Nicolette slept on the floor in a sleeping bag while Amelie and I lay awake in bed. Our twelve-year-old toes pointed toward the open window. Behind the screen hung the moon, white and crescent. It was summer and hot. Crickets and bullfrogs made a thick wheel of noise. Present, too, were the stars.
She asked to rub my stomach and I said okay. Her hand was soft and warm. It felt good to be touched in the summer at night, when everyone else in the house was asleep.
Her fingers ran over my left nipple and then my right. It seemed like an accident until she added pressure. She moved her hand with confidence. I watched and felt something inside my torso warm and swell.
After a while, she removed her hand and rolled down my T-shirt, then took my hand to her stomach and said, Now it’s your turn.
Touching Amelie’s midriff was easy but I had to breathe deeply before I touched her breasts. They were smaller than mine and cool. In the moonlight they looked like little hills. I looked at her face: her eyes were open and fixed on the ceiling. She was smiling. Outside the moon winked and nodded at me, then held up a finger as if to say, Shh, I won’t tell.
It was a secret we kept the following morning when we went swimming in Nicolette’s pool. The sun was bright and its light clean. In the shallow water, I floated on my back. I could feel the sun warming my chest while I watched Amelie in the deep end, diving for rings; I wanted her to touch me again but each time she glanced at me, my center tensed. I wished it were night.
Nicolette’s mother came outside with the cordless phone. Amelie’s mother was on the line; she would be at the house in five minutes to pick her up. Amelie said goodbye and exited the pool to change. She was tanner than me and slimmer. Her hair was long and brown and covered her chest. I waved to her then went underwater.
Underneath it was quiet and blue and I felt safe. I held my breath as long as I could before coming up for air.
I felt tired and floated on my back again. The clouds above were white and wispy. Nicolette asked if I wanted to play Marco Polo.
Yes, I said, but I want to be the one to call Marco first.
Even now, all these years later, I still want to be the one with my eyes closed.
Elizabeth Schmuhl is a writer and dance maker whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Paper Darts, Birkensnake, the anthology Ghost Writers: Us Haunting Them (Wayne State University Press), and elsewhere. Fine her online at elizabethschmuhl.com.
Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels, www.ebbartels.com.