VERY GOOD STORY, ALSO VERY LONG, READ AT YOUR WISH
[FONT="Comic Sans MS"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][SIZE="2"][FONT="Comic Sans MS"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][SIZE="2"][FONT="Comic Sans MS"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][SIZE="2"]It was the middle of the afternoon when I chanced upon her. Danielle. I couldn't believe it. How she had grown. She immediately recognized me.
"Frank? Is that you?"
I smiled at her.
"Oh my God! Danielle! Danielle? Can it be you?"
She hugged me and I knew it was her. She had become a young woman. I was utterly shocked and pleasantly surprised.
"Wow! You've grown."
She giggled and took a step back. She stared me down.
"You used to be taller."
"You used to be a tad shorter..."
A few other comments popped into my mind. Her shapely figure had filled out. She wasn't the most buxom of ladies but she was definitely gorgeous. I hoped I was presentable. From the way she stared at me, I figured I wasn't doing too bad.
"How long has it been?" I inquired.
"Five years, give or take."
"What are you doing here?"
"In the mall? Shopping."
"No I mean here, in Sherbrooke?"
"Oh! I moved here, about four months ago."
My mind was taking a trip down memory lane. Danielle... how could I ever forget our time together? I hadn't. Although truth be told, our time together hadn't really been all that much. But still...
I had known Danielle many years ago. I was five years her senior, and her brother had been my best friend for a time. One day, when I was thirteen, he invited me over to his place. His family was loaded. His father worked for the government and his mother was a secretary at a law firm. They had a big secluded house in the woods, several guest rooms, an indoor pool and a lot of other services. I was from a middle class family on the side of poor - I treasured every opportunity I had to visit my friend.
That day, we went for a dip in the pool. That day, his sister Danielle came in to join us. Despite the fact that she was only eight and I was thirteen, my blossoming sexual energies had spotted her body's curves longing to show themselves. She practically ignored me. I felt bad that night as I lay in bed at my friend's house, thinking of his sister in that fashion. I tried to deny my desire - because that's all it was, given the inexperience and awkwardness of a young teenage boy. For a time, I could, But every time I visited his house, I discreetly tried to seek her out. When she wasn't there, I wasn't as enthousiastic to remain there.
And then, I moved away to Sherbrooke.
I kept visiting him for a few years, but I saw him (and her) less often. Every time I visited, I stayed over a little longer; this gave me a few more opportunities and I started seeing her blossom into a young woman. I noticed her breast developing, her hips widening, all the while keeping my interest for her tucked away in my pants - so to speak.
"How have you been?"
We chatted for a while, in the middle of mall, staring at each other like two long-lost friends. Eventually, we moved towards the wall and kept exchanging words, trading stories of the past five years.
"Do you remember last time we saw each other?"
How could I forget? I nodded accordingly.
"I still think about it."
My memory took me back to the last time I had visited my friend's house - the last time I had seen Danielle...
I got off the bus at two in the afternoon in the small town of St-Etienne. My friend, Paul, was coming to pick me up and we were going to head for his place. I had last seen him the year before that. School and other activities had kept us apart. I felt we were drifting away from each other and our interests were diverging. I was going on seventeen in a few months; he was a year younger than me. That meant Danielle was twelve or thirteen. I kept thinking of that as his parents' car pulled up. I packed my bag and my guitar in the trunk and sat in the back.
"Hey Frank. Long time."
"Yeah. Good to see you, buddy."
On the way to his home, we talked a little. His mother inquired about my studies. I answered her questions politely and without detail. We were at their home before we knew it.
"You brought your guitar."
"Yeah. I figured we could play some music together. You told me you're learning bass?"
"Yeap. I have a whole setup for recording. Maybe we can record ourselves."
"That'd be cool."
We got into the house. It was always a big place. The entryway led into the living room, a large screen television, gaming systems. The couches were the same as those they'd had when we just met. That led into a smaller dining room and an even smaller kitchen. The bedrooms were to the right at the end of the corridor; there was a staircase leading up; his parents and Danielle had their rooms there. And of course, to the left, the gigantic (at least to my tastes) indoor swimming pool, their once-prized possession.
We moved my stuff to his room, where I'd be staying. I unpacked my stuff. He lived in the woods so we went for a walk outside. We talked stories. We were both very much into imagination; we'd created this shared virtual world where our characters coexisted. Sometimes, we played out these stories, especially when we were younger; getting older, we had a tendency to write them down, in correspondance. We always tried to outdo one another, to come up with plot twists which the other hadn't conceived. It was my favorite part of our relationship, its creationist approach. I still miss it now and then.
Supper rolled around, and with it came his parents, his younger brother and of course Danielle, looking very much like a teenager now. She was definitely thirteen. She practically ignored me for the entire duration. His father inquired about my parents, their jobs. My father had just been laid off and was going through some difficulties. I really didn't want to talk about it too much.
We ended up watching the original Star Wars trilogy that night; we filled in the blanks while talking about our stories and our characters again. He'd called shotgun on the character of Luke, and since I wanted to have a Jedi as well, we'd decided that Luke and Leia had another brother, and his name was John. So I was John Skywalker, and he was Luke. We joked about it a lot; being older, we saw the many different ways we could have solved our dilemma, but we'd come up with the idea in grade five.
As midnight rolled around, we decided we'd head for bed. I had practically not seen nor thought about Danielle the entire time; yet as my head hit the pillow, my mind drifted back to that pool of his... and Danielle in her swimsuit. All of the times I had seen her there, from those first innocent glances to the improper thoughts of a growing boy becoming a man through all the angst required.
I rolled to the side and tried to get some sleep. I was to be there for three whole days. It was best not to dwell on the impossible. After all, chances were I wouldn't see that much of her anyway. Besides, she was thirteen, I was going on seventeen; it wasn't proper of me to try anything, especially since she was my best friends' sister.
As it would turn out, things wouldn't be so simple. But I'd find that out in the morning.
When morning rolled around and the sun beat down the night, I got up a little before my friend. I made my way into the downstairs bathroom, shut the door and, without opening the light, made my way into my morning ritual: whizz, hand and face wash and a glass of something. I made my way into the kitchen. His mother was up and apparently making breakfast. I was glad I'd worn long pajamas and the matching top.
She poured me a glass of orange juice. I gulped it down.
"So, what do you boys have planned for today?"
"Not sure. Paul said we'd talk about it."
"Well, my husband is already gone for work and I'll be leaving soon. You'll have the house all to yourselves."
She left me alone in the kitchen with my juice while she went to get dressed. I sat down at the table, looking at the headline of the local paper.
I heard the stairs creaking again. My gaze wandered in that direction: Danielle was making her way towards me. It didn't seem like much but it brought last night's thoughts back into my mind. She was also wearing a pajama; her buttoned top had the few bottom buttons undone so I could see her navel. The pants rested loosely on her hips and I wondered if she was wearing panties. But that was the extent of my reflection. She practically ignored me as she went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of juice. She gulped it down, leaning her head back as she did, which gave her chest some evidence. She turned to me; I looked away as if I had been looking elsewhere the whole time.
She moved towards the table.
"Paul not up yet?"
I couldn't think of anything clever to say. It was better to keep my answers short. My eyes had a tendency to go back to her half-exposed belly; it was better than staring at the small mounds I mostly imagined at chest level.
"What are you gonna do today?"
"Probably play some music, or video games..."
I was tempted to ask her if she wanted to play with us, but I knew better. Besides, she surely had her own plans for the day.
Paul finally joined me in the kitchen. We talked about our upcoming day as he took out the cereal boxes. Danielle left and returned to her room. I chatted with Paul and we decided we'd go into the backwoods and do some walking around in the morning. Afternoon was left up for grabs. Danielle came back down; she was wearing low-cut dark blue jeans and a hight cut red t-shirt. Her midriff was completely exposed. There was something hypnotic about the exposed flesh. She wished us well and bolted outside - I imagined she was going to hang out with some friends.
Paul and I got dressed and went outside.
As we were walking around, we started chatting about our lives in general. He told me about his troubles at school, how he was being ostracized because he didn't fit in with the regular crowd. His influences were starting to make him more and more gothic-like in his demeanor and attire. He had a few friends who were like-minded, but that didn't stop the heckling. Someone had actually accused him of performing satanic rituals. The thought made us both laugh.
I didn't share much about myself. I spoke more about my latest heartbreak, the last one in a series of disappointing attempts at finding a girlfriend. They had all declined my invitation. Truth be told, there weren't that many, roughly one per year. The latest one had not gone any better. He sympathized but he couldn't understand - he'd already had three girlfriends so far.
Lunch rolled around and we headed back home. We got to talking about his family.
"So your younger brother's going to his friend's house, then?"
"Yeah. He's always gone, anyways."
"And what about Danielle?"
I was scared to inquire, but since we were on the subject of their whereabouts...
"I don't know."
When we got home to lunch, we raided the fridge. We cooked up some leftover ham and rice, and made our way into his living room, turning on the console. We played for a half-an-hour, alternating through the single-player mode.
Eventually, the door opened and Danielle came in, with a friend. She was about her age, long reddish brown hair, with a long skirt and a camisole. They waved to us and moved up the stairs to Danielle's room. As I watched them go up the stairs, Paul answered my unspoken question.
I nodded and we went back to the game.
"What do you want to do later?"
"Maybe go for a swim?"
He smiled. I always wanted to go for a swin. His indoor pool was a luxury I didn't have at home. He took it for granted, but he could understand why I wanted to take advantage of it.
We paused our game - no one but us would use the console anyway - and we went to get our swimming trunks. We made our way into the pool area and before long, I was wading through the pool and enjoying its nice lukewarm waters. Paul dove in from the board and we kept chatting about how nice the weather was.
All of a sudden, movement caught my eye. We turned our heads and saw two figures enter the pool area. Both were wearing their swimsuits; Danielle and Rita had probably had the same idea as me. For a moment, they paused at the entrance. There was a moment of awkwardness, not because they were showing themselves in swimsuits in front of us, but because we'd beaten them to the punch. But Danielle's friend, Rita, had her mind set on the pool, as much as I'd had, so she pulled Danielle into the room.
There was ample room for four in there, anyways.
"You don't mind?"
The question finally popped from Danielle. It was Paul who answered.
And before I could even utter a word - not that I wanted to - Danielle and Rita had joined us in the pool.
At first, the situation was simple. Paul and I played at the deep end of the pool while Rita and Danielle played at the shallow end. At one point, we switched places. No one talked much at first, because of the unfamiliarity of Rita's and my presence, but as the minutes rolled on, Rita and Danielle started chatting about school; meanwhile, Paul and I picked wherever we had left off our previous conversation. Suddenly, we were all chatting in our corners, oblivious for the moment to the whereabouts of the other group.
Paul eventually got out of the pool. We were talking about one of our writing projects - he decided that he'd get the notes from his room and drop by the bathroom first. He hurried outside of the room and I was left alone with the two girls. I swam about a little in the shallow end. Rita and Danielle came about towards it so I instinctively went over to the deep end. It was Rita who called out to me.
"So you're a friend of Paul?"
Danielle provided what she thought would be all the information her friend needed.
"Yeah, Frank used to live around here, but he moved away five years ago to Sherbrooke, and now he visits once every year for a few days."
"So you live there."
Danielle seemed agitated that her friend was taking any interest in me. I wasn't particularly concerned, mostly because my mind was elsewhere, still wrapped up in the stories Paul and I were concocting.
"So you like music?"
"Sure. I play guitar too. I write my own songs."
Rita seemed really impressed. Danielle grabbed her friend by the arm and pulled her towards the shallow end of the pool. That's when I first noticed a slight blush on Danielle's face. For a moment, my mind wandered to it; then, I dismissed it, as I dismissed most things in her regard, given our age difference. Paul returned and sat on the side of the pool; we exchanged some ideas and he wrote them down on the pad.
Rita, swimming back to the deep end where I hung on the side, called out to us again.
Paul answered, somewhat defensive.
He didn't want to answer. I had no qualms about it so I did.
"Really? Like the X-Men?"
"More like the Justice League?"
I smiled at Rita. Danielle joined her friend; she seemed less irritated by her friend's demeanor than she previously had.
"Who's your favorite superhero?"
Rita seemed satisfied with my answer. Batman wasn't my favorite per se, but he was the one she was most likely to identify without inquiring further, and he was in my top five. I returned the question.
"Do you have one?"
"Oh! Maybe Wolverine..."
I wasn't extremely surprised. Rita smiled at us and went back to the shallow end with Danielle. They seemed to be talking in quiet tones, making sure we wouldn't hear them. Paul put the pen and paper away so they wouldn't get wet and we went on with our swimming for a while longer. Paul was ready to leave, but I wanted to remain in the water a while longer. He told me he'd got on his computer and I could join him a little later; he'd done some music sampling and was itching to have me hear it. As he went away, Rita once more returned towards me. I noticed that Danielle stayed at the other end.
"You've known Paul for how long?"
"Six years now. What's this about?"
"You keep coming over here. Do you have something you want to ask me?"
"Nothing special. Just want to know you."
"Not much to know."
She smiled and swam back towards Danielle, but she spoke to me as she did.
"You wanna play a game or something?"
"What kind of a game?"
She turned to Danielle. This time, I could tell something was up.
"We could play tag."
"Here, in the pool?"
"Should we go get Paul?"
My question seemed to put both Danielle and Rita at ease so I answered myself.
"We don't have to... I guess we can play, the three of us."
Rita smiled at me. I figured some sort of plan was hiding behind those pearly whites but, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what. What would a thirteen or fourteen year-old girl want with a sixteen year old guy like me?
Because I was the single male in the pool, it was decided that I would be the tag at first. The game was fairly simple, as Rita explained it: Danielle and her would swim about the pool. I would smin after them and tag them. If I managed to tag one, she would swim to the edge of the pool, stay there and I would have to tag the other. But the girl which I had not tagged would be allowed to rescue her fallen friend by tagging her before I was tagged. There would be a break everyone time someone got tagged.
It had been several years since I'd played anything of the sort and I'd never played it a pool, let alone with two girls. I didn't think too much of it: for me, it was a chance to keep on swimming. My mind wandered for a moment to Paul, whom I was apparently ditching for his sister and her friend. I decided I wouldn't take too much time here - maybe fifteen to twenty minutes - before going to join him.
