Less a coming of age tale than a cumming of age, Cassie is a novel about growing up in the early 2000s, in an era that saw teenaged sexuality redefined across so many different dimensions that even the most basic parental blueprint was blown out of the water. Or so the sexperts tell us.
It was, these learned talking heads declare, an era of religiously inclined virginal promise rings, and all the hypocrisy that bled out of that movement... legs tight together but mouths open wide because the one thing that the Democrats gave to the Republicans was Bill Clinton’s insistence that blowjobs aren’t sex.
It was an age when sex was thrust down our throat every time we turned on the TV, in a way that even the generation before us could never have imagined; and though we took the Internet for granted, a lot of other, older, people were less convinced about its virtues.
It was an age in which kids needed to relearn the most basic precepts of decency, because the redefinitions were too appalling to contemplate.
It was an age that led us to today, and Cassie already feels anachronistic,. just a decade after the years in which it is set. That may be why it is still “a work in progress”; because I simply haven’t decided where to turn with a story that is already cobwebbed and strange. But this first chapter appeals because it screams out an innocence that itself... well, the sex experts tell us that first-timers don’t feel this way anymore.
But somehow, I don’t think they’re telling the truth.
I didn’t have a clue what I was meant to do next
I didn’t know what I was doing, and I don’t think he was sure, either. Lying back against the peeling wallpaper, eyes closed and motionless, bar the moans of pleasure that escaped his parted lips.
I wished I could share his apparent pleasure. I’d heard this was meant to be fun… exciting… exquisite. Instead, once I got past the initial thrill, it was rather boring. The taste intrigued for a moment, and the scent of his balls, as well. But though I was certainly crouched alongside him, my mouth stretched tight around his erection, you could never say I was sucking his cock, because the thing was so thick, or my mouth was so small, that I couldn’t suck, couldn’t move my tongue, couldn’t do any of those things that I thought this might entail.
Quite simply, my mouth was a hole into which he had jammed himself and, having done so, neither of us was certain what should happen next. So I crouched and rubbed his shaft up and down; listened as his gentle moans grew faster and louder; and when suddenly it was over, with a soupy hot explosion that filled my mouth with salty surprise, all I could think was “so now what do I do with it?”
The problem pages in the teen magazines never got this far. The most alarming circumstance they could envisage was spotting a pimple on his chin, right before your first kiss. It probably never crossed the agony aunt’s mind that a girl could be sitting in a tent in the middle of a field, holding her breath around a mouthful of congealing, cooling come, wondering what the fuck to do?
I leaned forward and half-spat, half-coughed it out onto his stomach. In the half light, I wondered how I had even considered doing anything else? It tasted… okay. I didn’t hate it. But it looked like old yoghurt and it had the texture of mud. And I’d seen enough of that this afternoon to last me an absolute lifetime.
August 1999. My first summer out of school, and my last few weeks of freedom before I bow down to the inevitable… get a job, get an apartment, get married, get old, get buried. Oh, and get laid, and that’s what I’m supposed to be doing this weekend. I met Jake and the rest at a party a month ago, and it was like waking up after a sleep that had lasted forever.
At last, a gang that I can hang with, people who understand what I’m saying but, more importantly, who understand what I’m thinking; who don’t need me to spell it all out in baby talk before they comprehend that there should be more to life than playing follow the leader with my parents… they comprehend it because they’ve already proved that. For a while, I wondered what they could possibly see in me, a stubby little boarding school blonde, fresh up from the sticks, seeing everything in the city with the wide-open eyes of an innocent. Then Jake told me that’s exactly what they saw, and they loved it. “Someone,” he murmured in that sexy growl of his, “who hasn’t already been fucked by the system.”
Hasn’t been fucked by anyone, I almost added, but I kept my mouth shut. The boys I’d run with in the past, skipping school at weekends and evenings, or groping behind the bike sheds on the way back from the youth club – that’s all they thought about, even if they never had the hair on their balls to say it. You could see it in way that their eyes flickered nervously, hear it in the hesitant stammer with which they answered even the simplest question; and, most of all, feel it against your leg when you slow danced at the disco.
