You are my sunshine
“Do you fancy doing something today?”
Jeannie almost did a double take when Ruth dropped down in the seat in front of her in the dining hall. It was the first time in three days Ruth had shown any interest. She’d seemed more than happy to sit in a deck chair with a book. Jeannie couldn’t think of anything worse. She frowned slightly.
“I was going to meet up with Joe”
“But you can come along, I guess. I’ll get Joe to bring Pete”
Had Jeannie been an observant girl, she might’ve noticed that Ruth’s smile was less than genuine. Instead, she felt her stomach lurch. Ruth was stunning, even though she seemed oblivious to the fact; she had hair that fell to her shoulders in a sheet of flame, skin that was flawless. Ruth rarely wore make up and didn’t need to; her green eyes were framed by lashes a shade darker than her hair, her full lips a natural deep pink. Jeannie would have to spend at least fifteen minutes in front of the mirror trying to achieve such an artless appearance.
Jeannie tapped her red nails against the equally red Formica table top, the only hint at the tension that was tightening every muscle in her body. She had never considered Ruth a threat but Joe was the sort of man that came along once in a life time, and he’d already commented on Ruth’s hair, her figure. The only thing that prevented Jeannie from being overwhelmed by jealous anxiety was the other woman’s apparent lack of interest. Asking to do something together was a new and not altogether welcome development. But asked directly, how could she say no?
Jerry couldn’t work out what Simone saw in Midge Mather. She was attractive enough if you liked the gauche, tomboy type. Right now, sitting stern faced on her high chair by the pool, she looked like a strict Games mistress, and he could see how that would appeal to a lot of people of either sex. But not Simone Costello. In the four years he’d known her, she’d only ever been attracted to really manly men: a taste she shared with Jerry. Good looking, well built men who put themselves before anyone else, and invariably turned out to be bastards. Asked to bet on the last person to give off a whiff of lavender, Simone would top his list; but here she was, moping after some girl.
He shielded his eyes and looked up at Midge, wondering how many times she was taken for a boy with her strong shoulders and her long, tanned legs. It made sense, he guessed, that Simone would pick a butch girl; two femmes together would be too much like hard work. Fighting over the bathroom mirror, all that hair getting in the way. Better to have the next best thing to a man. And not only did Midge have the compact body of boy, she had the most beautiful voice Jerry had ever heard.
He’d been moving between tables in the Ballroom, playing the host with his acid tongued humour. Almost as close to the knuckle as Lenny Lamont, there were times he despised himself, but the punters loved it, especially when it was aimed at someone else. He’d just been ripping the piss out of some old boy’s hair when a sound from the stage tickled the hairs at the nape of his neck, causing him to look over. It was just that dreadful song, he’d be happy never to hear it again, but there was something noticeably different about it, and it had something to do with the new girl. Something about the tone and timbre of her voice got inside him and for a moment made him forget the jaded old queen he’d become. He was young and excited again. And it wasn’t just him: there was a change in Simone too. For the first time he heard enjoyment in her voice; Simone was having fun playing vocal games with Midge, and Jerry’s smile was bigger than either of theirs.
The girl wasn’t smiling now. She wasn’t so much stern as sullen. And rather than supervising a group of kids larking around a couple of feet from her, she was staring over to the other side of the pool. He followed her gaze to where two young men were showing off for a couple of girls. The dark girl was laughing and flirting, but the red head was holding herself back a little, arms crossed over her body. Midge watched every move the red headed girl made, her dark eyes never leaving her. Jerry shook his head before fixing a dazzling smile and greeting a group of campers.
This was such a bad idea. Ruth pulled her arms closer about her chest. She’d let Jeannie talk her into wearing her bathing costume rather than her usual shorts. She felt every eye around the perimeter of the pool on her, as misery flushed her cheeks. There was one pair of eyes she was particularly conscious of. Midge was sitting in her life guard’s chair, and Ruth felt the weight of her gaze, heavy and flat as a saturated blanket. She was too far away for Ruth to read her expression, but there was something unhappy about her posture. Ruth sighed and ran a hand through her hair, wishing she’d simply taken her book and deckchair to another part of the camp.