I started at the shallow end, hanging on to the side. I wasn't that good a swimmer, compared to Paul or his sister; I had no idea of Rita's skills, she had only been waddling through the water so far. The pool wasn't that wide, mostly long, so it was fairly easy for me to attempt to ambush one of them on one side. I didn't like putting my head underwater in the chlorine; I thought that the girls would eventually dive to get away from me and I might lose them. Then, I realized I was overthinking the game, and just ran after them.
It was a full minute before I managed to tag one of them. There was a lot of back and forth at first, and they were both great swimmers it turned out. But I was taller and stronger than them, so I compensated my lack of skill with reach and power. Rita was swimming away when I grabbed her foot. We paused the game and she reached the edge. It was down to Danielle and me.
It was hard to cover Rita and go after her; it was obvious the game could stall, so we talked and decided that the tagger (me, in this case), had to go after the target or whoever had been tagged would be free after ten seconds of inactivity. Tagging Danielle proved to be even more of a challenge. Perhaps I was holding back, for fear of touching her skin. I had experienced no such qualms with Rita. In any event, eventually, she tried to dive under me while I was in the deep end. I managed to flip myself facing down, head under water, and tag her good on the back. But my flip caused me to drink up the pool water and start coughing. It took my full concentration to reach the edge, grab hold of it and cough up my lungs.
Rita swam over to my side to check on me; Danielle got out of the water and came towards me. I lifted my eyes, saw her costume clinging to her body and the same ideas I had experienced before came into my mind. I chased them away with my coughs. It was enough for me. I climbed out of the water and sat on the ledge.
Rita seemed concerned. Danielle was a bit more distant.
"I'm good... just... too much water. I'm gonna have to stop, sorry."
"It's okay. Anyway, you won."
Danielle backed up her friend's statement with a smile that eased my physical pain. I really did like her company, even if sometimes my thoughts became inappropriate for our relationship. Danielle even put a hand on my shoulder as I coughed; her touch felt nice and cool. Her wet hair was clinging to her neck as much as her costume was to her body; she had a nice adventurous look about her. I smiled back then coughed again.
As I got up, I became aware that my own costume was clinging to my body; in my case, however, it clearly made my crotch stand out. I don't know if I blushed but I did the only thing a man can do in that situation: pull on the cloth and try to replace it. I imagined the two girls staring at me. It was time to leave, not that I really wanted to.
"I should go see Paul."
"Sure. Thanks for the game."
"No problem, Rita. Danielle."
They both smiled at me. It was nice of Danielle to acknowledge me for a change. I'd always felt odd around her, as if she didn't want me around. Perhaps it was because her brother wasn't there. She didn't have to pretend for his sake. In any case, I went into the bathroom with my towel, where I had a change of clothes. I took off my bathing suit and suddenly realized I had left everything on the bench outside. It took me a moment to decide on what to do. I wrapped the towel around myself, covering my nudity, and walked out, to retrieve my things. As the girls looked at me, I felt obliged to answer.
"Forgot my stuff..."
I could only imagine what was going through their minds: I knew what was going through mine. Drop the towel and you'll be naked. I chased that thought away. I was doing a lot of that at the moment.
I hurried drying myself and dressing up and left the girls to their games in the pool. I joined Paul in his room. We got back to our own business as I listened to his samplings, chasing the idea of the girls away from my mind as best as I could. I took out my guitar and he took out his bass and we jammed a little; he set up his machine so we could do a recording. We had to move to the basement to get it working, but once we did, we recorded a track together, one of my songs.
I was completely into it when two heads popped into the basement door. Paul noticed them first.
"Hi! Cool music."
"We're recording, if you don't mind."
I didn't like how Paul was sometimes abrupt with his sister, but having two brothers of my own, I could relate to sibling rivalry. Danielle and Rita vanished back up the stairs.
"She's awfully nosy today..."
"I think it's her friend."
Somehow, it made sense to me that Rita was goading Danielle into looking in on us. I didn't imagine Danielle doing it on her own. I tried to calm down Paul.
"Don't worry about it."
"You say that... but I think Rita has a crush on me."
He didn't seem happy about it.
"Every time she visits, she finds excuses to be in the same room as me. I mean, come on, not only is she thirteen, she's my sister's best friend."
"Yeah. I get it."
We got back to our music. I was wondering how accurate Paul's perception of the events could be. It had seemed to me that Rita was infatuated with me. But then again, there was a third possibility: she was simply infatuated with both of us, because we were older and appeared more mature. That seemed the most plausible explanation.
In any case, it would have to wait for later. We heard the front door open; Paul's mother was home from her day of work. We moved up the stairs to greet her, mainly because we were starting to get hungry and wanted to know what was planned for supper. As it turned out, we ended up helping her prepare the meal, the bread, the salad and the spaghetti. His father came home and we sat down and ate; his parents were there; Paul had me and Danielle had Rita; only his younger brother wasn't there - and he wasn't expected to return for the evening either.
During supper, his parents talked about how our day had gone. We all answered politely. They then had a chat about their own plans for the evening. Because I was visiting (and because Rita was clearly sticking around), they decided that they would go into town and find something to do there. They wouldn't come back until around midnight. It was Friday anyway, and neither of them worked.
As I looked around the table, I realized that I would be spending the evening with Paul, Danielle and Rita. I wondered for a moment at what the girls would do to occupy their time. But I'm sure they would find something to do - I'd check with Paul as to our own activities for the night after supper.
Paul's parents left the house around 7. In the meantime, Paul and I played videogames. Rita and Danielle vanished into Danielle's room. As soon as the parents left, however, both of them came down the stairs and joined us in the living room. We were so absorbed in our game that we didn't pay any attention to them - that is, until we hit game over.
Paul looked across the room to his sister.
"What are you doing here?"
"This is my living room too..."
There had always been a small amount of tension between them, but it was palpable today. Rita seemed to ignore it completely. I couldn't tell if her attention was focused more on me or on Paul.
"Why don't you go somewhere else?"
"I can stay here if I want to."
Paul ignored her from there and started a new game; I told him to play this one alone and headed for the bathroom. While I was in there doing what needed to be done, I wondered if I could somehow use the situation to my advantage. But what was my advantage, really? I didn't want to try anything with either Danielle or Rita, given their age at first, but also given the respect I had for Paul, Danielle and his entire family. It was just my mind playing tricks on me. But there was this perverse pleasure that I had in fantasizing about her being older, and more mature, and me getting to know her better in the meantime, so that eventually... Try as I might, these ideas had been lingering in my mind for so long that it was hard to simply ignore them.
When I came back into the living room, I detoured in the kitchen and inquired if anyone wanted something to drink. I ended up bringing back four glasses of grape juice. I set Paul's down beside him, since he was busy playing the game; I handed two glasses to Rita and Danielle and got thank-yous and winks from both of them. I finally retrieved my own glass and sat down.
"How about we build a fire tonight?"
Paul lived in a wooded area; his father had cleared several paths in the back woods they owned and one of these paths led to a fire circle. The air was still warm; light was waning. Paul seemed to like my idea. I half-expected what came next.
"Can we help?"
It was Rita. I said nothing. This was entirely Paul's decision; at least, that's what I told myself to keep from getting involved. I was perfectly content in having him make the call.
There was hint of resignation in his voice which made me smile.
"I'll finish my game... Danielle, if you want to join us at the fire, could you get the stuff we'll need?"
Danielle and Rita got up and left the living room.
"Sorry about that, man."
"It's all right. I don't really mind."
He smiled at me.
"Rita's all right, she's just a little over-eager for my tastes. Besides, once we get started talking out there, I'm pretty sure she'll be so bored she'll leave us alone."
"Yeah... we can be pretty boring."
We both laughed at the notion of our stories driving people away. He finished his level easily, without me holding him back. We shut the machine and headed outside.
"We might want to bring a jacket... it's gonna get chilly later."
The sun had vanished behind the trees. The chill of night was slowly setting on the area. It wasn't cold, but without a warm sweater or jacket, the wind bit at your skin. We actually waited for the girls to be ready before heading out into the path. It was barely a minute's walk. The fire circle hadn't been used in a while, it seemed. We had to clear it first, then set up the wood and kindling. I let Paul do it; I had never been good at these things. There was a bench there with enough place for two people, or three if you squeezed yourself. We gave it to the girls. I didn't mind crouching. Besides, the bench had to be cold.
It took Paul roughly two minutes to get the fire started. A thought hit him.
"You know what would be good? Marshmallows. Danielle, could you go get them?"
"You do it. It's your idea..."
I volunteered, but Paul would have none of it.
"I'll go. Stay here and keep the fire going."
Paul made his way back to the house. I picked out branches for the marshallows, handing one to each girl, keeping one for me and one for Paul.
"This is nice."
Rita was staring at the flames; her eyes tilted towards me.
"When are you leaving?"
I smiled. I thought about finding a witty remark to answer, but I decided it would be wasted here.
"Say, you could go get your guitar and play us something..."
"Don't feel like it."
I actually didn't feel like playing guitar. I felt more social than that. I had a few stories in my mind which were popping up, inspired by our presence in the woods near the fire. Stories crept up on me all the time; I was somewhat bothered not to have anything to write on at the moment.
"What do we do then?"
"I don't know... let's wait for Paul."
I noticed that Rita was trying to get me talking; my constant shut downs were not working in my favor. I just didn't know what to talk about with a fourteen year old girl? Would I ask her about school? Her friends? If she had a boyfriend? Why should I care about any of these things, other than the simple act of making casual conversation? My hesitation kept me from proceeding with any form of interrogation, or answering any of her inquiries in detail.
I was glad when Paul came back with two foldable chairs and a bag of marshmallows. He helped the fire up, then we sat down in our chairs and started roasting. The action filled the silence that existed between the girls and us.
Paul and Danielle started having idle chat about family stuff. It wasn't anything interesting so I paid no attention. I realized that, in any event, if we were to spend some time with Rita and Danielle, I might as well try my luck at conversation, if for no other reason than to accumulate some experience in the matter.
"So, Rita... how long have you known Danielle?"
Having been asked that question earlier, it felt an appropriate starting point.
"Long time... We go way back to kindergarten."
"Is she your best friend?"
"Now she is. It wasn't always like that though. We used to fight a lot when we were kids."
This made me laugh. At fourteen, she was still a kid in my book, though I could understand where she stood.
"Fight about what?"
"Silly stuff. Games. Toys."
"So you two are pretty close."
"Oh yeah... Danielle's the best. Plus, she has all these cool things."
I could relate to her. I did feel that their family had been privileged moreso than mine; it was nice to relish in that comfort while I was here. Perhaps this friendship was also about me enjoying the luxuries I couldn't normally have access to. At least Rita seemed able to admit it. I felt a bit ashamed.
"Yeah. It's a great place, with better people."
"Amen to that."
"You go to church?"
"Oh no... Oh I said Amen... No! My mom goes but I don't."
"And your dad."
"Parents are divorced. My dad is with his new girlfriend in Montreal. I barely see him. You?"
"My parents? Still together. Sometimes I wonder why though... my dad is pretty weird sometimes."
"Yeah. He'll go on a binge... like last year, he bought himself a motorcycle."
"Not cool. He hasn't ridden it once. I think it's a mid-life crisis."
Rita smiled at my misfortune. I couldn't really blame her. I often smiled at my situation in order to relieve the stress that came with it.
"Dads suck sometimes..."
I nodded in agreement with her. Danielle turned to me.
"So do we want to do something tonight or just hang by the fire?"
"I don't know. Do you have anything in mind?"
"Talking is nice."
Danielle came back with her question.
"Yeah, we can talk, but if we want, we can also do something and talk."
Paul, for a change, seemed to agree with his sister.
"Yeah... maybe we could make something of it."
"Like a game?"
Rita seemed excited.
"Oh! I know! Let's play Truth or Dare!"
Everyone took a step back.
"I'm not sure that's wise..."
Danielle was the first to talk.
"I meant truth and truth..."
Rita's correction seemed more to everyone's liking. But Paul, despite not being worried, still asked the obvious question.
"And how is that played?"
"Well, basically, we take turns asking someone a question and they have to answer."
"Okay, but how do we know who's asking the question, and to whom? We just ask the person to our left, or randomly, or..."
His sentence trailed off. I'd played such a game several years back with Paul and another friend, Stephen. It had been pretty boring and we'd moved on pretty quick. Rita didn't have an answer. I decided to provide one.
"How about we each ask a question which we are willing to answer ourselves; everyone else answers it then we get to answer it as well?"
"And what if someone doesn't want to answer."
The question came from Danielle, a valid one in my mind but it didn't seem to please Paul, who was getting impatient.
"This is complicated, let's just forget it."
"No, wait... We could tally scores. Everyone who fails to answer one gets one point; then at the end, whoever has the highest score... must do a dare for the group?"
Danielle was providing an answer to her own question. Rita added.
"And in the case of a tie, both people have to do the dare."
There was a pause as these options were considered. No one seemed to mind, but Paul felt the need to be a little more specific.
"Fine... but nothing dangerous or too... weird for the dare."
Everyone agreed. It seemed like this game was actually going to happen after all. It would be a nice change of pace from the talks about our stories, and I welcomed the chance to get to know the girls a little more.
Meanwhile, the marshmallows were still roasting on the sticks.
The fire crackled gently in the backwoods behind Paul and Danielle's house. The marshmallows were roasting to everyone's idea of perfection. I enjoyed mine with the outside completely darkened and the inside all melty. Paul seemed to prefer leaving his to simply brown and then eating it in one bite. Rita favored holding it for a few seconds directly into the flame so the skin burnt quickly; she would eat it, then put the remaining section back into the flame and repeat the experience. Finally, Danielle kept hers over the flame, letting it heat slowly and melt gently.
The game was afoot. I didn't expect much of it, just like I didn't expect much from anything involving Danielle, and now her friend Rita. The game, truth-or-truth (why did you need to mention it twice), was simply an excuse to pass the time, a way to bridge the gap of years between the older male teens and the younger female teens. It provided an outlet for conversation without having to reflect too much on it.
