She kissed him. It was a closed-mouth kiss — mwa mwa mwa, without the sound. Shouldn’t I be kissing her? It didn’t matter. Her essence was flooding into him, warming him, making his legs tingle.
She put his right hand on her left breast. “This doesn’t mean we’re on together.”
Jason nodded and shook his head in quick succession. Yes, I mean no. She was kissing him again. He moved his fingers, squeezing gently. She had a bra on under her uniform. Of course she’s got a bra on, idiot. She was still a junior, her uniform the maroon chequered dress, and on such a warm afternoon, she wasn’t wearing a jumper. Her breast felt soft but firm. She pushed that side of her chest forward. Jason was kissing her back, mwa mwa.
Her essence flooding into him smelled sweet. It was different going into his mouth. He had smelt it in her hair whilst waiting in line behind her at the school canteen, but he was tasting it now. More than sweet, it was exciting and fruity and girl-tender. Jason would never be going back to where he was before that moment. His life meant something else now.
“Me and Michael will probably get back together,” she said.
Michael was Jason’s best friend, a senior. He had dropped out of school. When April became a senior next year, she would wear a grey skirt and white blouse to match the senior boys’ uniform. You could see girls’ bras through their white blouses.
Jason still had his hand on her breast. He didn’t really know what to do about that. He squeezed again, kind of exploring. Mwa, mwa. He had been watching kissing in movies lately, in anticipation of trying it. He had been thinking about it a lot since April started going with Michael.
She removed his hand from her breast and got up from the couch. “I have to go. Don’t say anything, alright?”
Jason did the yes/no head shake thing again. He found his voice. “That was nice, April.” He liked saying her name just then.
She blushed a little, pointed to the door. “Have to go.”
She opened the door and vanished, leaving a sunny void that Jason sat staring into. April lived two houses down. Jason’s family had moved from the other side of Everly Cove the previous summer, and he had been infatuated with her the first day he had seen her walking by his house. He had been too shy to do anything much about it, other than spending a lot of time in the front yard hoping for her to walk by, then failing to say anything when she did.
His friend Michael always had one girlfriend or another and had gotten around to April at New Years. It was weird because it gave Jason the chance to be closer to her, whilst the pang of jealousy, watching Michael kiss her and walk with his arm around her, stung. Jason was a boy, though, Michael, a young man.
There was dust and tiny fibres floating in the sunlight where April had disappeared. It was after-school Thursday. Jason was going to remember Thursday, February 17th, 1985 for ever. It was how it felt right then. Time had not stopped, it had started. Boyhood with its skateboards and fishing books was over. You can’t taste her like that and just forget about it. He had moved to the open door and leaned with his head rocking against the frame. April stood there at her post box talking with her mother. The sun was warm against his skin, stinging a little as a moment passed. He listened to her laughter, watched her raking at her long dark hair and holding it in the breeze. He slid down and sat on the doorstep. She walked inside with her mother, and he looked up at the doorframe, seeing cracks in the paintwork. What if she doesn’t get back with Michael? What did she kiss me for if she wants to be with him? He remembered the feel of her breast, rubbing at the palm of his hand where he had held it. He could still sense her sweet essence, but he didn’t know whether he was tasting or smelling it. Or feeling it. “Yahoo!” he hollered, pumping the air with his fists and making Mr Barrett from across the road look over.
“Hi, Mr Barrett. Hi, David. Hi, Mandy!” David and Mandy were the Barrett children, playing shuttlecock in their front yard. They waved back.
Jason had chores. That night he had to pack for the weekend. He had an orthodontist appointment in Melbourne. It was a six hour drive, and his parents had decided to make a weekend of it in the city.
On Monday morning he claimed the bench seat next to the school gate where April would have to pass by. It was almost nine o’clock when she finally arrived with some girlfriends. She glanced, smiled and did a small four-finger wave, making Jason beam with excitement. He had bought Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell tape in Melbourne. April had said she loved it. He had it in his shirt pocket but resisted the urge to hold it up and show her.
