Get Away with Martha Hall
Warning: sex and strong language
Summer, nine years earlier
The first thing Natalie Overmars thought when she saw the girl on the pier was now that’s worth the price of admission. This had been her impresario grandfather’s ultimate expression of satisfaction in an act: Tommy Steele, Adam Faith and Cliff Richard had all be worth the price of admission. The phrase quickly became a family byword for anything remarkable and good: cod and chips on the front at Brighton, an unexpected tax rebate, the girl on the pinball machine.
Natalie stood with her arms folded across her chest and watched as the girl played, furious energy sparking around her like summer lightning. She was three fine days and a thunderstorm as she trapped the ball bearing with a solid plastic flipper, letting it drift to the tip before she released it with a flick of her fingers to scream up the playfield, ricocheting and repeating off the bumpers and bells. Unconsciously, she pushed and thrust her hips against the frame of the machine; warmth flooded through Natalie with each flick, each thrust.
Concentration coloured the girl’s face, the sun had coloured the rest of her; legs and arms tanned where they emerged from cut-offs and a plain white T shirt. Dark brown hair flopped forward as she leant over the machine, her shoulders dipping as she stepped back.
Maybe this holiday wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
The phone was ringing. Natalie pressed the red button and spoke into the stick microphone on her headset.
“Good morning, Ecopower. This is Natalie, how may I help you today?”
“Hi, it’s me”
“Donna, you know I’m not supposed to have personal calls”
“Why d’ya give me the number then?”
“In case of emergencies”
“How d’ya know this isn’t an emergency?”
Donna was eating. Natalie heard the rustle of the packet and the amplified crunch. She sighed.
“You wouldn’t be eating crisps if it was an emergency”
“Okay, it’s not an emergency but it is important. Listen, babe, can you book off the first week in July?”
“I guess. Why?”
Excitement crackled down the phone almost as loudly as the crisps. Natalie shifted in her seat, waiting for the bombshell.
“I’ve been saving tokens from the paper”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, it does”
“Alright, it was The Sun, but at least it wasn’t The Daily Mail. And I didn’t buy it. I got the tokens off Dave in packing”
“O that’s okay then”
Donna either didn’t notice, or simply chose to ignore, the sarcasm in Natalie’s voice. She ploughed on.
“So, right, we can go for twelve quid each”
“Go where, Don?”
“The caravan park of our choice”
“Caravan park? Have you lost your marbles? What would we do at a caravan park? We’d be surrounded by families”
There was a pause. Natalie could hear breathing on the other end of the line so she knew Donna was still there. When her friend spoke again, her voice was hesitant.
“You know if I could pick my family it would be you and Kris”
Natalie pushed a paper clip around the desk. It was hard to refuse Donna anything when she said things like that.
“Alright, I’ll think about it. Look there’s someone on the other line, I’ve got to go”
Donna was cheerful again.
“Okay, babe, ring me later”
“I will. Good morning, Ecopower. This is Natalie, how may I help you today? I can certainly check that for you, madam, if you’d like to give me your account number – ”
Seven days in a static caravan with your best friend and her girlfriend could’ve
been a relationship shattering disaster but they’d been lucky with the weather. The sun had shone for five days in a row and the sixth was no exception. Natalie had spent the best part of the week by herself, walking for miles along the tarmac front. The first day she’d tried to walk the beach but it was hard work in the heat, the pebbles sapping the strength from her legs. The prom was smooth and flat, and she could see enough of the sea, enough half naked people slowly turning to shrimp. The air was heavy with ozone, caramelised sugar and petrol fumes. Hot and full: the Great British seaside.
Natalie had strayed onto the pier for variety, something else to do, and had let herself be seduced by the easy thrills and cheap glamour of the amusement arcade. And that was when she saw the girl. Natalie wanted to send herself a postcard: wish you were here? She was a stick of rock with LUST written through the heart in blood red letters.
She hadn’t realised she’d moved closer to the girl until she saw the fine hairs at the nape of her neck as she tipped her head forward. A loud blare from the machine made Natalie jump but the girl was oblivious to everything apart from a sudden influx of balls skittering around the board. For a minute and a half she kept all five metal balls in perpetual motion, dropping them into holes, fluttering through gates, the digits clocking up her score. Natalie was so delighted she couldn’t keep it in.
“That was fantastic”
The girl looked up, surprised, and one by one the balls clunked down between the stationary flippers. She turned her attention back to the machine just as the banner Game Over ran across the screen. Natalie was mortified.
“Shit, I’m sorry”
The girl shrugged.
For someone so young, she had an unusually husky voice. It made Natalie want to wrap her legs around her. Instead she put her hand into the pocket of her shorts and pulled out a pound coin. She pressed it into the girl’s palm. The girl stared at the coin and then glanced up at Natalie.
“I can’t take this”
“Yes you can. It’s my fault you lost. And – well – it’s good to watch you, you know, watch someone doing what they’re good at”
A slow smile crept over the girl’s face.
“If you’re sure – ”
Natalie matched the smile.
“Yes, I’m sure”
The pound coin was hot from the woman’s pocket, was hot in Lauren’s palm. She closed her hand around it, rubbing her other hand on the denim of her cut-offs as she risked a glance at the woman. She could only take her in in brief flashes, overlapping sensation: the sound of her, the smell of her, the look of her.
The visual impression was monochromatic: black hair, white skin, black eyes and arching eyebrows; the surprise of a red mouth, the draw of white teeth, the tip of a red tongue. There was no doubt she was a woman, utterly different from the girls at school, different from Matty. Lauren let an image of Matty, wet swimming costume clinging to her tiny breasts, be obliterated by the tilt of this woman’s full hips, the curving breasts under the flimsy cotton of her short sleeved shirt. She smelled of fabric conditioner, Calvin Klein and something deeper, darker that Lauren didn’t recognise. The urge to nuzzle into her warmth was so strong it was only her tight grip on the pinball machine’s edges that stopped her.
The woman had moved closer, she was leaning against the machine, her hand only inches away from Lauren’s. When Lauren looked at her, she smiled: white teeth, red tongue.
“So are you on holiday?”
Lauren shook her head.
“No, I’m celebrating”
The woman arched a black eyebrow.
Lauren’s eyes dropped down to the coin slot. The pound was still pressed into the palm of her hand. She opened her fingers; recently minted, the dragon blinked in the sunshine that flooded in through the open door. She flipped it over and looked at the Queen’s profile.
“It’s my birthday”
“Well, many happy returns. Can I ask how old you are?”
Nonchalance barely covered anxiety in the woman’s question. Lauren glanced quickly out of the corner of her eye; the woman appeared composed but she pushed her free hand through her hair with a nervous gesture.
The woman’s laugh was genuine, and relieved.
