(Note: This is a companion piece – a mirror if you prefer – to Boarding. That is a fairly classic fantasy done in a fairly classic way; this one ... well it's not quite so straightforward as that. If you like your kinks shaken up a bit, read on.
As ever, my thanks to Lisa for advice, encouragement and saving me from the consequences of my own obscurity.)
The wine wasn't working, so she went back to the bar and ordered vodka, then with the next breath changed it to a double. The barman gave her the glass, accompanied with a look that seemed too knowing. She went back to her table by the window to sit down alone.
The pub was quiet and sombre. It did not attract as much business as the club across the road, even this early at night. She looked through the window at length, and then down into the bottom of her glass; and she thought the sort of thoughts that we all have at some time, even the bravest among us. She drank a little vodka, and when she looked once more there was a group standing outside the club. A couple of them glanced idly towards her window, so she looked hurriedly back into her drink to avoid contact.
She spent a long time, gazing down through the crystal clear liquid and glass to follow the delicate patterns in old varnished wood as her mind rehearsed all the familiar questions and excuses. She barely registered the door opening nearby or the footsteps going to the bar, but a little while later she realised there was a presence nearby.
She looked up, swallowed hard and hoped her momentary fluster could be mistaken for trying to remember what she had never forgotten.
"Ashley, isn't it?"
"Close enough, ..."
Sitting down across from her: new biker's jacket and short hair, a pint glass on the table. So very different, but there are things you never forget.
"... prefer Ash though."
She remembered the not-quite cocky look, even though so much else had changed in over six years: raised eyebrow and tilted head. And of course she remembered the height and the easy movement: tennis, wasn't it? Of course it was, why did she pretend she didn't remember everything so clearly? She realised Ash was looking at her hand, as if the band of paler skin was still noticeable.
"It's ... umm ... Miss Clark again now."
What a very sweet thing to say, she always had been kind. She realised how rude she was being. The girl was ... Really not a girl any more, was she?
"My name's Jo."
Ash smiled her easy smile and drank some lager. Silence. Jo should really finish up and get going.
"Still at the old place?"
"Yes. I came up to town to look round museums for a few days."
Ash looked across towards the bar, eyes not meeting Jo's. She spoke matter of factly, gently.
"Come in with me, if you want."
"I'm sorry, Ashley ... Ash, sorry. I don't understand."
Ash smiled that same smile, and shrugged very slightly. As Jo finished her vodka, Ash pulled a scrunched-up till receipt from her pocket and scribbled something across it.
"My mobile, case you need a restaurant recommended or anything, yeah?"
"Thank you, Ashley, that's kind of you."
Ash smiled, and Jo could have sworn she winked a little with it.
Jo had had a sleepless night. She went out in a grouchy mood, and found herself unable to concentrate at the gallery she visited in the morning. There were, it seemed to her, far too many annoying nudes among the exhibits.
A little before noon, her thoughts turned towards lunch. Almost without realising it, she found herself dialling that new number. It rang once, and then she hung up guiltily. Not merely hung up, but turned her phone off until she was sitting on the train three hours later. She was almost home when it rang again.
"Hi. I think you called me earlier."
"Oh yes, Ashley. I'm ... err ... Look, I've changed my plans a bit, had to go home early. I just thought I'd mention it."
"Yes. Thank you, Ashley, I was a bit down last night and you were very sweet ..."
She trailed away, unsure what to say next.
"No worries. Stay in touch if you want, alright?"
The line went dead, and Jo was left once again with thoughts that we have all had at some time in our lives. For heaven's sakes the ... The confident and assured young woman had always seemed older than she was, but Jo knew Ash was eight years younger than herself. She knew that with absolute certainty. Ashley, after all, had been one of her pupils.
She ate a little when she got home, but then felt sick. The television could not engage her. The evening passed slowly and she longed to go to bed, even though she found herself fearing it a little too. Her mobile rang just after ten. She recognised the number, had almost expected it.
"You alright? Did I do something to freak you out yesterday?"
"No. No, nothing of the sort. I'm just ..."
It faded away again. Endless awkward silence. One of them should hang up, but neither did.
"Can I really call you Jo?"
"This is kinda ... Listen, Jo, it's cool, really it is."
"I always knew, and I never minded. You were never creepy about it."