Had she really thought Jeannie would want to do something different, rather than spending every waking moment in the company of a man Ruth found herself loathing more with every passing second? She wondered if Jeannie was aware how often his wolfish stare would sweep over Ruth’s body. Was that why the other woman was twittering around him like some brainless girl? Another sigh escaped. She had hoped that Jeannie was different, but really there was no reason why she should be. Women had a way of looking at Ruth when their boyfriends were around, as if they didn’t trust her. It hurt every time.
She was startled by a sudden splash; Jeannie had joined Joe and Pete in the pool. Ruth instinctively pulled back, wrapping her arms tighter around her body. Even though the three of them were grinning at her, she couldn’t keep the frown from her face.
“Aren’t you going to come in?”
Ruth shook her head, suddenly unable to speak. She glanced up and Midge was looking directly at her. All Ruth could manage was a weak smile.
It was after eleven when Simone crept into the chalet as quietly as she could. She hadn’t intended staying out so late, especially as it meant missing the last bus and having to get a taxi back. Like a coward, she’d hoped Midge would be sleeping and she could avoid another awkward confrontation.
Broadhaven had been packed with holidaymakers bucket and spading it in unusually glorious July sunshine. For once it was a pleasure for them to be out all day, and there was plenty to do. The prom and the pier had thronged, the pebbled beach was a patchwork of towels, windbreaks and picnic blankets, deckchairs set out to face the North Sea like an armada of tidy defying Vikings. Simone had walked from one end of the front to the other, too restless to settle in one place, the mass of people as insubstantial around her as the candyfloss and hot chip fat air.
Hunger eventually became impossible to ignore, and she remembered she hadn’t eaten since supper the night before, and that had been light as she never liked to eat too much before performing. As her stomach grumbled, an image of Midge in her midnight blue dress, her face flushed as she sang, gave way to a tingle in her finger tips at the sense memory of smooth, warm skin. The sound of a bell tinking over a door stopped the progress of the inevitable conclusion to Simone’s thought processes, and she was relieved to see the interior of Rinaldi’s Café.
And there was Tony behind the counter, giving her the look he always did: mentally undressing her and not even bothering to be discreet about it. He was such a cliché, it was laughable, jet black hair slicked back, the short sleeves of his bright white shirt rolled up to show off tanned biceps. When he spoke, his heavily accented voice implied a life time in Naples; however, Simone knew better. Tony had never been any further east than Broadhaven nor any further south than his native Bermondsey. In moments of extremis, the thickness of southern Italy easily gave way to South London. Right now he was in full Neapolitan mode, as subtle as two scopes of tutti frutti, and Simone was tempted. An hour with Tony between her thighs could be the distraction she needed, help her elucidate the confusion that had clouded her all day. Instead, she settled for a black coffee and a toasted cheese sandwich.
Midge’s voice was hoarse and made Simone flinch. She looked over to where the girl had propped herself up on her elbows, her dark hair tousled. Simone tried to smile but it was a poor effort, she knew, but then the light was behind her so Midge couldn’t see her face.
“Sorry, darling, I didn’t make to wake you up”
“S’alright, I wasn’t asleep”
“You should be. You know you’ve got to get up early”
Midge shrugged and lay back down, moving onto her side she fell quiet. Simone was grateful not to have to talk, and walked into the bathroom to change into her nightie. Brushing her teeth, she studied her reflection. She’d caught some sun, she noticed; the bridge of her nose was a little red, a spattering of freckles had popped up across the ridges of her high cheekbones. O great. She flicked off the light so she didn’t have to look at herself any more.
It took a couple of seconds for her eyes to adjust to the dim light in the chalet as Simone closed the bathroom door behind her. Midge was a dark, unmoving shape; Simone sighed as she lay down on her own bed, the springs squeaky as she shifted uneasily. Eventually she settled; confident that Midge had fallen asleep, she had stared to drift off, so when the other woman spoke, Simone jolted awake. Midge’s voice was tentative.
“Simone – would – I mean do you – ”
“Do I what, darling?”
There was a long pause that Simone didn’t feel strong enough to break. She heard the girl’s frustrated sigh and then she spoke in a sudden, rapid burst.
“Simone, do you want to come in with me again?”
Simone sat up.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea”
“Please – ”
The plaintive tone pulled Simone from her bed and across the room to stand by Midge, but she didn’t move beyond that, looking down at Midge who gave her a half smile. Simone didn’t return it.