“Eighteen? That’s a great age to be. I wouldn’t mind being eighteen again. So – ”
The nonchalant tone had returned.
“– is your boyfriend going to show you a good time tonight?”
Startled, Lauren looked straight into her eyes and figured her expression had given her away as the woman gave her a silky smile, leaning in a little and pitching her voice low.
To her horror, colour flooded Lauren’s face and her stomach knotted. She was unable to hold the woman’s gaze. She hoped the woman read it as shyness or embarrassment, prayed she wouldn’t guess the truth. Lauren, what are you’re doing? Matty’s hands on her chest, pushing her away. Matty running off to leave her standing stunned and stupid. The backs of her eyes started to itch and burn; she closed her hand tight around the coin, her nails digging into skin.
However, it would seem that her prayer had been answered; the woman hadn’t noticed, or if she had, she had interpreted it as something else. Her head was cocked to one side.
“I’m meeting my friends later – ”
She ran her hand through her hair.
“ – would you like to come out with us?”
Lauren didn’t even think about it.
The woman’s smile broadened.
“O that’s great. My name’s Natalie, by the way”
“Meet us at the end of the pier at eight. Lauren – ”
She suddenly looked uncertain.
“ – you will be there won’t you?”
“Yes, Natalie, I’ll be there”
When Lauren got back to the flat, two envelopes and a small box wrapped in red paper were on the kitchen table. She recognised the handwriting on both. She picked up the one on top, stamped and franked, the black block writing neat as it was on every Christmas and birthday card. Lauren frowned for a moment before putting it into the rubbish bin, relishing the clang of the lid as it dropped. The other card had just her first name written on it; it had obviously been hand delivered. Lauren hesitated. A large part of her wanted it to join the other, unwanted and unopened amongst the used tea bags and broken egg shells, but instead she slid a trembling finger under the envelope’s flap and tore it open.
A banner across the top of the card read My Best Friend, and underneath was a cartoon of two girls holding hands, one dark haired, the other blonde, both grinning their heads off. Under the dark girl, Matty had written you and under the blonde was me. She’d pressed hard with the biro, Lauren could feel the indentation on the reverse side of the card. She didn’t read the message inside; she slipped the card back into its envelope and picked up the package.
It was a jewellery presentation box, and when she lifted off the top, nestled inside the fabric packaging was a plain silver ring. Inside the ring was an inscription; Lauren tilted it towards the window so she could read it: L.R., Friends Always, M.H. It was a perfect fit.
Lauren saw Natalie before Natalie saw her. She was standing outside the fortune teller’s booth reading the cuttings that had been there as long as Lauren could remember, yellowing with each progressive season until the photos had turned blue and all that could be made of the faces were dark smudges for eyes and white gaps for smiles. The year before on her birthday, Matty had dared Lauren to have her palm read. She’d laughed about it afterwards but at the time she’d been unsettled by what the woman had said; she described things that only Lauren knew, home truths she’s rather have kept hidden, and told her about a future she’d been too squeamish to contemplate. Lauren couldn’t picture the woman’s face, all she could remember were the gold rings on the fingers of both hands, the heavy bracelets and chains that clanked as the woman gripped Lauren’s wrist, looked her in the eye and said Happiness will elude you because you’ll let it. Lauren shook her head to clear the memory, and smiling, walked towards Natalie, who’d noticed her now and was making a gesture that was meant to be a wave but was more a sigh of relief.
Natalie couldn’t suppress her excitement when she saw Lauren approach the fortune teller’s caravan. Dressed in black trousers and a loose, pale yellow shirt, she looked older than she had on the pier but she was still fresh faced and beautiful. Natalie felt her heart thudding in her chest and her mouth was dry. She ran the tip of her tongue over her lips before catching the bottom one between her teeth.
“Is that her?”
Donna was at her shoulder, looking where she was looking, directly at Lauren.
Natalie turned to glance at her friend, frowning at the avaricious expression on Donna’s face.
Donna had been her closest friend since Natalie had worked at the sorting office the Christmas of her first year at college, and Natalie loved her dearly but also knew that when it came to women, Donna couldn’t be trusted to remember who her friends were. Queasiness swam through Natalie and settled heavily in her stomach; if Donna decided to make a play for Lauren, Natalie wouldn’t stand a chance. She couldn’t compete with either of her companions; Donna’s Greek-Cypriot and Kris’s Trinidadian genes outclassed her own Dutch-Jewish. Donna’s jet black hair fell in natural corkscrew curls around her heart shaped face; Kris’s smooth dark brown skin was warm and glowing, inviting touch. Both women were slim and leggy, Natalie impossibly short and dumpy in comparison; she was all hips and breasts, her body a throwback to an aesthetic no longer fashionable, no longer desirable. But then Lauren smiled directly at her and Natalie found herself smiling back.
Faced by two women she’d never met and one she’d only met briefly, Lauren was suddenly shy, and ran a hand through her hair. She was dismayed to see how glamorous the three friends were; acres of brown, olive and white skin were on display, Lauren was uncertain where to look. The women were so definitely feminine, she wondered if she’d misinterpreted Natalie’s earlier interest; however, Natalie’s friend, the one with the curly hair, was watching her with an expression that made Lauren feel like a gazelle at a watering hole. She ran a hand through her hair again, trying to dispel the discomfort. Glancing at Natalie, she was surprised to see uncertainty on her face. Lauren gave her a weak smile.
The uncertainty evaporated with the heat of Natalie’s smile. She lightly kissed Lauren, who felt it as warm breath on her cheek, before tucking her hand into the crook of Lauren’s arm.
“No, honey, not at all. You’re perfect. Not many people can pull off yellow but on you it’s stunning. Must be your colouring”
Natalie slid her hand down Lauren’s arm until she could link fingers. She pulled Lauren close to her side and whispered.
You could tell by looking at him that the bouncer was going to be a problem. He was stopping one in four people in the queue, his squashed face creased with concentration, unmoved by the pleas of the teenagers he sent away. When it got to their turn at the door, he was true to form, letting Natalie, Donna and Kris pass with a simple flick of his thick neck. When it came to Lauren, his arm fell in front of her chest.
Lauren was unsure what to do. It wasn’t the first time she’d been refused entry to a pub or club. Ordinarily she shrugged and went off to try somewhere else, but usually she was either by herself or with people who were similarly turned away. This time, however, she was outside on her own, the others standing just inside in the foyer, but not for long. All three were back out, crowding around the bouncer, flashing smiles and cleavage, their bodies making promises they had no intention of keeping. In the face of such an onslaught, the bouncer started to cave.
“How old are you?”
His eyes narrowed.
“Can you prove it?”
Natalie rested her hand on his arm and looked up at him, her black eyes half closed, her full red lips in a slow smile.
“Come on, Steve – ”
He was startled that she knew his name despite the fact it was embroidered on the chest of his bomber jacket.
