“What is this? What are you doing?” came a bellow from the doorway. Leon had arrived. His hair was matted and his cheeks were red from running through the cool winter air. “The weather is beautiful today. You should be out!”
“We’re writing a letter!” Celine yells back, “It’s brilliant.”
Leon kicked off his running shoes and sauntered into the kitchen area where you both were sitting. “What is this? What letter? To who is this sent to?” Leon said looking at each of you in turn trying to decipher the mystery.
“To Michelle.” you replied to the sweaty, but handsome frenchman. Celine turns and nods with a big grin.
“Ah merd.” Leon exclaims. “But you know this is not good.” he blurts while raising his hands in frustration. “You know what will happen to you if you send her that letter. Come now Celine. We talked about this. You have to let her go.” His words came softer now, placing a large hand on Celine’s slight shoulder. “You have to stop torturing yourself.” It was clear his was the voice of experience.
“I’m not sending the letter Leon.”
“But,” Leon stood up straight, his face squished into a confused scowl. “why do you write then?”
“Because I’m going to send it.” you interrupted, a brilliant smile on your face and your hands on your hips. All you were missing was a cape and cowl and it would feel like you were a superhero.
“What?” Leon bubblered. His eyes darted around the room as he tried to grasp the implications. “Wait, so you send the letter.”
“But Celine will write it.”
“So….” the realization of the simplicity of the ruse caused Leon to shout, “So the letter will arrive and Michelle will finally be able to talk to Celine again!?!”
“Yes” you reply once more.
“Oh mon dieu! Vas faire foutre a la vache! Êtes-vous sérieux? C’est magnifique!” Leon roared, amused and elated simultaneously.
“See?” Celine chimed in, “Brilliant isn’t she.”
Leon swiftly grabbed you by the shoulders and kissed you on both cheeks. The roughness of his stubble stinging slightly. “Truly brilliant.” He looked you in the eyes with pride. “Ok, then I shower and I’m off. You two have the studio to yourself today. I’ll be back for dinner.”
“Come on now,” you whisper to Celine, “Let’s write that letter and get it mailed today!” Celine looks at you and smiles, bites her lip, and smiles again but shortly after her smile devolves into a furrowed frown.
“I don’t know what to say!” Celine exclaims in exasperation “I …I’ve wanted to talk to her for so long and now that I have the chance I don’t know what to say!”
You look at her with sincere compaction taking her by the shoulders and kissing her on the cheek you whisper “it’s ok. Just tell her…tell her what’s in your heart.” You smile into Celine’s crying eyes then gently wipe away the tears. “Come on Celine” you encourage “if she was here right now in front of you what would you say? You know you’d say something. Right? You wouldn’t just remain so silent.”
“Non I would not be silent. ”
“So then what would you say?”
“I miss you. I miss every part of you. I miss the smell of your hair. The softness of your kiss. Your breath on my skin as we share a bed. ” you smile as Celine continues her heart felt profession of her feelings “I didn’t know love until I met you and I feel I never will again till you and I are reunited.” Her words speak volumes to you and while you listen your own heart melts as it aches for the same declaration to be spoken you you. “Mon dieu I sound crazy.” Celine laments. Her eyes darting from side to side and for the first time since you’ve known her, she looked unsure of herself.
“Celine, that sounded beautiful. I know if I was Michelle I would melt if I heard those words.” You smile then continue “god you made me melt and you weren’t even saying those things to me!” A chuckle escapes your lips if only to mask the disappointment of never experiencing the depth of connection that your friends felt.
“You really think so?” Celine asked, her eyes blinking rapidly as her voice wavered.
“Yes I do. ” you replied honestly trying to reassure the normally stalwart Celine. “Now lets get this letter written. Find me some paper and a pen.” Celine stepped away from the kitchen counter and over to the corner area that seemed to be designated as Leon’s office. She retrieved some stationary and a pen and quickly handed them over to you. “Now we have to write this so it seems like its me that is writing. We don’t want you an Leon to get in trouble again.” Celine rolled her eyes in disgust but then nodded in agreement.
“Ok. This is true. But how do we do this?”
“We’ll make it sound like I’m telling Michelle a story. Hopefully she’ll understand.”
“I hope so.” Celine repeats quietly to herself and for the next few hours you and Celine crafted a clever love story for Michelle to read.
The last line of the letter was one that Celine insisted on, and it trouble you to write. “I hope this letter finds you safe and secure, but if you are in any danger please contact me immediately and I will make sure you’re protected.”
“I don’t understand Celine, why wouldn’t she be safe? Isn’t she home with her parents?”
