"Mary, I think you ought to sleep with my husband."
The sluggish overhead fan had completed quite a few revolutions in the humid tropical air before Mary's synapses could fully cope with that one. She became aware that her jaw was sagging, and that her copy of Time magazine had slipped from her grasp. She had been in the middle of the cover story, "Nixon re-elected!", when Virginia Allen had dropped her bombshell.
They were the only two teachers left in the staffroom, as they had a free period directly after the lunchbreak. Outside, pupils taking a PE class seemed to shimmer in the heat coming off the playing field. Mad Englishmen in the noonday sun.
"And why do you think that?" was the best reply she could muster.
"He asked me to ask you. He thinks you are spunky."
It was a while since anyone had called her spunky. And why should they? She was married to a high school science teacher and had three young children. In fact, this was her first year back at work since completing her certification year after training college. They had started a family right away, having married just after John's graduation. Those were the days when breeding was considered virtually automatic once the knot had been tied, and they never stopped to consider that they had any other option.
But take Virginia. She was spunky. Five years younger, childless, a tall, big-boned red-head. And she had boobs. A fine handsome woman by anyone's reckoning. What would her husband want with Mary?
"Um... really? Me?"
"Yes, you! Derek has a thing about brunettes. And you are quite huggable and squeezable, you know."
Mary's surprise was starting to turn to shock. This conversation was real, it was happening, she didn't think she was dreaming any of it. She was very straight- laced. And hadn't found sex to be any kind of big deal. Why did people make such a fuss about it? When she saw the weird and innappropriate behaviour of some of the ex- patriates in this colonial backwater, sex was usually at the bottom of it. Why did it drive people so? There must be something she was missing.
"You don't have a problem with people sleeping with your husband?"
"Not if he asks me first, and I give the okay."
Mary didn't know what to say, but thought to herself, "How very... liberated!"
Although there was only five years between them, it was really an inter-generational gulf. Virginia had been part of that Summer of Love thing the magazines often used to write about. As soon as Mary had become a mother she no longer bothered with cultural trends, not since the time when Neil Sedaka was hot news and a certain moptop quartet from Liverpool was only just beginning to sell records by the truckload.
"I... I really don't think so, Ginny."
Virginia patted her on the knee.
"Have a think about it. We re-locate back to Australia in a month, so you could just sleep with him once and then we're gone. No possibility of awkward recriminations."
She gathered her things and stood to go.
"Time for Art and Craft, and I have to look after Suzie's class as well."
Susan Fletcher had a vicious alcohol habit that often caused a dereliction of her duties. Something had to be done about it; the other staff couldn't go on carrying her teaching load forever.
Virginia went, leaving Mary still stunned. She gazed out the window again, past the kids taking PE, staring unseeingly across the road, beyond rusty old iron quonset huts built by the Americans during the war, coconut trees, to the sparkling blue sea beyond.
This was a weird bunch of people over here. Colonial Service misfits, who either drank themselves stupid or fucked themselves stupid. Or both. Petty officials recently evicted by the independence movements in Tanzania and Kenya, but who couldn't face going back home.
Or the other clique, idealistic adventurers looking to expand their horizons through travel, and do their bit for the third world. For many it was their first experience of being a white minority in an almost entirely black country. Not that it brought much hardship in those days. They were part of the elite, looked up to by the locals. Mutterings about independence and localisation and the shackles of colonialism were only just beginning in the capital. People in the outer islands were practically stoneage, often still pagan. Power politics came second to high infant mortality and a life expectancy of about forty-five, in their analysis of the issues of the day.
Mary would have put herself and Virginia into the "adventurer" category. And up until this moment, she had regarded Virginia as one of the more normal of her acquaintances. Being pretty square, she was almost offended by Ginny's blunt proposition.
Almost... but not quite.
There tickled within her a faint pinprick of fascination with the very idea of it. Sure, she got fascinated by horror movies too. But there were one or two braincells inside her (albeit heavily outnumbered) that seemed to view this particular "problem" more as "opportunity".
And hey! What girl doesn't like hearing herself being described as "spunky"?
But she couldn't. It really was out of the question. She was married, fer chrissakes! With three kids, aged ten, eight and five. John, now a Head of Department for the first time, was having a ball in this tropical paradise with the small sailing boat he had just finished building.
She had only ever known one man. And that was the way it was supposed to be.
"Come on, Hazel! We'll be late for Mass."
Her step-sister was taking far too long about getting back into her black serge tunic, and was still fiddling about with the buttons of her white blouse. Why did the St Theresa's uniforms have to be so labour-intensive? Cold fingers in wintertime were hard pressed to cope.
They were the last ones out of the changing sheds after the swimming class. It was the only time during school hours when it was okay for their skinny limbs and flat chests to be on show. And probably only because the icy cold water was supposed to be good for their character. The nuns were strict about modesty. "Bold girl!", they would say to anyone who dared to leave a couple of top buttons undone.
But Hazel was in no hurry. She was in deep shit already.
There'd been the small matter of a three-shilling discrepancy when she'd returned with the staff lunch orders that day. If it had happened to Mary, the presumption would be that she'd got diddled by that unscrupulous shop-keeper. But Hazel would have pocketed it herself, in their estimation. The telephone message by now would already have been relayed by Sister Rosemary to their mother. Who would tell their stepfather when he got home that night from work. Who would then give Hazel a hiding. The bruises were still there from the last one.
Mary also got hidings, but not with the frequency of Hazel's.
Still, if they could get to Mass on time, they would have another hour in which to pray about it. And if they didn't get there on time, then Mary would be getting a hiding too.
Whenever Hazel screwed up, their parents always spoke of bad blood.
Hazel had been adopted. Mary's mother was a war widow; in fact Mary never saw her father, as he was already on active service abroad when she was born. His grave was somewhere in France. Well-meaning relatives said another child should be adopted, to be a playmate. Enter Hazel, same age as Mary. A series of foster homes had already left their indelible mark. Hazel trusted no one, and didn't feel that she owed anything to anybody. But circumstances made the two of them close. Her escapades would get both of them in trouble, and their shared beatings bonded them in adversity.
And post-war, their mother remarried and had another five kids. Go figure!
The Ford Prefect was rocking quite insistently now. From the front seat, looking straight ahead through the spray-spattered windscreen at the dismal grey seascape beyond the parking bay, Mary said;
"Hazel, what are you doing now!"
Some gasping noises, and the rocking didn't slacken.
"Keep quiet, and look front!"
Hazel sounded muffled and out of breath. And strangely her voice was coming from somewhere well down behind the front benchseat of the Ford.
She should never have agreed to come along on this drive with Hazel and Tom Winters. But Hazel had begged her to, knowing that she wasn't allowed to move a muscle these days without Mary as a chaperone. If Mary had arrived home from school without Hazel in tow, there would have been big trouble.
Practicing strict self-censorship, Mary kept her eyes straight ahead. She didn't dare look back, not knowing what she would see if she did. It sounded serious, all these animal noises from the back seat. Suckings, and slurpings, and soft moans. She turned on the radio to drown it out. Frankie Avalon was in mid-croon.
Hazel had a protruding clit. And Mary didn't. Except she didn't know it was called a clit. No one had ever called it anything in her presence. Such things were not discussed in their household. But she had seen Hazel's. When they were younger they often shared the same bath. It was big and pink. The clit, that is; not the bath. It poked well out from the tent-like fleshy hood that stretched around it, and was the most prominent feature of Hazel's pussy landscape. Even when she got her fanny hair, you could still see it.
.... There is more of this story ...