Jake was different, though. For a start he was older than me. How much older, I never quite worked out. He must have been at least 20, though, and maybe even more. Certainly too old to be chasing tail in the same way that mine had been chased in the past, and too mature to think that I’d ever fall for any of the juvenile subterfuge that the boys my own age thought was the height of romantic derring-do. He won me with words, and just the hint of a challenge, enough that I knew he was leading to something, but never so much that I ever had to answer him. Until last weekend.
“You coming to Ozfest next Friday?”
Ozfest? I looked at him blankly.
“The festival,” he said patiently. “Don’t think much of the bands that are playing, but you don’t want to miss the piss up.”
“Er… yeah.” My mind was already ticking off everything I’d need… tent, sleeping bag, transport, a bloody good alibi for my parents. But Jake already had an answer for all of them. “You can share the tent with me if you like.” He gestured over at Sally and Mark. “They’ve got their own, thank God. I’ve got blankets and, tell you what we’ll do. Sally will pick you up, you can tell your folks you’re staying at her place. That way there’s no anxious parents chasing you across the campsite, waving birth control pamphlets at you.”
I nodded. He’d obviously got it all worked out, long before he even asked me if I could come. And, from the way his arm was draped over my shoulders as we drove, it was clear that birth control wasn’t an issue for him, either. But just in case it was, I had a dozen condoms in my overnight bag, bought from a chemist’s store three bus rides and a long walk away from any neighborhood I’d ever visited before.
Except now I’d gone and lost the lot. I retraced my footsteps towards the Portaloo, then set out again. Past the bikers with their little group of tents encircled by a dozen gleaming motorcycles, and a fat woman already topless and drunk in the arms of three of them; past the first of so many makeshift hippy communes, half invisible behind a thick fug of smoke and patchouli; a detour around the Krishna kids, chanting and rattling their way between the tents, their bright robes already spattered with the mud that oozed everywhere.
A boy with spectacles bumped into me. “Hey, do you know who’s playing?” He inclined his head towards the stage. I didn’t, and he lurched away, then wheeled back around. “Well, do you want to come and find out?”
“Sorry, I can’t. I’m looking for some friends.”
“Do you know where they are?”
“Then you might as well come with me. You’ve as much chance of finding them in one direction as you have in any other.”
I thought about that. “Okay, but you’ve got to help me look for them.” A blue tent, a tall, dark-haired guy in jeans and a Dio T-shirt… shit. Talk about a needle in a haystack.
“Don’t worry. At least you’ll know them when you see them.” He stuck out a hand. “My name’s Joe, by the way. But you can call me Joseph.” He laughed. “I knew that would throw you. It throws everyone.”
I smiled and took his hand. “I’m Cassie.” Then, as we seemed to be behaving so formally, “pleased to meet you.”
We walked, he talked, I half-listened, a litany of band names that I’d never heard of and could probably never keep straight. I hoped he wouldn’t start questioning me about them But he was less interested, it seemed, in finding out what I knew, than in showing me everything he knew. So when he told me I should stick with him, because he’d find us the best vantage point for every band, I just shrugged and nodded.
“Yeah, maybe.” I hated to admit it, but it looked like I was stuck with him anyway, at least until I hooked up with Jake again. Assuming I ever did. Surely they’d noticed that I wasn’t back from the toilets yet? I looked at my watch. Four o’clock. I’d been gone for over an hour.
“Do you smoke?” Joe interrupted my reverie, holding out a packet of Marlboro. “Thanks.” I took one and lit up; of all the resolutions I’d made when I left school, starting to smoke was the only one I’d actually managed to keep. “No,” Joe was saying. “I meant do you smoke? Weed.”
“I don’t know. I’ve never tried it.” I remembered a night a few weeks ago, when Jake and Mike went into a giggling huddle around a bong they’d borrowed from somewhere. The very smell of it made me feel nauseous, and I’d passed on the opportunity. But Joe was flashing a pinprick of something, carefully wrapped in a few layers of tinfoil. “Once the proper music starts, I’ll roll us one. You’re gonna love it.”
