Frank and Claudia had reached the seaside around noon, carrying a basket of goodies: sandwiches made early that morning in her mother’s kitchen, papayas and oranges from Martha’s stall in Hambleford, sodas and beers from that grocery in St. James that never checked IDs, and a nickel bag of fine green bud.
When they arrived at the beach, they dashed into the sea still wearing their shorts and tops, splashing and diving and relishing the cool water after the long bicycle ride. It was Claudia who had first taken off her teeshirt, throwing it onto the strand where it washed in and out with the waves. Frank frankly stared for a while, stared at her breasts, her nipples, couldn’t take his eyes off them even when he tried to look elsewhere. She laughed, posed, twirling like a model on a runway and then dived away.
They swam for a long time, Frank staying as close to her as possible, she staying just slightly out of his reach. After a while they were both quite comfortable with her naked breasts (even though Frank just had to keep looking) and they swam out to Robert’s Rock like all kids had for generations. They climbed onto the rock and Frank noticed how the beads of water ran across her chest, changing course as they hit her nipples which were hard and pronounced. But the sun was too hot to sit for any length of time and they swam back to the beach where they lay for a while, exhausted by their play.
Later, in need of fruit and sandwiches, they had stood up and each noticed the sand encrusted on the other’s shorts. With a single thought, and in silence and almost in slow motion, they each undid the buttons and zips and let their shorts drop. For a long while they stood looking at each other nakedness.
By four o’clock, when the harshness of the sun had mitigated to a sullen stillness, they had moved off the sand and into the grass. With sticks and tee-shirts Frank rigged up a small tent cover under which a black square of coolness lay inviting. They sat in the shadow, naked, looking across the sand, staring intently at the waves as if they were oceanographers, sharing sips from a bottle of beer, his arm around her shoulder, sweat streaming from their every pore.
She turned her face to his, he turned his to hers and, with a pull of courage as strong as that needed to escape gravity’s pull, he leaned toward her and placed his lips on hers. Her arms moved slowly around his neck and they lay back on the grass, their tongues whiplashing between cheeks and teeth. His hand, cupped as if to accept a donation, moved toward her right breast and covered it, motionless. His palm felt her nipple harden, and his penis became hardened in response. It prodded her thigh and she instinctively moved a hand down to feel what it was. She explored it with interest with her fingers for a few seconds and then, quite suddenly, he was shaking and an excruciating sob erupted from deep within him and she noticed that her hand and thigh were unpleasantly sticky.
“I’m sorry,” he said and rolled away from her, lying on his back, his teeth gritted. She stood up, definitely confused, and then ran down to the surf where she washed her hands and leg. When she returned he was lying on his side, his knees drawn up, his head clasped in his hands, his arms like a boxer’s guard over his chest. “Hello,” she tried, but he seemed imprisoned in his own thoughts. He knew that to be eaten slowly by an alligator would be less painful than this. “Next time will be better,” she whispered, almost to herself.
Frank didn’t seem to be inclined to move, so she fished around in the basket until she found the cool greenness of the strawberry papaya. She used Frank’s Swiss Army penknife to halve the fruit and to brush the black seeds into the grass. Her strong white teeth bit deep into the fruit and her gums accepted the fresh taste like candy. A stream of juice coursed down her chin and splashed on her breast. Brushing aside an inquisitive wasp, she looked at Frank and then looked out over the beach to Robert’s Rock and hoped that for both of them today would be just a single map in the atlas of their lives.
In the swamps behind the beach, the curlews drank and fished and called their odd call, the huge turtles splashed slowly from pool to pool, and swarms of midges circled within nets of pheromones.