“ – who takes their passport when they go out? It’s her birthday today. You must remember what it was like on your eighteenth birthday”
“We promise to look after her”
The double meaning of Donna’s remark wasn’t wasted on Natalie, but she let it go as it seemed to have done the trick with Steve. His face told her he was making a decision.
He was. The young girl in the yellow shirt looked like a dyke and was probably underage, but the other three were fit, and the manager always liked to have fit girls in the place. It drew in the lads, the ones who really spent the money. He wouldn’t have minded a crack at them himself, especially the little dark haired one with the fantastic tits.
“Go on then, but any trouble and you’re out on your ear”
Natalie didn’t need to be told twice; she grabbed Lauren’s hand and dragged her into the foyer.
The thud of the bass hit Natalie in the chest as it did in every club she went into, gay or straight. She felt her heart beat match to it, excitement spurting through her veins with her blood. She knew better than look beyond to coloured lights and dry ice because she was sure it would be nicotine stained paint running with condensation, sticky carpets and no hand towels in the ladies. Like fairgrounds in the daylight, it would take away the magic, kill the mood, and her mood was as bouncy and happy as the handbag house coming out of the speakers. It had been another glorious sunshine day, and she was in a night club with a beautiful girl who was at least good for a dance, maybe even a snog, and at best – well, who was to know?
Natalie wished they were in a gay club, or somewhere more chilled out and less of a meat market. This one reminded her of the places she and her mates had gone to when they were younger even than Lauren. They had always managed to pass for older: a combination of make up, clothes and attitude. They knew that being young and attractive went a long way, especially when part of the allure was the hint and promise of illicit sex. Natalie glanced at Lauren; she was standing with her hands in her pockets, attempting to appear as if she did this every day. Perhaps she did, but Natalie doubted it; there was a tension in her shoulders, a set to her jaw. Natalie ran the edge of her nails along Lauren’s arm, smiling when the girl jumped.
“What would you like to drink?”
Natalie leant in to speak directly into Lauren’s ear, delighting in the tremor that shot through the girl. She let her lips brush Lauren’s ear.
“What would you like to drink, baby?”
“Er, a bottle of Becks?”
But before Natalie could push her way through the men crowding around the bar, a grinning Donna appeared in front of them holding four shot glasses between her fingers. Kris had a small salt shaker and four slices of lime.
“Let’s get this party started”
The ritual of tequila shots: the salt of the lick, the heat of the spirit, the tang of the citrus cutting through everything. Natalie loved the sensual intimacy it brought, whether it was between two people or six. It signalled upcoming good times. But it was the promised intimacy that bothered Natalie now. Donna had taken Lauren’s hand, sprinkling salt in the dip between thumb and index finger; standing closer than was really necessary as she handed Lauren a glass, laughing her best seductive, tigress laugh as Lauren winced at the taste of the tequila; slipping the slice of lime between Lauren’s lips, her voice low and throaty.
“Next time we should do body shots”
That was too much. Natalie grasped Lauren’s hand and pulled her towards the dance floor.
“Is your friend always so full on?”
Lauren’s relief at being freed from Donna’s attentions was evident, and Natalie felt her mood start to bounce again.
“She was off the day they did subtlety at school”
Lauren’s laugh sent a thrill down Natalie’s spine, one that quickly worked its way round to the front to happily settle between her legs.
“Please tell me you dance”
“I guessed you must, the way you were moving your hips playing pinball”
“Moving my hips?”
“Yeah, like this”
Natalie pretended to hold onto the frame whilst her hips made an exaggerated thrusting motion; raising an eye brow.
“I’d like to see you put that movement to good use”
Lauren flushed scarlet. Natalie relented, taking her hand and leading her to the steps that lead down to a sunken area surrounded on three sides by mirrors. The DJ booth was set above them; they could just make out the figure behind the decks, concentrating on cueing up the next record. Natalie nudged Lauren and pointed up to the booth.
“It’s a girl”
“The DJ’s a girl. How cool is that?”
Natalie watched as the DJ cupped one half of her headphones over her ear. For a moment, the two tracks came together, creating something new; a feral joy surged through Natalie: she couldn’t get enough. Suddenly, the DJ looked up and seeing Natalie, gave her a pitch bending grin. Natalie grinned back, and putting her hands on Lauren’s hips, pulled her close.
There is was again: Natalie’s scent. Lauren could recognise CKone anywhere; sometimes the corridors at school were so heavy with it, it caught in the back of her throat; teenage boys and girls attempting to achieve the sexual maturity and ambiguity of the strung out models in the adverts. The smell was so ubiquitous it was almost repellent, but on Natalie it was different. It was the same scent Lauren had caught on the pier, only closer, and again she wanted to bury her face in Natalie’s neck and chase the warmth of her pale skin. The heat suffusing her body wasn’t just the firing of tequila or the sweltering night club; it was in the core of her. With Matty there had been a fluttering in her chest, a light-headedness, but nothing as visceral as this; nothing as urgent and incendiary as this flashpoint, her hips and Natalie’s: flesh and bone to flesh and bone. Her face was burning, she knew, she could feel it, and when her eyes locked onto Natalie’s, she saw a slow smile creep across the other woman’s face. Knowing her eyes gave her away, she tried to break contact but Natalie wouldn’t let her. She was rooted to the spot by eyes so deep and black they appeared bottomless. Lauren felt an almost painful thudding in her chest, a twinge of something close to fear, but then Natalie half closed her eyes and the connection was broken. Lauren’s gaze dropped to Natalie’s full red mouth so close to her own she could just reach out and kiss it. Natalie gently shook her head, stroking the tips of her fingers along Lauren’s lips, her voice a whisper.
Lauren snapped to, suddenly aware of the people around her, specifically the men who were watching them keenly, a variety of expressions on their faces. Lauren stepped away, trying to put distance between herself and Natalie, but Natalie seemed unperturbed by the attention. She curled a finger around one the belt loops of Lauren’s trousers and pulled her in close again, Lauren’s eyes closing as Natalie’s breasts pushed against hers. When she opened them, a man’s face leered at her over Natalie’s shoulder, he noticed her looking at her and the leer turned into a cocky grin, he moved towards the two women. CKone: it wasn’t right that the man in the baggy pale blue shirt and the plastered down hair, his fringe fingering his forehead, should smell of the same scent as Natalie. Except it wasn’t the same. On Natalie, the fragrance had blended into the warmth of her skin, had become complex and multilayered, promising something close and intimate; on the man, only a little older than she was when she looked at him closer, it was a chemical wash, an attempt to cover a smell she remembered from school. Too many hormones, too much sweat and frenzy; a thick, cloying boy smell she associated with spunk, even though she’d never encountered it and never wanted to. The boy, he really was no more than a boy Lauren decided, a holiday maker, his face red and shiny from too much sun in the day and too much beer at night, was staring at Natalie.