Celine turned to you and scowled, “Oh come on Al. Don’t be stupid.”
“If her home was safe why did she run away?” Celine said with a sneer that you hoped wasn’t totally directed at you. She folded the letter neatly and kissed it. Her eyes closed, her lips lingered on the paper imagining it to be more than the object it was. She opened her eyes slowly then slid the letter into its envelope, sealed it, and affixed a stamp.
“I don’t understand Celine. What is the secret? Why can’t you tell me what happened. Don’t you trust me?” your hurt feelings soaked through the words like mud through a shoe.
Celine put the letter down on her lap and sighed. Turning to you she smiled then scrunched her face in thought, “Ok…ok Al….I will…I will tell you what happened, but let’s mail this first.” You nodded in agreement trying not to let your curiosity get the best of you.
On the snow dusted cobbled road Celine and you walked to the nearest mailbox. You and her were arm in arm when she turned to you and kissed you on the cheek, “Thank you for this Al.”
After depositing the letter the two of you turned to walk the short block back to Leon’s studio. “What happened to Michelle shouldn’t happen to anyone.” Celine quietly said to you. Her words were soft and gentle. The opening introduction to a story equal parts captivating as horrible.
“Michelle has never known her dad.” Celine quietly continues, “The man that she called dad was actually her stepdad not her actual flesh and blood.” She unlocked the door to the studio and swung the large door in. “I don’t know if that makes it better or worse. My dad was a monster. If my mom had remarried perhaps I would have a stepdad that was better. Or maybe he’d be just as bad. You never know.” The two of you kicked off your boots and hung your coats. You followed Celine up the stairs and down the hallway to her tiny room.
Once inside her room she flopped on the bed, then sat up cross-legged. You stood at the doorway waiting. She then sighed and continued, “It was her step-dad that started it.” Celine stated cryptically. “He was the one that started everything in motion. Just him. That dirty ugly man, and now she’s back within his reach.” Your mind swam with grievous thoughts of what might have happened and you stood in silence hoping for Celine to assuage your mind. “He touched her Al. He touched Michelle.” Your eyes darted around the room as if searching for an appropriate response. You felt full of anger, but simultaneously you felt sympathy for Michelle.
Unfortunately all you could manage to utter was, “Ah…”
“Her mom had gone to the coast for the weekend to visit with her grandma. Michelle was under the care of her step-dad which ordinarily would have been fine, but in the last while Michelle had noticed Florian had been lingering. When she was younger it wouldn’t have been anything that struck her as strange, but when you start to notice boys, you notice all boys. Even the ones that you don’t like, or maybe you notice them even more.” Celine shook her head and body as if affected by a sudden chill. “She told me it started slowly. Every once in awhile Florian would walk in on her when she was changing. He would always claim it was innocent, that he didn’t realize she was home, but these were excuses that Michelle could easily see through. At first she didn’t recognize the pattern, but once she did she went to her mom.”
“She did? That must of been hard.”
“Well her mom and her were still close at that point, so it wasn’t too difficult.” Celine shrugged, “But when she told her mom about how he kept coming into her room her mom’s response was just to ignore the obvious signs and instead pretend that it was just that Florian was still in the mindset that Michelle was a little girl.” You shook your head in annoyance, and Celine continued. “So her mom told Florian to be sure to knock since Michelle was blossoming into a grown woman.”
“…and I’m guessing that didn’t help” you interjected.
“Non…Qui n’a pas réussi. It did not work. All her step-dad did now was knock and quickly open the door. Not even waiting for Michelle’s response.”
“Patience my friend, we haven’t even got to the gross part yet.”
“So then when she came home from school, instead of changing out of her uniform like she normally would, she would wear it and wait till her mom came home in the evening. Once her mom and her step-dad started to talk she’d race upstairs and quickly change.”
“She had a school uniform?”
“Yes, and of course she didn’t like the uniform and wished to be out of it as soon as possible. But what do you do? If she goes to change she gets accosted by his accidental bursting into the room. If she doesn’t change she’s walking around the house with a schoolgirl uniform.”
You nod in understanding. There was something about a knee high pleated skirt and fluffy blouses that made even normal men act giddy. Ironic when you thought of it, because most of the schools that enforced these uniforms were noted for their staunch rigidity to order and discipline. More often than not they were overtly religious in nature.
“This went on for a year almost.” Celine continued. “This stupid cat and mouse game between them. Michelle trying to avoid him at all costs, only to be stuck in the same room time after time. It was driving her crazy.”
“That’s horrible.” you chime in, not sure what else you could really say.