“Are you sure?”
“Last night – it was – it was nice”
Simone let out a small, slightly humourless laugh.
Midge’s smile faltered and was replaced by a flash of hurt disappointment that didn’t pass quickly enough for Simone to miss. She reached out and let her hand run through Midge’s thick hair. Simone knew the girl was self conscious about her hair, that chlorine and the sun dried it out, but Simone liked the rough texture of it against the tips of her fingers. It contrasted with the hot softness of the skin at the nape of Midge’s neck where Simone let her palm rest. She heard the catch in Midge’s breathing, and when Simone spoke, her voice was husky.
“Move over then, darling”
This time they were face to face, so close in the narrow bed they were actually nose to nose, and Simone could feel Midge’s breath against her lips in short, warm puffs. The distance between their bodies was negligible. Tonight Midge was wearing a boy’s vest, Simone ran a finger along a strap, raising an eyebrow.
“It’s cooler tonight”
“Not exactly regulation”
“Look who’s talking”
“Better hope there’s not a fire then”
Midge’s soft laugh sent another puff of air against Simone’s mouth, a tiny jolt of electricity through her. She swallowed hard.
“Midge, have you ever kissed someone?”
“Yes. Jimmy Smith”
“Who’s Jimmy Smith?”
“Tenor sax in Dad’s band”
“Sax player? Figures. Did you like it?”
Midge screwed up her nose, a gesture Simone found irresistible. Her fingers brushed Midge’s collarbones before she could stop herself. Midge’s eyes flickered closed momentarily. When she opened them, they were deep and dark. Heat was coming off her in waves, Simone’s heart responding instantly, spurting blood around her veins and arteries, bringing a flush to her chest and face. Simone wasn’t a virgin, she knew what this all meant, but it had never felt like this before. It might as well be her first time, and she was suddenly shy, barely recognising the whisper that came out of her mouth.
“Have you ever kissed a girl?”
“No, have you?”
“No. I never wanted to. Not before now”
She felt Midge pull back slightly and had to fight down the sudden panic that threatened to surge and swamp her. When she dared to meet Midge’s eyes, they were hard to read. Nervousness and confusion warred with something else, something visceral. A light trembling shimmered the girl’s body, prompting Simone to stroke her arms in the pretence of warming her but it was really an excuse to touch her. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t stop Midge from shivering, if anything, it had the opposite effect. Simone ran her hands up Midge’s arms, over her shoulders and down her back, drawing the girl towards her until their bodies came together.
“Simone do you – do you want to kiss me?”
By way of an answer, Simone pressed her mouth against Midge’s, and felt the hairs on her arms rise at the sound of the girl’s gasp. Emboldened, she played the tip of her tongue along Midge’s bottom lip. Midge gave a shuddering sigh and opened her mouth to let her in.
Midge’s hand slipped into Simone’s hair, timid at first but then growing in confidence as she stroked, running strands of it through her fingers. The gentleness of Midge’s touch was almost unbearable; Simone’s throat tightened. Her own hands went to Midge’s face, cupping it as she deepened the kissing, letting her tongue brush against Midge’s. The girl’s trembling increased, and her fingers tightened in Simone’s hair, loosening before tightening again. Simone revelled in the rhythmic pulling of her hair as she slowly explored the inside of Midge’s mouth.
There was a soft moan as the kiss broke. Midge was panting slightly, Simone’s own breath ragged. An unexpected bark of happy laughter caused Simone to give Midge a mock disapproving look.
“And what’s so funny, young lady?”
Midge buried her face in Simone’s shoulder, Simone could feel her grin. Simone stroked her hair, her nails gently scraping the skin at the base of her skull; the muffled sound against her collarbone could only be described as a purr, a sound echoed in Simone’s voice.
“O, you like that, don’t you?”
The head nodded, and Simone continued to massage. Suddenly overwhelmed with affection for Midge, she pulled the girl’s face up so that she could push her mouth against Midge’s, using the momentum of her movement to urge Midge onto her back. Her startled yelp was cut off short by Simone’s eager tongue. Some how Midge’s body was under hers, she realised when a muscular leg looped over the small of her back whilst two equally strong arms reached around her shoulders.
“What exactly did you do with Jimmy Smith?”
“Nothing like this. He was bony and stubbly. You’re all soft and warm. Are all girls like this?”
