tagFirst TimeCaribbean Tales: Emma's Initiation

Caribbean Tales: Emma's Initiation


Ten years had passed since I graduated from the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse in Lyon. I was a rising star in those days. I finally had a commission to write a symphony, from the The Orchestre National de Lyon. But even back then I was plagued by the distracted temperament that was to become such an obstacle, later in my life. I needed a refuge, a sanctuary in which to complete the work. And it was my friend Sebastian who provided it.

Sebastian was a Jamaican entrepreneur who had cultivated a network of business contacts in France. He was a cosmopolitan, a man who had acquired a taste for that which is good in French culture, including its music, and this had provided the opportunity for me to become acquainted with him after seeing him at numerous concerts and recitals. I bumped into him one late May morning at a café on the rue Stella. We drank espresso, and I found myself confiding in him that I was at my wits' end, unable to concentrate on my symphony because of an endless stream of distractions, not the least of which were two Parisien beauties named Fleure and Nanette.

That evening, I received a call from Sebastian, where he posed to me a solution. His neighbor in Jamaica had a guest house which was vacant. The neighbor was a music lover. He had already called her and obtained her consent. She was to provide me my sanctuary.

One week later, I boarded a plane, which stopped here and there before finally coming to rest on the tarmac at Norman Manley Airport. Mrs. Hewitt was there with her son, Leonard, to pick me up. She was a woman in her late sixties with a hardy, weather-beaten face and a beatific smile. She looked like an amalgam of different races, and wore her hair in a tight coil of braids. Leonard was tall, darker in complexion than his mother, with close-cropped hair and a shy grin.

We loaded my luggage into an old station wagon and set off into the hills north of Kingston, to a neighborhood called Sherbourne Heights. There Mrs. Hewitt lived in a rather impressive three-story abode. There were balconies on the second and third floors, each decorated with elaborate wooden lattice-work, faded white in color. And in the corner of the yard, down the hill. was my own little refuge, a guest house with studio, bedroom and bath, almost hidden by the palms that surrounded it.

That night I dined with Mrs. Hewitt and Leonard in the big house. She asked me questions about my symphony: Was it in minor or major key? What size orchestra? Were there fugues in it? I promised to keep her apprised of my progress. Leonard, as it turned out, was visiting on holiday, and planned to leave the following day for St. Lucia, where he lived and worked. And I revealed that the next day would be my thirty-third birthday. This prompted Mrs. Hewitt to break out a bottle of dark, sweet-tasting rum, which we drank until I became pleasantly tipsy and retired to my little place in the corner of the yard.

The next days were productive ones. I spent them mostly alone in my little dwelling. The only sounds I heard were the pleasant natter of tropical birds and insects. Now and then I would emerge to explore the sprawling yard, which contained a small forest of palms and fruit trees. I noted tangerine, lime, coconut, pear, breadfruit, cherry, and others which I could not identify. At breakfast, lunch and dinner time, Mrs. Hewitt appeared with plates of food, a seemingly endless variety of local specialties: mackerel rundown and green bananas, callalloo and saltfish, curried goat, fried bammies, or stewed peas and rice with pig's tail for flavoring. Mrs. Hewitt patiently explained what each dish was, and sometimes, how to eat it.

On the fourth day I was in a jovial mood, working on my scherzo, when I first heard the violin. I recognized Mozart's Sonata in E minor, without the piano accompaniment. It was coming from somewhere in the neighborhood. Intrigued, I poked my head out the door of my sanctuary to try to ascertain from where the sound was coming. I followed it along the ramshackle fence at the bottom of the hill, and at point where the decayed wood had sagged and broken, I stepped over it into the adjoining property. I was a bit trepidatious about trespassing on the neighbor's land, but my curiosity had gotten the better of me.

I passed through some bushes and saw the back wall of a tidy bungalow, painted a pale rose color. The sounds of the violin seemed to be coming from the side of the house. As I crept to the corner, intending to peer cautiously around it, the Mozart stopped, and one of the Brahms sonatas began. I have to say honestly that after all these years, I can't remember which one, but I remember the girl as if she were standing before me right now.

She stood barefoot upon a concrete patio, wearing cut-off jeans and a raspberry-colored top. She had smooth chestnut-colored skin and wore her hair in a little top knot; her right side was facing me, and her pretty round face was directed at her music stand, as her brow furrowed charmingly in concentration. She was slender, but her breasts were precociously full. Her posture was confident and assertive as she played. I guessed that she might be in her late teens.