He saw her at recess and lunch, but she was with her friends again. The big question was whether or not Michael would be waiting at the gate after school. As a high school drop-out he wasn’t allowed on the grounds, but being unemployed meant he would have nothing better to do than wait for April if they were going together again.
Jason collected his bag and hurried from the gym change room. Rounding the corner of the school administration building, his heart was thumping with a mixture of fear, dread, hope and urgency. It exploded with glee when he saw April standing by the same bench he had been sitting on that morning. There was no sign of Michael, and she waved excitedly when she saw Jason.
He got to her without running. He had managed to give the impression of coolness.
“Tracy said you’ve got Bat out of Hell.”
Jason extracted the cassette from his pocket and flashed it.
She took it off him. “Is anyone home at your place?”
Jason shook his head. “Nope.”
She smiled. She actually bit down on her lip and tossed the smile over her shoulder as she led off toward home. Jason wanted to kiss her again. He couldn’t wait.
Home was three houses along from the school, on the same side of the street. He fumbled the key into the door with her still smiling at him. She pushed him into the house, the feel of her hands against his back sending a rush of tingles swarming all over his skin. He was beyond apprehension, though, and he turned, grabbed her and pressed his closed lips to hers.
Her body softened and relaxed as her lips parted, and he tasted her essence again.
“Wait. Put it on first,” she mumbled through their kiss.
She had the cassette out of its box. Jason slotted it into the player and waited for the sound so he could adjust it. He watched April sit on the lounge. Her cheeks were flushed and her dark eyes were sparkling. She was chewing on her lip and staring.
“Up,” she said about the volume. “A bit more.”
The intro to the title track, Bat out of Hell, surged through Jason’s body as he approached April, with her eyes following his and her chin lifting. The music was coursing through his veins as he lowered over her and kissed her again. I’m doing the kissing now. Mwa, mwa, mwa, until he accidentally touched her tongue with his and was startled by the warm, wet contact.
He looked at her lips and saw they were glistening. They were slightly parted and inviting.
“Do you know how to tongue kiss?”
He shook his head.
“Do you want to try?”
“Poke your tongue out.”
He poked out his tongue.
“Not that far. Just to your lips.”
She was doing it, and he copied, resting the tip of his tongue on his bottom lip.
“Now we just touch a little bit,” she uttered, lifting to meet his lips as he instinctively lowered to her, and that time there was less fish mouth and a softer, wetter, more fluent connection. Their tongues also caressed, with Jason mimicking what April did with hers, and with her magic essence whooshing through every inch of his body.
“See, it’s easy,” she said at some point.
The song had changed. Jason had been pushed back to be sitting beside her with his arm around her. She had taken over, which he didn’t mind, except he had heard it usually happened the other way around. He wondered if he should touch her breast again. He moved his free hand to her waist and was about to do it when she suddenly flopped back against the arm of the lounge, huffing and wiping her mouth on the back of her hand.
“This doesn’t mean anything, you know?”
Her eyes rolled. “Because it doesn’t. That’s why!”
“Are you going to get back with Michael?”
“Pfft. Who cares about him?”
“I don’t care about him.” Jason grinned all the way down to his belly. So, no Michael, hey?
April had picked up the cassette cover and pulled the jacket out to have a look. “Is there anything to eat?”
Jason hurried to the kitchen and brought back two ice-filled glasses of Coke and the biscuit jar. There was no more kissing to be done for the time being, but April kept pushing his thigh with her feet, absently but playfully. She still rested back against the arm of the lounge. Jason’s thighs were thin. He hadn’t filled out at all like Michael had. He had gangly teenage boy legs and knew it, but he liked April’s feet touching them.
Bat out of Hell had run through to the end and clicked off. Jason returned from the kitchen after tidying away the glasses and biscuit jar. He didn’t usually tidy stuff away. He stood there wondering about more kissing, and was about to kneel on the floor and move in when she spoke.
“Do you want to go for a swim?”
“Yep. Where?” Swimming means a bikini – hell yes!
“My granddad’s place. We swim there all the time.”