“Can I get yous girls a drink?”
He didn’t look either of them in the face, instead he addressed Natalie’s breasts. Disgusted as she was, Lauren couldn’t blame him, the way they curved in the front of her dress made them hard to miss, even harder to resist. She was finding it hard to stop looking at them herself. Natalie laughed.
“Face is up here, buster”
The boy flushed but dismissed it with an arrogant shrug. Lauren didn’t want his drink, she wanted to get away from him and be back with Natalie’s hand on her hip. But Natalie seemed to be encouraging him.
“What’s your name?”
“Well, Barney, you can buy me a vodka and Coke and my friend would like a Becks, isn’t that right, baby?”
Almost against her will, Lauren nodded. Barney’s eyes flicked between her face and to where Natalie had draped herself across her shoulder, pressing her warm body into Lauren’s side. He couldn’t believe his luck, it was written all over his face; he gave them a cocky grin.
“A voddy and Coke and a Becks comin’ right up then”
Lauren watched as he pushed his way into the crowd at the bar, his head already full of porn mag fantasies of Natalie doing Lauren while he watched, stepping in at the last moment to finish them off. Lauren shrugged Natalie off her shoulder and turned to her, scowling. Natalie laughed.
“O God, girl, your face!”
“What did you do that for? We’ll never got shot of him now”
Natalie leant in and spoke directly into Lauren’s ear, she felt the warm breath unfurl against her skin, bringing her blood to the surface.
“On the contrary, if I’d told him no he’d have pestered us all night. It’ll take him ages to get served, which gives us time to make our escape. Come on”
She grabbed Lauren’s hand and pulled her off the dance floor in the opposite direction from the bar and Barney. Lauren caught a glimpse of Donna and Kris; Kris was gesticulating, her face contorted with anger, Donna’s expression dismissive in response. Natalie didn’t seem to have noticed her friends, she was intent only on the exit and Lauren let herself be led.
Outside on the street the air was cool in comparison to the inside the club, and Lauren felt it against the sweat that had pooled in the small of her back, soaking the fabric of her shirt. A line of people still waiting to get into the club snaked up the pavement in front of shops shut up for the night. Girls were staring, glassy eyed at the mannequins in the window of Top Shop, with short skirts and high heels, tiny handbags only large enough for their mobiles and lipstick. Lauren recognised one of them from school: Michelle Enderby, with her aggressively blonde highlights; she was a friend of Matty’s since primary school, one who’d never attempted to hide her dislike of Lauren. Not that Lauren really cared, it wasn’t as if she wanted to be friends with Michelle, but on seeing her, Lauren stalled. Michelle had been at Jemma’s party. Lauren’s abrupt stop made Natalie stumble, and she turned to face her with a puzzled look.
“You okay, babe?”
The concern brought Lauren back to herself. If Michelle had seen her, she wasn’t acknowledging it. She was talking to a bloke Lauren didn’t know; judging by the effort Michelle was putting into flirting he was probably a holiday maker, far more worthy of her attention than the dull local boys. Relief washed in like a crested wave and brought excitement back with it. She glanced at Natalie, who was watching her with a raised eyebrow, her eyes slightly narrowing as Lauren’s smile broadened. There was no mistaking what was in those dark eyes, even someone with Lauren’s lack of experience. Lauren was on a promise. A pulsing throbbed in the girl’s chest, down through her belly and became a tightening between her thighs. Natalie pulled gently until Lauren was standing just in front of her, but was cautious enough not to kiss her in front of the bouncers and the queue.
“Why don’t you take me home?”
“Where are you staying?”
Natalie shook her head.
“No, not there. I’m sharing a caravan with Donna and Kris. It’s already a little – cosy. Take me to yours”
“I – I can’t. I live with my dad”
Lauren blushed as she blurted, disappointment crashing in on her. She’d revealed herself as the kid she really was, and now Natalie would drop her hand and go back to the club and find a grown up, some one who had a flat, a car, a life of their own. Lauren braced herself for the inevitable rejection. But it didn’t come. Instead her hand was squeezed even tighter.
“Let’s go for a walk then. It’s such a nice night”
Incapable of speech, Lauren simply nodded and for the second time that night let herself be led away.
Away from the main drag, the streets were mostly quiet. Natalie slipped her arm through Lauren’s and leant her head against the taller woman’s shoulder. She was soft and warm, affectionate and talkative, and Lauren was happy to let her chatter. They stopped in front of a jewellers, Natalie’s attention grabbed by a diamond necklace, a solitaire set in a tear drop. Lauren could see it nestling against the whiteness of Natalie’s throat, the metal cool on her soft skin. Lauren turned and looked at the woman’s profile as she gazed at the necklace; heat was building up in Lauren, starting out in her belly and radiating out towards her extremities. She imagined putting her mouth to where the necklace would rest, letting her lips move over hot, smooth skin, her teeth nipping until Natalie would moan softly. Then and then, Lauren would move her mouth down across Natalie’s chest, find her way to those breasts, those fantastically curved breasts that had been a temptation since the moment she first saw Natalie in her thin cotton shirt. The heat was intensifying, Lauren felt on the verge of combustion, she knew it must be coming off her in waves because Natalie suddenly turned to face her and her expression became equally hot. As before, the dark eyes narrowed and her lips parted. She slowly shook her head but didn’t appear to be saying no to anything. Instead, she slipped her arms around Lauren’s neck and pulled her until their mouths met.
It was simply a quick brushing of lips before Natalie drew back, but Lauren felt as if her head would explode, her brain splatter across the plate glass. Not that Lauren would’ve noticed. All she could feel was the imprint of Natalie’s full lips on hers, the soft slight clinginess of them, the slickness of her lipstick. Natalie kept her hand on the back of Lauren’s neck, her fingers stroking the skin, the hair. It didn’t seem possible, but her eyes seemed even deeper, even darker than they had been; even narrowed, Lauren could fall into them and never reach the bottom.
“Hold that thought until we’re somewhere a little less public, baby”
When Natalie spoke, the spell broke a little and Lauren remembered where they were. A police car drove by slowly, the uniformed man in the passenger seat looking directly at them for a second before turning to say something to the driver, a woman, who laughed and sped up.
“Come on, I fancy chips. You fancy chips?”
There was a small crowd in The Happy Cod waiting for the fresh batch of chips that were fizzing and spitting in a wire basket submerged in boiling oil. The shelves of the warmer were filled with pies, sausages and a stack of bright orange fish cakes, none of which seemed to interest the customers. They just wanted chips. Two middle aged women and a young man were shovelling mountains of them into paper, dousing them with salt and vinegar, before wrapping them into tight, warm parcels with a good humoured efficiency that had the boisterous queue moving quickly. When it was their turn, Lauren found herself in front of the man.
