Monday, 19 May 2014

...of inexperience

To seal their reunion, he lowered his head and they kissed, his tongue barely grazing hers at the tip, and again she was grateful. Conscious of the silence from the downstairs bar - no radio, no conversation - they whispered their 'I Love you's. It soothed her to be invoking, however quietly, the unfading formula that bound them, and that surely proved their interests were identical. She wondered if perhaps she might even make it through, and be strong enough to pretend convincingly, and on later, successive occasions whittle her anxieties away through sheer familiarity, until she could honestly find and give pleasure. He need never know, at least not until she told it, from within the warmth of her new confidence, as a funny story - back then, when she was an ignorant girl, miserable in her foolish fears. Even now, she did not mind him touching her breasts, when once she would have recoiled. There was hope for her, and at the thought she moved closer against his chest. He had his shirt on, she assumed, because his contraceptives were in the top pocket, easily reached. His hand was travelling the length of her body, and was pulling back the hem of her skirt up to her waist. He had always been reticent about the girls he had made love to, but she did not doubt the wealth of his experience. She felt the summery air through the open window tickling her exposed pubic hair. She was already far gone into new territory, too far to come back.
It had never occurred to Florence that the preliminaries of love would take place in dumb show, in such intense and watchful silence. But beyond the obvious three words, what could she herself say that did not sound contrived or foolish? And since he was silent, she thought this must be the convention. She would have preferred it if they had murmured the silly endearments they used when they lay around in her bedroom in North Oxford, fully clothed, wasting the afternoons away. She needed to feel close to him to hold down the demon of panic she knew was ready to overwhelm her. She had to know he was with her, on her side, and was not going to use her, that he was her friend and was kindly and tender. Otherwise it could all go wrong, in a very lonely way. She was dependent on him for this assurance, beyond love, and finally could not help herself issuing the inane command, 'Tell me something.'

[On Chesil Beach, McEwan, I.]

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