Book: From Lofting
I was fifteen, Sharon a year my senior, both of us "Equestrian Counselors" at a sleep-away camp in the Adirondacks, hired on for the season-trading three months of strenuous, stall-mucking labor for a token salary and the privilege of riding in our spare time. I was tall and timid, with olive complexion and a sun-streaked auburn mane; Sharon small and confident, her face all Irish contrasts, flawless skin creating a pleasing pale distinction to a frame of black hair. Though probably plain to an unbiased eye, to me she was beautiful-everything about her, but especially her shoulders: broadly set for a girl, the angles tanned and rounded like brown eggs, they beckoned to my fingers; never before had I known such a desire to caress.
Deferring to Sharon 's superior knowledge, I followed her lead as we worked in the paddock and barn and took campers on the trail. She seemed happy for my company and assistance, and clearly enjoyed as much as I did the opportunity to discuss bits and saddles, to argue schools of equitation, or simply to exchange horse platitudes about Hanoverians and Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Swedish Warmbloods. I was surprised and gladdened when, little by little, as if she were testing a decision to befriend me, she began to share with me more personal thoughts. Before very long, she confided to me a sad story of alcoholic parents and a childhood of neglect and emotional abuse.
I was deeply gratified that Sharon had made me her confidante, a role which was new in my experience. I was sensible of a need to reciprocate, and perhaps because I had no story to offer that was comparable to hers in pathetic depth (and perhaps, too, because I had an unconscious need to unburden myself), I began to detail every experience or thought that had ever caused me emotional pain or mental turmoil. With almost saintly patience, Sharon listened while I described my insecurities, fretted over my chronic asocialness, agonized over my appearance. Through it all she remained tranquil, sympathetic, uncritical-until I mentioned my obsessive escape to self-pleasuring, whereupon she suddenly raised a quizzical eyebrow.
I was mortified. Had I made an awful mistake? Had zealousness clouded my judgment, leading me to attribute a liberality to my confessor she didn't possess? I felt cold perspiration beading on my forehead as waves of humiliation and dread washed over me. My face must have gone ashen, for Sharon noticed my discomfort and asked if I was feeling sick. I hesitated, unsure if I should explain the true cause of my sudden distress. Something benevolent in Sharon's expression-the genuine concern I saw reflected in her gaze, or a sympathetic inclination I read in the curve of her neck-decided my answer, and in that instant it seemed to me that I was making a great wager, risking a friendship that, although only days old and more incipient than fulfilled, had already become profoundly important to me.
I blurted out the truth: that I feared my admission of excessive masturbation had repulsed her-then awaited her reaction with a nearly unbearable sense of impending loss. Her answer was to gather my head to her breast and start giggling. What was this? I asked myself. Was she making fun of me? But if so, why the tenderness?
Still smiling, Sharon explained that it wasn't my masturbatory habits that had given her pause, only my description of them as "obsessive." Sexual release, she said-whether by self-stimulation or otherwise-had always been as natural to her as breathing. And no one, she added, would call themselves air-obsessed.
"Oxygen, Claire. You look like the type who needs it all the time. I'm going to tell your friends!"
I laughed and hugged her to me, holding back tears of relief as the tension broke.
The next few days at camp would have been perfect but for the rapidity with which perfectly enjoyable days pass. I spent as much time as I could with Sharon: we rode and talked, raked out stalls, fed and watered the horses-the dirtier the job, the more fun we had.
I was aware that my attraction to her was more than platonic. My pulse quickened in her presence; her looks and touches made me wet between the legs, and I understood exactly what that meant. Yet at the same time I had no idea what to do with these feelings, nor was I sure whether they were at all mutual. I certainly had neither the skill nor the confidence to initiate any sort of investigative foray.
On the day before camp was to end, Sharon and I were alone in the barn, working-tidying up for the last time, making an inventory of lost and damaged tack. Outside there poured a steady thin rain, and it seemed as though the day's drear were reflecting the unspoken sadness we felt at our impending separation. Sharon lived far from the city and, somehow, despite our mutual promises to visit and write, there was a tacit understanding between us-a stoical acceptance of probabilities-that we were at the beginning of journeys that would soon take us in very different directions. We knew, in a way that usually only adults know but rarely acknowledge, that our good-byes the next morning would likely be final ones.
Our chores finished, we stood side-by-side, reclining in the manner of horsewomen, with our backs and the flats of one boot against the exposed studs of the barn wall. Sharon lit a cigarette, cadged from one of the maintenance crew, which we silently passed between us until it burned down to the filter. Then, as though punctuating a decision, she crushed out the fag end with the twist of a heel and turned to face me.