Jason waited at April’s post box while she quickly got changed. He had pulled on board shorts. He really hated his skinny legs, but the shorts looked better than his Speedos. He had to wear Speedos for swimming practice and competitions. He would have to take off his t-shirt in a minute, and his arms and chest were as undeveloped as his legs.
April came out with only a breezy little skirt over her bikini bottoms. Her top was tied on with strings around her neck and back. It was white against her golden brown skin. Jason gulped and followed.
Granddad’s place was two blocks over, across from the police station. He lived alone in the house, with April’s grandmother having passed away some years earlier. He wasn’t home but that didn’t matter. The man who lived down the back yard in a small caravan was there skimming the pool.
He wasn’t really a pastor. It was a nickname he had earned by carrying a small leather Bible around everywhere and quoting stuff from it all the time.
“Hi, Pastor,” Jason said as well. He had met the man a few times before. Jason’s father sold boats and was often down at the wharf. The Pastor worked at the local fish market and helped out with maintenance of the trawlers.
“Are you kids swimming? I’ll get out of your way.”
He had been cleaning the pool wearing long trousers and a buttoned up shirt. Apart from the always-handy Bible, he looked like a pastor. He set up in the shade of his caravan awning with a glass of lemonade and opened the Good Book to read.
“Don’t worry about him,” April said, floating over to caress her body against Jason’s.
Jason was worried about The Pastor, or conscious of him there. He kissed April back, though, and they spent an hour splashing around and sometimes cuddling and kissing.
The Pastor suddenly rushed by the pool and toward the street. April and Jason watched him. He stopped and called out to April’s granddad. He yelled urgently. April wrapped a towel around herself and followed. Jason was by her side as they saw The Pastor pulling her granddad along and speaking harshly to him. They were in an alleyway across the street. The older man appeared drunk, stumbling and trying to get back to the fence The Pastor had pulled him away from.
The next day, Jason learned that beyond the fence a girl had been sunbathing, a young nurse who had only just moved to town, and April’s granddad had already been warned by the police to stop trying to peep at her. There was talk around that the matter had escalated to the point of a complaint, with the police considering formal charges.
The incident had ended the enchanted afternoon for Jason. April was extremely close to her grandfather and having none of it. Her granddad was no peeping Tom, merely a drunk who got distracted or something.
She was waiting for Jason after school again the following day, and they spent an hour at his house before his mother got home from work. They did so most afternoons over the next few weeks before Jason received the shocking news that his father had gotten a transfer to Melbourne and they would be moving immediately.
“Of course I’ll write to you,” April assured him. It was their last afternoon together.
They had played Meatloaf every day. She would be keeping the cassette. It wasn’t much, but something Jason had bought especially for her, and he hoped it would hold them together somehow.
He was trying not to cry. “Promise you’ll write to me?”
“Yeah, it’s not like you’re moving to another planet. It’s only Melbourne.”
She was smiling. He didn’t get how she could be so relaxed about it all.
“Do you know I love you?”
She blushed. “Don’t say that, Jason.”
“But why? It’s true.”
She disappeared into the sunlight in the doorway again. Jason’s chest ached. It shuddered and he started to cry. He watched April walk up the steps to her door. She was looking at a flyer she must have found in her post box. She had it open, reading it. She never looked back.
“Take the friggin’ door off its hinges and chuck it out the back,” Jason’s co-worker said, rocking back in her chair and grinning at him over her coffee cup.
Natasha Royal was new to Baine & Associates Investigations. She had fired the place up and was attempting to fire Jason up.
Jason had been sleeping in the spare room for two weeks. He and his spouse of eight years were at a stalemate.
“Well, at least open the damn thing. You don’t have to knock on your own bedroom door for chrissake. Barge in, and if she has kittens, just tell her it stays open or you’ll be putting a boot through it.”
Jason chuckled. “Thanks, Nat. She would have kittens.”
“She’d probably friggin’ wet herself and have to crawl into bed with you anyway,” Natasha shot back at him as she took a phone call.
Jason nodded a goodbye and loosened his tie as he headed for the stairs and car park. He had to hurry if he was going to be in time to pick up his boy from after-school hockey training.
