An early sexual experience. Age 14.

Reflecting on it later, she isn’t sure how it happened. She remembers talking to one of the boys, and feeling a lot more confident than normal. (Maybe it was the memory of her sun-warmed nipples under her tshirt). She sat next to him, on a log and they shared a beer. They sat in silence mostly, watching the flames, laughing at the poor jokes made by the others. She learnt that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend, he was two years older than her. She heard one of his friends say “rebound”.

Later, back at the hut, her sister and parents had gone to sleep in one of the bunkrooms, so she and Tess lay their sleeping bags out in the other room with the group of teenagers. Part of her longed to go into her parent’s room, snuggle into her sleeping bag, fold up her polarfleece as a pillow and read her book, before blowing out the candle and saying “I love you” to her family.

Later, on the platform of top bunks, all linked up. Tess and her are separated. She’s between ‘her’ guy and the wall. Tess is two different guys away. She doesn’t know what Tess is doing. She hears lots of whispers and laughs. She doesn’t know what to do.

The guy beside her leans in, and she assumes he must be going to kiss her, so she closes her eyes and parts her lips, like she’s seen. He pulls away, shakes his head slightly, but keeps coming at her. She lies still, as his hands explore her under her sleeping bag, over her tshirt and bra. She thinks about what she knows about this: women moan and arch their backs and squeeze their eyes shut. Men conduct, with grunts and say “baby” a lot. (When she was much younger, she thought it was lovely that so many men constantly sang and talked about their babies. “Such caring fathers!”)

She tries a moan. Just quietly, breathy, just enough for him to hear. He likes it, she can tell, because his hand is now travelling down, over the waistband of her shorts and over her thigh. She tries the moan again, and now his hand is between her legs, and then cupping right up there, right up there between her legs, cupping where no one else has ever touched before. Where she has only touched a few times herself,

secretly.

(The first time she did it, she didn’t know what had happened to her, she thought the orgasm that took her body by surprise was ‘having sex’.)

She decides to see how he reacts to a back arch, so she does, but without any sound it comes across like she’s uncomfortable and trying to move away.

(Is she?)

She tries the arch and the moan together, and this really excites him, and she knows this because his hands are now under her shirt, clammy and rough, sliding all over her belly and he can’t decide whether to go up or down. He tries up, and is stopped by her underwire, and this is too hard for him, so he’s going down, way down, underneath her shorts and underneath her panties, and his hands are scratchy and hard and his fingers are in a hurry.

(She’s not. In a hurry. For this. At all.)

Then, his fingers find her and push on her clit so hard she actually does gasp, not like in the movies, but a real gasp, one of shock and pain and bewilderment. And then his fingers keep going down and they push again and now one finger is inside her and it hurts and he’s pushing, his arm is pushing hard on her pelvis and he’s leaning over her, but looking at his hand under her shorts and breathing hard, eyes half closed, face frozen, eyebrows knitted.

(She doesn’t know what to do. So she…)

Arches her back. Movie-moans. Pretends. That she likes this, this violation.

He works his fingers in her for a long time. Any lubrication she had is long gone, and it’s feeling raw. She still continues with the charade, as long as he wants to, because she doesn’t want to make a

fuss.

Eventually, dawn is peeking through the matchbox windows. Like he’s been stung, he rips his fingers from her, she bites her lip to stop crying out, and he finally, finally looks at her. She makes one last grasp at intimacy, leaning forward for a kiss, and he turns his head aside, flops onto his sleeping bag, turns away.

She’s going to be sick. The nausea is quick and rising, and she can’t do it in the hut, she doesn’t want to wake everyone, so she’s climbing over the other sleepers, down the ladder, across the floor, out the door, across the lawn to the bush and then there she is, bent over.

Dry retching in the dawn light.

It’s misty. Mosquitos are still awake and start biting her, and all she can do is stare at her toes and feel a sharp ache, in between her legs, but also deeper than that, much deeper.

Pain.

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