The name on her badge was Bunty, but he knew her colleagues called her Bee. It was a strange name for a girl so young. Every Saturday morning she stood at the chocolate counter in his local supermarket, cutting samples of chocolate fudge into identical little strips for the customers to try, idly twirling her brown hair, scratching at the places where her skin met the navy A-line uniform that drowned her. She wore nothing under it except her bra and knickers, and tights in the winter. He knew that because sometimes it gaped when she reached her gloved hand into the display. Pyramid stacks of handmade Irish chocolates, cubes of home made fudge, ready-wrapped gift boxes. The sweet smell filled his head as he watched her yawn and stretch, ready for another day at work.
Nothing to look at, his best friend Victor had told him, smirking at his ridiculous crush. Her hair was fuzzy rather than curly, as if she had tried to brush out a perm. The lacy tip of her bra poked out of the v-neck of her uniform when she stretched. Metal braces glinted in her mouth. Sometimes she had pimples on her chin. She slouched as if she had not quite grown into her body. But her eyes were dark brown and lined with dark, thick lashes. His gaze was drawn to them again and again. Dark brown, like an espresso. The perfect match for chocolate.
The first time he had enough courage to approach the counter to buy something, she had a bright red badge pinned to her uniform, beside her name. Congratulations! 18 today. He was surprised. She did not look older than sixteen. When she saw him approach, she smiled. Her braces were gone, her teeth straight and white. Her cheeks dimpled and he felt his pulse start to pound in his head.
He nodded at her badge. "Happy birthday," he said, feeling the blood rise in his cheeks.
She smiled again, and cocked her head to one side. "I'm sorry, do I know you? You look awfully familiar."
He shrugged. "Probably just from in here," he said, gesturing around him at the supermarket which was now heaving with Saturday morning shoppers. The piped music was always the same, the noise of toddlers screaming and the low hum of conversation just faded into nothing under the power of her gaze. He felt tongue tied in a way he had not felt since he himself was a teenager. "I'm Ian. Er...I'd like some chocolates, please. In a gift box."
She pulled a plastic glove out of a box and slipped it on her hand. Her nails were painted a bubblegum pink, the varnish already starting to chip. "Twelve or sixteen?" she asked. She had a slight lisp. He saw the pink tip of her tongue dance between her teeth as she spoke, and felt something melt inside his chest.
"Sixteen," he said. "I'll just point, shall I?" As she leaned forward to pick up the chocolates he pointed to, his eyes were drawn to the gape of her neckline. Her skin was smooth and shadowy, the pink lace of her bra peeking out. She moved slowly, as if afraid the carefully arranged pyramids might collapse if she pulled out the wrong brick. When she was done, he watched her tying the small box with an uneven bow, then eyeing it critically, pulling at the loose ribbon and finally using scissors to scrape it into ringlets. He had no idea who he was going to give it to. Just plucking up the courage to speak to her had taken months. He was tired of hanging around the canned meats, buying things he didn't want, just to be in her sight.
When she was done, she put the box on the counter. "That's a nice selection," she said. "I've marked the price in pencil. You can easily rub it off when you get home."
"Thanks," he said, watching her fingers twisting at her name badge. "Bunty."
She wrinkled her nose. "Bee," she said. "Like the insect. They collect honey, so they're sweet like me." She grinned, then blushed suddenly as if she'd said too much. She looked so young at that moment. He wondered how his thirty years looked in those magnetic brown eyes.
He looked away from her, suddenly uncomfortable. There was something about her that made him regress back to the gawky, awkward teenager he had once been. "Thanks," he mumbled again, grabbing the box and slipping it into his basket. He walked to the checkouts without looking back.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. The word rattled around inside his head, making his cheeks flame again as he queued at the checkout. The chocolates were expensive. As he walked towards the door, he had an idea. His legs almost stopped moving with the force of it. A woman bashed his ankles with her trolley and he hopped and swore as she pushed past, glaring at him.
Now or never. He weaved back into the shop through the crowds at the checkouts. She was staring into space, a ringlet of hair twined around her index finger. Gritting his teeth, he put all thoughts from his mind and walked towards her. She did not notice him until he was right in front of the counter.
"Oh, hello again," she said, blinking. "Did you forget something?"
He put the box of chocolates on the counter and slid them towards her. "Happy birthday," he said. "Look...would you like to go out with me sometime?"