“Jason!” Nick Finlay, another of his colleagues, called to him. He was also on a phone call, but he hung up as Jason approached.
“Boss want’s someone to do a cold case over in Everly Cove. That’s where you’re from, isn’t it?”
“What sort of cold case?”
“Bones at a soccer field… Young female, about 20 years cold.”
Jason sat down. He checked his watch. “Boss want’s you, hey, Nick?”
“He won’t care. Get in, put a file together, and get out. You got anyone you want to visit back there?”
“I guess. And I’m good here,” Jason liked the idea of getting away from home for a few days. His case load was fairly light, nothing that couldn’t be put on hold. He had no family in Everly Cove, but it would be interesting to see the place again.
“I’ll tell Boss to pencil you in?” Nick asked. His phone was ringing.
“Yeah, good. Thanks, Nick.”
Jason hurried to his car and made the school in time to see the boys finish up their team talk after training. He had two children: Micky was twelve and his girl, Chelsea, almost fourteen. He tossed Micky’s gear in the back seat, and they stopped at McDonalds on the way home for an ice cream cone and a drink.
The house was quiet, with Chelsea next door and Raelene in the kitchen. “Hey,” Jason offered, leaning around the edge of the wall and nodding his spouse a greeting.
Raelene didn’t quite nod, just a quick glance and lift of an eyebrow. She was peeling potatoes over the sink. “I won’t be able to make it on Saturday – work. Say hello to your parents for me?”
Jason patted the wall trim as he turned away. “I might not make it myself,” he said in parting. “Job’s come up and I could be away for a week.”
Jason and Raelene had been avoiding the same room at any time, let alone bedtime. Jason was responsible for it. The sound of Raelene’s voice annoyed him. Her face annoyed him. It was a weird situation, though. He loved the children. They were not actually his, but that didn’t mean anything. He wasn’t their father but he was their dad, with Micky only four and Chelsea six when he and Raelene had gotten together.
Gotten together… Jason chuckled at the notion as he caught the tennis ball he was tossing up at the ceiling while lying on his spare room bed.
There was a gentle knock on the door. “We need to talk.” Raelene’s face was red.
She shook her head, huffing slightly. “About this. Everything!”
“We have talked. What else is there to say?”
Raelene looked down, picking at the paintwork of the door frame. Jason waited.
She half giggled, sardonically. “We can’t go on like this, Jason.” She giggled some more. “I can’t believe I said it like that. What a cliché.”
“Do you want to break up?” There was a knot in Jason’s throat as those words squeaked out. It was the obvious next move, but it still hurt. He suddenly remembered how it used to be when they first met. His mind flashed to it.
“Yes,” Raelene said. “I want to break up.”
“What about the kids?” Jason tossed back.
“I know. It’s complicated.”
“I might move into the apartment. The tenants will be out in a couple of weeks. If we don’t re-let it, I could crash there.”
Raelene nodded. “I’d thought of that. We have about the same amount of equity there as here. It’s pretty simple, really. We’ll have to see a lawyer, but…” She shrugged.
She rested back against the door frame. Jason tossed his ball.
“The kids could visit me. They could stay on weekends sometimes.” He hated the idea of leaving Micky and Chelsea.
“I’ve met someone,” Raelene declared, her face reddening again. Her eyes were tearing up.
Jason’s gut tightened. His skin tingled as a wave of nausea rushed through him. The mental picture was not of Raelene with another man, rather of another man with his children. He thumbed the tennis ball, squashing it in his fist.
“The kids can stay with you anytime you like,” Raelene said, reading his mind, it seemed. “Leon won’t be moving in here.”
Leon. Jason remembered a Leon from Raelene’s work party last Christmas. He was divorced with children of his own. That was good. Kids of his own is good.
April rolled over to face away from her husband, hoping he would not want to snuggle. They usually had sex one night a week, but rarely more than once, and never at any time other than at night, and never anywhere other than in their bed.
These were simply facts. April didn’t rationalise them and had no need to, as the infrequency and predictability of sex with her husband suited her. It meant that such was a chore ticked off the to-do list, that a duty had been performed…..