Stevie Raymond gave her an uneven grin and pushed the white mesh pork pie hat away from his forehead.
“Alright Lauren. What’ll it be?”
“Two small chips, please”
“Matty not with you?”
Lauren shot a glance at Natalie before shaking her head and taking the wrapped chips off him.
“Well, you girls have a good night”
Natalie didn’t open her chips straight away. Instead she held them close to her stomach, unmindful of the grease that was seeping through the paper. She was quiet, and was walking briskly as if she knew where she was going, and Lauren fell in beside her, uncertain. The atmosphere between them had changed, had become cool and tense, and hadn’t improved by the time they got to the front, where Natalie dropped down onto a bench and stared out to sea. Lauren tentatively sat down next to her. She held the chips in her lap, any appetite evaporated, her stomach knotted and sour. Natalie had also lost interest in her chips. After a couple of minutes she sighed.
“I thought you said you didn’t have a boyfriend”
“The boy in the chip shop asked you where Matty was”
Lauren flushed intensely.
“Matty’s a girl”
Natalie raised an eyebrow.
“And do I have to worry about this Matty?”
Suddenly Lauren wanted to cry. She wanted to hide her face and cry until there was nothing left, until she was an empty and fragile shell, pounded to sand and dust by the sea. She turned her head away from Natalie and stared up the prom towards the brightly lit pier jutting out into inky black water and sky. The pier was still jostled with people; she could see the merry go round picking up speed, the tiny rollercoaster, jolting and jerking its tracks. She became dimly aware of fingers stroking the back of her neck, the stroking becoming protracted, moving to her shoulders. Lauren eased into Natalie’s touch; it was soothing, promising more.
“Want to talk about it?”
“Nothing to say. She doesn’t want me”
The tips of Natalie’s fingers turned from gentle to caressing as they ran up the back of Lauren’s neck. She encouraged Lauren to face her. When she did, she met dark eyes filled with warm concern. Natalie moved her hand so that it rested against Lauren’s cheek.
She closed the gap between them and let their lips briefly touch. She smiled against Lauren’s mouth.
“Your chips are getting cold”
“I – I think I’ve squashed them”
Natalie burst out laughing. It was a beautiful sound, and Lauren couldn’t help but join in.
“It’s true, look”
She held up a flattened piece of limp potato. Natalie snatched it out of her hand and popped it into her own mouth.
“Seems alright to me”
“Oi, eat your own”
Natalie picked up a handful of her own chips and stuffed them into Lauren’s mouth, laughing out loud when Lauren spluttered.
Lauren made a show of chewing and swallowing.
Lauren nodded emphatically. Natalie picked up another handful and raised an eyebrow.
“No, no, I give in”
Natalie snorted and let the chips drop back into the paper. She selected a single one and bit into it.
Half a mile up from the pier was a large, shallow toy boating lake. In the day it was swarmed with children, whose tiny clippers vied for space with remote controlled speed boats and battle cruisers. Now it was mirror smooth and black in the half dark. Beyond it was a playground, set far enough from the main road not to be easily noticed. Amongst the swings and slides, a metal roundabout was slowly circling, two figures sitting at the centre of it. Natalie had taken her shoes off and her feet were propped on the rung of the next circle out; Lauren’s legs dangled over the edge, giving the roundabout the occasional push. Natalie reached back and gazed up at the sky.
Away from the street lights, the stars were clearly visible. Natalie sighed with contentment. In Fulham she never got to see the stars. She lived over a betting shop on a street that was never empty, never dark nor quiet. Traffic chugged by her bedroom window: Routemaster buses, delivery vans, cars vibrating with bass that made the windows rattle in their frames. Sodium light filtered through the net curtains, staining the light grey carpet and duvet orange. Natalie slept with the curtains open, so used to the light that she’d become a little scared of the dark. All week she’d found it hard to sleep, the interior of the caravan confining and unfamiliar. But out here in the playground she was relaxed, she let her eyes adjust until she could see the patterns of the stars, and wished she knew more about astronomy.
“Do you know about constellations?”
Lauren looked up from where she’d been staring at the toes of her shoes dragging on the tarmac.
Lauren scrambled over the central ring so she sitting behind Natalie, her legs on either side of Natalie’s. The unconscious intimacy made Natalie’s nostrils flare, and she leant back into the girl’s warmth, her head resting on Lauren’s shoulder. She could feel Lauren’s voice rumble in her chest when she spoke. She pointed to the sky.
“See up there? That’s the Great Bear”
“How is that a bear?”
“You have to use your imagination”
“That’s me stuffed then”
Natalie felt rather than heard Lauren’s chuckle. She turned her face until it pressed into the side of Lauren’s neck, delighting in the warmth and softness, the arms that wrapped around her waist and pulled her closer. Natalie kissed up Lauren’s throat until she reached an earlobe, which she caught between her teeth and gently tugged, her stomach tightening when Lauren groaned. She let her hand stroke Lauren’s cheek before it drifted into the girl’s hair, twisting a short strand of it between her fingers, loving the soft silkiness. It didn’t take much to encourage Lauren to move her head, and when she did, Natalie knew it was time to kiss her properly.
Lauren’s breath was hot against Natalie’s mouth, puffing and catching, her urgency obvious. Natalie tugged a little, and pressed their mouths together, flicking the tip of her tongue across Lauren’s bottom lip, and when the girl opened her mouth, she let her tongue slip inside. A whimper escaped Lauren’s throat, making Natalie tighten her fingers in Lauren’s hair. With a quick movement, she turned around and pushed Lauren so that the girl’s back was against the metal and Natalie was lying on top of her. The movement caused the roundabout to spin but neither woman noticed.
Lauren momentarily tensed under Natalie’s weight, the metal rings digging into the small of her back and her shoulders, but then Natalie’s tongue plunged into her willing mouth and she couldn’t help but wriggle. She couldn’t pretend to have had a lot of experience of kissing; there had been one time when she was thirteen and tried it with a boy called Stuart. He was inept, she remembered, his tongue thick and floppy, his teeth chomping her lips until they were raw. It wasn’t something she’d been keen to repeat; she wasn’t naïve enough to believe everything she saw in the films or read in books, she hadn’t expected to swoon in Stuart’s arm, but she was still disappointed. She’d expected to feel something, a tingle of excitement, but she just felt bored, uncomfortable. And when Stuart’s hand wandered a little further than Lauren was happy with, she was grateful to use it as an excuse to stop and go home. So much for boys. She never told anyone about it, not even Matty. Especially not Matty.