"I love you, Claire," she said suddenly, and held my eyes with her own as she draped the back of her hand on my bare shoulder.
Surprised and overwhelmed by this sudden fulfillment of a secret wish, I began to tremble with excitement. For I knew somehow that this was no declaration of chaste love: the spark that flashed when Sharon 's fingers touched my arm was more than electrical static; it conducted an emotional charge as well.
Still shaking with joyous anticipation (and perhaps a little fear), I closed my eyes and moved my head toward Sharon 's in expectation of her gentle kiss. When I leaned forward to meet her lips, however, I encountered only empty space. I looked up to find that instead of offering me her mouth, Sharon had retreated slightly, and now stood watching me with narrowed eyes. Her expression confused me: not because it was malevolent, but because it seemed sly and detached, when every scrap of hearsay relating to love had led me to expect that her face would mirror all the unguarded affection and warmth that I knew was radiating from my own.
Wordlessly, Sharon brought her hands to my waist, then unfastened my belt and tore open the fly of my jeans, popping the buttons from their holes with one sure downward tug. Without a pause she slid my pants and underwear to the floor, inclined her body against me for the first time, then brought a leg up between mine. Pressing her face to my neck, she kissed and then bit sharply into the skin below my ear, a tiny nip crimped off between the edges of incisors, like a cat's hit-and-run love bite, but painful all the same. She sucked avidly at the wounded spot, which assuaged its tenderness but did nothing to reduce my bewilderment.
Suddenly she released her lips from my bruised flesh, and I tensed in reflexive expectation of another attack. But when her mouth bent again to my neck, it was only to whisper in my ear-though what she said was perhaps more scathing and provocative than any physical torment I might reasonably have feared.
"I want to fuck you like a boy."
I was stunned and abashed; my head reeled and I felt as though a fist instead of a heart were pounding within my chest. For several terrible seconds a storm of fear and doubt raged within me-until at last I recalled a certain douceur in Sharon 's intonation, a muted playful note that seemed to mitigate the crude brutality of her harsh and unexpected words.
I calmed myself and managed to regain some perspective on my situation. What made Sharon 's behavior so disturbing, I knew, was that it bore no resemblance to what I'd supposed "sex" would be like; it lay beyond the range of even my imaginative understanding. Yet just as I was reconciling myself to the limits of my comprehension, I was suddenly forced to acknowledge that part of me knew exactly what to make of my condition, for I now realized that without consciously intending it, I had responded to the insistent pressure of Sharon 's leg by parting my thighs.
With her knee wedged firmly against my groin, Sharon raised a hand to my face, then gently swept my eyelids closed with the tips of her outstretched thumb and index finger: the same formal gesture, I recognized with a shiver, that one would use on a corpse.
There was a sudden rush of movement, and in a fraction of a second my hands were seized, slammed together, and immobilized. I opened my eyes to find Sharon spinning loops of leather rein around my wrists with the practiced motions of a rodeo cowboy hobbling an upended calf. Satisfied that my bindings were secure, she took up the free end of the rein, turned this round a nail that projected from the wall above me, and then pulled it until my hands and arms were drawn forcibly up and over my head. All at once I felt her tongue dart across my teeth and lips; desperate for physical contact, I tried to suck it into my mouth, only to be balked at each attempt by its slippery, teasing surface.
Breaking our kiss, Sharon fixed me with the same sly, objectifying squint as before, and I watched as her mouth formed itself into a slight pout, heavy with lower lip, but louche and self-consumed rather than beckoning. She extended her tongue for a moment in order to moisten a middle finger with saliva, and then lowered her hand to my sex. Before I knew what was happening-for there was neither verbal warning nor the least prefatory caress-she thrust a finger deep within me. Strangely, I felt no pain other than a negligible sting; I only knew that my hymen had been torn when a tiny trickle of blood began to cool against the inside of my thigh. With a gloating smile, Sharon raised her stained hand to my face, then put her fingers in her mouth to suck them clean. Her pride at having robbed me of my virginity was obvious, but so far out on my own erotic current had I ridden that I registered her "crime" almost dispassionately, as though it were a bit of third-party gossip, or an event in the life of a fictional character, instead of my own.