It was argued that Danielle, being the youngest but not by much, would ask her question first. We would all take turns answering, in order from the youngest to the oldest. Rita would therefore answer first, then Paul and finally me. I was one year older than Paul, after all - it was easy to disregard since we didn't go to the same school anymore.
"What is the one item you miss from your childhood the most?"
I was relieved; I looked at Paul and he seemed to be experiencing the same feeling. Rita was already pondering her answer.
"Hmmm... I have to say my favorite blanket. It's all torn now, so I can't use it, but I used to carry it around everywhere."
She giggled as she spoke; her candor was refreshing. Perhaps she was hoping Paul and I were mature enough not to laugh at her for admitting to the existence of a security blanket. She was right, of course.
Paul answered quickly.
"I had an electronic keyboard, not a real one, a toy one. I drove my parents crazy playing it all the time, until I broke it."
It was my turn. I didn't really recall that many toys or items from my childhood. It was hard for me to recollect that far. I remembered something about a sweater I wore, but it didn't fit. Actually, only one item came to mind - I hoped it would do the trick.
"In the woods, beside the school, there was this huge rock... remember Paul?"
"I miss it. It was our fort, our headquarters, another planet... we used to build whole stories around that rock. It was a recharge station, where we switched characters during our games..."
Paul was recollecting along with me. I knew that Danielle and Rita probably knew the rock I was talking about - roughly two metres in length, height of about three feet.
"We used to own that rock!"
Paul and I laughed. Danielle waited for it to die down before providing an answer to her own question.
"Dolly. She was my favorite doll. We lost it sometime. I don't know what happened to it. She was sweet, had blonde hair and rosy cheeks. I don't know, I just can't imagine anything else."
The mood was cordial and sweet. It made me blush to hear Danielle talk about a childhood memory with such fondness. Danielle noticed and smiled at me.
Rita took her time eating her marshmallow before hitting us with her own interrogation.
"Have you ever had a secret crush?"
I wasn't entirely surprised by the question, given what both Paul and I suspected about Rita's reasons for hanging out with us. Paul answered first.
His simple answer left Rita and myself wanting for more; then again, I probably knew the girl Paul was referring to. Seeing that Paul wasn't volunteering any additional information, I took it upon myself to answer in turn.
"Yes, several times. I can tell you about one... Paul knows about this one. Mary. She was in the same grade as I was. She was cute and blonde, and I was totally in awe of her... but then, I moved away, so I never had a chance to tell her. And it's been, what... five years? Six? How about you Danielle?"
My comment directed at her was actually intended to see if she would blush, and she did. I decided that it did not necessarily have anything to do with me. Danielle answered in the affirmative as well, and wondered for a moment if she should provide more detail.
"Let's just say... yes, once or twice. But nothing much, just guys I'd like to date, maybe. Nothing special."
Rita seemed to be in on Danielle's secret, but of course she wouldn't tell us. Neither Paul nor I minded. Rita then gave the answer to her own question.
"Yes. In fact, I have one right now."
Danielle snickered at her. Paul and I looked at each other; she wasn't nearly as shrewd as she imagined she was, but we stayed quiet on the matter. Why state the obvious and create a moment of tension? Better to leave things as they were, floating in the ether of uncertainty.
Paul's question then took me a little by surprise.
"What is your greatest belief? What do you believe in that's bigger than yourself, if anything?"
I had not imagined Paul as such a spiritual fellow. Truth be told, ever since I had moved away, the connection I felt to Paul had started to erode. We were still able to finish each other's ideas, but it didn't flow as neatly as before. This was another moment where I felt the connection dwindling. It was still my turn to speak, so I pondered.
"Well, I don't know about Church, but God... yeah. I believe in a God, though I'm not sure which one. I believe that there's some overriding principle to the universe, something that can explain all of creation... but I don't believe in heaven, hell, angels or demons, or any of that stuff. So... God, yes. The rest, I think, is made up by men."
I hoped my answer made sense to the girls. They were younger than me and I didn't know how involved into their own spirituality they could be. Danielle spoke after me, surprising me with the depth of her answer.
"The way I see it, if there's a God, well... he's not very good at his job. I mean... with all that goes on in the world, I have a hard time believing that, well, it's all part of a plan. I don't believe in a greater power... well... nothing like anything that has been taught to us anyway."
"I have to agree with Danielle."
Rita picked up the dialogue with her own answer. She turned towards Danielle as she spoke, creating the discourse with her.
"I mean, there's murder, and violence, and divorce, and child pornography, and all sorts of nasty things... I mean, if God is really all that powerful and good, why does he let these things happen?"
"Yeah, shouldn't he do something to help us? I don't buy into that - it's so you can get stronger."
"Yeah... and the religious guy at school says it's because we have free will. Well, if that's what free will does, it's pretty bad."
"And then one religion says one goes to hell, and the other says the same, so since at least one is right, then they're all wrong..."
I cut in.
"You've talked about this before."
Danielle giggled. We all turned to Paul. He had been paying close attention to what the girls were saying.
"Well, like you said, I don't believe in God as he was taught to us. But there's a greater power, in nature, in the world around us, that makes us better - and we can use that power for ourselves, for our children and for our world. I say nature is the greater power."
This could have sparked a very heated debate, but I decided to move on to my own question. I wanted to find something to try to trap Danielle or Rita, but I didn't want my trap to appear too obvious. I knew I had to get into relationships, or dating.
"What are the features you look for in someone when you consider dating them?"
I hoped my question would be well received. Danielle, the first to answer, seemed to give it much thought.
"Well... he has to be fun to be around, and he has to like doing the same things as me."
"Swimming, biking, going into the woods... simple stuff. I don't want someone lazy, I look for someone active."
"What about physical features?"
"Not too tall, because I'm small. Hair whatever, I like green eyes. He has to dress cool."
Rita was nodding all along, so I turned to her.
"Are you agreeing with Danielle?"
"Absolutely. He has to be cute too, but not too cute that every girl is after him."
The girls giggled again; I liked hearing them laugh. It sounded innocent; it made me forget my sometimes irresponsible thoughts about them. Rita motioned to Paul.
"I like a girl who's into music a lot, and games. But music mostly. And good music, not crap like rap or old music."
I couldn't contain my laughter but Paul ignored it.
"I like brown hair, long. Not too tall, not taller than me anyway. And, huh, I like if she's sexy. Frank?"
My question. My answer. I had an opportunity to reach out to Danielle and share with some of the qualities I liked in her. But was it even appropriate? Why couldn't I remain with her image of innocence? The desire wasn't all that bad in itself, but it kept rearing its unwanted head. I was seeing her already much older, what she could become instead of what she was. Perhaps that was the essence of my problem. I wasn't in love with Danielle at all; I was simply infatuated with a perceived image of us together in the long run.
Paul's insistence forced me to answer.
"Well, I want someone who likes stories. Stories are my life, I need someone with whom I can share my stories. I want the girl to be pretty... not too pretty as Rita and Danielle said. I like long hair too. Beyond that... it's hard to say."
"It was your question."
"Yeah... dumb question, eh?"
"I don't think it was dumb."
Danielle's comment returned the smile to my face. It was time I started letting go of the image of an adult Danielle and started appreciating the relative innocence that she was showing me at the moment. I may have been a late teen, but a part of me wanted to reconnect with her innocence, with that moment of youth when the transition between ignorance and understanding becomes blurry. That was where I felt she was. I wanted to recapture it - and perhaps, with her help, I could manage to, somehow.
We had gone around once. No one had backed down from an answer - as I had suspected. We all felt at ease with each other. More questions were soon to come, but we simply remained quiet for a long minute, staring into the flames, dancing into the forest, as daylight receded and gave way to the stillness of the night.
A sensation of peace and tranquility had fallen over me. I felt it in my friend Paul as well, and I could tell that Rita and Danielle were also mellowing out. I had dreaded such an encounter, had dreaded its potential complications. But the game and the discussion surrounding it was turning out to be quite agreeable. We were all smiling.
We had gone around once in our game of truths. The questions had been mostly spontaneous, and the answers had been forthcoming. No one felt awkward about what was going on. The flames gently lit the area. There was a bit of chill in the air. Rita got closer to Danielle to find some more warmth. Danielle put her arm over her shoulder. Their friendship seemed wonderful. I wondered what would happen if I hugged Paul like that - and I knew better than to try. Besides, I wasn't cold.
"Do we go again?"
It was coming back to Danielle's turn. We all agreed to proceed with the game. She thought up another question.
"Did you ever get drunk?"
I had not anticipated that question from her. I was intrigued as to her own answer, but it would have to wait until everyone else had spoken. Rita was first.
"No. Drank wine a few times, but never got drunk."
"Drank wine?" Paul asked.
"With my parents, at family parties."
"Do you like wine?"
"Yeah, it's okay."
Paul was up. I already knew what he was going to say.
"I'm answering this one... but Danielle, you have to swear not to tell mom and dad."
She crossed her heart as she said so. Paul was satisfied.
"One time, Frank was visiting. Last year. We got into dad's liquor cabinet and sampled some of the bottles. I must admit we got pretty loaded and drunk... well, at least I was. You didn't drink that much, did you Frank?"
"Nope. I was a little skittish but I didn't get drunk."
"What did you do when you got drunk?"
We both looked at Rita.
"That's not the question," Paul replied.
Eyes turned to me, but Paul's answer had already provided mine. Still, I added a few details.
"Let's just say Paul was fun to listen to... we came up with some pretty crazy ideas that night!"
We both laughed. The girls smirked at us. The round table had come back to Danielle.
"I did, once... but mom knows because she was there."
"Tell us more..." I said.
"Well, it was at uncle Robert's birthday party, last year... I wasn't feeling too good about being there so mom got it into her head to make me drink a little... a lot actually."
"That's why you were so chatty with everyone!" Paul exclaimed.
They both laughed it off. It was my turn to look at Rita and shrug. We let their laughter die down before Rita picked up with her own question. It seemed to be burning on her lips.
"Have you ever seen someone else naked?"
"Boy or girl?" I asked.
"Well, the other sex. And in person! Not on the computer..."
Rita's added comment made me smile. Given our day and age, it seemed a valid point. Paul was the first to answer.
"I have, actually... my ex, Julie... saw hew naked a couple of times. But that's it. And my sister."
"When you were a baby!"
She grinned at him, not finding amusement in his joke.
"I was like one. It doesn't count."
"I was four. Like I remember."
Danielle eased back into a relaxed mood. It was my turn to answer.
"No. I haven't."
I couldn't tell if Rita or Danielle were disappointed. I had never had a girlfriend nor had I been in any opportunity for me to see a girl naked. The closest I had seen was during my theater productions, one girl had to change in front of us. She had turned away from us, removed her top (she wore no bra for the role) and switched tops. I didn't imagine a girl's back counted as seeing someone even half-naked.
Danielle seemed to hesitate before answering.
"I have. But it was by accident. I mean, there's my dad, when he comes out of the shower..."
"I've seen that too and it doesn't count!" Paul added jokingly.
"Yeah, but there's this boy at school. He got dared to take everything off and streak naked across the football field, and he did. And Rita saw him too."
"Yeah. But I also saw someone else. My friend Reese came over the other day at my house for a pajama party, and he stayed over, sleeping in my brother's room while my brother was out. But during the night, he strolled naked around my house. I spotted him and asked him what he was doing: he said he was dared into it."
"What happened then?"
"Well, nothing. He just went back to bed and I did too... he did ask me to get naked too but I didn't want to and he didn't insist."
I was surprised by how candid Rita's answers were. She seemed to be very comfortable in this situation, sharing an event like this openly with all of us. I was glad we were not making her ashamed or resentful of what she was telling us. It would have been easy to attempt to ridicule her (and Danielle) but neither Paul nor I were into that sort of thing, having been ostracized most of our childhoods anyway.
I was still pondering this when Paul came up with his own question.
"You're stuck on a desert island and can only bring one person and one item. What do you bring and why?"
This didn't really sound like a traditional truth or dare but it seemed interesting to answer nonetheless. The problem was, I didn't know what to answer, and it was my turn to speak first. Fortunately, I didn't feel any pressure on anyone's part so I took the time to ponder my words.
The obvious answer would be Paul; the wrong answer would be Danielle or Rita. But Paul actually wasn't the first name that sprang to mind. We had started to grow apart in recent years and I had made friends with a guy in my new neighborhood called Sebastian. We did a lot of roleplaying together. I tried to come up with the name of a girl, but frankly, since all my attempts at relationships and dating had come up short, it was hard to justify their presence, even to me, even as part of a 'repopulating the planet' scenario.
"My role-playing friend from Sherbrooke, Sebastian. And the item... my pouch of dice. For role-playing."
Paul didn't seem to mind that I hadn't chosen him. I didn't think he was going to pick me anyway. Danielle popped her answer.
"Mom. Because I still need her..."
She didn't seem too proud about it. I tried to smile to ease her discomfort.
"And the item... the item would be... a beach ball. If I'm going to be on the beach anyway..."
The smile came back. She turned to Rita.
"Oh! That's easy. I'd bring Reese. That way, we could grow up together and become like in the Blue Lagoon."
"Oh! My parents don't want me to watch that movie."
"But it's soooo romantic!"
Rita and Danielle's eyes filled up with sparkles. Paul decided to grab the floor before they went all mushy on us.
"And your item."
"A survival guide. Because let's face it, it's a deserted island."
She laughed. Paul looked at me, then provided his own answer, which I could have predicted.
He and Mike had started to work on their music together. Paul was still fond of our stories but he was also getting into music more and more. Mike seemed the obvious choice given his current state of mind.
"And I'd bring a musical instrument, maybe a guitar or a keyboard... guitar is better because it doesn't need electricity, but I'd prefer a keyboard."
I nodded in his direction, acknowledging the end to this question and my turn. I hadn't really thought of a question to ask on my own, so it became a toss up in my mind of several different ideas. I picked one out at random, the first one that seemed to leap out at me.
"If there was one question you could ask to a dead person, who would it be and what would the question be?"
I noticed how deeply involved the questions were getting. This was a lot more personal and revealing than the colour of someone's undergarments. I was wondering if we were avoiding these simple questions because we wanted to keep things a little more high-minded. While I was pondering my own question, Danielle came up with an answer for herself.
"I want to talk to my grandmother. I want to ask her... if she was happy."