"I don't know what you mean."
There was a long silence, nothing in Jo's ear but the faint hum of the phone itself.
"Err ... OK then, that's the way you want it ..."
She could hear the hurt. It made her despise herself.
"... Sorry to have bothered you."
"Don't go, Ash."
"I didn't mean to be rude."
The tone in her ear changed, not the sweet young thing from before at all: deeper, colder.
"That's exactly what you want to be. Ask me not to hang up."
"Ask me nicely. Say 'please'."
"Please, Ash. I'm sorry if I offended you. Please don't go."
"I'd like to talk to you. I'd ..."
"Would you like me to do it back to you, Jo? Please ..."
All of a sudden that hardness fell away, and there was a small fragile voice in Jo's ear.
"... please don't, Miss. Oh no, please –"
Jo's stomach lurched over. She turned the phone off and sat staring at it in her shaking hand for five minutes. She had never done anything – not one thing, not even in her private fantasies. She hadn't ... She wouldn't. She had thought it was entirely hidden within herself.
It had happened once in her career. There had been something special about Ashley; something different ... Oh for heaven's sake, Jo; just listen to yourself. What do you sound like?
She needed to explain, to make Ashley understand that it had never been the disgusting thing it could so easily seem. She rang back. The cold voice answered.
"Getting a little tired of this hanging up business."
"I'm sorry, I didn't –"
"Say it again."
"I'm sorry, Ash. That was very rude of me, I apologise."
"Where are you?"
"I'm at home."
"Where are you?"
"I'm in my living room. Why?"
"Anyone with you?"
"Going to be later?"
"No, Ash. Nobody at all."
"I'm in bed ..."
"That's not really any of my business."
"... Alone. Naked."
"Fuck's sake, Ashley!"
"Oooh, bad words. Say it again, Miss: say 'fuck' for me."
"Alright, Jo: listen to me. I'm a big girl now, I'm twenty-four and I know what I'm doing and what I want. We both know nothing ever happened back then. Sometimes I like to pretend it did. If you want me to stop I will. I don't want to. I'm in bed on my own and my cunt's wet from thinking about you. I want to hear you talk dirty while I play with it, Jo."
"Why are you doing this?"
"Because we both want me to. And I'm getting tired of asking nicely. Do what I tell you. Say it for me."
Never in Jo's life had a woman spoken to her with that tone of cold contemptuous authority. Not one time, except in her dreams. She tried to ignore the shocking thrill of it; told herself that she had only rung back to explain.
"It was never like that."
"Yes it was. You wearing a skirt like yesterday?"
"Yes. I –"
"Hand up it. Miss. Now. That was exactly what it was like, you think you could have taken me out for a meal first? It would be Mrs Whitaker's hand up poor little Ashley's skirt in a dark corner for a quick frig. Nasty and dirty ..."
Jo was very far from a shrinking prude – oh no, reader dear, this is not that kind of story at all – but she was not the type who revels in solitary masturbation. Her bedside drawer was not overflowing with exotic delights. It was not a dirty shameful thing to her, merely a lonely and slightly sad necessity. Sometimes she wished it would be dirtier than it was; naughtier. When someone you should never have fancied in the first place rings you out of the blue and announces she's fingering herself over you ...
"... Don't make it good, Jo, make it dirty for me – hand in your pants and rub your clit like you wanted to do mine."
"Oh God, Ashley."
"Say it, bitch."
The detachment was leaving Ash's voice as her breath grew short. Jo found her own hand taking on that same rhythm.
"Fuck. Fuck, Ashley. I want you to fuck me, I want to taste your cunt. Oh God, I want to come."
"You always have. You want to come thinking about feeling me up, you dirty fucking perv' bitch. Say it to me."
"I'm a dirty fucking perv' bitch and I'm frigging myself over you. Fuck me, Ashley ..."
Quick and dirty, with that harsh young voice in her ear urging her on and on to say things she'd never even consciously thought. Until the dirty words changed to moans and she heard Ash's orgasm still echoing as her own broke inside her.
She was on the floor, legs still wrapped tight around her hand. She realised she was crying. The phone was on the rug beside her, a faint sound coming from it. She picked it up.
"You alright Jo?"
"I'm ... err ... I'm fine, Ashley."