After once more kissing my lips-chastely this time- Sharon dropped to her knees before me. Her hands, palms held together like those of a supplicant, slipped between my thighs and then canted from the wrists, coaxing my legs apart. She paused for a moment, staring at my half-exposed genitals as if in contemplative devotion, a votary before the oread's shrine. Then I felt the wet heat of her breath suffuse my vulva, an advance signature of the soothing conflagration that immediately followed when her mouth, feverish to the touch, was pressed to my pussy. After a flurry of dispersed kisses, she took my clitoris between her lips, at first merely holding it with her teeth abutting its tip, like a sunflower seed about to be hulled, then mildly sucking at it, then lolling it about with soft passes of her fluttering tongue. Soon, however, I began to crave bolder attention: for no matter how they were actually intended, Sharon 's delicate pressures and gentle insinuations were becoming a tease. I wanted satisfaction, and notwithstanding my youth and inexperience, I somehow knew that under the present circumstances tenderness-even prolonged tenderness-would never suffice.
I wanted to be devoured, but I'd been ratcheted to such a debilitating pitch of arousal that even had I dared to ask-and such daring was decidedly beyond my power-I would have been unable to articulate my wishes. As if intentionally to compound my frustration, Sharon again pulled away without warning, leaving me to buck my pelvis in a vain attempt to press myself against her mouth, now held just beyond my reach. Then, while looking in my eyes to gauge my reaction, she extended her tongue tip until it barely touched my clitoris, then quickly retracted it away, her face beaming with delight at my travail. I was in an excruciating bind: unable on the one hand to satisfy a white-hot need; precluded, on the other, from releasing any of the crackling tension which gripped my body.
Sharon continued to flick at my clitoris with her tongue. Once or twice when she applied increased pressure, I felt the muscles of my abdomen tense preorgasmically, but she always relented at the very moment when the next touch would have vaulted me into the redeeming abyss. I tried to force the issue by rubbing my thighs together, but this proved ineffectual. A profound despairing shame overtook me: a feeling of humiliation, aggravated by a sense of impending failure at my inability either to satisfy myself or to make Sharon satisfy me.
Apparently sensing the advent of my emotional crisis, she abruptly changed her tack.
"Claire," she asked, "are you okay?"-her voice now filled with loving concern. "What's the matter? I thought you liked what we were doing. I'm so sorry if I made you feel bad… we can stop. Do you want me to stop?"
I couldn't answer her. Although I was dying for release, I worried she might use any reply I gave to further her cruel game of denial, which-notwithstanding her gentle words and soothing tone-I was not convinced had ended.
But then Sharon broke the impasse by posing another question, one that for all purposes was rhetorical since I could respond to it in only one way.
"Do you want me to make you come?" she asked. "Is that it?"
"Oh, yes!" I cried, desperation overcoming prudence and fear.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Sharon, please-I'm sure. Please make me come, please…"
I knew by her smile, which was both approving and victorious, that I'd at last hit on an adequate reply.
Sharon circled my waist with her hands, then slipped them under my T-shirt. Her fingers strummed across the corrugations of my ribcage before coming to rest on my bare breasts. Finding my nipples, she forsook preliminary caresses, and instead began directly to roll the points between her thumbs and forefingers, applying vicelike pressure until the sensitive flesh was tender-raw and reddened. Both the roughness of the treatment and my tolerance for it surprised me, for I'd no idea as yet that sexual arousal could elevate the threshold of pain. Sharon increased the torsion on my nipples, triggering a pre-critical disgorgement: suddenly my pussy was so wet that for a moment I feared I might have peed myself in my excitement. Smiling with satisfaction, she lowered herself to her knees and began to lap at my vulva, painting it slowly with stripes of saliva, barely touching the tip of her tongue to my clitoris at the end of every upstroke.
This was more than I could stand: I pushed myself down upon her mouth, but this time, thankfully, instead of evading my motions she actively met my thrusts. With her hands on my buttocks, mauling their flesh as she pulled me violently onto her tongue, she at last treated me to that severity which in sexual extremis is the only true kindness. Half a minute more of blissful friction and I came-thrashing, moaning, biting my lips-my pussy shuddering against Sharon's ravenously sucking mouth, all my senses-of time and place, of sound and motion-jumbled and confused, running together like colors, until the border between self and the world dissolved, and for one numinous instant my "I" was absorbed into the purest of imaginable pleasures, and I knew, even before it was over, that I'd tasted something I would no longer be able to live without.
Alma Marceau, the author of Lofting, is a homemaker and entomologist living in Los Angeles, California. When not on the hunt for very small game in the tropical forests of Mexico and Costa Rica, she may be found tending her backyard Weber (she's partial to a hickory/applewood combination for ribs and brisket) or playing hockey (she's capable on defense, but her stickhandling could use some improvement). Lofting is her first work of fiction.
"From Lofting," by Alma Marceau, © 2000 by Alma Marceau, first appeared in Lofting, by Alma Marceau (Studio Loplop Publications, 2000). Reprinted by permission of Studio Loplop Publications.