The question hung in mid-air, everyone suspended to Danielle's lips.
"My grandma died too young; I was three. I never got a chance to meet her. But whenever I look at her old photographs, she's never ever smiling. I know she was sick a lot in the end, but... I just want to know if she was happy."
I felt something deeper inside her confession, something she kept hidden from us. The game was drawing out unexpected secrets. But Danielle didn't cry: she just fixed her gaze on the flames. Silence set in, allowing her revelation to dissipate before Rita answered in turn.
"For me, it would probably be the singer from INXS... I'd ask him why he committed suicide. I really want to know."
Rita's answer seemed as deep, if not as involved, as Danielle's. We didn't inquire further out of respect. I hadn't intended my question to place us within such a melancholy. Luckily, Paul wasn't as affected as I was.
"Personnally, it's John Lennon. I want to know why they really broke up the Beatles."
I didn't know if he was saying it in jest to lighten the mood or if he actually meant it. I didn't ask, because my own answer was filling my mind and was aching to escape from my mouth.
"I'd like to speak to my grandpa. I bear his name, well as my second name anyway. Lewis. I'd like to ask him... about who he was. I didn't meet him, like Danielle. He... died right after I was born. Everybody tells me he was the greatest guy around him, seems like big shoes to fill sometimes."
I stopped there. Despite Paul's attempt to lighten the mood, our conversation had hit a sweet spot. My question had stirred all sorts of emotion in all of us, and suddenly, the game was getting serious and extremely personal. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or bad thing. All I knew what that Danielle's concerned face was causing me pain; Rita's confusion actually worked the same.
I wasn't afraid that anyone was going to start crying, but I was very much aware that the ease which had been hanging around us mere moments ago was now clouded by a fog of reflexion and introspection. Somehow, the game would have to take another direction, or chances were it would end there. To be honest, I didn't really know if I wanted it to continue, given my own state of mind.
As it happened, it was Paul who brought us back from the mood in which we had fallen. My last question had stirred some inner turmoil in the girls and in myself. Paul, however, was still in full possession of his faculties.
"That was deep."
We looked at him.
"Really touching, too. Wow."
His casual observation actually lightened the mood and made me smile. Danielle and Rita just gave each other a hug and straightened themselves.
The fire was dying down so Paul threw in a few more logs. As he did so, he turned to us.
"You want to go another round?"
His question hung in midair for a long moment. Rita spoke first.
"I don't mind. This is really special... not what I was expecting at all."
"What were you expecting?" Paul inquired.
She blushed a little but didn't answer. Instead, Danielle picked up the conversation.
"I don't mind going on. But frankly, I'm running out of questions."
"Come on, sis... there's plenty more questions around. Just think of one."
"Okay, but... it probably won't be good."
I smiled at her.
"Any question is fine, as long as its..."
I didn't finish my sentence, because I didn't actually know what I wanted to say. Nobody seemed to notice or care. Danielle pondered for a moment before spilling out another question.
"What do you prefer: boxers or briefs?"
Simple and without complication. Maybe it was better to run the game along those lines. Rita answered first.
"Briefs... thongs actually."
The notion of a girl her age in a thong was something my mind didn't want to wrap itself around.
"Boxers," Paul said.
"Briefs," I answered.
"Briefs, me too!" finally said Danielle.
Paul looked at me.
"You wear briefs?"
He smiled about it. I didn't understand what was funny about me wearing them, but I decided not to inquire.
Rita popped her own question.
"Have you ever pulled a prank on someone?"
"Like an April Fools thing?" I asked.
"Well, yeah... but anything, any form of prank."
Paul had to ponder his answer for a moment.
"Not a prank per se, but I did make a friend believe that I was worshipping the devil... well, a friend, more like an acquaintance. It wasn't so much of a prank, really, he just fell for what I was saying. Almost got me expelled from school too because he ratted me out to the teacher, and I had to explain it was a joke, and I got a pretty good scolding about it."
Paul had told me about this. It had always seemed so silly to me; even I, as a good Catholic boy, could see the humor in what he had done. That person had just been too gullible. It's a shame people rarely took the joke.
"What about you, Frank?"
"I'm not a prank-puller. In fact, I don't remember a single prank I ever pulled. I'm a pretty boring guy."
"You're not that boring!" Danielle said, then somewhat blushed.
She went on.
"I once fooled a friend of mine into running naked in the hall at school. After school."
Paul was stunned.
"Yeah, it was a silly stunt. I made him believe I had done it, and everyone backed me up, so he got down to his underwear and did it, and we all got a good laugh. He didn't want to get naked. And one time, I greased the locks on a schoolmate's locker.... she had gone and told everyone that I had kissed a guy and it wasn't true, so it was just payback."
Rita seemed to laugh at Danielle's comment. It was obvious that Paul and I shared everything, just as Rita and Danielle did the same. Rita took her turn.
"Well, I'm no good at pranks myself, but I did fool my dad into thinking the toilet was overflowing."
She shrugged as she said this. Her question had mostly been aimed at us, and that brought us back to Paul's third question.
"How many people have you kissed in your life, and whom, if you remember? Besides your parents and family, of course."
I hated going first on that one. I wanted to lie but I decided to be honest.
"I've never kissed anyone."
Rita was shocked. I knew that admission on my part might suddenly brand me as something in her mind, but I had opted to be truthful. Danielle's reaction was not remarkable, however. She spoke next.
"Five. Four? Four. Including other girls?"
"Sure," Paul answered
"Then five. I kissed Stan, Rodney, Jimmy, Kyle and Rita."
"You've been busy."
"Well, you only said kissing."
"How about you Rita?"
"More than I care to count."
"Maybe... something like ten. The same as Danielle, plus a few others."
I had remained quiet for the entire exchange. Rita looked at me and smiled.
"Don't feel bad about it."
"I'm not. I just haven't had the opportunity so far. No girlfriend, so..."
"You've never played Kiss Tag?"
"Spin the bottle?"
Rita seemed sad for me. Paul finally answered his own question.
"I've kissed maybe four people. Juli, my previous girlfriend Sally, Kim - you don't know her - and Ryan."
"Yeah. It was a stupid dare. We had to kiss so the girls would kiss too. So we did."
I still felt somewhat ill at ease after that question. I felt inexperienced - and it was really just an issue of kissing at this point. What else had they all done that I hadn't? I was the oldest. It didn't sit well with me to be left out. I decided to worry about it later and move on to another topic - my own third question. I needed to find something more trivial than my previous question, but my mind kept going back to serious matters.
"What's your favorite color?"
Of all the lame questions to come up with... but no one seemed to mind.
"Red," Danielle said.
"I like blue," Rita answered.
"Black all the way," Paul supplied.
I was left to my own simplistic answer.
"Green. I'm green."
That didn't come out at all like I wanted it to. I sighed. Paul laughed. I had had enough. I wasn't in the zone anymore.
"I gotta go to the bathroom."
I excused myself and got up, walking back towards the house. I didn't actually need to go but I needed the distance to reconnect with my own thoughts. I made it back to the house and entered, then I sat down at the kitchen table, my mind still caught up in my own turmoil. I heard a noise behind me; it was Danielle, apparently catching up to me. I didn't really want to talk to her at this point; she seemed both unattainable and inappropriate to me.
Truth be told, I was tired of being alone and having no girlfriend. I was fantasizing about an older Danielle strictly because I was lonely and longed for companionship. I had been like that for some time and I knew it. I didn't want to inflict that reflection upon her. Still, I was surprised it was her coming to get me and not Paul.
"Are you all right?"
She seemed distraught by my attitude.
"I hope we didn't make you feel uncomfortable."
"No it's cool."
"It's no big deal, really."
She moved into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of juice.
"Do you want one?"
She poured it and brought it to me. She pulled a chair beside me and sat there.
"Shouldn't you be with Rita?"
"Paul's with her."
"What does that mean?"
"Nothing. Never mind."
I was angry at myself at turning down Danielle's simple overtures to conversation. Why was I such a dick? I just wanted her to leave - but I really wanted her to stay, even if I couldn't admit it, because it was wrong, because I was feeling inappropriate things for her; or because I was simply lonely and it felt good to wallow in my misery as it was easier to deal with than actually making an effort at conversation.
I turned to her. She placed a hand on my shoulder. I looked away. I couldn't let anything happen here, even if she might have wanted it, even if I knew I wanted to kiss her. I wished she was older. I wished I was younger. I wished this didn't feel that awkward. She was fourteen. I was seventeen. Three years wasn't that big a deal, but it was to me. I had been raised correctly, and it made me feel strange.
"We'll be outside."
She got up and headed for the door.
She smiled and headed out the door. I wanted to hug her. I really wanted to be close to her - be close to anyone in fact. It made my heart ache to be unable to simply reach out for as simple a thing as a hug.
But I didn't want to remain like that. Not here, not now. I gathered my courage, finished my juice and headed back outside. I was not going to let my attitude get me down. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to play. I just wanted something to change. And I knew change would only come if I worked towards it.
One way or another, I was going to get better. I was going to have fun. And if everything worked in my favor, I might even get a hug out of it.
t's an established fact, at least to me, that once you hit a low, you can either go lower or start climbing back up. It may simply be common sense. Regardless, I had just hit a low. I had never been kissed. It really only bothered me when I was around other people that had done it.
Fortunately, my short chat with Danielle had reinvigorated me. I didn't want to keep wallowing in my self-pity, not here and now, not under this roof. Had I been alone at my house, I would probably have indulged myself. But I was not in a place where I could control my environment. I had Rita, Danielle and Paul waiting outside. I had to keep going. And I really did want to keep having fun.
I got back outside and walked back towards the fire. I head Rita and Danielle talking as I got nearer. When I finally spotted them, I noticed that Paul was nowhere in sight.
"He's in the woods..."
The backwoods were immense; at night, it would be impossible for me track him. I listened for sounds of him but couldn't make out any.
"He said he'd be back."
I sat back down in my chair. Rita and Danielle seemed involved in their conversation so I decided not to interrupt them. I lost myself in my train of thought for a moment, until Rita called out to me.
"You've never kissed a girl?"
I sighed. Why did she have to bring that up again?
"No. Never happened."
"I don't know. Just because... I guess."
"You never played spin the bottle or anything like that?"
"As I said before, no."
Rita seemed perplexed as if such a thing didn't exist; I didn't fit neatly into her version of the world apparently.
"I'm sure you've had opportunities, though."
"No. I don't think so."
Again, her stare told me she didn't believe me. I felt obligated to elaborate, even if it meant worsening my case.
"Look, Rita... I've never had a girlfriend, every girl I've ever asked out on date has said no... I've never played kissing games, never been dared to do it... and I won't simply go up to someone and kiss them for the fun of it."
"What do you want your first kiss to be like?"
That specific question took me in a different direction; I had actually never really thought about that one and it forced me to think about it.
My indecision made her smile. She waited for my answer.
"It has to be with someone I like. I don't know that I want it to be special or anything."
My eyes veered towards Danielle. She was apparently paying very close attention to the conversation but not intervening. I wanted to know what was rattling inside her mind but I let it go.
"Should we do another turn of truths?" Rita asked.
"Shouldn't we wait for Paul?"
"I guess so."
We waited for a moment longer before hearing footsteps in the woods, heading towards the fire. Paul came into view and waved to me.
For some reason, Paul's arrival irritated me. How odd was it to have these reactions right now?
"So what's going on?"
"We were going to keep playing."
"Nah... I don't want to anymore. Frank, let's go inside and play some game."
Why did I say that when I really wanted to stay outside and keep chatting with the girls? But it seemed more appropriate to remain with Paul. It didn't feel as comfortable as before but it was the right thing to do.
"Danielle, you put out the fire before going in."
Paul and I walked back to the house.
"Glad to be rid of them."
"It was kind of fun."
"A little, yeah. But wait until you see what I can do in the game..."
We sat down in the living room; Paul played the game while I watched. I didn't feel like playing at all. I was wondering what Danielle and Rita were doing outside. After a while, they came back in; Danielle told Paul she had put out the fire. They retreated to her room up the stairs. As Paul played on, I became irritated at simply watching him play.
"I want to go swimming again."
"Well I don't want to."
It was an impass for me. It was his house. His rules. There wasn't much I could do about it. To help pass the time, I retrieved my guitar from his room, sat myself on the couch and played a few chords while he played with his game engine. It wasn't one of our finer moments.
Eventually, he decided he'd had enough of playing.
"Man, I'm beat..."
I didn't answer him.
"You still want to go swimming?"
"Well, yeah, but... I have to leave tomorrow right after lunch, and we'll probably get up late tomorrow morning, so I won't have time to go."
"Well, if you feel like it, you can always go. I don't want to, but I'll just go on my computer and work on some stuff. You can join me after your swim."
"Sure you don't mind?"
"Nah! It's cool. You didn't really want to come inside, did you?"
"I was cold... and it's my sister, so...."
"I get that."
I did get it, having two brothers myself. As Paul retreated to his room and his things, I put my guitar away and retrieved my swimming trunks and a towel, and dragged all of it to his swimming area, where I got changed and dove right into the water. I would at least have the opportunity to swim one more time before going home.
There was something about this visit that was unsettling to me. I was finally coming to terms with the notion that, despite our shared past and stories, given the distance that separated us, Paul and I were growing apart, and this might be the last time I actually came to visit him. It seemed somewhat inevitable. I was ending high school and going to college; he would still be in high school, in his final year. The stories still fascinated me and kept me alive; to him, it was his music and his new friend. We could relate to some respects in our love of music and stories, but the truth was that the elements that divided us were more numerous now than the ones that kept us close. His life was so different from mine, I couldn't really relate to him anymore.
I was pondering these things, swimming around the pool, when my eyes turned to the entrance to the swimming area: I saw Rita and Danielle, both in their swimsuits, staring back at me.
"Hi. Can we join?"
From Rita's tone, I could tell that her question was not as innocent as it sounded. Danielle's eyes darted away from me. I felt as if I was being cornered. Who knew what they had talked about in Danielle's room? But the truth was, I didn't care what was going on. I wanted to swim. And I wanted to cherish this moment because I felt it slipping away forever.
"Come in girls. The water is fine."