When was it she’d started to feel differently about Matty? Or put another way, when had she realised that what she felt wasn’t quite the way she felt about other girls, about anyone? From the first time she’d seen her in the Assembly Hall she’d been transfixed. A small, blonde and pretty girl, she probably wasn’t remarkable amongst other blonde and pretty girls, but this one had the most incredible eyes Lauren had ever seen. Even on the other side of the room she could see the intense blue of them, and couldn’t have helped the increased stutter of her own heartbeat if she’d tried. For a breathless moment, the blue eyed girl held her gaze before shyly looking away. From that moment on, Lauren was done for.
A hot palmed hand sliding under the hem of her shirt brought Lauren back to the present with a jerk. Her eyes shot open and she was staring up into eyes as dark and deep as the sea beyond the main road and the pebbled beach. The hand stilled.
“Yes, it was just – a surprise”
There was a pause, Natalie’s fingers tracing gentle circles on the skin of Lauren’s stomach.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Are you a virgin?”
Lauren couldn’t make eye contact. Natalie laughed softly but unkindly.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of. God, there are times I wish I still was. Wish I’d been a little less free with who I gave myself to”
Her fingertips continued to stroke and soothe but didn’t go any further than around Lauren’s navel. The touch had become friendly; non-threatening and non-sexual. Lauren’s wriggling must’ve telegraphed her frustrated disappointment as Natalie’s soft laughter had developed a teasing edge; she drew her nails over increasingly heated skin, Lauren squirming under her. Natalie’s voice was a hot breath in her ear.
“I don’t know about you, baby, but this roundabout is bloody uncomfortable”
Natalie slipped off Lauren’s body, standing in the gap between rungs, leaning down to grab Lauren’s hands to tug her up. When they were both upright, she slipped her arms around Lauren’s back and held her. She was a head shorter, and buried her face in Lauren’s neck.
“We won’t do anything you don’t wa – ”
“No! I want it, I do”
Natalie chuckled, her warm breath on Lauren’s skin making the girl shiver. Natalie, in response, tightened her arms and kissed Lauren’s neck.
If Lauren had any control of the situation, it was quickly becoming apparent that she’d lost it. Her body was betraying her: breath spurting in and out of her lungs, blood spurting in and out of her heart, every part of her was trembling with pent up energy. Her knees went out from under her when she felt the skin of her neck sucked between sharp teeth. Plenty of girls at school had love bites. Lauren had once watched a boy in the year ahead of hers suck on his girlfriend’s neck, his hand hovering around the girl’s breast. Neither of them cared that they were in the cloakroom outside the Hall, that they had a dinner queue audience. Matty nudged her and murmured under her breath.
“If you don’t stop staring, your eyes are gonna pop out”
But Lauren couldn’t pull her gaze away. The girl’s eyes were glazed as she stared over the boy’s shoulder; Lauren couldn’t tell if she was enjoying it or not. Now she knew. Her own eyes had lost focus and were struggling to stay open. Another whimper escaped her. Natalie sucked harder and the whimper became a cry. Lauren hadn’t known it was possible to feel like this, as if there were a network of copper wires beneath her skin, crackling and buzzing. Nothing else existed apart from Natalie’s mouth and the effect it was having. She threaded her fingers into Natalie’s hair and held her head close.
What she was asking for, she didn’t know. Luckily, Natalie did. She released Lauren and stepped a little back, although there was no room behind her; reaching up, she ran the edge of her thumb along Lauren’s lips. Lauren touched it with the tip of her tongue. Natalie’s smile became slow and intimate as she cupped Lauren’s face, replacing her thumb with her mouth. Lauren surged towards her, unconsciously pressing her up against the metal ring.
“Honey, let’s get out of here”
By the boating lake was a small shelter with an inset bench. Natalie let her hand slip down Lauren’s arm until her palm met and joined with Lauren’s. She carried her shoes in her other hand, the springy grass tickling the soles of her bare feet. The lawn was remarkably well tended, she knew she wouldn’t have to check for broken glass or syringes. It was the most well mannered park Natalie had ever been in: no drunks, no junkies, no girls turning tricks in the shadows between the trees, if there were any cottagers, they were keeping themselves well hidden. It was as if she and Lauren were the only people left on Earth and that suited Natalie just fine. Tomorrow she, Donna and Kris would drive back to London in Kris’s company car, Monday morning she’d be back answering calls from punters dissatisfied with their energy suppliers. Natalie absently swung Lauren’s arm with her own. It was time for a change, she knew, but tonight wasn’t the night to think about it. Not when she was with someone as beautiful as Lauren. Stunning girls like her didn’t come along every day and were an opportunity that should be seized when they appeared. Natalie had her grandfather’s entrepreneurial genes and knew when she was onto a good thing. For one night only; book now to avoid disappointment.
She should’ve cared that this would be Lauren’s first time, but then everyone had to have a first time, didn’t they? And better Natalie than some boy who would paw and probably hurt Lauren, even if he didn’t mean to. Teenage boys couldn’t help being clumsy, it went with the territory. Better it be Natalie than some girl who didn’t know her tits from her fanny and would lead Lauren by the nose into frustration and ultimate heartache. Even if she never saw Lauren again, she knew she could make the experience sweet and memorable. If she was honest with her, no one had to be hurt. She gave Lauren’s hand a squeeze and tilted her head towards the shelter. Lauren took her meaning and nodded.
With a gentle push to her shoulder, Lauren dropped onto the bench, and Natalie wasted no time straddling her, delighting in the startled, wide eyes that stared up at her. The girl’s hands automatically went to Natalie’s waist; good, maybe she wouldn’t need much prompting. Natalie’s dress was tight across her thighs, she hiked it up to her a little wriggle room, smiling when Lauren’s huge eyes dropped to the newly exposed skin.
“Something taken your fancy?”
Lauren looked up, blinking. Natalie took pity on her, stroking her fingers down Lauren’s jaw until she cupped her chin.
“You are such a beautiful girl, d’ya know that?”
Lauren swallowed and shook her head. Natalie mimicked the gesture before pressing her mouth to Lauren’s.
“Well, you are. And whoever this Matty is, she doesn’t know what she’s missing”
At the mention of the other girl’s name, Lauren’s head dipped. With her hand still on Lauren’s chin, Natalie drew her face up, the sadness obvious in her brown eyes, even in the low light.
“O honey, I’m sorry. I can make you feel better if you’ll let me”
Lauren’s voice was a whisper.
Natalie linked her arms around Lauren’s neck and bent down, taking her mouth quick and hard, her tongue forcing Lauren’s lips open before the girl could protest. Not that she did. She groaned deep in her throat, falling back on the bench, pulling Natalie down with her. Her hands skimmed from Natalie’s waist down to her thighs, angled so that her fingers were splayed against the inside. Their heat and softness made Natalie purr into Lauren’s mouth, nipping at the girl’s bottom lip. The fingers gripped and relaxed, gripped and relaxed as Natalie’s tongue plunged in Lauren’s mouth. When the fingers changed direction and started to slide up and down Natalie’s thighs, she broke the kiss with a gasp and rested her forehead against Lauren’s, her breathing ragged. Lauren’s hands stalled.