"Know I didn't mean the perv' thing, don't you?"
"Call me Ash."
"I'm fine, Ash. It's OK."
"There's a couple of weeks of summer holidays left, isn't there?"
"You feel like finishing that museum trip, you've got my number, yeah?"
"Yeah. Thanks ... For ..."
"Don't worry about that now ..."
The concern flicked off like a switch, the distant voice was back.
"... You're going to thank me properly next time I see you. Understood?"
Before she had time to answer, the line went dead.
Jo stood for a moment in the shadow of a phone box and looked across the plaza. There, sitting on a bench beside the river with her back to her, was Ash. She waited for another minute, slowing her breathing and hoping her face wasn't really as flushed as it felt. She felt scared, not of Ash but of herself. Her imagination had never – not quite – broken the law. Mrs Whitaker had taken up her new job and first walked into that classroom a full month after Ashley's sixteenth birthday. And to tell the truth it had been very nearly another year before that honest appreciation of what a truly sweet and pretty girl she was had tipped one sleepless night into something more disturbing. Ashley had been serious – not some morosely intense Goth impressed with her own seriousness – simply possessed of an easy confidence; a refreshing assurance that did not need to preen or pose. A seed of something that Jo could find very attractive in a grown woman. Even so, that was potential for the future. It hardly excused the time itself: seventeen against twenty-five; pupil against teacher; duty of care betrayed ... That simply didn't bear thinking about. Except, of course, that Mrs Whitaker had thought about it.
And thought about it.
Her marriage had been a mistake, they both soon realised that. Too young, too different, too innocent to realise that 'we can still live our own lives but love each other too' thing didn't work out in practice, certainly not in bed. It was already tottering before dreams of that sweet young girl came between them, but they didn't help.
Well, she wasn't a pupil now, was she? There was no duty to betray. Jo took a deep breath and walked towards the bench.
Ash was sitting forward with her head tilted down. The fair hair had been shoulder-length back then; now it was fluffy on top, but the back was surprisingly high and tight. Jo's eyes followed the contour of the young woman's long neck, and she felt her breath catch in her throat. The back of Ash's head moved ever so slightly to whatever was coming through her headphones. Jo walked up to her.
Oh God, no. The guilt came flooding back. Ash was texting happily away, smile on her face from her music. That confident look was gone, and suddenly she looked so young again. She caught sight of Jo, put the phone in her pocket and pulled out her headphones.
"Ashley. Sorry I'm late."
Ash smiled, back to the old easy way that had been so disturbingly adult on her at sixteen. She nodded at the seat beside her.
"Haven't got time to go anywhere. Didn't know what to get you."
"You shouldn't have."
"Wanted to. Whichever you want ..."
Jo sat down and inspected the takeaway sandwiches between them. She hesitated for a moment.
"... Oh Christ, you're not veggie or anything, are you?"
She wasn't, and it seemed churlish to say that neither would have been her choice. She took the chicken and the cappuccino, leaving Ash with tuna and Americano.
"Thank you Ashl- ... I'm sorry, it's a habit."
"Really prefer Ash."
"Thank you Ash. Can I give you anything towards this."
Pause. Hanging again, awkward. Ash looked across the river between mouthfuls
"Look, that business on the phone. That's me, alright? I'm not cuddly. You need to know that."
Just like ten nights before at the pub, it seemed she needed to look elsewhere before saying something important; as if eye contact was only for the social pleasantries. Jo looked at the profile beside her; at the jaw working on a mouthful of tuna sandwich; at the clichéd masculine charcoal grey suit and off-white shirt. She was almost surprised there wasn't a tie.
What on earth was she doing here? Beside this figure that seemed so unlike the sweet child in whom she should never have had an interest to start with? Then Ash looked back towards her and smiled, full mouth and open eyes both lighting up a face that was still pretty despite the hair and clothes.
"You were a very kind girl."
"Yeah, well. Don't go counting on that, understand? I'm ... I like to get my way. Want to go clubbing tonight? I said I would, if you want, but it's Friday. Be pretty loud and crowded."
Young people and young people's music. Ash's friends, of course: drinking and dancing and whatever the recreational chemicals were these days – wondering why such a stunning girl was chaperoning a frumpy 32-year-old around like a maiden aunt.