My nonchalance surprised me. I saw them walk into the water, and somehow I knew that something was going to happen; something was going to alter our relationships in the next few moments.
I felt the water get a bit colder as they entered it, but it was clearly my imagination playing tricks on me.
This may sound odd to some at this point to some, given all that I have already related about myself and my relationship with Danielle, but having her and her friend Rita join me in their swimming pool did not bother me in the slightest. In fact, their presence did nothing to my feelings, one way or another. For some reason, when they entered the water, despite my own feeling that something was about to happen, I couldn't be worried about it. At that moment in time, on that night, it felt absolutely normal, as if I had always been bred for this moment.
As I swam across the water, I watched the two girls frolick. Rita stepped out of the water and went across to the deep end and the diving board. I followed her hips as she made her way in her two piece blue and white striped bathing suit. She was becoming a beautiful young woman. She had nothing to complain about. As she dove into the water from the diving board, my gaze turned to Danielle, who was also stepping out of the water. Her long reddish hair clung to her body, accentuated by the greenish two-piece bikini she wore. The top covered much more than the bottom. I watched her dive into the water as well.
Rita had surfaced in the meantime and swam back to the shallow end. I kept in the middle, clinging to the edge. Danielle surfaced as well; she headed straight for me and hung on the edge right beside me.
"Are you okay?"
I looked away, then back at her.
Rita had swam up on the other side; they were surrounding me. The idea of a 'sandwich', me being the meat, made me smile. Rita spoke up too.
"We didn't want you to feel uncomfortable and everything."
"I'm not. Not anymore."
Rita actually seemed sincere. I smiled at her.
"Would you like to have a girlfriend?"
"Of course I would. But it has to be right... I wouldn't go out with just anyone."
I was tempted to ask if she wanted to be my girlfriend, but I kept my mouth shut. It was better not to thread on that ground. Rita continued.
"I just never imagined someone your age without a girlfriend..."
I didn't know what to answer to that so I shut up. Rita kept going.
"But I guess it's cool, saving yourself for the person you'll marry."
I didn't want to let her know that I wasn't saving myself - I would probably go out with the first girl who didn't say no to me, and work my way into loving her. But that wasn't what she wanted to hear. Danielle interrupted Rita.
"Rita, be nice..."
"Rita can be a pain sometimes, but I like her anyway."
I smiled at Danielle. Both Rita and her swam away from me, to the other side of the pool. Danielle took some time to dive into the water, resurfacing almost exactly where she had disappeared, while Rita just remained there quiet. She had probably thought I was vexed, when in fact I was just apathetic. Danielle, emerging from the water, cleared her eyes and turned to me.
"Is there something wrong between you and Paul?"
"Oh no... he's at his computer."
"You seem off."
So she had noticed. I was wondering how far I could talk to her, especially in the presence of Rita.
"I'm not feeling too good, but I'll get better. I may just be tired. I should get back to him."
I made a move to get out of the water. That's when I heard Danielle's voice, almost like a plea, reach my ears.
The suddenness of her tone had startled even her. I settled back down into the water. She blushed and I could tell she had been much more forward than she had wanted to be. That was my first clear sign that she might feel something for me; but of course, it would be wrong to act upon it. I was trapped: I really didn't want to leave because I wanted to pursue the extent of Danielle's feelings towards me, but I also couldn't get involved with her, for so many different reasons that I didn't even to elaborate on them.
Rita tried to defuse the tension.
"I know. Let's play a game."
It partly worked, mostly because I turned away from Danielle and towards her.
"A game like what?"
"I don't know. Tag?"
"We played that this afternoon."
Danielle didn't seem too enthusiastic about that one either. Rita was coming up short. She finally went back to something else.
"How about we keep playing truth?"
I nodded slowly. It seemed reasonable. Danielle somehow managed to gather her courage because she stared straight at me.
"How about truth or dare?"
I shivered in the water, but not because of the cold. I was afraid of playing with her, afraid of what I might be asked to do. Telling the truth was one thing; acting out dares was another entirely. And yet, there was something about the idea of playing the game with Danielle that made the idea enticing. Rita seemed as unsure as I was about the game. But Danielle insisted.
"Here's what I propose: we all choose both options; we get a dare from one person and a truth from the other. Does that sound fair?"
It did sound fair to me, but I didn't want to answer until Rita acknowledged, and she seemed to face the same dilemma as me. Finally, she gave in.
"Okay sure. But nothing too much."
I finally gave my own blessing. I looked back towards the house, wondering how long Paul would work on his things before he came to get me. I had no way to tell.
"We can play until Paul comes to get me."
Danielle smiled. It made me feel better. This game was her way of letting me know that she wanted to spend time with me, any form of time. Perhaps she felt the unease that was creeping in between Paul and me. Perhaps she felt, like I did, that this might be her last chance to get to know me a little better. Or perhaps she had other reasons.
In any event, a new game was taking shape, a new game with entirely new rules.
[FONT="Comic Sans MS"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][SIZE="2"][FONT="Comic Sans MS"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][SIZE="2"][FONT="Comic Sans MS"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][SIZE="2"][FONT="Comic Sans MS"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"][SIZE="2"]Danielle looked at me with inquisitive eyes before speaking.
"Frank, you ask me for a truth... Rita, you give me a dare."
"You're going first?"
Rita seemed to retreat into her mind as she sought for an appropriate dare for her friend; on my end, I had to ask one question to Danielle, one that she would have to answer truthfully. Somehow, none came to mind; or more accurately, none that seemed decent came to mind. I had to remind myself about my situation for a moment: I was at Paul and Danielle's house, swimming in their pool in the company of Danielle and Rita, who had just challenged me to a game of truth or dare. They were both younger than me; I was the responsible one and I couldn't let anything too extreme happen.
The question finally wrote itself into my mind, and I spat it out, simple and obvious.
"Tell me what you like about me."
I was tired of running circles around Danielle. We had been pacing back and forth all day, in the afternoon, around the campfire, in the kitchen and now here. I was tired, and not simply because it was getting late. I wanted to get something out of it, if nothing more than clarity and understanding. I felt some form of attraction towards me from Danielle, and I wanted her to spell it out for me. It could be a simple infatuation, and that's what I honestly thought it was. It was just stressful to beat around the bush all the time. This was my best question to finally get the ball rolling.
Danielle did not take much time to ponder her answer: she had either already reflected upon it or simply felt comfortable enough to speak from the heart.
"Well, Frank, I like you because... you're nice, and you're simple. Not complex, at least, you don't seem so."
I almost laughed: I felt like the most complicated person on the planet. To have her talk about me in those terms was somewhat bewildering.
"You're funny sometimes, and you have a lot of imagination. Plus... I like your eyes."
She blushed as she said that last part, but she continued.
"They're just so expressive, so vibrant and full of life... except when you're down."
Her tone went down with her face as she ended her explanation. I smiled.
"Thank you Danielle."
Rita didn't give anymore time to the moment because she rushed Danielle with her dare, the first to be given out. As I had imagined, Rita's dare wasn't that complicated nor involving.
"You're gonna go down under the water, hold your breath for as long as you can. If you can hold out at least a minute, you're off the hook. If you can't, you have to do a dare from Frank too."
"Hey, no double daring!"
"It wasn't specified."
"Well, now it is... oh! fine! I'll do it."
Rita had a waterproof stopwatch so she got ready to start the timer.
"When you're ready, Danielle..."
Danielle took a deep breath and dove in. Rita started the stopwatch. One full minute. I didn't think that Danielle would be able to do it. I was right. Forty seconds in, Danielle emerged, panting, out of breath. Rita gave her a few moments to recuperate before telling her she had failed.
"So it's Frank's turn to dare you."
"Fine... but no... triple daring..."
I allowed Danielle to fully regain her breath. I also had to think up some kind of a dare, something interesting but not compromising. I didn't have that many ideas. I tried to think up something involving the pool, but there weren't that many ideas coming up in my mind. Rita stared at me, enticing me with her eyes to find something creative. I didn't want to seem like a pervert and ask for anything remotely sexual, but those ideas were the first to reach my brain. I set them aside and opted for a simple thing.
"Danielle, I want you to do a headstand on the diving board... Can you do that?"
"I can try."
"If it's not too dangerous?"
"No, it's fine."
She hurriedly got out of the water and went to the diving board. She took her time to settle herself, getting her head down on the hard cement board, setting her hands on each side, then tilting her body upwards. She succeeded in performing the headstand, but couldn't sustain it; she dropped down into the water, falling onto her back in a loud splash. For a moment, I was worried, but she swam out of the water and made it to the edge.
The sight of her, upside down, her long wet hair resting on the board, her feet up in the air, was slightly erotic in itself; but perhaps I would have been stimulated by just about anything she did. Again, as with all other occasions, I dispelled these thoughts from my head as best as I could.
Rita decided it would be her turn to pick challengers.
"Danielle, truth. Frank, dare."
Rita went towards the shallow end of the pool and stood defiantly, water reaching just under her waist. Danielle spoke first.
"Rita... have you ever... touched another person's... sex?"
Danielle's hesitation seemed to suggest that she was shy about inquiring, but I believed she was actually placing emphasis on each section. Rita smiled as she dove down into the water to her neck.
"Sure. I have. Once. Well twice, actually, not counting my own."
"I said another person."
"I know. And it wasn't anything gross... it was just touching."
Rita stared at me as she spoke: it was more than just reminding me that my dare was up. It was truly about seeing my reaction at her admission. I tried to play it cool, but somehow the tension was getting to me again. I decided to be straight with them, even if it meant ending the game there.
"Look, girls... I don't know what you're expecting of me, but..."
"What do you mean?"
Danielle's words seemed so innocent that it was hard for me to continue, but I felt I had to, if only for my own sake.
"Well, it's just... there's a lot of sexual innuendo here, and, frankly, I'm older than you, and..."
"Are we making you uncomfortable?" Rita asked.
"Maybe a little. I mean, I'm just... I don't want you to get the wrong idea."
"What's the wrong idea?"
Did I actually have to spell it out for them?
"Look, I really like you both, and it's fun to play, but don't get your expectations up because I'm not... this is just a game, right?"
Danielle took the time to look me down. It felt awkward but I withstood her gaze. She finally spoke.
"Frank, we're just here to have fun. I... like you too, but if it's too awkward for you to be here..."
"No... believe me, I want to be here, but... I'm just getting mixed signals, that's all. Don't worry about it."
Rita took up the initiative.
"How far are you willing to go?"
"Well, it this is a game, and it has rules, set the rules. What are you willing to do, let's say, for a dare, or rather, what aren't you willing to do?"
I didn't answer. Rita continued.
"If it helps makes you more comfortable... would you kiss me, for example?"
"I might... but nothing more than that."
"Fine. That's a limit. What else?"
"I'm not getting undressed."
"Cool. I'm not getting undressed either."
Rita seemed so confident that my own confidence returned. I looked at Danielle; she seemed to whole-heartedly agree with Rita.
"I'm sorry if I seem... I've never played before, and I do feel a sense of responsibility because I'm older, and Danielle, well... you're Paul's sister, so..."
"Don't I know it."
She laughed about it, which made me laugh in return. The unease and tension were slowly melting back into the background. Rita returned to the game.
"So what do you say, Frank? What's my dare?"
"Well... you have to swim back and forth in the pool, underwater... but, you must swim between both my legs and Danielle's on the way back."
"I'm not done. If you hit one of us, that person gets to... to..."
I froze. I didn't know what to answer. Danielle picked up for me.
"...to slap you in the butt once!"
I gulped. Danielle was smiling.
"Sounds like a dare to me. Okay. Get ready."
We set up the dare. From the shallow end of the pool, Rita would swim to the deep end; then, coming back, Danielle and I would set up in a straight line. Without surfacing, Rita would try to swim between your legs, spread as wide as we could for her ease. Danielle and I agreed not to move our legs at all.
Rita began her swim. The first part was done in mere seconds; the return swim, however, proved more difficult because Rita had to orient herself underwater. She managed to avoid my own legs but hit Danielle's as she was coming up.
"You hit me."
"No I didn't..."
"You did. Show me your butt!"
Danielle was laughing. Rita got halfway out of the water, elevating her behind as she did. Danielle gave her a good loud slap, which had everyone laughing for a moment. Danielle gave her another slap on the other cheek for good measure.
"That's for back talking."
As she returned to the water, Rita rubbed her sore behind. We returned to the middle area of the swimming pool, and the two girls turned to me.
"Okay, Rita you get to ask for a truth, and Danielle, for a dare."
I felt more comfortable with this arrangement; I felt Danielle would be a little more forgiving than Rita in terms of a dare.
"Can I ask anything?"
I was afraid to answer yes to Rita, but I did.
"Do you masturbate?"
I had envisionned such a question. I sighed. Why shouldn't I answer truthfully?
"Yes, I do."
"That's another question..."
Rita made her saddest face. It made me smile. I decided to indulge her.
"Maybe, once or twice a week."
I felt the number may have been a tad higher. Let's just say this was the number for a slow week.
"How do you do it?"
"That's quite enough."
That sad face wasn't going to get me talking more. Instead, I turned to Danielle.
"I've seen you do karate in the water with Paul."
"Do you actually know karate?"
"That's not a dare, but yes, only a few moves though."
"I want you to do five different karate moves while standing on the diveboard. If you fall off, you get a punishment."
"If you fall off, we each slap your butt."
Although the dare didn't seem that hard, I practically knew I would fail it. Still, a dare was a dare - and I didn't really mind the notion of failing at this point. I got out of the water; my suit clung to my body a little too neatly, showing off my attributes. I kept my back to them as I replaced the cloth before moving onto the diving board.
I performed the first two moves without any itch; the third move proved too troublesome to do and I fell face first into the water. I should have avoided kicks. I swam to the surface and paddled my way back to the edge, spītting water out as I did.
"Are you okay?"
"Sure... never better..."
I coughed a few times to speed up my recovery. Danielle and Rita swam up to me, their hands raised.
"You know the drill."
I pulled myself half out of the water, exposing my buttocks to the air; they coordinated their slaps. Thankfully, the wet cloth absorbed most of the impact, but the slaps were almost deafening. The girls giggled as I returned to the water, coughing a few times more.
"Are you good?"
"I am. Thanks."
"Are you having fun?"