“Thanks.” Fuck, where were the others? Joe seemed nice enough, and there were worse people to be stuck with than a dope-smoking wannabe Deadhead (with a decidedly up-market accent… the more he talked, the more I noticed it. Was someone’s little rich boy slumming it with the plebs, I wondered?). But it was hardly how I’d planned my weekend to begin and… and that, I decided with a sudden flash of fury, was fine. I looked at my watch again. Five-fifteen.
I thought about the contents of my bag, back at Jake’s tent. Condoms, a change of panties and a couple of T-shirts. Deodorant. Everything else – cash, keys, cigarettes and matches – was scattered around my pockets, and I patted myself down just to make sure. So fuck the others. If they’d gone and lost me, then I’d stay lost until they found me again.
Besides, by the time night fell, I was actually enjoying Joe’s company. We smoked the joint, and then bummed another off a couple of guys who he spotted by the stage – they turned out to be neighbors of his, which in turn gave credence to a lot of the stories Joe had been regaling me with as we sat in the mud. He did know a lot of interesting people.
I’d been right about one thing, though – he was slumming it, and he admitted as much, somewhere between a heart-wrenching account of his mother’s death when he was seven, and the ghastly recounting of an over-bearing father insisting his son and heir follow in his city banker footsteps. Now he worked in a supermarket, lived in a rented single room that stank of curried goat and damp, and spent every penny he could on dope and music. “So, what about you, Cass?”
A shrug. “Nothing. I mean, there’s nothing like that. I live with my parents, I’m looking for a job…”
I frowned. “I thought maybe Jake and I… he was certainly keen for me to come this weekend, and I kinda expected that we’d end up together.”
“So you’re not going out with him? Not officially, I mean?”
Another shrug. “He doesn’t really talk… think like that. I asked him once, and he just looked at me like I was still a schoolgirl, with a silly crush.”
Joe snorted. “I’m sorry. How old did you say he was? 20, 21? Believe me, that might seem old to you now, but when you get there, you’ll realize he’s as much a silly schoolgirl as you ever were. Sillier, in fact, because he’s so busy acting cool around you that he hasn’t even put out a call for you.” He paused as a voice boomed out over the PA… “will Frank and Pat please come to the front of the stage, because Steve wants his cigarettes back.” “I’ve been listening to the announcements all afternoon,” Joe continued. “Not a word about you.”
I took another hit off the spliff. It was funny, the first few sent my head spinning, so hard and fast that I thought I must pass out. But now it was more like nestling deeper and deeper into a huge mound of feathers, warm and snug and comforting. “Fuck Jake,” I giggled. “Fuck the lot of them. You’ll look after me, won’t you, Joe?”
“Yeah, well I need to talk to you about that,” he said, retrieving the joint from my greedy lips. “I’m only here for the day, till the show’s finished. I have work tomorrow.”
“Huh.” I knew I ought to say more than that, but the words weren’t there – or, if they were, I couldn’t be bothered to look for them.
“But, if you don’t mind curried goat and damp, you can always drive back with me tonight, then take the bus back tomorrow and carry on looking for your friends. At least that way, you won’t be stuck out in the open all night.”
“And the mud, mud” I added enthusiastically, and only just stopped myself before I threw in a chorus of “glorious mud.” Instead I raised myself out of my bed of the softest downy feathers, not even pausing to wonder why it squelched and sucked and soaked my hair, threw my arms around him and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek. He smiled and the light from a nearby bonfire illuminated the dirt that streaked his face. “You’re all muddy,” I smirked.
“I am now,” he laughed back. “But not as muddy as you.” Which, of course, was the most hysterically funny thing I’d ever heard in my life; even funnier than the forceful splat with which I toppled back onto the ground, and certainly a lot funnier than the realization that a long day, an empty stomach, and an evening spent sucking on a full-blown joint are not the kind of combination to indulge, if you intend staying upright for the foreseeable future. The next time I opened my eyes, it was to find myself half-seated, half slumped in the passenger seat, as Joe negotiated his way into the narrowest of parking places, while around us loomed the decaying terraced houses that had long ago been converted into the meanest of apartments. “Home, sweet home,” Joe chuckled as he saw me stir. “Do you think you can manage the stairs?”
