The ice cream was the colour of little girls’ dreams. I poked my tongue into it like an insult and flicked a stream of strawberry cream into my mouth. I felt it trickle coolly down the inside of my throat, like the inversion of drinking whisky. And thicker – more sticky and viscous. The coolness of it running down the dark tunnels inside me made me alive to the fact that I had a body, aware of its heat; the difference between what was on the inside and what was on the outside. I caught some drips that were leaking down the skin of the cone on the tip of my tongue, and then looked up. You were watching me and I assumed you were thinking of blowjobs. I checked the crotch of your khaki pants for signs. The sun was beating so hard that I could smell the heat of my skin. Ripe freckles were bursting on my bronzed shoulders. I stood up straight, cocked my head to one side and smiled. It looked like I was looking into your eyes but I wasn’t; I was checking myself out in your sunglasses. That’s all I was that summer. Surface and reflection. I had a cherry stain tint on my lips, a white vest top beneath my dungaree shorts and you: I was trying myself out to see how I fit. I was starting to like the fit. But I was young; this was only act one. Its rehearsal.
‘So you gonna show me where you live or what?’ I said.
We’d crossed paths that day and you’d ‘Charmed’ me. You were Dan, 28, on my Happn, but then what did that mean? I was Amber, 21, on yours. The good thing about being tall is people believe you’re older than you really are. The twenty-one was audacious though. I could have raised my age to eighteen and still been able to get into clubs; I could have pumped it up to sixteen if I was worried about guys thinking I wasn’t legal, but I’d gone way over and above, a massive seven years, a big fat extra 50 per cent on my life. I was pushing my luck but I liked pushing luck.
We were about an hour and a half into what I guess would be described as a first date if first dates existed anymore; lunch at a deli on Newman Street, and we’d just started abusing these ice creams, so it might have seemed a bit forward, asking to go back to your flat already, but what did I know? I thought this was how it was done. It was Sunday afternoon and I wanted this down by Monday morning. I imagined the looks on the other girls’ faces as I told them while we bundled through the playground doors towards registration. Did it hurt? Was it big? they’d ask. Fucking enormous, I’d say. I thought he was gonna split me in two.
You shifted your weight to your other foot. ‘My flatmate will be back at four,’ you said and I think your cheeks blushed but it could have been sunburn.
He pushed it in and I gasped. I had figured I didn’t have a hymen left from all the horse riding I’d done as a kid but maybe I had after all. I styled it out as a moan, exhaling a quivery sigh and he didn’t seem to notice the difference. For a few strokes it felt uncomfortable, physically, like he was scratching a space inside me that didn’t have an itch but things kind of loosened up and gradually it began to feel less like unwanted friction. It was never quite pain although it wasn’t like pleasure either. It wasn’t even close.
I clung to his back for want of a better thing to do with my hands and his skin felt clammy and a little squidgy. He wasn’t fat but he could do with toning up. I looked over his shoulder, which was easy to do because he was boring his head into my neck. I focused on the landscape of his skin, peachy mountains with pearls of sweat rising up through the pores, sitting beadlike, perfect orbs, little see-through crystal globes on the back of his shoulders. He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got the whole wide world in his hands started to play in my head, which even I thought was probably pretty inappropriate, thinking of Jesus at that time. We’d sung that in Assembly at primary school, sitting cross-legged on the floor with the white pages of our hymnbook spread wide open. For a moment I wondered if the seven-year-old me had imagined that this was how it would turn out. I decided probably not but I wasn’t sad about it. I just figured that at that age we still believed in love and Disney. I was glad to be done with that. I killed the song by re-engaging with his back. He had a few wisps of back hair, fine but unexpectedly long and straight, growing downwards on the blades of his shoulders. A few I could cope with – I was glad it wasn’t a full pelt – but at the same time it made me feel sorry for him, like he was slightly pathetic. The image of me sitting on the floor cross-legged in Assembly in my primary school tunic, white tights and buckle shoes came back into my head, along with the face of my old headmistress, with her tight black curls, sixty-year-old sagging cheeks and marionette lines, reading the bible story about the camel. It wasn’t actually about a camel, it was the one about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but the image of the camel was such a powerful one that it had eclipsed the meaning of the story in my mind and every time I heard or remembered the story I couldn’t picture the man, I could only envision a full-sized camel trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle. This image was always set against the backdrop of a desert and a throbbing blue sky with a high sun whose rays struck the needle and made it glisten and shine (like the fake ‘ping’ sparkles that come off the teeth of the models in the whitening toothpaste ads). I wondered if that was how it had felt for his dick: camel-like, squeezing through my fleshy slit.