Rita seemed extremely pleased. She swam back towards the shallow end, while Danielle remained beside me.
"What's going on here?"
All our faces turned to the voice: Paul was standing at the door, looking into the pool, looking at the three of us. His face was inquisitive, but also somewhat accusatory, at least to my understanding.
His presence suddenly threw my entire equilibrium.
"So... what's going on here?"
Paul had time to repeat his question, and that wasn't a good thing. I was frozen in place, unable to answer. I had no idea how much Paul could have seen. It could theoretically have been a lot without our knowledge: after all, there was a window looking out from the dining room onto the swimming pool. He could have stared through it the whole time. Engrossed in our activities as we were, we would never have seen him.
I looked away from Danielle and Rita, who were fortunately at the other end of the pool, whereas a few moments before that, they were each giving me a slap on my behind, after I failed to complete my dare.
Danielle was the first to speak.
Paul looked at her, then back at me.
"Frank, can I talk to you for a moment?"
Why would I say no? I got out of the water, wrapped a towel around my waist and followed him outside of the swimming area, up the stairs to the dining room.
"Are they bothering you?"
"No. I was just swimming and they came along. No big deal."
Paul was clearly suspicious of something, and my denial only aggravated things.
"Look, Frank, I'm no dummy."
"What do you mean?"
"Is there something going on between you and Danielle?"
"No, of course not."
It wasn't technically a lie, since after all there really was nothing more than just playful banter, but it felt like a distortion of the truth, and it must have transpired in my voice, because Paul looked at me with some disgust.
"Don't tell me you fancy my sister?"
I didn't want to lie, but I didn't want to tell the truth either. Anyway, the truth was more complicated than I could even explain.
"No, Paul, I don't. She's nice and all, but she's thirteen, and she's your sister."
He didn't seem fully convinced but my words did appease him. I continued.
"I was swimming when they came over. We chatted, and I do think that Rita has a crush on both of us."
"Yeah. It's just an older guy thing. It doesn't mean anything."
"I don't think so. We're just more mature and maybe she likes that. She's just dragging Danielle along for the ride, I imagine."
"Yeah, well... don't get any ideas, okay."
"Paul, I would never do anything to hurt you or your family."
My tone finished convincing him that nothing was going on - and it was sincere, since after all, nothing was going on. Nothing more than a friendly, funny game of truth or dare. But it was over now. As quickly as it had started. Given the situation, I wouldn't be able to go there and keep playing. We'd gone a full round. That would be the last time I would ever play with them.
"I'll go get my stuff and meet you in your room, okay?"
"Sure. Don't take long. I have this wicked composition I want to make you hear."
Paul was back to his usual self, his fears dissipated. As he returned to his room, I went back to the pool to pick up the stuff I had left there. Danielle and Rita were both still in the water, awaiting my return. I had to disappoint them. Danielle popped the first question.
"Did he give you a scolding?"
"No. He just cares about you."
"Are you coming back?"
"No... I'll go do some music with him."
I could tell that both Rita and Danielle were disappointed. I was glad they didn't feel the need to hide it anymore. I was disappointed too; I was having fun until Paul came along. But maybe I was having too much fun. Maybe I was allowing myself to believe in chances that weren't there.
"That's too bad?"
"Can't you stay a little?"
Danielle's insisting voice made me smile. I crouched near the water.
"I had fun, I really did. Thank you."
I smilled as Danielle and Rita swam up near me. For a moment, we locked stares; I stared into Danielle's eyes and felt the potential connection, the one I had been dreaming about. How utterly predictable that it would be as fleeting as everything else in my life. I got up from my position, retrieved my clothes and didn't bother looking back. But Rita called out to me.
I turned my head to face them. She climbed out of the water, walked up to me and gave me a big hug. She then giggled, then went back into the water. I left them there, with a smile on my face, a smile which I managed to hide when I finally made it to Paul's room, after drying myself and changing clothes in the bathroom.
"Ah! There you are!"
"Here I am..."
I sat down on the edge of his bed. We talked music. He made me listen to his latest composition, the arrangement of chords and notes. It was actually pretty good, had a nice rhythm to it, something you could almost dance to. A few times during the listening, my mind wandered to the girls in the pool and what they might be doing, but I quickly came back to the moment.
After about an hour of music, we moved into the living room to plug in a movie. We finally plugged in the original Terminator movie and watched it from start to finish. During the final scene where the Terminator is being crushed by the machines, Paul's parents came home. We put the film on hold and welcomed them.
"You aren't in bed yet?"
"No, we'll be going to bed after the movie. It's almost done, anyway."
"All right. Don't stay up late too long."
I was intrigued that I had not seen the girls through the entire watching of the movie; I imagined they had retreated to Danielle's room. It was probably for the best.
The movie ended. Paul and I got into our pajamas, then dropped by the kitchen for a snack before going to bed. My eyes wandered towards the pool but all the lights were out. Paul went straight to his room but i hung out in the dining room for a few moments, eating my cookies and drinking my juice. I was content with my evening, even if it had rattled my feelings quite a bit. I put the glass in the sink and headed towards Paul's room. I stopped as I neared the stairs; I saw the shape of Danielle, dressed in a blue pajama with a teddy bear motif, sitting on the steps. I was about to talk but she put her finger on her mouth. I remained quiet.
She handed me a folded note, then quietly headed back up the stairs. I took the note, unfolded it and read it. My heart skipped a beat.
'Meet me at the pool after two AM, once everyone is asleep. Please.'
I stared at the words long and hard, wondering if this was a joke. But I knew it wasn't. I knew it couldn't be, not after the look she had given me at the pool.
I folded the piece of paper into a ball, put it in my mouth and swallowed it. I said nothing as I entered Paul's room and got to rest on the makeshift bed. He was already under the covers. He turned to me.
"See you tomorrow morning."
"Yeah. Good night."
I didn't want to sleep. I was so tired but I didn't want to sleep. It was barely past midnight. Two hours lying awake in bed. Would she be able to remain awake? Would I? What could happen? What was I expecting?
I was hoping these questions would keep me awake long enough... but what could I really expect from this nightly encounter? What did Danielle want from me? And would I be able to give it to her, whatever it was?
The thoughts would indeed keep me awake, giving the night a surreal effect that would not dissipate until the questions found their answers, after two in the morning, by the swimming pool, with Danielle.
Meet me at the pool after two AM, once everyone is asleep. Please.'
It was barely one AM and already I was unable to stand still. Paul had fallen asleep; at least, that's what his snoring hinted at. I was wide awake. The noise he was making was actually helping me stay awake.
For the past hour, I had been trying to think of nothing. I didn't want to get my hopes up, I didn't want to build up any expectations of what might happen. I wanted to remain as grounded as possible. Given the range of possibilities, it was better to assume nothing. If my expectations fell short and I ended up disappointed, I couldn't have handled it. I had to leave my mind as blank as possible. The thing was, I couldn't.
My mind kept racing over the events of the day. Danielle. Rita. The pool in the afternoon. Watching us play our games. The fire. The truth game. My unease; Danielle's hand on my shoulder. The other swim. The truth or dare game. And then the note.
Mostly, my mind kept on revisiting the many stares and eye contacts I had shared with Danielle over the entire day: subtle hints, more overt glances and downright challenging and inviting stares. They all spoke volumes of some kind of relationship towards me, the details of which I couldn't exactly get a hold on.
One and five minutes. I couldn't remain in bed any longer. Silently, I climbed out of bed and got up; I pulled Paul's door open as little as I could so I could slip through the opening. It didn't make a sound. I walked across the wooden floor as gently as I could, making my way into the kitchen. Whatever fatigue I might have accumulated was not manifesting itself at the moment. I entered the kitchen and, without opening the light, headed for the refrigerator. The light shone when I opened the door; I poured myself a glass of juice and went to sit down at the dining room table.
The house was oddly silent. I expected it to creak and moan; it was after all a large, rather open wooden house. It was quiet tonight. Perhaps it was reading my mood and playing along. In any event, the sense of quiet could not hide my anxiety. Should I go back to bed after my drink, or just sit around and wait for Danielle to show herself.
I lowered my head onto the table, resting my eyes for a moment; a creak on the stairs made me look up. I froze. It was too early. Was she early? I didn't move from my spot. A large, lumbering figure made its way towards the kitchen. It wasn't her. What was going on?
The light came on in the kitchen; their father was somewhat startled to see me sitting in the dining room. He was wearing a large bedrobe, scratching his beard as he stared at me.
"What are you doing up?"
"Couldn't sleep. Decided to get a glass of juice."
"You should get a glass of milk."
His deep voice seemed to echo in the house; I wondered if it would wake anyone up?
He got into the kitchen, reached into the refrigerator and pulled out condiments, stuff to make a sandwich. I watched him as he cut off tomato slices, tore off a piece of lettuce, chopped a piece of cheddar and placed the lot in between two slices of white bread, which he then proceeded to put in the toaster oven. All the while, not a word was said. Once his sandwich was toasting, he turned to me.
"You okay, son?"
"You don't look okay. Want to talk about it?"
Talk about it? What could I tell him? Well, sir, I have a date near the swimming pool at two AM with your daughter who is four years younger than me. No, it wasn't my idea, it was hers. No sir, I have no idea what she wants.
I must have smiled from my inner monologue because he smiled too.
"You look like you have something on your mind."
The toaster beeped, telling him that his sandwich was ready. He retrieved it and came to sit down at the kitchen table. I didn't want to answer him, yet somehow, I didn't want to cut him out either. I needed to find a way to get things off my chest. I need to explain to someone what I was going through. But how could I, especially to him?
"You know, Frank, you've been Paul's friend for a few years now."
"He doesn't see you as often as he would, but we manage."
"I suppose so."
"I guess what I'm saying is you have to treasure the moments you have with the people you like, right?"
I smiled at him. He was making sense, even if his revelations weren't earth-shattering.
"Can I ask you something, sir?"
"Why is everything so complicated?"
"Everything? You mean life?"
"Yes. Why is there always something that gets in the way of happiness, or just fun, or... I don't know... just something?"
"I think it's because we let these things get to us."
He took a bite out of his sandwich before continuing.
"Look at me. I've got a steady job, a big house - but there's always something bugging me. New taxes, problems at work. There will always be something, Frank. I think the trick is not to let it get you down."
"But what if you want something, or need something, but you can't get it because either it belongs to someone else, or it's not right for you to have it, or...?"
He interrupted me with his hand.
"I guess it all depends how badly you want it."
He took another bite.
"The way I see it, son, when you have to make a choice, you have to go with your gut. Not always, reason is good too, but mostly your gut. Your gut will tell you what to do. What choices to make."
"It's so frustrating sometimes, not being able to... connect with others."
"This about friends?"
"Yes. And no. It's about everything."
"What does your gut tell you right now?"
"About whatever your problem is, the one that's keeping you awake."
"That I should wait and see..."
He nodded, as if he agreed with me. I wondered if he actually had a hint of what I was referring to, but how could he?
"Then that's what you should do. Besides, you're still young, you know. You still have plenty of time to make mistakes and learn from them."
His smile was reassuring. There was an odd and eerie feeling emanating from the conversation. He gulped down the last pieces of his sandwich.
"You should get to bed."
"I will. I just need to clear the air."
"If you want to, go take a dip. When I can't sleep, I get in the water and relax for a couple of minutes... then I sleep like a baby."
"Thanks. I may do that."
He got up, put his dirty dishes away. He placed his burly hand on my shoulder, then gave me a pat on the back while heading upstairs. I listened for his footsteps, waiting for him to return to his room. The smell of his sandwich had made me hungry. I decided to prepare myself a light snack. I retrieved two slices of bread, the peanut butter jar, the caramel and proceeded to make myself a peanut butter-caramel sandwich, which I took my time to eat.
I put my own dirty dishes away, then looked towards the swimming pool and headed in. So what if I was early? I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway. Their father had granted me permission; why shouldn't I take advantage of it? My only hope was that Paul wouldn't notice. He was a heavy sleeper, but one could never tell. As I neared the water, I realized I was still in my pajamas, and my swimsuit was nowhere in sight.
For a long moment, I hesitated on what to do. I noticed a towel resting on the window sill. I retrieved it and placed it near the deep end of the pool, With some excitement, I pulled off my pajamas and my underwear, and I entered the pool naked. I was aware that Danielle would be coming over - but my nudity wasn't intended to be provocative at all. I wouldn't allow her to see me naked; which was why I had left the towel so near the edge, ready to retrieve it to cover myself, even if it meant soaking it.
It was roughly one thirty in the morning. I still had about half an hour to kill before Danielle would show herself, if she hadn't lied to me. I had no way to know, but my gut told me that she would show.
Her father was right: following my gut, which was telling me not to fret, not to imagine anything but to just wait it out and see what she had in store, that was the right thing to do.
So I swam naked in the swimming pool, and I felt liberated.
Swimming back and forth in the large indoor pool, completely naked except for my dignity perhaps, I felt at ease. The entire day had taken its toll and my body wanted to sleep, but my mind refused to let it happen. Too much was riding on the next few minutes.
I had come to Paul's house with little expectation more than to have fun with our stories and our music. We'd watched movies, played video games and hung out at the pool, pretty standard stuff. Danielle had been friendly but distant on the first day, not an unexpected reaction given the lack of connectedness we shared.
But today, the second day, had been a roller coaster of emotions, from the moment that Rita had set foot inside the house. She had changed the whole relationship of the household between herself and Paul, Danielle and me, and what else. I was now certain she had goaded Danielle into hanging out with us in the living room, in the pool, near the fire outside. I felt her invisible hand still reaching into the events I was anticipating, Danielle's upcoming visit. For a moment, I wondered if she would be there, but I thought not. This was to be between Danielle and me. All day, we had been prancing and dancing around each other, afraid to get close, eager to try. It wasn't reasonable and maybe it wasn't even right, given our age difference (which I tried to remind myself was only four years, but still), but that was part of the thrill.
Everytime I thought of Danielle's arrival, I became slightly aroused. The water, fortunately, helped dull my senses and prevented me from having a full-on erection. I didn't want to have one when she came in. I didn't want to anticipate anything. I wanted to follow her father's advice, ironically. Had he known what I was inquiring, he might not have been so forthcoming with his words.