I nodded. “How did you even get me to the car?”
“Oh, you weren’t so bad. Not sure what I’d have done if you hadn’t woken up, though. I’m not exactly in the basement apartment, and half of the lights have blown out. In fact, you’d better give me your hand now. It’s not the easiest maze to negotiate.”
Six floors, three barked shins and a bicycle handlebars-shaped blow to my left hip later, Joe was letting us into his room and, no matter how appalling the picture I’d drawn from his descriptions, it was worse. Damp, decay, despair… the one ring stove, the dripping tap, the single bar electric heater, the worn-out armchair, the unmade bed. He’d done his best to brighten it up – a few posters, colored light bulbs, a pile of CDs. But the ashtray overflowed to the floor to meet the unwashed laundry, and dirty dishes tottered in the tiny sink, as though wondering whether they should join them there.
“Grim, isn’t it,” Joe shuddered. “But at least there’s no bugs. I’ve heard the worst stories…”
“It’s alright, you don’t need to tell me,” I told him. And then, “where’s the bathroom? I’m bursting!”
“Back out in to the hallway, first door on your left. And this time, don’t get lost on the way back.”
I laughed and promised I wouldn’t. The less time I had to spend in any of these dingy rooms, the better, and then the realization hit me. Obviously I’d be spending the night here and, equally obviously, Joe was expecting me to spend it with him. With him. That wasn’t so bad – we’d spent so long together already that I felt I knew him at least as well as I did Jake. And, once you got past that kitten-like boyishness, he really wasn’t bad looking. But he also didn’t look like the sort of fellow who kept piles of condoms lying around the room, in the hope of half-stoned young blondes dropping in unannounced… in which case, then what do we do?
“What we do,” Joe whispered as we lay together, and I blurted out my panic the moment I felt his hand on my breast, “is stop worrying. We lay here. What happens is what happens, but just because we can’t do one thing, it doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything else.” He was pulling up my T-shirt as he spoke, exposing my stomach slowly, then dipping to kiss round my navel. It tickled and I giggled, then gasped as he uncovered my breasts and began kissing them.
Again that unreasonable voice in the back of my mind… why did it sound so much like my mother? “One thing leads to another, and nice girls don’t, you know.” Yeah, well sometimes nice girls want to, and we’ll see what leads to what. His lips closed around a nipple, sucking gently as it erected itself, drawing it deep into his mouth and playing the tip of his tongue across it. I stroked his hair, then remembered the state that mine must be in.
“You know I’m getting mud all over your bedclothes?”
He released his grip. “So? I can always change the sheets. But maybe we’d better get you out of the rest of those clothes. No point in messing up the blankets as well.” He was fumbling with the button of my jeans; I swung my legs onto the floor, out of his reach. “I’ll do that. You…” I looked at him sitting there, his eyes bright and expectant behind his glasses. “You should get out of yours, as well.”
“I suppose so,” he said softly, then reached out and switched off the lamp. A street lamp outside still illuminated the room, and like a scene from an old American detective film, a neon across the street flashed a repetitive pink reflection off the TV screen. I scrambled out of my T-shirt, pulled my jeans and panties down in one movement. My mud-caked socks peeled away, and I sat back on the bed, watching as Joe removed his own trousers. Then he was alongside me again, his mouth back at my breast, while his fingers traced lightly down my abdomen.
“Have you ever…” he began.
I waited for him to complete his sentence. Instead, he buried his face into my cleavage, kissing and sucking at the flesh as I sank back against the pillows, luxuriating in the warmth of his kisses. He was moving now, his mouth sliding back towards my belly button, to my waist, to either hip – first one, then the other.
Without even being aware of it starting, I felt my body straining against his face, as though trying to guide his lips towards some place that it wanted them… some place that I had never really, consciously thought might want to be kissed… tasted… licked. For a moment, I was shocked at my own brazenness; wondered what he must be thinking. But his movements did not slow, just deftly sidestepped my own baby shifts and stretches, as though he could read every wriggle, and could draw this out forever.
