to what hed been doing as I twisted my fingers in his hair and moaned softly. He moved over so that he was on top of me, his whole body touching me, pressing me into the soft earth as he kissed his way from my breasts to my mouth. I was frightened for a moment when I felt him weighing me down like that, but only for a moment. After all, he was still fully clothed and I was mostly clothed, what could happen?
We kissed like that for several minutes, his body pressing against mine, each of us fidgeting and moving against the other. When he suddenly rolled off me with an explosive groan, I felt as if Id been abandoned, and I reached for him as he jumped to his feet and crashed deeper into the bushes, making his own trail. I lay there for a minute, stunned by his sudden departure and my incredible longing for his touch. I sat up, straightening my clothes and trying to quell the shakes, wondering what I should do now, wondering where hed gone. And wondering what Id done to make him leave. I started to cry, I was still shaking inside and I felt really strange, like singing and crying at the same time, and the crying won out.
Thats how Ritchie found me when he came back, and he sat down beside me with a tired groan and pulled me into his arms, patting me and trying to soothe me.
"Why did you leave? I thought Id done something wrong, I thought you were mad at me," I sobbed, his arms around me and my head on his shoulder, trying to fight these strange feelings coursing through me.
"Shhhh, shhhhh, nah, Bree, its not that! Jeezus, ya didnt do anythin wrong! Ya just got me too hot an bothered, I hadda take care o somethin. Easy, luv. Shhhh, shhhhhh! s all right, luv, s all right."
He rocked me a bit until my weeping abated. I rubbed my eyes, dashing the final tears out of them and scrubbing at my cheeks. I sat back and looked at him. "Do I look all right?" I asked quietly. It wouldnt do to arrive home looking like Id been . . . well, doing what Id been doing!
He smiled and I thought my heart would stop at the sight. His blue eyes were shining when he replied simply, "Yeah, yer beautiful, Bree." He stood up and gave me a hand up, brushing all traces of grass off me, and I returned the favor. He left our little hide-a-way first, then called me out when the coast was clear. He walked me the rest of the way home, and left me at the corner as usual, with another kiss and a promise to see me soon.
I went through my afternoon chores in a fog, and it wasnt until I lay down that night that I got around to wondering about what Ritchied had to take care of that afternoon? I resolved to ask him, the next time the subject came up.
I didnt have long to wait before I saw him again. Ritchie was at our door two days later, politely asking my stepmother if he could walk to market with me. She grunted her indifference, and we raced off, rushing so that wed have a little extra time to ourselves on the walk there. Unfortunately, the market was in the opposite direction from our park, so we had to sneak some kisses in an alleyway. The alley wasnt near as nice as the park, and I decided Id have to figure a way to get out of the house for a couple of hours in the near future.
I didnt manage to get that worked out for another month. It was the first part of July before I met Ritchie at the corner, after telling my father that I was going to visit Jennifer. I felt guilty and daring in equal parts, and I worried about getting caught. Id been seeing Ritchie nearly every day for the past month, watching out the kitchen window till I caught sight of him in the afternoon, then going out to hang clothes or take a walk to the corner to meet the letter carrier (or so I said). Our limited time together and our hurried kisses had only made me hungrier for him. . .and willing to take a risk. We raced to the park and straight into our little hide-a-way once wed assured ourselves that there was no one about. I was already breathless from the run, and became even more so when he pulled me into an embrace, his lips showering kisses all over my face. We sank down onto the prickly summer grass, and I melted into his arms.
The air was hot and sultry, and our little alcove was stifling. When Ritchie unbuttoned my shirt, I welcomed the air on my skin, and moaned softly at the feeling of his lips on me. He kissed my neck, my shoulders, working his way down to my breasts. I moaned and started fidgeting just like last time. Oh, God, this was so wonderful, the book was wrong, I just knew it. I pulled his head up to meet mine, kissing him and running my fingers through his hair. When he moved to cover my body with his own, I welcomed him with eager arms, enjoying the pressure of his body against mine.
Ritchie kept kissing me, grinding his body against mine, making funny little groans, with his breath coming faster and faster. My breathing had likewise sped up, as if Id been running a race, and I heard my own voice moaning through the kisses.
When he rolled off me like last time, I was somewhat better prepared, and I grabbed his ankle as he lurched to his feet. "Wait, Ritchie, where are you going? Dont go, please?"
He stood hunched over slightly, panting, his face a little red, and he seemed to be in pain. "Let go, darlin, I gotta take care o somethin. Oh, Jeezus," he groaned, his eyes closing for a moment.
"What do you have to take care of, Ritchie?"
He gave a short bark of laughter. I could see a thin sheen of sweat on his face. "Ill tell ya in a minute, jus lemme go now, Ill be right back."
I was unaccountably stubborn, knowing that this was part of the mystery that I wanted to learn about. "No, I want you to stay. I can help," I insisted with a naïve bravado. I was surprised when he looked at me closely, and his face got a little redder even as he smiled at me.
"Ya think so, do ya? Dya know what yer talkin about, girl?"