“Yes…horrible. She kept trying to let her mom know, but she had every possible excuse. It was like her mom would rather pretend that the world was perfect than protect her daughter.” Celine clenched her fists in anger perhaps with thoughts of her own mother.
Inwardly you felt ashamed. It was hard to understand why, but you felt guilty. Your family life was picturesque and normal in every sense of the word. You suffered no abuse. You accrued no loss. There was no belligerence, hostility, or quarrelsome situations. Your parents showed care, love and compassion to you and your siblings as well as each other. The rare arguments that they had were trifles over inconsequential subjects like who left the toilet seat up. Or why did we get chunky peanut butter this time instead of smooth. Both Celine and Michelle had been through their own personal crucible moments and as much as you attempted to sympathize, you really couldn’t grasp the complexity of what they felt then or now.
“So now you can imagine her horror when she found out she was to be alone with him for the entire weekend.” Again all you can really do is nod. “At first her plan was to have a friend over, but her friend changed her mind at the last moment, deciding instead that she’d rather spend her time with her new boyfriend.” Celine sighed and clenched her eyes tight. “I….I can’t tell you what happened Al, it’s….it’s…..just….wrong.”
You grimace and pull Celine close, attempting as best as you can to give her a reassuring hug, “It’s ok Celine. You don’t have to tell me every little detail.”
“Well…he….did things….to her.” Celine scowled, her eyes still clamped shut. “Things that only a boyfriend should do. Things that Michelle hadn’t even experienced with her own boyfriend.” Celine opened her eyes and looked straight through you. Her eyes piercing and filled with anger as well as sadness. “She was a virgin Al and he robbed her of that. This disgusting perverted leach of a man stole her last piece of innocence.”
“That….I….” you stammer, uncomfortable and completely unsure of what to say, “I just…can’t understand it.” you finally manage to croak.
“Then when her mom gets back she tells her what happened. She shows her the bloody sheets. She cries. She wails. She does everything that you would expect, but her mom didn’t believe her. Told her she was making up stories. Her mom then turned everything around and claimed that Michelle was trying to seduce him.”
“What??!?” you exclaim at the shock.
“Yes! I know! But you know how she kept her school uniform on until her mom came home? Her mom had the crazy idea that Michelle was trying to get Florian interested in her. So she was parading around in her skirt, only to change as soon as her mom got back. In her mom’s eyes Michelle was not the victim here, but it was poor old Florian being subjected to the beguiling ways of a sexed up teenager.”
“I’m sorry but her mom is a moron.”
“No need to apologize I couldn’t agree more.” Celine mirrors. “Then of course the weekend is over so she has to go to school. Her friend that didn’t stay the weekend asks her what happened, why is Michelle looking so disheveled and sad. Michelle didn’t want to reveal her ugly truth but her friend persisted and in that moment, Michelle thought about how it may have been different if her stupid friend had stayed the night instead of hanging out with her boyfriend, she told her what happened.”
“Did Michelle’s friend feel guilty?”
“Not at all.” Celine revealed, her voice filled with contempt and anger. “Non….this sweet tart of a friend acted happy for her instead.”
“Yes happy. Her friend’s mom was friends with Michelle’s mom you see. So Michelle’s friend had overheard Michelle’s mom and her mom talking about how Michelle kept parading around in her school uniform hours after getting home. It was Michelle’s friends mom who had made the suggestion that Michelle was trying to seduce Florian. She had said that it was “perfectly natural” and that “it was nothing to worry about.” How awful is that?”
“Wait….so…it was actually her friend’s mom that said this?”
“So then Michelle’s mom believed her, and that’s why she kept ignoring Michelle’s pleas for help.”
“Oui. Her friend’s mom had convinced her that it was a cry out for attention, nothing more.”
“Oh shit. So…if she didn’t believe that….maybe….”
“Maybe it would have been different.”
“It’s worse. Her friend, who isn’t her friend anymore. Had told other girls in the school about it. They jumped on the chance to peg Michelle as a slut who was trying to seduce her step-dad. Prior to this whole situation Michelle was a stand out. She was somewhat of a teachers pet, although not intentionally. She was just smarter than most, so they were jealous of her. Given the opportunity to ridicule her, they dove on it and so the rumors immediately burned through the school about Michelle’s wild weekend of sex with her step-dad. All of this started by her supposed best friend.”
“I understand why she wanted to escape.”
“Well there’s more…” Celine continued quietly, her face scrunched up again in a pained expression.
“Michelle was ashamed, embarrassed, and in pain so she wanted to stay away from home. So after a week of putting up with all the sniggering, pointing, giggling girls and raucous detestable boys, she convinced her mom to let her spend the night at her boyfriend’s place instead of at home. Her mom was all too happy to have the weekend alone with Florian, who suddenly had a renewed vigor to his sex drive and her boyfriend was also happy to have her over.”