“Please don’t stop”
The hands, now conscious, were a little more nervous, but even so they ran from Natalie’s knees up the edge of her dress.
“You don’t have to stop there”
It was all the encouragement Lauren needed; her right hand slipped under the hem. When it reached the top of Natalie’s leg, her eyes were wide and almost black. A laugh bubbled up out of Natalie’s chest. For the sake of the line of her dress, she had foregone underwear. All evening, she’d felt the material rubbing the smooth skin of her stomach and mons. She could feel her wetness smeared everywhere and the idea of Lauren touching it made her even wetter.
It was probably unintentional, but two of Lauren’s fingers suddenly dipped into her vulva, brushing her already sensitised clit, and Natalie’s eyes slammed shut as a groan escaped from her open mouth. Lauren cleared her throat, but her voice was still croaky, husky, incredibly sexy.
Natalie buried her face in Lauren’s neck and laughed her pleasure. Her voice was muffled.
“Hmm, please keep doing that”
“Is it okay?”
“Yes – o yes – just a little more – God, that’s perfect”
It was. It was hard to believe that the girl was inexperienced. The tips of her fingers were gliding so smoothly, so surely, applying just enough pressure.
“I think you lied to me, Lauren”
“When you said you’d never done this before. You have, haven’t you?”
Lauren shook her head.
“Only to myself”
“It’s a wonder you can see straight, or at all. Uh – ”
Lauren had pushed down hard with two fingers.
Natalie’s kiss was ferocious, the air sucked out of Lauren’s lungs, her tongue sucked nearly out of her mouth; it ached at its roots but Lauren didn’t want her to stop. This was how she’d dreamed kissing could be: passionate, focused. Natalie’s tongue was lively and skilled, it was a fish in the recesses of Lauren’s mouth, everywhere, never resting. But the feel of Natalie’s tongue was nothing compared to how she felt in her – Lauren didn’t know what to call it. Any of the words she’d read or heard were either too clinical or too euphemistic. Vagina had all the eroticism of a biology lesson, fairy of the children’s ward. There were other words, of course, and she blushed thinking about them, especially the one that was the strongest swear word in the English language. The only time her father had ever hit her was when she used it on him during a row. Both had been shocked and dazed, and she’d never said it out loud since.
“I don’t know what to call it”
She blurted out, not really meaning to. Natalie pulled back, puzzled.
Lauren’s eyes dropped down to where her hand was buried under Natalie’s dress. The other woman laughed softly.
“You can call it whatever you like”
“W-what do you call it?”
Natalie pushed herself forward in Lauren’s lap, causing the girl’s fingers to slide firmly across slick, wet skin. Lauren swallowed hard.
“Depends what mood I’m in. Mostly I call it my pussy, but sometimes I call it my cunt”
There, she’d said it. Lauren felt her face redden but also her own – O God – cunt tighten. Natalie’s tongue and lips had slightly softened the harshness of the word, making it less brutally Anglo Saxon. Natalie was giving her a knowing smile, rocking her hips into Lauren.
“You like that word, huh?”
Lauren nodded, unable to tear her eyes away from Natalie’s.
“You’re such a bad girl. Especially when you’ve got your fingers – ”
Natalie bent forward until her mouth was pressed up against Lauren’s ear.
“– in my cunt”
Lauren couldn’t suppress the groan brought on by the way Natalie said that word and by the way she was rubbing against Lauren’s hand.
“Put them inside me and I’ll come all over you”
She needed no second bidding as Natalie lifted her hips a little to provide Lauren full access. Breath hissed out from between Lauren’s teeth as two of her fingers slipped inside Natalie, making the other woman pant, her eyes closed.
“Fuck, baby, that feels so good”
Lauren’s fingers were encased in soft wetness. It was like putting your fingers in your mouth and sucking, only better. Natalie’s insides gripped as she lowered herself onto Lauren’s outstretched fingers, her own hands holding onto Lauren’s shoulders with increasing pressure as she moved up and down, rocking forwards and backwards a little with each thrust. Her usually white chest and face were suffused with colour, her lips a dark red. When she opened her eyes to look down at Lauren, the girl melted under the intense dark heat of them.
Natalie kept eye contact with her, never looking away as her fingers tightened and dug into Lauren’s shoulders, hard enough to bruise but Lauren didn’t register it as pain. The sensation grounded her, kept her on the bench.
“Another one, put another one in”
It was her ring finger; the one wearing Matty’s ring. Friends Always buried inside Natalie’s cunt. The added pressure was enough to push Natalie over, her face crumpled as if she was about to burst into tears seconds before her body became rigid. She was clenched so tightly around Lauren’s fingers, she was momentarily afraid she’d not be able to withdraw them. But suddenly, Natalie relaxed, laughing and covering Lauren’s face with sloppy kisses. She climbed fully into Lauren’s lap so that her breasts were pressed against Lauren’s. Her voice was thick and rich as honey.
“Huh, I was planning to do you but, God, you’re phenomenal”
“Y-you’re fantastic, it’s – it’s the best thing I’ve ever felt”
Natalie stopped her mouth with her own. It was a gentle, intimate kiss, lacking most of her earlier passion but it still made Lauren breathless, sending overheated blood whizzing around her body. She groaned into Natalie’s mouth, and was rewarded with the tip of her tongue brushing over her lips. Lauren opened her mouth and let it in.
There were nights when Natalie had been completely off her tits on ecstasy, for a few years she’d believed that nothing could match that serotonin high. It was a cliché, but when she was on one she felt connected to everyone around her, to the Earth, even to the whole spectacular and beautiful universe. She thought nothing could match that feeling; she was prepared to put up with the day after, the teeth grinding, the tiredness that dulled the affection she felt for the universe and its inhabitants, just for the couple of hours of feeling complete in her body. And then on a hard bench by a boating lake in an English seaside town a girl who’d never touched anyone but herself put her fingers in Natalie and reached into the place inside that usually only chemicals touched. Natalie was happy and complete in her body, and she wanted this girl to feel the same way.
This girl, this Lauren, was looking at her with those beautiful brown eyes of hers as if she was trying to understand the wonders of the universe and Natalie wanted to kiss and soothe her and tell her that it was easy, easy to understand. It’s as easy as a tongue in your mouth, as the steady hands undoing the buttons on your bright yellow shirt and finding your breasts underneath your bra. It’s as easy as the mouth that finds your hardened nipple through the cotton, the teeth that graze it, the lips that suck it. It’s as easy as the hands that release the button and the zip of your smart black trousers, that encourage your hips to lift and then slide those smart black trousers down to your knees. As easy as the scrape of nails up the soft, untouched skin of your inner thighs, and the tug of your virginal white knickers as they join your smart black trousers pooling now around your ankles. See now? See how easy it is?