= = = = =
Staring into the mirror, he straightened his tie and ran his fingers through his hair. He did not normally dress up for a date, but this one seemed special somehow. He smoothed his designer shirt, adjusted his belt. He wanted to look perfect for her, just as she always looked for him.
He still could barely believe that she had said yes. He had replayed the scene in his head for days, the pleasure on her face when she opened the box. The white praline chocolate she had chosen was thick and square, and she bit off a corner, smiling briefly before closing her eyes with a sigh. He imagined the sweetness spreading across her tongue, and smiled, glad he had brought her at least a small pleasure.
She was punctual, 7.30pm on the dot, just as she had said. She had picked up a few extra hours of work that afternoon, just after school. When he saw her, his breath caught in his throat. She was wearing her school uniform, the pleated skirt rolled up to mid-thigh, her knees purple and blotchy with the cold, her grey socks wrinkled around her ankles. The wind lifted her skirt outwards and the image made him think of a cocktail umbrella. She was hugging her blazer tight around her body as he pulled up beside her.
"You look nice," she said, getting into the car. "Wow, is this a Jag?"
He nodded. "Company car, you could say. My father owns it. The company, I mean. And the Jag." His mouth was dry. The back of his hand brushed against her knee as he changed gears, and he shivered.
"Cool," she said. "I hope you don't mind if I get changed before we go to the restaurant. I didn't have time to change after school."
"Not at all," he said. She did not live far away. He declined her invitation to go into the house, in case her parents were around. She did not take long. As she climbed back into the car, she slipped off her coat, warming her hands at the heater. His eyes travelled over her body as if they were hungry for the sight. The black dress she was wearing clung to a small waist that her ugly work uniform had hidden. The straps were sliding off her shoulders already. It looked as if it didn't quite fit. Her eyeliner had smudged and her lips shone with gloss.
"You're so beautiful," he said, his voice almost losing its sound.
"Oh, go on," she said, swatting him on the arm and laughing. But she looked pleased, and he smiled to himself as he drove to the restaurant.
They ate by candlelight in an expensive Chinese place beside the river, looking out at the red lanterns reflecting in the dark mirror of the water. He listened to her sibilant s's, and watched her tongue as she talked. She told him that her mother had named her Bunty after a comic she had loved as a girl. "I thought that was kind of nice, even though it's the sort of name you'd give a poodle. Then she showed me some of the comics she'd kept- they were rubbish! I was hoping for at least a superhero." She struck a superman pose, then knocked her wine onto the floor with an "oops" and a giggle so cute it almost turned him into a puddle.
After the meal, he drove her home. She played with the sound system in the car, finally setting it on a pop music station he never listened to and humming along to the music. She ran her fingertips over the charcoal leather seats and sighed. "This car is so amazing," she said, smiling as he pulled over to the side of the road near her house. "The way it's so silent. It almost purrs, like a real jaguar."
He took off his seatbelt and turned to look at her. The strap of her dress had slid off her shoulder again, and he pushed it slowly back into position. "You are so amazing," he said, echoing her words. He stroked her bare skin with his thumb, his hand resting on her shoulder. "I had a wonderful time tonight, with you."
She smiled. "Yeah, it was a good restaurant. And..." Her cheeks coloured slightly. "The company wasn't too bad either."
He stared at her for a second. His hand left her shoulder, brushing over the skin on her neck until he grabbed a handful of hair, pulling her face towards his. He felt her hand fall on his knee as she leant forward into the kiss. Her lips were soft and sticky with gloss that tasted faintly of banana. When the tip of his tongue met hers, a soft groan escaped his throat. He felt the blood leaving his brain and flowing south in a tingling rush of arousal that left him breathless. She was everything he had dreamed of. Her hand slid up his thigh, coming to rest against the hot, straining crotch of his trousers, where her fingers traced the line of his zipper.
Just as his hand smoothed over the material covering her breast, she broke the kiss, glancing over at her house. He looked at her dumbly, almost blind with lust. "I have to go," she said, checking her watch. "I have to finish some homework." She shrugged and offered him a slight smile.
He swallowed. "When will I see you again?"
She cocked her head to one side. "Well," she said. "Tomorrow's Friday, so that's when I usually go to my sister's to stay. Saturday is girl's night...so Sunday maybe?"
"Sunday," he repeated faintly. It seemed so far away.