I lowered my eyes. "I think so," I replied hesitantly, not really sure but not willing to give up, either. Jennifer (who had a boyfriend by now) and I had been whispering about this sort of thing last week when wed met in the market, and I thought I had a general idea of what he needed to take care of. I was excited, but a little scared, and he must have felt my anxiety, because he sat down with a groan but didnt immediately reach for me, he just watched me with that scorching blue gaze. I watched him through my lashes, waiting for him to make the first move.
After a few moments of silence and searching glances, he scooted a little closer and stretched out beside me. He took my hand in his and brought it to his mouth to kiss it, a gesture that seemed so romantic that I had to smile. He lay back on the grass and pulled me down so that I was laying across his chest, our mouths joined together in gentle kisses which quickly turned passionate. I think I was embarrassed and excited in equal parts when he took my hand and had me touch him . . . there.
When he released my hand, I kept it where hed placed it, and I felt him fumble with his zipper. His hand was back on mine then, and he guided my hand in doing what he wanted. He kissed me deeply, as our hands were thus occupied, and we were both moaning by then. The book had been right about some things, but it had certainly left things out, and I was surely getting an education about some of the missing pieces today! I wasnt quite sure what to do with my wet and sticky hand afterwards, so I surreptitiously wiped it against the grass and settled back down beside Ritchie, waiting to see what would happen next.
His breathing slowed down and he opened his eyes, raising himself on an elbow to look at me lying beside him. I was blushing, I could feel the heat on my face, and when I snuck a glance at him through my lashes, I could see that he was blushing a little too. That made me smile and feel a little less embarrassed.
"Jeezus, Bree, that was fantastic!" He reached down and zipped his trousers up, then leaned down over me for another kiss. I put my arms around his neck and pulled him down on me. He gave a groan and his hands were back on my breasts as the kiss went on and on. I was getting more and more uncomfortable, but in a very exciting way, when I suddenly felt his hand reaching up my skirt. I got really scared all of a sudden, and I pushed him away, sitting up and trying to straighten my clothes even as I was gasping for breath and shuddering at the feelings that ran riot through my body.
"Its ok, luv, don be like that. Im not gonna urt ya, I jus wanna make ya feel good, too." Ritchie coaxed me into lying down again, and he began kissing me softly, sensing my nervousness. His hands moved gently on my body, touching my breasts and stroking my sides and my arms, moving down to my waist and lingering there. Once Id grown accustomed to his stroking, his hands moved again, and pretty soon he had them on the bare skin of my knee, my skirt pushed up from around my legs. He didnt move any further for a while, letting me adjust to the feelings of his fingers on my leg, then slowly moved another inch up my thigh. He kissed me the entire time his fingers were traveling across my body, and I was tense and relaxed at the same time. Tense because the funny feelings were just increasing past anything Id ever felt, and relaxed because he was being so gentle and sweet.
The education I was receiving was certainly eye-opening! And heart stopping! At one point, when I felt as if I were going to explode with the tension, Ritchie whispered, "Don scream, right? Gotta be quiet, theres bound ta be people in the park, so be quiet, luv, right? Shhhhhhh." I nodded breathlessly, not really knowing or caring what he was talking about, just wanting him to continue touching me like he was. He kissed me again, showering my face and neck and chest with little bites and kisses.
He covered my mouth with his when I drew breath to scream, all the sensations washing over me as everything centered on his touch, my hands clutching his shoulders, spasms shaking me over and over again. I whimpered through the kiss and the reaction, panting and trembling. I finally lay back, trying to catch my breath as I continued to twitch.
When I opened my eyes, he was smiling at me, real cocky like, but he just said "I tol ya not ta scream, luv!" I started giggling and he kissed me, pulling me on top of him and hugging me as I kissed him back. After a lovely time spent kissing, with the excitement growing even stronger this time, he wanted me to do it by myself. I bit my lip as I tried to duplicate what wed done before, but I must not have been doing it quite right, because he once again covered my hand with his and tightened my fingers, demonstrating what he liked.
"Feel like givin me a blowie, luv?" he whispered, panting, the words coming out as a groan.
I hesitated. "I dont know. Is it something that could make me preggers?" I asked, and I felt stupid when he started laughing. His hand slowed its movements as he laughed, and I was forced to follow his lead.
"ow old are ya, Bree? Thought ya were almost 15," he chuckled, releasing my hand from his.
"I am, next month." I was embarrassed at my ignorance. I supposed he knew all sorts of girls that knew a lot more than I did. I turned away from him, feeling the heat rushing into my face. He pulled me back into his arms.
"s all right, luv, ya don ave ta do it if ya don wanna. An ya don ave ta play innocent, either."
I shook my head. "Im not playing innocent, I dont know what it is," I replied miserably. I felt like I had to explain. "I dont know very much about all this, Im sorry, I dont want to disappoint you. . . . ."
He interrupted me. "Disappoint me?" He remembered to keep his voice down as he started to chuckle again. "Ya avent disappointed me in any way, luv! Jeezus, I been dreamin of an afternoon like this fer years. The only thing betters gonna be when we can go all the way, but thats gonna ave ta wait till after yer birthday." He hugged me and gave me another kiss, then took my hand and kissed my palm, my fingers curling to caress his cheek as I shivered at the touch of his lips. He smiled when he felt my reaction, and kissed the palm of my hand again, sending chills up my spine and making me take a deep breath. I had to pause and think about what hed said.