A finger brushed my inner thigh; I gasped as my nerve-ends grabbed at that fleeting contact, and again as he repeated the gesture, a little firmer this time, and for a little longer. I was soaking wet down there; I wondered if he could smell me, and what the scent was doing to him? I once read that the smell of sex is the greatest aphrodisiac there is – did that mean his cock was hard? I strained my eyes through the darkness, but could see nothing; I thought of raising my foot and trying to touch it that way, but held back. The last thing I wanted to do was move too quickly and kick him there.
Oh my God. Now his lips were on my thighs, and his tongue, warm and rough and wet, sliding across the skin, breaking me out in goose-pimples as he traced towards… around… he licked up my groin and I jumped with the shock of the sudden glorious tickle. His hands on my hips held me down. “Ticklish, eh?” he murmured, and he did it again, but slower this time, as though his tongue was reluctant to leave one spot of flesh, though there was another just like it immediately above.
He bit me, gently but firmly, and I jumped again, but this time he allowed me the movement, as he clamped his hands beneath me, clasped my butt cheeks and, as he squeezed, he drew my pussy to his face. I know I gasped, I think I squeaked, and I still recall the sudden stab of pain as his finger drove into me without a care in the world – later, I realized I’d lost my virginity on a rumpled bed in a filthy bedsit, to a man whose cock was three feet away.
But I didn’t care, because something else was happening, building up within me, gathering force and rising fast… and it wasn’t the things that he was doing that were driving those sensations, but the thought of it, the fevered realization that I was lying on my back with my legs around his neck, while he sucked on my cunt like it was candy. That’s what really excited me and, when I came, this time it wasn’t a squeak, it was a full-blooded scream, one that could wake up the pigeons and stir all the neighbors, and which shocked Joe so much that he would have stopped what he was doing if my hand hadn’t pushed him back there, to taste the grinding epicenter of my soul.
“Wow,” he murmured as he finally got free. I kissed him, tasted my juices thick on his face. “Wow yourself,” I breathed. This was not the moment to start acting all lovey-dovey, although every fiber in my being cried out to say something, anything, to let him know just how fabulous I felt. No, actions speak louder than words, and the only way to repay him for what he’d done for me was to turn around and do it straight back to him. Now, before I changed my mind; now, before I chickened out.
I reached for his cock, the first I had ever held. Velvet soft and hot metal hard, it reminded me of the evening, long ago, that a boys school came to use our gymnasium, to warm up for a local sports meet they were taking part in. A group of us sat watching as they leaped, jumped and hurled things around and, afterwards, a couple of us ventured over to talk. One of the boys flexed his biceps and invited us to touch the muscle. Joe’s cock felt exactly like that, but the thrill that passed through my body as I contemplated what I was planning to do was something I had never experienced before.
I looked up at him. His eyes were closed… I’d swear he was holding his breath, as well, while he waited to see what might happen next. I squeezed his shaft and moved closer, breathing in his scent and realizing, with a sudden start, that no matter how much my conscious mind continued to question my actions, every instinct in my body was crying out to taste him. Fear and hunger. It’s a potent combination and my only conflict was, which would win out in the end?
My tongue flicked tentatively out and whipped quickly across the head; he gasped aloud and I paused. The world did not end; I was not violently sick (both thoughts had rushed through my mind). I licked again, slower this time, coiling my tongue around the alien fruit that I held so tightly in one hand. Around and around, in ever wider patterns, accustoming myself to his thick, salty flavor, preparing myself for what I knew should come next.
I was perfectly aware of what I was preparing to do in theory. My girlfriends and I used to laugh all the time about how (once we got past the “if”) we would go about it. But there’s a big difference between talking about it, and actually doing it, between the idea of sliding a hot cock into your mouth, and the reality of the hard flesh passing deep between your lips, of your jaw stretching wide to accommodate its thickness (whoever knew that a cock could feel so huge?), and between wanting to “suck him off” and even being able to suck. As I lowered my mouth over him, felt my jaw screaming stop, and my breath cutting short, a single, awful thought hit me around the head.
I didn’t have a clue what I was meant to do next