And then there was always the possibility of getting caught. That, possibly more than anything else, made this night utterly unpredictable. What would I do if Paul came about? Their mother? Their father? Rita? I had no idea how Danielle would present herself. Maybe she would be in her pajamas. Maybe she would be in a swimsuit. Maybe, like me, she would only have a towel...
It was so hard not to prepare for whatever was coming my way, despite my complete lack of knowledge as to what that could be. I couldn't contain my excitement. I knew I had to find some way to expunge my excess energy. I knew somehow, I had to find a means of release, before the anticipation got me all riled up.
I did something then which, in retrospect, may not have been the brightest idea, but at the time, it felt normal and, even if it might have been inappropriate, it did help me through my ordeal. I reached down into the water and made myself hard; my mind drifted to my earlier thoughts of a more mature Danielle and I did what I had to do to relieve my stress. The water wasn't cold, just somewhat cool, but I felt it get warmer as I went about my business. It didn't take me long to reach my climax; I was wound up so tightly that the process took its natural course within minutes.
I felt my release calm my nerves completely. I almost laughed out of nervousness. I couldn't really believe what I had just done.
Thinking about it now, after the fact, I realize it was best to do it before Danielle showed up. I might have been better off going into the bathroom stall adjacent to the pool, and not do it in the water, but that's only in hindsight, and it's easy to claim after the fact.
I swam around the pool with more ease than before, completely unrepentant in my nudity. So what if Danielle came about and saw a lump of flesh reflected in the surface of the water. There was no shame. I would cover up for her benefit anyway.
It was on those thoughts that I heard the creaking of the door. I swam quickly to the deep end, where I had left the towel, leaning against the side so whoever came in could not see I was naked. If it was anyone but Danielle, it would be disaster.
It was her. She closed the door gently and walked up towards the pool, completely wrapped in a towel from her breasts to her ankles. She smiled at me as she edged near the side, but some distance from me. I felt completely calm for a moment, but then I noticed that I could not see the bra straps of a bikini top - which made me think that she probably wore absolutely nothing under the towel.
I gulped. She was here. It was a bit before two AM and she had kept her part of the bargain.
We didn't exchange any words for the next few minutes, simply staring past each other in order to avoid each other's gaze while keeping our attention trained on the other.
She was here, and now I had nowhere to go.
There are moments in one's life when everything feels right. There are also moments of clarity where an individual does not question his purpose in the world.
That moment when Danielle and myself were staring at each other was one such, and I will remember it for as long as my memory allows. The moment didn't need words, and its perfection could only be altered by our exchanges. Neither of us wanted to break the perfect harmony that dwelled around the pool - but both of us also knew that moments like that are not meant to last an eternity.
I saw Danielle move near the water, towards the middle section of the pool. She crouched and sat on the edge, getting her feet wet. I remained some distance from her, in the deep end, still naked under the blanket of water. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to tempt fate.
"It's nice to see you."
That was all I could muster. I knew my words would break the moment, but I wanted this to proceed, go along whatever path was intended for it. I had been on the receiving end of many heartbreaks in my life, and if this was going to be one of them, I wanted it over quickly. And if Danielle's presence was for another reason, well, I wanted to know that too.
She didn't say much, staring into the water. She was definitely uneasy with the situation. Perhaps she knew I was naked. Perhaps she was naked herself under the towel.
"Do you want me to come out of the water?"
She paused, looking straight at me.
"I'll join you."
She looked left and right, obviously still unsure of her situation.
"Can you turn around... please?"
I did. I looked away from her. I heard the splashing of the water. I wasn't really tempted to look; I didn't want to rush the moment or ruin it. I kept looking away while I heard her swim about.
"You can turn around now."
She had swum to the other side of the pool, also in the deep end. She held on to the edge, her back towards me, her head tilted sideways. I couldn't help but not notice any clothing marks through the oscillating water. She was naked, or at the very least topless. I took a deep breath; I felt an erection coming up. I wondered if she could see I didn't have any bottom. I didn't want to focus on her blurred lower section, for fear of finding out for myself. Perhaps she was feeling the same restraint.
I didn't know what to add. She tried to smile but she was clearly very shy about what was going on.
"Do you really want to be here?"
I cared for her so deeply that I preferred that nothing more happened, instead of this situation potentially messing up whatever relationship we had. But she tried to assuage my fears.
"Yes... I'm just... It's kind of new to me."
"It's very new to me too."
"It's just... Rita..."
"Did she put you up to this? Because, I don't want you to do anything that..."
"Don't worry. I'm... I don't plan... I'm here. I want to be. She just... gave me a little nudge."
I tried to smile and lighten the mood, but my choice of topic might not have been the best.
"I wouldn't want your dad to find us here..."
Her silence made me feel like I had said something wrong.
"Actually, Rita is looking out."
"Yeah... well... sort of. Anyway, it's not important."
"What is then? Why are we here, Danielle?"
I didn't want to sound so direct. I couldn't help it. I just wanted to understand why I was swimming naked in the pool with an equally naked Danielle, and where exactly this was going. She managed a smile, a sincere one.
"You're here because... I like you. And I think you like me too."
"I do. I really do... just..."
"How can I say this without sounding completely old fashionned?"
"Our age difference?"
"It's not that big a deal. I mean, I'll be fourteen in just a few weeks, you turned seventeen, what..."
"Two months ago."
"...two months ago."
As Danielle spoke, she tilted her whole body slowly towards me. Three metres separated us in the water; still, I could see the curve of her breasts rise above the water. I tried to keep my thoughts to the conversation, but my body was clearly turned on by the idea of her nudity, so close to me, so close to mine.
"It's not that big a deal, as I was saying."
"It matters to me... and there's..."
"I know. You know, before this visit, I never even thought of you that way."
"What happened? What changed?"
"I did. I think. And Rita... Rita is special."
"I can see that."
"She's already... had sex, you know?"
"No, I didn't."
"Yeah... anyway, she says she's not going to have it again until she's at least sixteen."
"And I don't really want to have sex... I mean, I'm a... you know..."
"I know. I am too."
"And I'm in no rush to... have sex... it's just..."
She paused. She was having a hard time talking. I tried to be understanding in my answer.
"Hey... no rush, Danielle. You shouldn't until you're ready. I mean... until it means something and you know what you want."
"I know... and... it's just that Rita got me thinking... about you."
"Yeah. I kind of like you, and you're nice... and Paul really likes you, you're sort of his best friend."
"I used to be."
"Still... it's so awkward, feeling like this and... I guess, I just wanted to see if you would be here. And you are..."
I could see she was blushing. I was both flattered and flustered with the entire event. It felt great to finally connect with a girl, with someone for whom I cared and who meant something to me, but at the same time I didn't want to exploit it, and I was certain that, given my maturity, I could. She would probably submit to my charms, given the state of confusion she was in. It wasn't really an issue in my book: I could never take advantage of her, no matter the situation, but it was still somewhat ironic that my first true connection with a girl had to occur under these circumstances.
"That's right, I am. Because I care about you, Danielle. I do. I think you know that."
"Is it love?"
"I don't think we can call what we have love. I think... maybe... you like me because I'm nice to you, and I don't beat up on you like Paul does."
"You are kind of cute."
It was my turn to blush, but I also replied.
"And you're very pretty. You're going to grow up to be such a beautiful woman, I can see it from here."
"I always felt like you were watching me."
"I guess I was. But Danielle, I don't want to hurt you. I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm not going to see you for another year, at least..."
I didn't want to mention to her that I thought this would be the last time that Paul would invite me over. I didn't want to share my uncertainties about my relationship with him. I also didn't want to use her as a means to remain connected with the family, even if I did to some extent. It was so hard coming to grips with all of these different desires.
"And the other thing is, if... if you like me, it's fine, but you're still young, you still have a lot of time to learn about love and relationships, and..."
I fell silent. Why was I backing away from this when all I really wanted was to swim up to her and hold her in my arms? I would be content with simply that. I would be content with a kiss on the cheek. I was pushing her away. It was really the only sensible thing to do.
"Frank, I'm here because I wanted some time alone with you. I know you enjoy our pool so I thought it was best to meet here. Let's face it, we won't really have a chance to talk tomorrow."
"True. I leave right after lunch."
"There. Let's just hang out."
She smiled. The shyness was slowly leaving her face. She was starting to get comfortable with me. The obvious question returned to my head, so I decided to ask. As long as we were being honest, I felt I could ask it. And if she deemed it inappropriate, I felt she would accept an apology.
"Are you naked?"
"Yes. Are you?"
I froze. I had actually not anticipated her asking me the same question. I blurted out a positive answer, which made her laugh. She came back with her own question.
"Does it bother you?"
"No. I mean... it's unexpected. But no."
"Would you like to see more of me?"
I had to take a deep breath before answering that one.
"Maybe not just yet."
"Probably better this way."
She swam to the shallow end, mindful to keep the whole of her body under the water at all times. I followed her movements, mindful to watch one of her buttcheeks peer out of the water, but nothing such happened. When she got to the edge of the shallow end, she sat down. The water actually arrived exactly above the edge of her breasts. It made me smile.
I started swimming towards her. I didn't care so much if my ass stood out. I didn't know what she saw from that angle. I was mindful to keep my lower half hidden. My erection had actually subsided. I felt more at ease with my own body. I sat down in the water as well; being a tad taller, the water levelled right under my nipples. We were roughly two metres from each other. From this distance, I could actually make out the relative shapes of her breasts. It was the most erotic sight I had ever seen.
I decided to start up the conversation anew.
"You're entering high school next year, right?"
"No, I'm already in high school. Second year next year."
"And you're going to college?"
"What are you going to study?"
"Languages. Well, literature and languages."
"Do you have such classes in the high school?"
"Well, we have the option of learning Spanish in the third year."
"Yeah. But I'm probably going to take another option. Maybe computer sciences. I'm not decided."
"You do have a whole year."
As we talked, we waved our arms a little in the water, to steady ourselves. Once in a while, a beat of her arms lifted her bum from the floor, and exposed the upper curvature of her chest. I bit my lower lip at some point.
"Are you all right?"
She smiled at me. Was she aware of the effect she was having on me? This was better than anything I could have anticipated. Who cared about sex when you had a gorgeous, obviously intelligent girl, chatting naked in a pool with you? I didn't want this to go any further. I felt so tranquil enjoying her company, finally being able to enjoy it fully without Paul's presence over my shoulder or even Rita's stare.
"Your college, that's two or three years?"
"Two. I'm thinking of university afterwards."
"Yeah, Paul says you're a good writer."
"Have you ever read any of my stuff?"
"No. Paul keeps it to himself, and I'll be honest, you hero stories don't really interest me that much."
"Don't get me wrong. I like listening to you talking about them, but reading... I'm not so much into that."
"Well, I'm not here to talk about my stories anyway."
She blushed for a moment, and I felt an idea had come into her mind. I stared at her, waiting for her to speak.
"Frank, would you... kiss me?"
The word raced out of my mouth. I quickly added something.
"If you want me to."
"I do. Just a little kiss."
I nodded and leaned forward towards her. It was hard making my way through the water to reach her. My heart was trembling in my chest; I felt my extremities tingle as I neared closer, as her shape became somewhat clearer through the liquid. I noticed she closed her eyes. I didn't. I didn't want to miss my mark and accidentally kiss somewhere I wasn't supposed to.
I was almost on all fours when my lips finally reached hers. I planted a gentle peck; her lips tasted like chlorine, but that wasn't surprising given where we were. I pulled back quickly, but settled down not as far as I initially was.
For a long moment, she kept her eyes closed, pursing her lips. Then she opened her eyes and stared into mine.
I swear that when our lips met, I felt her own heart beating against mine.
My heart was racing. My mind was throbbing with ideas that made it hurt. My penis had become hard again.
I could also see that our contact had triggered some reactions in Danielle: she seemed to be out of breath, swaying back and forth in the water, trying to keep her balance.
We had just kissed.
It had been a gentle peck, the kind that young children give each other when they first learn about kissing. It had felt innocent and sweet. But I wasn't a child anymore. I was well into my teenage years, and Danielle was a young teenager. We were both full of hormones, and unable to fully deal with them.
I managed to speak first.
"Are you all right?"
A wide smile appeared on her lips, and I saw the excitement of the new and forbidden experience appear on her face. She didn't have to answer. I knew exactly how she felt it. Ice had been broken. Something new had just entered the realm of possibilities: we could kiss again, and it could be more intense. It was possible for both of us to take this a step further now.
Somehow, in that moment of triumph and revelation, I got scared. I remembered all my reservations about trying anything with Danielle, all the good and valid points against it. But there was one point for it: I wanted it. But it couldn't be enough. It shouldn't be enough. She was thirteen. I was seventeen. It was my role to be responsible, even if I didn't want to.
She blurted out what I believe was the first thought in her mind.
"I really wanted to do that..."
"I did too. Thank you."
"A-ha! Thank you..."
She brought her arms to her front and crossed them over her chest. She started standing up, stopping midway, exposing her top but covering her chest with her crossed arms, and then she dove sideways into the water, and away from me. I was both turned on by the sight and relieved that she was moving away. She disappeared under the water and reemerged in the deep end, near the edge where she settled. From her new position, she looked at me.
"Is this the first you've gone skinny dipping?"
"It is, actually. You?"
"Once in a while. Not often. And always alone. Well, except one time with Rita, but I don't think that counts."
Her tone was playful. Our kiss had definitely changed things for her. It had also changed things for me, which was part of the problem. The more comfortable I would feel with her, the greater the likeliness of something inappropriate happening. Right now, and until my raging hormones subsides, I decided to remain exactly where I was and settle to watching her from afar.
She came back with conversation.
"This must be so special to you..."
"What do you mean?"
"This is a night of firsts..."
"I guess it is."
I didn't want to tell her what I felt was really making this night special was the way we were actually connecting on some level. My happiness remained tinged with both the notion of the impossibility of our relationship and my imminent departure the next day. I felt like I was torturing myself by staying here, with her, in the pool, but it was such sweet torture that I couldn't leave. She probably realized something was up because she adressed it.
"Are you unwell?"
"No... just... Danielle, I'll be honest, I'm..."
I stopped my sentence, afraid to say more.
"Please go on."