"Sunday," she said again. She kissed him on the cheek and was gone in a blast of freezing air. He watched her walk to her door, pulling her coat on and hugging it against her. As she pulled her key from her handbag, she turned and waved. He lifted a hand in response, but she was already inside.
= = = = =
He flopped into bed, yawning. Beaten at squash for the first time ever. It had been a long, exhausting game. Then a couple of cocktails at the sports club bar, with some of his old friends and the newly triumphant Victor, who had not accepted sexual frustration as a valid excuse for failure. The conversation had quickly turned to a million questions about Bee.
"Our Ian has found himself a schoolgirl," Victor said, slapping him on the back so hard he sloshed his drink all over his suit. "The dirty old pervert!"
"I'm hardly old," he said, licking the dribble of margarita off the salty glass.
"You are to her, mate." Victor shook his head. "She's after your money, I'm telling you." He poked him in the chest. " Anyway, who wants to go out with an eighteen year old? They know fuck all about fuck all. What do you even talk about?"
He thought about the couple of phone calls he'd received from Bee that day. She was studying for a physics test, and had just bought a new pair of shoes that did not fit, and would have to be taken back to the shop. Victor saw his face and laughed again. "I suppose it's not her conversation you're after," he said, smirking.
Ian closed his eyes in the dark, feeling the fog of sleep start to settle over him. Whatever he was after, it was out of his control. Whatever she thought of him, he could barely pass the time, longing to see her again so much it felt like a sickness.
The vibrations of his mobile phone on the table shook him awake. He sat up in the dark, panting. The digital clock read 01:35. Who could be calling at this hour? It was not a number he recognised.
"Ian? It's Bee." He heard the roar of traffic behind her. "I'm sorry to ring so late but... I've lost my bag, and I've got no money for a taxi home. Could you pick me up?" Her voice was loud, her words slightly slurred. He remembered it was Saturday, her girls' night out. "I'm at the pay phones outside the front of the university."
He swung his legs out of bed. "I'll be there," he said, and hung up.
The city centre was heaving with lines of people queuing at the fast food restaurants, the occasional brawl and police cars patrolling the drunken Saturday night crowd, lights flashing. He lost count of the number of people who had tried to flag him down, thinking he was a taxi.
Bee was sitting on a wall, picking at a bag of chips. There were two other girls with her. All of them huddled together against the bitter wind which lifted their sweaty hair. Her eyes were ringed with smudged mascara. For a second, she stared at the car, her expression dull. Then a smile broke over her face and she nudged her friends and pointed.
They piled in, bringing the smell of cold air and vinegar into the car. "Hey," Bee said, squeezing his knee and smiling. "This is Leanne and Donna, my best friends. You wouldn't mind dropping them off? They live just round the corner from my school."
He sighed. "Sure," he said, and drove off, trying to ignore the way the girls were running their greasy hands over the upholstery and marveling at the car as if it was an exhibit in the zoo. He dropped them off at the corner of their street and went to turn the car in the direction of Bee's place, sighing again, wishing he didn't feel so much like a glorified taxi service, or worse- someone's dad.
The disappointment he had been feeling evaporated when Bee put her hand on his arm. "Let's go to yours?" she said. "I lost my keys too. My dad's going to be so cross if I wake him up at this time of night."
His heart soared. Barely able to keep the grin off his face, he turned the car and tried not to speed back home. Bee was chatting about her night out, but he barely heard a word she said. As soon as the car was parked, he pulled her over and kissed her, long and hard. She tasted of chips and cigarette smoke and her lips were soft, her tongue lithe like an eel in his mouth.
They broke apart, gasping. "Wow," she whispered, and smiled. Her eyes were so dark, he feared he would lose himself in them.
"Let's go inside," he said, stepping out of the car into the night air. He felt spots of rain on his cheek and noticed she was shivering. He took off his coat and draped it around her shoulders.
His apartment was warm and the dim lights cast shadows around the huge living room. He saw himself reflected in the glass of the sliding doors, red faced and flustered. Bee gazed around the room, slipping off his coat and handing it to him, her mouth open. In the light, he could see the smudges of her make up more clearly. It only made him want her more.
"Wow," she said again. "This place is amazing. You've got a river view?"
He nodded, hanging up the coats. "It's nice in the summer," he said. "I sometimes work out there, on the balcony. Thanks to wireless internet." He laughed. "The greatest gift ever to the idle."
