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Carol 10

by  Richard Brown

Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Word Count: 1695

Carol 10

On the glory day, the African violets were being given yet more water. Edith, humming with erotic anticipation, provocatively suggested that they were getting too much. ‘How can they?’ asked Carol, who, for negative rather than positive reasons, was also in an anxious state. She added; ‘If it was raining they'd just have to take it.’

‘Yes but they come from Africa. It’s desert.’

‘Nothing grows in the desert. They live in the jungle. It rains every day.’

Carol was the clever one, the diligent pupil, she generally had the last word on disputes about matters of fact or theory.

‘Well, they probably don't like having water just poured over them in a torrent like that. Maybe you should sprinkle it, like a rain shower.’

‘I don't see why,’ said Carol, splashing liberally from her bucket, ‘water's water.’

‘Do I look alright?" Edith asked Carol for the hundredth time, horticulture completely forgotten. She seemed gawky and raw but Carol reassured her.

‘Oh, where is he?’ whined Edith.

‘Maybe he won’t come,’ suggested Carol with a bonus burst of optimism.

‘Oh yes he will,’ said Edith confidently. Carol looked sharply up. The tone of voice told that Edith had a trick; the broad grin confirmed it.

A hand slipped into her shorts pocket and emerged a second or two later with a gleaming object, red and silver. ‘A Swiss, Swiss, Swiss.’ Edith chanted, waving the treasure triumphantly. ‘Don’t worry, he’ll be here’

A twig snapped. Both girls jumped as though shot. The knife was pocketed in a flash.
‘What's that?’ Edith gasped foolishly, for she surely knew.

Wellington emerged furtively from the trees. He had approached, as instructed, by a devious route.
He seemed taller and older than Carol recalled. Shorts and T-shirt hung loosely on his skinny frame. It might have been better had he smiled disarmingly but he looked confident, greedy and surly, an unattractive combination. There were white, dusty patches on his thin thighs. Carol unwound from her crouch. She had dressed strategically in her scruffiest clothes but the unwanted invader was looking at her and, disgustingly, licking his lips. ‘Hi, Marilyn!’ he said, ignoring Edith. Carol thought; ‘Oh no!’

‘I got the knife Wellington,’ the older girl announced and was rewarded with a momentary glance. The youth nodded, as though simply acknowledging something which he took to be his right. ‘It’s in the shed,’ lied Edith easily.

Carol had her instructions. She was to pretend to be watering the poor flooded violets. If anyone approached, she was to bang on the wall of the hideaway and then engage with whoever it was, diverting their attention whilst the gigolo escaped and Edith, improbably Carol thought, pretended to be engrossed in some gardening task.

For a few moments she attended perfectly to her duties but boredom came quickly. Edith had issued very strict instructions that there was to be no peeping yet the planks had many tantalising gaps. Carol tried to resist but the part of her being which made thieving pleasurable seemed to be in control. With a swift sentry’s glance about her, she put her face to the aromatic wood.

Wellington and Edith were standing, holding each other in an awkward embrace. Their heads were stuck together at the lips. The sight disgusted Carol yet, once she had seen it, she could not tear her gaze away. Mrs. Campbell could, at that very moment, have been on course for one of her surprise raids but the performance was totally compelling. Had Carol been asked to predict Edith’s mental state from her facial expression she would have suggested anguish but when Wellington broke off the contact he was grabbed and encircled by octopus tentacles. The kissing resumed but the clearly reluctant Wellington quickly forced another break. Irritatingly for Carol, a low flying aeroplane on its way to Kingston airport blocked out the ensuing argument. As the engine noise faded she was compelled to jump back to her flowers because a sour-seeming Edith was on her way out of the shed.

Conveying total innocence, the crouching flower tender looked up and grinned. Edith was smiling too. ‘Did you go all the way?’ Carol asked in hushed fashion but with as much passion for the topic as she could muster. Her friend smirked. ‘Course’ was the curt reply. ‘He wants you now, then I’m going to have another go.’

Carol’s big, brown eyes were at maximum size. She had not anticipated second goes. She said, ‘Er, no, well that’s alright, I mean, I don’t mind, I don’t really feel like a go at the moment. Can’t he just do you again?’

Edith’s mask of contentment vanished. ‘Look, Carol’ she urged, ‘it’s really, really good and I want to do it again but he won’t until he’s done you. Get it? He knows we’re soul sisters. I told him that’s the deal.’