"Well, I'm turned on, right now."
"No... yes, but no."
I looked up at the ceiling, staring into the light for a moment.
"Do you have any idea how this situation, here, makes me feel?"
I laughed. She was absolutely right, of course, but it was more than that. It was heartbreaking to connect so vividly, to be so close and yet so utterly removed.
"Yes. That and more."
"I can't tell you..."
"Why? Is it my age again? I told you, it's not important."
"It is to me, and it's not just that. Danielle... I've never had a girlfriend."
"I've never had a boyfriend, well, not really anyways..."
"And I've never been naked in a pool, let alone with another girl whom I like... a lot... I've never kissed before... it's all so much to take in."
"Bet you think I'm not so cool anymore."
Danielle seemed shocked by my affirmation, my blatant attempt to discredit myself in her eyes.
"If I didn't like you, I wouldn't be here."
"But why do you like me?"
"I just do. Do I need a reason?"
She didn't. I didn't. It was just easier to find one, because a reason could be shot down.
"No, you don't. Danielle, I..."
"You're scared something might happen?"
"Maybe. Or I'm scared something won't. I don't know."
I emphasized that last sentence. Danielle seemed distraught for a moment, but then her smile came back.
"Frank, nothing can happen here that I don't want to happen."
"What makes you so sure of that?"
She stared intently at me.
"First of all, it's my pool, my house. Second, I trust you. I don't think you'd do anything to me. I know you wanted to kiss me, but I had to ask you. Right? You did want to kiss me."
"And if I asked you to do it again?"
"Are you asking?"
My bluntness forced her to consider her answer.
"Kissing isn't so bad."
"No, you're right, but if we start kissing again, and we get going and start making out... I may not want to stop. You may not want to stop."
"And why should we stop?"
"Do you want to... make love?"
Again, my redirection forced her to calmly think about her next words.
"Frank, I... no, well... maybe but... I shouldn't. I really shouldn't."
"We shouldn't, that's the whole point. But if you get me started... I'll want to go all the way."
"Can't we just talk then?"
I felt bad for all I was saying, all the challenges I was setting between us through this interrogation, but I needed everything to be out in the open.
"If we wanted to talk, why are we naked in the pool?"
This time, she didn't have an answer. I hated confronting her with this. It made my stomach hurt. I could see the confusion gathering in her eyes, even from this distance, and it tore me apart to know that not only was I shooting myself in the foot, but also causing her pain. But my question was valid. I had gotten undressed for a purpose, even if it was unconsciously. And she had come over naked. She must have shared some of my desires. Did she want to see me naked? Did she want to expose herself to me? I know I wanted to see her naked, however inappropriate that might be. I wanted to touch her skin, touch her breasts, her stomach, maybe more. I did want to connect physically with her, and the nudity was intended for that specific purpose.
She remained silent for a long while, forcing me to say something.
I looked towards the kitchen window, away from her.
"I'm not very good at this."
I crept up to the edge of the pool, leaning forward against it. I heard splashing in the water but didn't really pay attention until I felt her presence right behind me. I was halfway out of the water by now, my knees bent. The water stopped at my lower back. I peered a little over my shoulder, but realizing she was standing out of the water, I quickly looked away. She seemed unphased.
"You're right, Frank."
I didn't look at her as I spoke, and my gaze was solely focused at the terrazo surrounding the pool.
"About me being naked."
I felt her hand touch my back.
"Frank, shut up please."
I obeyed. I felt her hand slide slowly down my spine, making me shiver. From her position, right behind me, I was sure she could easily make me out from behind, having a good sight of my butt. I hoped she was taking it in. Wasn't it what I had subsconsciously desired. Her hand stopped at my lower back for a moment, then dove into the water and reached the edge of my buttocks. It rested there for a moment, then she removed it.
"Frank, please turn around."
I didn't want to. I didn't want to aggravate my situation. If I turned around, she would see my erection. I would also see her breasts, and whatever else there was to see. But why was I here, naked, if not for her to enjoy my nudity? And why was she here naked, if not for me to enjoy her?
Time stood still as the decision to obey her dragged on in my mind.
Not seeing Danielle's face, I could not tell what my rejection of her offer was doing to her. But I was adamant. I couldn't turn around. It was bad enough we were both naked in the pool, it was bad enough I was exposing my naked behind to her, I wasn't about to degrage my ethics and morality any more by turning and looking at her naked and exposed body.
"Can I at least know why?"
I didn't answer right away, so she continued.
"Is it because you don't find me attractive?"
The dreaded question... how could I get out of that one?
"No... you're so beautiful..."
"Are you afraid you'll go blind?"
Now she was just being silly. She was referring to the mythical nymph creature of the woods, that no man can stare at lest he go crazy or blind.
"I am afraid, Danielle. Afraid that if I look at you, I won't want to look away."
"And why should that be so bad?"
"Can't you see what this is doing to me?"
For a long moment, she remained silent. I stared at the terrazo, hoping the moment would pass. I had confronted her about our respective nudities and she had called my gambit. She had pushed forward, whereas I expected her to retreat. She was definitely more agressive than I was, and I should have been flattered, but I was so utterly scared of the consequences that I refused to even consider the possibility. She finally answered my question.
"You're doing this to yourself. I'm not doing anything."
I felt her back away into the water. I gave a quick look across my shoulder and saw her swimming back towards the deep end of the pool. I silently cursed myself for my reluctance to get involved, for my morals and precepts. I hated myself so much at that moment, I wanted to die. She must have been furious as well because she barely looked at me. I immersed myself completely, only bringing out my head up to my shoulders.
She had settled at the opposite end of the pool. As she spoke, her words echoed across the surface of water.
"You know, Frank, some people might be flattered..."
I felt so bad for holding back. I wanted to cry. I wanted everything she offered so badly, and everything in me told me that it was wrong, but it was all I wanted. I didn't want to care about consequences, responsibilities and all those things that were keeping me back.
"You're always too damn safe."
She swam back into the water and got under the diving board, her back towards me. She jumped up out of the water, grabbing hold of the diving board, exposing her naked back to me as she pulled herself halfway up. She lifted herself up and down a few times, and I could only stare at her perfect silhouette, still developing, the water glistening off her muscles as she exercised. She dumped herself back into the water and swam towards the middle section, until she could tiptoe at the bottom. She walked as far as she could so her head and shoulders woulds stick out, then she stopped.
The tone in her voice was agressive. She was frustrated by my constant rejection of her advances. I had accomplished my goal. She was mad at me. What a victory! I felt like throwing up.
"I hate myself..."
I felt the anger instantly subside in her voice and turn to pity. It wasn't much better from where I was standing.
"Why don't you let go? Why don't you give in?"
"Because... I wasn't born... I'm responsible and I'm really really... I'm just sick of everything and..."
I looked down into the water at my blurry feet.
"Frank, please look up."
I did. She was smiling at me.
"Don't look away. Please."
As she said this, she started inching her way forward, her body moving gently closer to mine, the water level slowly sliding lower onto her body. My mind told me to look away but my heart wanted to obey her. I was tired and confused, but most importantly weak from all my resistance to her overtures. I was enticed by her presence and oblivious to anything else, so I stared, somewhat absent-mindedly, as she waded her way up the slope.
Slowly, her breasts rose out of the water; the light waves hid them from sight for a moment, then rescinded and exposed their curve to me. Her nipples were erect; her breasts were small but clearly defined, and my eyes followed the curve from the shoulder connection to the middle of her chest. I watched as she moved still closer to me, exposing the upper portion of her stomach, then her belly button. When the floor levelled, she was no more than a metre from me, the water settling just above her waist. I looked up from her exposed chest to her gorgeous lips, then up again to her expressive eyes. All of her being was smiling.
"See... it's not so bad."
She giggled a little.
"Do you want to kiss me again?"
"Danielle... I... I'm so scared..."
She covered her chest with her hands.
"Close your eyes."
I couldn't believe it. I was supposed to be the mature one and she was the one taking charge. The roles were so dramatically reversed it didn't make sense to me, but I went along with it. It was easier to submit to her will than to fight with my own morality. I closed my eyes, and I shut all my other senses as best as I could, save for my skin, which felt the constant tug of the water. I sensed her breath nearing mine and her lips once again connected with mine. I shivered all over; her lips remained on mine for several seconds, sending waves of emotion through my entire being.
When she pulled away from me, I opened my eyes. She was inches from my face. I bit my lower lip. I tried to lean forward to kiss her again, but she placed a finger on my lips, so I stopped.
"Not now. You get a third kiss later. I promise. A passionate one."
This last kiss had all the makings of passion in my book, but the promise of more made my heart race. She was still holding one arm across her chest, half covering her gorgeous breasts. She was smiling again.
"I love to see you smile."
This made her smile even more. She slowly backed away and I forced myself not to pursue her. My instincts wanted to hold her in my arms and never let her go, but I knew she was calling the shots. She had been calling them from the start, I just hadn't been aware of it before that. As she established some distance between me and her, she inquired as to my state of being.
"Are you okay, now?"
"Maybe... I'm okay."
"Are you certain? Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?"
So many ideas popped into my head at the same time, it was frightening. I, of course, immediately told them to be quiet. None were appropriate to the moment or the situation.
"I'm good... You're so beautiful..."
Her beauty made me feel inadequate. Somehow, she represented an ideal and I felt I didn't live up to it. I wasn't that athletic or strong, or even that good-looking. I had always imagined myself to be pretty average. What could such a lovely young person see in me? It made me sad to think about it, so I decided to completely ignore the issue. Besides, it wasn't serving any goal. It wasn't up to me anymore how far we went. I was in her hands.
"What do you want to do?"
She grinned at me for a moment, and I could tell she was having naughty thoughts as well. I was glad that she didn't act on them. At some point, I would have had to say no, and that would have hurt even more.
"Do you like what you see?"
She paused for a moment, seemingly considering her next move.
"All right, Frank... I want us to go out of the water."
"You can walk out first. I want you to lie down on the floor - get a towel. Lie down, face first, and close your eyes."
"Okay. And then?"
"Then, I'll come out... I can look away if you don't want me to see your..."
She couldn't say the word, not even a euphemism. It made me smile.
"I would prefer that."
"All right. Just go then. I'll look away."
She turned her head. I didn't know if she would show as much restraint as I had previously, when she had first entered the water, but I didn't really care. The thought of her looking away was enough for me. I rose out of the water from the stairs and quickly retrieved a towel, which I wrapped a moment around my waist. I made my way across the pool and lay down. Luckily, my erection had subsided, which sort of surprised me, given the level of excitement I was in. I didn't bother about it too much. I simply got down on the towel, facing down, and waited.
I heard her step out of the water and walk around. She also retrieved a towel and set it down beside me; she then laid down on it. I tried not to look directly at her as she did, but my eyes were drawn to the curves in her body. When it rested on the towel on the floor, my eyes went to her face. She placed her hair to the side, then tilted her head towards me.
"You have a nice butt..."
I must have blushed from the comment. She had obviously seen it well while setting up beside me.
"Am I too forward? I thought guys liked that."
"Did Rita tell you that?"
"Yes, she did."
"Well, it's true. I like it. It's unsettling, though. I'm really... conflicted about it."
"I can tone it down, maybe."
"Danielle, be yourself. Don't make yourself up for me..."
"Okay. I won't."
I was ecstatic now. We were resting on towels next to each other by the side of the pool, in the middle of the night, completely naked except for our mutual understanding and respect. Giving her the reins of our encounter was the best thing I could do, and it was still possible for me to take control if anything went too far. Why should I limit myself if she didn't? I wanted this to go well. I wanted to learn to trust her. Most of all, I wanted to learn to trust myself. Even if it meant that I could get hurt in the process.
Over our heads, the clock in the corner of the room showed it was half past two. The house was silent, and only the murmur of the water valves kept us company in that moment of intimacy.
I looked across at Danielle and smiled. The buzz of the mall was now little more than background in my head. I knew she had been recalling the same events as I had. We were both blushing.
"Remember that last kiss?..."
She looked away for a moment, her mind still in the memory. She didn't answer my question.
"I can't believe I did that... I mean, I was so forward."
"And I was so shy. But Danielle, it's not like anything really happened between us."
"Still, it meant something."
She smiled as she said so.
"You were the first guy I ever got that far with."
"Getting naked, you mean?"
I must have smiled a lot because she came back with a question.
"You're awfully cheery."
"I was just thinking how utterly insouciant we were... do you know what would have happened if your father or even Paul had seen us?"
She looked scared for a moment, picturing the scene.
"I would have been grounded for weeks!"
"I would have been dead..."
We both laughed it off. We had managed to avoid being caught that night. It had been the best night of my life, and I hadn't had any other better than that. The pool, the nudity, the closeness, everything had coalesced into one memorable and unforgettable moment. I knew Danielle probably felt most of what I did. And now, looking at her adult figure, looking at her nineteen years instead of her thirteen, I was glad I hadn't acted upon any urge at the time. I had been right. She was gorgeous, a marvel of beauty and grace. And I was still the same regular guy, nothing much to speak of. That feeling of inadequacy came back and I sneered.
"It's nice to see you again."
"Yeah. You too."
The moment of our parting seemed appropriate; revisiting old memories could only take us so far, after all. I shook her hand and kissed her cheeks.
"Well, I might see you around."
I went to move and return to my interrupted routine, but her hand grabbed my forearm. I turned to her.
She simply smiled, leaned in, and placed her lips against mine. I shivered under the touch. She backed away, not letting go of my forearm.
"What was that for?"
"That third kiss I promised... I never did give it to you."
"You didn't need to."
"I think I did."
She seemed perplexed. I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her everything was all right, but somehow that felt inappropriate. I didn't know what to do.
"Are you okay?"
"I am. It's just... seeing you... I really have to go."
"But I... I want to see you again."
She looked away, as if the request was shameful.
"Can I... call you?"
I gave her my number. Only once I had written it down on a piece of paper and given it to her did she let go of my forearm and smile again.
"Thanks. I'll call you."
"I will... I promise."
As she turned to walk away, I could tell something was up. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do about it, not until she opened up to me, not until we had another chance to chat. But the ball was in her court again; my number was now our only link, and only through her volition would we be reunited.
Somehow, it seemed appropriate to leave everything in her hands.