“That sounds…..ok….right now…but you’re going to tell me something shitty next aren’t you…”
“Michelle wanted to run away but she didn’t want to do it alone. She wanted her boyfriend to come with her. She wanted to run away with him to Paris like some crazy romantic silliness from some stupid poorly written movie. Of course he didn’t want to run. I’m sure he loved her in his own way, but he was just a boy, and boys don’t know love, they only know this kind of love.” Celine grabbed her crotch and mimicked the actions of a teenage boy masturbating. You laughed for a moment, but lost your smile once she continued. “Her boyfriend had heard the talk. He heard everyone say about how she was trying to get with her step-dad. Any adult would have realized the implication of this and tried to help, but he’s just a stupid boy. He thought if she could have sex with her step-dad then she would definitely have sex with him.”
“Yes….that’s how they think you know.” Celine rolled her eyes. “So he told her he would run away with her to Paris, but only if he could trust her.”
“Yes that is what he had said. He said that if he was going to run away with her they had to trust each other and he couldn’t trust her if this thing with her step-dad was real. How could he trust her if she had sex with her step-dad and not with her own boyfriend? That was his argument.”
“And that worked??”
“She was desperate!” Celine exclaimed, her arms raised to the ceiling in aggravation. “She just wanted to escape. She wanted to forget all about everything and just go away. Disappear. Leave. Just vanish.” Celine sighed then continued, “So she was intimate with her boyfriend as well. It wasn’t as bad as her step-dad. He didn’t last long and she was grateful for that.”
“Oh Michelle” you lamented out loud, wishing very much that you could hold her in your arms right now and make all of this past go away.
“So he promised they would run away together the next weekend. But then Monday came, they went to school and everything changed. Before lunch the school was buzzing. Her boyfriend, the toad, had told all of his friends about how he got lucky with Michelle the previous weekend. And being a deceptive little toad he fabricated the details of their minute tryst filling in the details with the glimpses of porn he had seen from time to time. By the end of the day Michelle was rumored to be the next best thing to a high class hooker, willing and able to do all sorts of sex acts with the skill of a seasoned pro.”
“What a fucking ass…” you say through clenched teeth, now squeezing your own fists tightly as Celine was earlier.
“Yes…an ass for sure. If I ever meet this little prick I’ll cut his balls off if I could ever find them.” Celine grumbled angrily. “So with this new situation at school Michelle was through. She had enough. The next day she packed what she needed and took the train to Paris. She met me in the coffee shop that evening and the rest is history.”
“My god,” you groan. “That is horrible.” Then you look into Celine’s eyes and continue, “but as horrible as it is, she was able to find you. You kept her safe. You kept her strong. You saved her Celine.”
“She saved me too Al.” Celine’s eyes start to well up but before a tear can escape she yells, “Fuck I miss her!” then collapses into your arms.
“I just….I don’t know Celine. It’s just so bad. And to have that experience be your first, it’s just…I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, I was her first girl, so there is at least that happy memory.” Celine smiles for the first time since she started the story. The relief of tension on her face is visible.
“I remember.” you admit laughing. “You two weren’t too quiet about it.”
Celine laughed until her tears of loneliness became tears of laughter. “You always remember your first Alcina, and I wanted to make sure she’d never forget.”
“Hun, I wasn’t even in the room and I’ll never forget.” and you laugh loudly, happy to be happy once more. “I only hope that my first time is so…..memorable.”
“What?” Celine stops laughing abruptly, “You are still….”
“Oh my sweet Al….we have to change that.”
“I know! I just….I’ve never found the right…it…just…I don’t ….I don’t know. I want it to be right. You know?” you manage to blubber out.
“Al, I must tell you,” Celine says in her best motherly tone, “The first time for a woman, at least with a man, is never good.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Well it’s not that it’s not good….what I mean is, it’s never going to meet your expectations.”
“Yes. Like, we’re all brought up to think that our first time will be some sort of magical event. Like suddenly we’ll be surrounded with rose petals, candles, soft jazz, on a moonlit night in some romantic place…”
“…like Paris?” you interject with mock confusion.
“Yes like Paris. We think it’s going to be perfect. Everything works beautifully. Nothing goes wrong. You’re with your lover and there will never be another. The stars will shine brighter, the earth will move, and your life is suddenly utterly complete.”
“Well….I don’t think…..I’m….I’m not that silly about it.”