Trying not to burst into tears, Carol got up from her crouch. She hung her head. It was true that they had sworn, whilst mingling blood from painful cuts, to follow each other in all things. She tried to reassure herself that, from what she had seen, ‘going all the way’ seemed to mean only the mouth-fixing business but she could not eradicate memories of Robert and Anne wrestling and moaning in the marital bed. There had to be more and the more was appalling.

‘Er, Edith?’ Carol began, meaning to ask a bit more about how the complete journey had been but her friend was in no mood for further conversation. ‘Quick!’ Edith snapped ‘suppose my mother comes! Get in there. I want to tell all my friends that I did it twice.’

Head still bowed, stomach rebelling, Carol trudged towards her destiny. The rectangle of sunlight created by the door frame just touched Wellington’s dusty feet. He was leaning against the workbench and there was a smile on his face. ‘Marilyn!’ he said, ‘come in! Shut the door.’
Struggling to walk, Carol took a few paces inwards. Wellington’s gaze never left her. ‘You fren’s plug ugly but you got something, girl,’ he said, raising an arm and reaching out to take Carol’s hand.

Her brain conducted millions of calculations. Fear was still by far the predominant emotion but there was the dim dawning of a realisation that the Monroe games had not been simply for entertainment.

Without meaning to, she smiled. He said, softly, ‘You little but you very, very pretty.’ She could not consider him to be the prince of her rich dreams yet he seemed no longer brutish. With strength in the skeletal arms which surprised Carol he held her waist and lifted. There was silence and peace as, thus deposited, she sat on the bench. She knew then that he would not hurt her.

‘You very, very pretty,’ Wellington quietly confirmed as he stared with apparent wonder into her face. One slow-moving hand skimmed over her sleek, jet hair, barely touching. She felt a warmth, then an unexpected kindling of the night pleasure and, although she could not have expressed the new ideas in words, she reached a fresh, sweetly frightening, level of understanding.

She sensed that she had mesmerised him. When his right index finger came to touch her lips she welcomed it. He traced the contours, directed by her powers. She was on the verge of thinking she could, after all, kiss him when a piggy squeal and a brutal crashing broke their magic.

Faster than any ferret, the boy was away, dipping and skipping through the bashed-open door before Mrs. Campbell could fill the space with her bulk. The invader was not interested in the fugitive. The hand which just might have grabbed him was already, like its companion, on the aggressively ordered hips. ‘You lie, you steal and now you fornicate!’ was the charge, delivered at top pitch and volume. Carol knew that there was no point whatsoever in pleading any degree of innocence.

Mr. Campbell was a very kindly man who lived in perpetual fear of his belligerent partner. Mostly he survived by keeping clear but she forced the poor soul to administer the beating which he delivered under her gaze with shoulder-shrug reluctance. Nevertheless, the belt was fat and whippy. It tore vilely into Carol’s shamefully denuded skin. She neither screamed nor once flinched, even though, as she subsequently told Edith, it hurt ‘like hell’.

Edith, not caught in flagrante, was assumed to have been unluckily in the wrong place and she escaped any retribution. Carol did not mind; there was no point, she thought, in needless suffering. As she lay, face down on the bed, letting the dampening pillow soak up the sounds of her sobs, Edith came into the room. Expecting some sympathy, Carol smiled through the streaming tears. Edith did not return the smile. She hesitated only for a moment before asking in an urgent whisper; ‘Did you go all the way?’

In her acute distress Carol could not work out which would be the most diplomatic answer. If she said ‘yes’ she would be a whore, if ‘no’, a traitor. All she could think to say was, ‘I don’t know,’ a type of truth which brought a contemptuous snort from her blood sister. It was puzzling to Carol that thereafter her reward for refraining from incriminating Edith was a coldness which it seemed nothing could thaw.

Daily Mrs. Campbell reminded Carol that her parents ‘soon come’ and that the first thing they would hear would be a catalogue of their child’s disgusting misdeeds. ‘You evil, girl,’ was the oft-repeated judgement ‘an’ your precious daddy goin’ give you some almighty licks.’

The child had been yearning for the return of Robert but she suspected that the eye-witness account of her dalliance with Wellington would indeed fire her father to administer yet more corporal punishment. He would be just as much unwilling as Mr. Campbell had been but it would hurt almost as much.

Three days before the longed-for yet dreaded reunion, Carol rushed home from school to lavish attention on her mother’s beloved flowers. She stared at the pots in dreadful, stomach-sick dismay.

Every single violet was dead.