Something in Midge’s tone made Simone draw back and look at her, a slight frown tugging at her eyebrows.
“How should I know?”
Midge’s eyes widened and a puzzled, slightly hurt expression crossed her face.
“I mean – I didn’t mean anything by it, Simone, I – ”
Simone closed Midge’s lips with the tips of her fingers, her face softening into a smile.
“I know, I’m sorry”
Warm breath on her own lips as she bent down to kiss the girl. Midge’s eyelids slid shut, her fingers digging into Simone’s shoulders as the kiss deepened again.
“Simone, last night when you – when you touched – touched my br-breast – ”
“It – it was really nice. D – do you think you could do it again?”
The cotton of Midge’s vest was soft with age and washing; for a moment, Simone wondered if Midge’s mother did her laundry for her. The unlikely image of Katy Mather, a Forces’ sweetheart to rival Vera Lynn, doing anything as mundane as washing her daughter’s underwear was surreal enough to keep Simone from thinking about what she was actually doing; that was until she heard a moan that might almost have been a sob, and her hand shook as a hard nipple pushed material up into her hand. Simone unconsciously pressed her hips into Midge’s, eliciting a whimper and a tightening of an already bruising grip. It wasn’t enough, touching Midge through fabric; Simone had an urgent need to connect skin, flesh and bone. And after all, it was the easiest thing in the world to slide her hand under the vest, to catch the girl’s cry in her own mouth.
Later, Simone would wonder why she wasn’t shocked by what she was doing, why she felt this overwhelming need to touch Midge. A girl. But it was stronger than anything she’d ever felt before. Something about Midge had got under her skin and she knew if she didn’t express it, explore it, then she was liable to explode. Simone was by no means shy but she had never been this sexually aggressive. She wanted to feel, to experience every bit of Midge she could, and by the way Midge was moving underneath her, the girl was more than happy to oblige. Simone raised herself up, moving so that she straddled Midge, both hands now inside her vest, resting gently against Midge’s breasts; she looked down at Midge, momentarily stunned. Face flushed, her half opened eyes bottomless, her full lips parted as she breathed hard: the girl was breathtakingly beautiful, and Simone knew things would never be quite the same again.
So many things had been vague, unformed and only half known until Midge felt Simone’s full weight on her body. She remembered Jimmy Smith, his hands as rough as the stubble on his cheeks and chin, he was all angles and sharp edges. Not like Simone; her soft curves melted into Midge, running smooth and warm through the cotton of her nightdress. Midge wrapped her arms around her, wanting to pull her as close as she could, wanting skin against skin, but not able to form the need into words.
All day she’d been haunted by the sensation of Simone’s hands on her. She’d kept quiet, pretending she was asleep so the other woman wouldn’t stop touching her. And then by the pool, Simone had brushed her lips against Midge’s, so quickly and then she was gone. Midge was left with their imprint and questions that couldn’t be answered as Simone had run off and stayed away so long, Midge had wondered if she would actually come back. It wouldn’t have been the first time Simone had stayed out all night, just the first time it would’ve bothered Midge, the first time she would’ve felt directly responsible. Dazed, Midge watched Simone walk away from her, and did the only thing she knew how to do: she dived into the pool, feeling instantly numbed as cold water flooded over her body. There was comfort in the familiar.
Comfort in the familiar of sitting up high in the life guard’s chair, or at least there should’ve been. But there was Ruth in a red one piece swimming costume, showing more of her understatedly beautiful body than Midge had ever seen. A confusing heat washed over the girl. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from where Ruth was standing by the side of the pool with her friend and the two men from the night before. The ones she’d been sitting with before she left the Ballroom so suddenly. Midge’s stomach clenched and tightened, and as the morning progressed heaviness fell over her. Ruth hadn’t even acknowledged her existence, her attention completely taken by the boys showing off, splashing around. Midge chewed on the edge of her thumb and watched.
Things with Simone were simpler in some ways. She was her friend. Midge reached her hand up again to stroke hair that was hanging loose and silky, rich and golden as honey, it flowed through her fingers. Midge couldn’t get enough of it. Simone’s hands were cupping Midge’s breasts; Midge felt blood rush to her face, felt the breath catch in her throat as her body ignited.
Continued in part 5
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