He was still plunging up and down inside me and I thought this was a good opportunity to practice some moves, so I clawed my fingernails down his back like I was really into it and super wild like a sex tiger. I swear I felt him scrunch his eyebrows together like I was doing something weird so I stopped and tried to remember something else from all the how-to-be-amazing-at-fucking books I’d read. I tried shifting to the right, but I was pinned by his weight so I didn’t get far. I leaned awkwardly and stretched my arm, straining to reach to cup his balls but given my arm was shorter than the length of his body, it didn’t seem possible and I couldn’t work out how to navigate the tangle of sweaty limbs. I remembered the bit about using your pelvic floor muscles so I started squeezing, clenching and releasing, which made him feel bigger inside me and as if I had clamped his dick in a vice, like the ones we use in D.T. class.
I practiced my panting. Those desperate ‘ooooh ooooh ooooh’ sounds, sucking air between my teeth and biting my bottom lip like they do on YouPorn and he exploded into an epileptic fit of spasms and Tourette’s. ‘Fuck, shit, you fucking slut …’
I was stunned: I thought men were mute throughout, that it was just the women who were supposed to make noises. I felt like I’d accessed a rare Aladdin’s cave; he was out of control on me, and with a final exclamatory grunt, he collapsed.
As soon as he was done, my body spat him out. There was a sound of a whoopee cushion, a liquid uncorking, and it felt like ejecting a slug. He rolled off me onto his back, cradled his head in the cage of his hands and closed his eyes.
I lifted the duvet – was hit by the smell of musky, fishy fluids – peered under and there it was: a cherry burst all over his navy sheets. I was pleased about the navy; the blood looked less accusatory against the darkness.
‘Sorry, I think I’ve come onto my period,’ I said.
I didn’t know if the circular pool was what coming onto your period during sex looked like but who knows, maybe neither did he because he ducked his head under the duvet and said, ‘No worries. I needed to wash the sheets today anyway.’
I dragged my bum along the sheet as I maneuvered to the side of the bed, wiping myself clean. I was slimy all around my crotch and the crack of my bum. I retrieved my thong from the mangy carpeted floor and slipped it on. The crotch was soggy and the wetness was cold. It felt wrong, like inhabiting a past that no longer suited the present. But as I stood up and clamped my legs together I realised I was puffy and raw, so the coolness was partially soothing. His cum was starting to burn; little stabbing throbs were blooming inside me as if he’d ejaculated a sackful of thorns.
‘You can stay a bit longer if you want,’ he said to my turned back.
All I wanted was to be out of the flat: out of the cold, dark cave and back in the heat of the sun, feeling it pounding my skin, drying me out, turning me brown.
‘Can’t,’ I said, ‘I’ve got a big presentation tomorrow I need to prepare for.’ I imagined Lauren’s and Chloe’s faces as they listened to me, me walking between them on the way to class, salacious seeds of wisdom spilling from my lips and growing into gossip. By lunchtime the whole year would know. There’d be analysis as knives were slipped into jacket potatoes, steam rising from their soft insides like whispers that would accompany me as I walked by. By the end of the day, people in other years might know; it might spread all the way to the boys in year eleven who sat at the back of the bus.
As I clipped my dungarees up he said, ‘So … we should do this again.’
‘Yeah, definitely,’ I said but I was already blocking him from my profile.
I looked at the time on my iPhone. I’d just make the 16:41 at Finsbury Park and be home for dinner like I’d promised Mum. I dipped my head to check my face in his mirror, which was propped against the wall beside a collection of men’s toiletries on the floor, and I zhoozhed up my hair.
He lay on the bed. I let myself out.
I slammed my Oyster card against the reader. I wasn’t the first girl in year nine to have done it but I was the first in our group and it mattered. It was like winning a race. Having a big, vulgar, shiny sports cup on a mantelpiece that people would bend to look at and see themselves distorted by, and know that I was special. I stood on the tube, hovering, even though there were seats. I was scared I’d leave a stain. As the tube pulled out of Euston I felt him trickle out of me, mixed pink with my blood, warm and sticky, like melted ice cream.