She ran her hand over the dark wood of the table, picking up one of the candles and smelling it. "Jasmine," she breathed. "My favourite." She slipped out of her stilettos, groaning. "God, it's good to get those off," she said. Her feet were red where the shoes had rubbed against her bare skin, her perfect toes painted the same bubblegum pink as her fingers. She looked at him and smiled. "Where do you want me to sleep?"
He felt crushed suddenly, and looked at his feet. "Well there's the sofa," he said. "Or the guest bedroom. It's just through there." He gestured to the small hallway to his left. "Or...' He looked at her, wondering suddenly who was the teenager in the room.
Her feet squeaked on the varnished wooden floor as she padded towards him, holding out her hands. "You're so cute, you know?" she said, taking his hands in hers. Her palms were warm and dry. The strap of her dress had slipped again, almost down to her elbow. He could see that she was not wearing a bra, and that her nipples were hard against the coarse fabric. She looked up at him, her brown eyes expectant.
"Well," she said. "Aren't you going to kiss me again?"
He did not remember how his lips met hers. Almost in a frenzy, he buried his hand in her hair as he devoured her mouth, running his free hand over her other shoulder, pushing the strap down, pushing her backwards in the direction of his bedroom. She clung to him, whimpering noises leaking from her mouth as she returned his kisses with equal force.
When the back of her legs hit the bed, she let him go, falling backwards onto the soft mattress. He looked down at her, breathing heavily. Her hair was spread out like a fuzzy halo, the material of her dress barely covering her breasts. He pulled off his sweater and jeans and knelt before her. "Beautiful," he murmured, putting his hands on her knees and sliding them upwards over her skin, taking the dress with them, up over the sides of her hips, her waist, her chest, her shoulders. She sat up, letting him pull the dress over his head then lay down again. She bit her lip as he studied her body, looking suddenly awkward under the intensity of his gaze.
Her breasts were plump but firm, her nipples the colour of milky coffee. A glittering jewel nestled in her belly button, drawing his eyes south. She was wearing briefs with little pink flowers dotted across the material which was stretched across a mound of springy black fuzz. Some of it was poking out of the sides. He ran a finger along the elastic, gazing at her as if she was a precious sculpture. He took her hands in his and pulled her up so she stood in front of him.
She looked down at his tenting boxers and smiled, hooking her thumbs into the elastic of her briefs and pausing there. "I'm game if you are," she said, and he did the same. The scraps of material hit the floor. His eyes were drawn to her thick bush, and his cock twitched, oozing out a tear of liquid.
"Oh god, Bee," he breathed, kissing her again, hugging her to him so he could feel the bristle of her pubic hair against his thigh, his cock sandwiched between their warm bodies.
He lay down on the bed, and she crept beside him, her eyes dark. She stroked his chest lightly, her fingertips leaving burning trails along his skin. When he could stand it no more, he kissed her again, rolling over, pushing his leg between hers. Again, that scrape of hair against his thigh. His mouth left hers and he began to lick and kiss his way downwards, along her jaw, to the point where her pulse beat in her throat. She moaned and pushed her hands into his hair until his mouth came to her nipple. Breathless, he sucked it into his mouth, tonguing the dark point, laving it with saliva. She arched her back slightly and gasped, grinding her heat harder into his thigh as he trailed his tongue across to her other nipple, taking her breast into his hand, pushing it towards his needy mouth.
The feeling of her hard little nipple against his tongue sent his head spinning. He could hardly tear himself away. Only the feel of growing wetness against his thigh shook him out of the fog he was in. He shifted himself in between her legs and kissed her again. Her palms flattened out against his back and roamed up over his muscular back towards his shoulders. Then she pushed him back and looked into his eyes.
"Condom?" she whispered, and he groaned.
His hands were shaking as he scrabbled in the drawer, tearing off the wrapper, his mouth dry. She took the rubber from his trembling fingers and took his cock in her hand. It was the first time she had touched him there, and he groaned again, deep in his throat. He felt her hands slide down until it was on, and he quickly got back to where he had been. His fingers found her wetness, rubbed it over her swollen clitoris until her hips started to move against him. The sighs and moans she made were like music, and he could not wait any longer. Pushing his cock inside her, he kissed her again, then buried his face in her hair, breathing in the smell, feeling it scratch against his cheek.