"What do you mean, youve been dreaming of an afternoon like this? Havent you done this before?" I asked and then watched the color instantly start to burn in his face.
He shifted his eyes away from me in embarrassment and mumbled, "Well, I avent gotten this far before . . .". His voice trailed off into silence.
I took pity on him, settling back against his chest and saying, "Well, if you havent done much of this before, youre pretty fantastic at it already. That was lovely what you did." I started thinking about my birthday next month. I knew just what I wanted as a present! "So tell me what you want me to do, Ritchie? Ill do it if you want, as long as I cant get preggers from it, my stepmother would kill me if that happened."
He got all tense for a second, exclaiming, "That fuckin bitch!" He continued more gently, "But listen, luv, ya don ave ta worry bout fallin preggers, Ill take care o that when the time comes."
I wasnt exactly sure what he meant by that statement, but I wasnt going to worry about it right now. "So what do you want me to do?" I asked.
His color had faded during our conversation, but now it came back full force as he explained
"What? You want me to . . .? Youre serious?" I sat up, wide eyed, trying to figure out if he was joking with me or not. He just nodded, blushing fiercely. I could almost swear we sat there and stared at each other for five minutes, but it was probably only something like a few seconds. "Really?" I asked again, and he nodded once more. I licked my lips and looked furtively around our little clearing, as if I expected someone to be watching. I kept my eyes on his, watching his face to make sure he didnt laugh at me and tell me it was just a big joke.
When I saw the mute plea in his eyes, and no trace of laughter or joking around, I did what he asked. Ritchie moaned loudly, and I shushed him anxiously. He nodded, muttering an apology and begging me to continue. He must really like this, I thought. I wasnt quite sure if I liked it or not, but it felt good to be doing something he liked, so I continued as he moaned and told me how good it felt. His breath came faster and faster, and I was a little worried about what would happen next, but he pushed me away from him when he reached his crisis, groaning as his hand took over from my rather tentative mouth.
I lay back beside him when it was over, my head on his chest as I listened to his rapid heartbeat. "Christ, Bree, that was great, shit, that felt so fuckin great!" He took a couple of deep breaths and seemed to relax, all the tension leaving his arms as his breathing evened out. He was quiet for a long time, just laying beside me like that, then he tapped me and asked, "Penny fer yer thoughts, luv? Why ya so quiet? You all right?"
"Well, you were quiet, too. I guess I was wondering how you know about any of this, if you havent done it before?"
He gave an embarrassed laugh. "Mmm, well, I got some mates whove done it, an one of em told us wed get more . . . errr, I mean, wed ave a better time if we made sure the bird liked it, too." I laughed silently at his slip, Im sure I knew what he meant! He continued quickly, "An another mates got a sister we used ta look at. She didnt mind, we could look an touch, so we all got kinda familiar with the equipment, so ta speak. It was all a bit of a giggle back when we was kids."
He apparently thought this was enough conversation for a while, because he started kissing me again, and I responded with enjoyment. He apparently thought it was my turn again, and I wasnt going to dissuade him from that thought! That first time had been lovely, and I was looking forward to having a more thorough education, although it seemed that a part of it would have to wait until my birthday.
When we finally stopped that afternoon, I was totally limp, and I didnt think I could move even if the Queen Mum herself walked into our clearing and asked me to stand up. Somehow, we must have drifted off to sleep, because when I opened my eyes, it was getting quite dark and I couldnt remember where I was for a moment. As I stretched, my hand touched Ritchie, and everything came back with a rush. I shook him urgently, waking him. "Ritchie, weve got to go, I have to get home! Wake up, wake up!"
He woke quickly and neatly, jumping to his feet and pulling me up, bringing my hand to his lips in spite of our hurry, tracing a kiss on my palm, and making my heart pound even faster at his feather light touch. He let me go, and I had to search for my knickers and struggle into them quickly once theyd been found. We brushed each other off as best we could, but the prickly grass seemed to stick everywhere. Out on the street and hurrying home, we continued to brush at each other, picking grass out of each others hair and straightening clothing as we rushed along. I wouldnt let him near the house, I was supposed to have been at Jennifers and no matter how much he pleaded, it wouldnt do to return with him in tow. I left him at the corner with a final lingering kiss, regretfully parting for the final scamper home. Thank God my father was there.
Only. . . he wasnt there. Hed gone to the evening races. And I walked into the house only to be greeted by the slut, and she was on a rampage because dinner wasnt ready and the house wasnt clean. She spotted some leftover grass sticking in my hair and on my clothes and thats all it took. I knew I was dead for sure.
C.A.Jones is a long-time fan of The Beatles, but was never lucky enough to see them together in concert. An avid reader since childhood, C.A. only recently tried her hand at writing and now has another hobby with which she consumes her all-too-little spare time. She lives in the Western United States with husband and pets and computers.
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