One last kiss and Natalie slid down between Lauren’s legs, pushing her knees apart. A rush of cool air had pebbled the skin, Natalie warmed it with her breath, feeling Lauren tremble. She looked up at Lauren, the girl’s eyes were huge and nervous. Natalie laid a hand on her knee.
“Don’t look so worried, honey”
Lauren bit her bottom lip. Natalie smiled, trying to reassure.
“What’s up, sweetheart?”
Even in the dark of the shelter, she could see Lauren’s blush.
“I’ve got so much hair”
“Yeah, and you’re – you’re so – I don’t know – smooth”
Natalie’s smile turned into a broad grin. She leant down and blew on the girl’s pussy, watching it ruffle the girl’s dark hair, listening to her gasp.
“I like a puss anyway it comes, baby. I only keep myself, er, smooth because I like the way it feels. And I like it when I shave. It makes me feel dirty. I invariably have to have a wank”
Lauren laughed out, but then laugh turned into a cut off cry when Natalie dipped her head and touched her lips and tongue to Lauren’s pussy. Natalie smiled as the tight curly hair tickled her nose. She hadn’t lied when she told Lauren she liked pussy. Well, maybe that was an understatement, she didn’t just like it, she loved it. She loved the delta between a woman’s thighs; she loved it when the skin was smooth as a secret, loved it when it was wild with hair that stretched out, an alluvial flood plain, rich and fertile. She loved the smell, that earthy, seasidey smell that was holidays and burying your toes in warm dirt. Every time she bent down to a woman like this, she felt the sun on her back, the spray on her face.
With the tips of her fingers, she tenderly brushed the curls aside, opening her up with her thumbs. Lauren’s labia were a rose pink under the dark hair, the contrast striking, and Natalie felt compelled to kiss her. Lauren made a noise in her throat that was part way between a laugh and a sob. Natalie remembered the first time a woman had gone down on her, how her initial squeamishness had evaporated into a pleasure so pure she was convinced she was dreaming. She’d been a year younger than Lauren, had met the woman in a club and gone home with her that night. She wasn’t Natalie’s first but she might as well have been. The others had been girls in comparison, fumbling girls. If she did nothing else for Lauren, she’d spare her that. She concentrated all her experience into the tip of her tongue and let it run up and down, letting it slip inside for a second, just enough to make the girl groan, before moving it up to a clit that was hardening with each stroke. Lauren couldn’t sit still on the bench, her hips were thrusting, her legs falling apart. She seemed unsure what to do with her hands: one moment they were on Natalie’s shoulders, then on her back, then twisting in her hair, pulling her face closer. Natalie laughed, knowing the vibration would echo through her tongue directly onto the girl’s clit.
That was all it took. With a surprised yelp, Lauren curled herself around Natalie, her fingers tightening in Natalie’s hair.
Natalie slowed her tongue, letting her lips gently kiss until the girl calmed, her breathing returning to something close to normal. Resting her hands on Lauren’s belly, she gazed up at her.
“That was – that was incredible. I never dreamt in could feel like that”
Natalie stood up and sat next to Lauren, taking her into her arms so that Lauren’s head was resting against her shoulder. She bent and kissed her forehead.
“Happy birthday, baby”
There was a taxi rank on the corner of the street outside the Town Hall. A queue was steadily building as the pubs and clubs were emptying. The atmosphere was good humoured but Lauren knew it could rapidly turn sour. It would only take one person cutting in for a fight to break out, booze and testosterone being a volatile combination. The police knew this too; a car and then a van cruised by twice in the time Lauren and Natalie were waiting. Natalie was pressed soft and warm next to Lauren, her hand clasping Lauren’s, tucked out of view. She gave it a squeeze and smiled at Lauren. Eventually they were at the head of the queue, and when the cab pulled up, Lauren opened the door for Natalie, kissing her quickly on the mouth before helping her into the back seat. Natalie let her hand rest on Lauren’s cheek for a moment; Lauren leant into the touch. It was solid, real, and a goodbye. Their eyes met.
“Sure you don’t want a lift home?”
Lauren shook her head.
“I only live up the road”
“You know, if you’re ever in London – ”
“Bye Natalie, thanks for a great night”
Natalie gave her a wry smile and nodded.
“Take care of yourself, baby”
Lauren watched as the taxi set off towards the coast road. She was five minutes from home, but she buried her hands in her pockets and walked off in the opposite direction. The pier was closed now, still lit up but empty. The vending stalls were all shuttered up for the night, the painted tariffs and logos as faded in the street lights as the smell of hot fat and caramelised sugar. Lauren held onto the bars of the locked gates, looking up the vertical planking until it was broken by the white slab of the amusement arcade. It was eerily quiet without the mechanical shrieking and piped music. She could hear the waves breaking against the shelf of pebbles, the traffic behind her had died down to an occasional hiss.
The sky was starting to lighten. As one of the most easterly points in England, the sun hit the beach at Broadhaven before the rest of the country. Lauren climbed over the railings and jumped down onto the beach, keeping away from under the pier. The protective darkness it offered made it the haunt of junkies and courting couples. Lauren wasn’t frightened but she didn’t want company. Keeping the pier to her back, she walked along the beach, past the boating lake and play ground. The front was dotted with plastic covered shelters all facing out towards the sea and beyond that, continental Europe. Looking through a coin operated telescope you could believe you were looking at Belgium, but it would be a bank of cloud on the horizon. Now the sky was too dark to see anything much apart from the lights of a ferry, reminding Lauren how easy it would be to escape. The boats left every three hours, and your feet could be on foreign soil in less than four. Lauren sighed. The pier was behind her, as was the caravan park where Natalie was staying.
Natalie. She could still smell her on her fingers, her scent clinging to the silver of Matty’s ring. She could feel the rub of it on the inside of Natalie’s cunt. A hot blush coloured her face as she mouthed those words: Natalie’s cunt. She knew better than to say them out loud to anyone, but said to herself they were thrilling. Lauren dropped to the beach, sitting on the crest of the ridge, staring out to where she knew the sun would eventually rise. Her trousers pulled tight as she drew her knees up, her knickers wet in her crotch, evidence that the night had actually happened. Knees still raised, Lauren let herself flop back, folding her hands on her stomach, and closing her eyes. She’d done it, she guessed, she’d lost her virginity. Her body felt loose and easy, like she’d been dismantled and put back together differently. She let her hand slide down the front of her trousers to where her hair was still wet and matted. With just a little pressure she’d come again, but she withdrew her fingers, putting them into her mouth and sucking. When she opened her eyes, the sky had turned from midnight to a rich dark blue, orange and pink at the edges. It was time to go home.
Continued in part 6
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