"I don't want to embarrass you."
"Fuck that, I just don't want to have to fight them off you."
"Don't laugh at me, Ash. Please."
Ash's eyes went back across the river. Her hands were fidgeting, pulling off a small piece of sandwich and running it round the edges of the rest, picking up more tuna until the bread could barely be seen.
"I wasn't. I've got a flat, tiny little place but I don't share. Unless you prefer your hotel ..."
No, she really did not prefer that idea. She shook her head and gave a helpless shrug.
"... Alright then, I'm taking a short lunch so I can go early. See you here at six; we can go for something to eat on the way home. Suit you?"
What could she say? What had she expected? Polite seduction? Somehow the casual tone didn't make her feel insulted. She was, she was sure, being treated as a cheap pick-up; but at least it was honest. The idea of making a fool of herself all evening in some club seemed worse. They both knew she'd wanted this for years.
"Not going to ask any more, you do get that, don't you?"
"Yes, Ash. I think so."
Ash ate the rest of her sandwich, leaving only that small piece between finger and thumb. She turned and offered her hand up to Jo's mouth. It was incredible, there must be a hundred people around them. Surely she couldn't mean ...?
Easy smile, quiet and very calm voice. No harshness in either, and yet there was something not to be argued with.
"Do it. For me."
She bent her head a fraction and took the food between her teeth. For a moment the tip of Ash's finger was in her mouth, a little stray tuna stuck to the skin. Jo realised she was sucking on it. She pulled back. Ash was still smiling. She leant very close and whispered.
"Next time you do that, you know it won't be ..."
She didn't need to say any more. Jo knew exactly what it would be, she could already feel it damp on herself. And then Ash stood up and walked off with her coffee.
Ash stopped on the landing and pulled a key ring from her pocket. She nodded towards the door to the right of the stairwell before handing the keys to Jo.
"In you go."
Jo hadn't realised her hand was shaking until she missed the lock on her first attempt. She took a moment to calm herself, aware of Ash's gaze between her shoulders. This was it. Stepping across that threshold would be the point of no ... But surely that had been passed long before? Sucking on that finger earlier today; the inexplicable abandonment to unexpected phone sex last week; all those sickened insomniac two-in-the-mornings when her imagination had drifted too close to the unacceptable. So many Rubicons crossed already.
But this was the last and final one, wasn't it? They had eaten on the way, just as Ash had said. There was no fuss made, but Ash had ordered for them both. Ash had sat across the table and watched Jo eat, and Jo had felt the eyes on her body through her clothing. And she had known. In some way that she could never explain she knew that those stumbling fumbling experiments of late teens and early twenties had reached their culmination at last. The boys and girls, scarves and old slippers, all that silly playing about in ignorance led to this door and this young woman. Step through this door and the 'playing games' would be an altogether different thing from the giggly drunken true games of long ago. Turn this lock and find the truth of that sixties song about the sweet-faced girl and the whip in the darkness at last.
She opened the door.
Ash took the keys from her and nodded her through. She took a step inside, in the light from the hallway and the summer evening dusk through the window. A simple studio flat: bed and armchair, bathroom door and tiny kitchen space to the side. Cluttered and a little untidy. Homely.
She barely heard the door shut behind her, and then there was a hand between her shoulders, turning and pushing. The back of the armchair dug into her belly and she felt herself pushed over it, bent double with Ash's shoe hooking one ankle wide and Ash's right hand up her skirt from behind. Fingertips scrabbling at her dampened underwear; ugly and brutal, impossibly thrilling. She realised her own hands were dragging the skirt up onto her hips, her free foot spreading as wide as the one under Ash's control. Her own breathing heavy into the back of the chair; Ash's panting audible behind her. She felt and heard her knickers rip, felt the fingers slipping inside with no resistance whatsoever.
"Oh fuck! You dirty bitch ..."
Yes Ashley, please. Please make me dirty. Make me feel as ugly as you are beautiful; make me your cheap whore. Please ...
"... You are so fucking wet for it. Aren't you Miss? Answer me."
Fingers inside her, filling and spreading. Two? Three? All of them? Driving in slow cruel piston strokes that made her grunt into the chair.
"Wet for you. Want to feel you. Want you in my cunt."