“I’m sure you’re not.” Celine giggles mockingly patting you on the shoulder. “If you want my advice, I’d say get it over with. Have fun. Don’t make it so important and enjoy the moment.”
“Shouldn’t you be in love with the person though?” you ask quite innocently.
“Well I’m sure that helps. It didn’t in my case, but it might for you.” Celine laughed. “You should at least like the person, that’s for sure. But if you put so much emphasis on your first time all you’ll end up with is disappointment I’m afraid.”
“Sometimes…..sometimes I just….want to get it out of the way.”
Celine laughs and nods her head, “I know what you mean.”
“It’s just that where I live, I’m a bit of a rarity.”
“I’m…I’m pretty sure I’m the only virgin left in my grade. Hell, I may be the only virgin left in my high school as far as I can tell.”
“Oooh la la. C’est vrai? Is this true?” Celine says with wide eyes filled with astonishment.
“Well you know it’s a very small town. There isn’t a whole lot to do. So most of the kids my age, that’s what they do for fun.”
“Ya,” you laugh, “they do each other for fun.” you shake your head.
“Well then. So you are a lamb among wolves then.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well you’re the only pure thing left in your school, n’est pa?” Celine explains.
“I’m…I’m not pure! You make it sound like I’m a prude or something.”
“Non not like that. You are a virgin. Untouched. Pure. Perfect in every way. Fit for sacrifice to the Gods.” Celine’s tone abruptly turning from sincerity to sarcasm mid sentence.
“Oh shut up.” you laugh, “That’s not fair.”
“Non, what’s not fair is that we are expected to keep our legs shut for everyone but the one man that puts a ring on our finger.” Celine scoffs. “If we sleep with someone, my god, we are sluts. If we don’t. We’re frigid. It’s a stupid world.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” you sigh “I really would like to lose my virginity Celine, it does bug me a little bit, but there’s no one where I live that is even close to someone I can love.” you admit sullenly to your french friend.
You shake your head and repeat, “No one.”
“Merd, that is not good.”
“And now that I’m in university, I don’t have any time to even meet anyone.” you sigh once more, irritated at your situation, “it’s like I don’t even know how to act, or what to say or anything.”
“Ha, I know what you mean.” Celine replies cooly. “It can be hard sometimes.”
“You don’t seem to have any trouble at all.”
“Now perhaps. Maybe it doesn’t seem so, but before, it was hard.”
“What about your first time? What was that like for you?”
“It was stupid. I didn’t even like him.” Celine admitted, “But I knew he loved me. I just couldn’t return the attention. I already knew at that point I like girls more.”
“But you did it anyways? Why?”
“Because he was a sweet boy. He treated me well. Looked after me when I left home. His family took care of me too. If I was interested in men, he would be on the top of my list. Well, maybe second on my list. Leon would be first at this point.” she laughed and gave you a wink.
“So it was out of pity?”
“No, not pity. I….it wasn’t that I felt bad. I just…well maybe I did feel bad I’m not sure. It just felt like he deserved it? I’m not sure how else I can explain it.” Celine shrugged her shoulders and winced a little.
“…and it wasn’t that good.”
“Well of course not.” Celine laughed, “I liked him as a person but I wasn’t at all attracted to him. I didn’t let him know that, of course, but he really didn’t get anything right at all.” she laughed again and shook her head, her mind full of the memory, “he was an awkward boy. He got even more awkward when the lights went out.”
“Awww, that’s too bad.”
“It’s ok. He tried. He did his best. I’m sure he’s better now.” she chuckled again.
“See if I was to hook up with someone from my home town, thats what it would be like.”
“You should hook up with Leon.”
“You should be with Leon. Let him be your first.”
“W-w-w-what?” you stammer again.
“Oh shut up Al, you know you want to.” Celine chides you roughly. “When I told you about how we shared the shower I could see the jealousy in your eyes.”
“I…..I…..I wasn’t…jealous.” you blubber, the words feeling foreign to your mouth.
“Yes. Yes you were. It was obvious.” Celine shakes her head and then taps you on the shoulder. “He likes you too you know.”
“I see him everyday Al. I can tell by the look on his face. He’s trying to hide it out of respect, but he’s interested in you.”
“But…..how…you..I…I couldn’t…how could I….I’m only….god…then I leave in…and then I’ll…Jesus Celine” you splutter out another ill formed sentence.
She just laughs at you and gives you a hug, “You’re so cute Al. I’d take you myself if I thought you were into girls.”
“This would be a very memorable vacation then for sure. Check two boxes off my bucket list in less than a week.”
“Oh?” Celine smiles, raising her eyebrow.
“Shit.” you laugh, realizing you let a little too much slip.