She played the movement through until the end. I applauded. I hoped that it would not alarm her. She turned quickly and looked at me questioningly.

"I'm very sorry to startle you," I said, "but I heard you playing and I had to know who was making such lovely music." I extended my hand. "My name is Georges."

She hesitated for a moment, then placed her violin bow on the music stand. She stepped toward me, shook my hand firmly and said, "I'm Emma."

"I'm a musician, too, Emma," I said. "I'm a graduate of the conservatory in Lyons in France."

Emma's eyes widened in delight. "Really?" she asked. "I just applied there! And to the Paris Conservatory, too!"

"Well, I wish you all success. For a while, I'm going to be your neighbor. I'm staying in Mrs. Hewitt's guest house. I'm in Jamaica to write a symphony."

"Really? A symphony? May I see it?"

"Well, I've just started it. It's really only fragments at this point. But I hope to knit them together into something nice."

"How exciting! I have always wondered what it must be like to compose."

I pondered my answer for a moment. "Well... it's music, just like playing an instrument."

"Will you show me later, then, Georges?"

"Of course, Emma. Just keep practicing. It will inspire me to write." I shook her hand again and returned through the palms and bushes to my little dwelling.


Several days later I was in the middle of my scherzo again, when I heard a soft knock on the door. "Come in," I said.

The door opened a little, and Emma's face peeped in. "Are you busy?" she asked.

"Well, I'm writing," I replied, "but you're welcome to visit."

Emma slipped through the door. That day she wore an emerald green blouse, a gray skirt, and sandals. She leaned over to peek at my score, which was sitting on the little table where I ate and composed. "Where are the wind instruments?" she asked.

"Emma, these are just sketches. See here?" I pointed at the score. "I put them all on one system, like a piano reduction, in concert pitch. I'll fancy them up later on."

"Oh," she replied. "It looks like an organ part."

"Yes!" I said. "A choir of winds is like an organ. But the parts have more individual character."

Emma looked at me and smiled brightly. "I get it!" she replied. She seated herself across from me at the table. "In six weeks I have my auditions," she confided.

"You're doing the Mozart and the Brahms?"

"And some other things, too." Emma replied. "But those are the big ones." She looked around my little sanctuary. "Do you like it here?"

"Very much so," I said.

"I'm glad," said Emma. "May I come visit you again?"

"By all means."


Two days later, I heard that knock again. Without waiting for a response this time, Emma opened the door a crack and peered inside, asking "May I come in?"

"Of course," I replied.

Emma smiled cheerily and entered the room, carrying a tray with a pitcher and two glasses. "What's that?" I asked.

Emma deposited her tray on the table and seated herself. "That is ginger beer," she said. "Have you ever tasted it?"

"I don''t think so," I replied. "Is it actual beer?"

"It does not have alcohol. But I think you will like the taste."

"OK. I'll give it a try."

Emma filled each glass and handed one to me. I thanked her and took a swig. Then my eyes squinted shut as the taste hit me. I heard a melodious giggle from Emma. "It has a strong taste," she said with mischievous understatement. I opened my eyes to grin at her, and now fully prepared, I drained the rest of the glass. "Very good, Georges, I'm impressed," she said, with mock sincerity. Equally sincere, I bowed to her slightly in acknowledgment.

After the hilarity had subsided, Emma said, "Georges, tell me about France."

"Well," I replied, "Do you want to hear about the conservatory?"

"No, no," said Emma. "I want to know all the things about France that are different than Jamaica. What it's like to live there. What the people are like."

"Well," I mused again. "The cities are bigger. Some of the buildings are older. The infrastructure is more modern."

"Tell me about the people!" interjected Emma.

"There are many different kinds of people there. There are Africans, Arabs, and lots of people who look like me."

"I like the way you look." Emma was giving me an impudent smile.

"Well, you're going to like France for sure, then. But don't forget that first you must be accepted to the conservatory. How are your grades?"

"All A's!" Emma's jaw jutted out just a bit as she said it.

"Well, that leaves only the auditions, then. Lots of practice."

"Will you help me? I mean, by critiquing my playing?"

I scratched my head. "Yes, I suppose I could do that."

Emma beamed. "That's wonderful! I'd better get to work!" She gathered up her pitcher and glasses and scampered out the door. Not long thereafter I heard, over the endless colloquy of the insects and birds, the song of her violin.


Emma began to visit me daily, often bringing Jamaican culinary specialties to supplement those of Mrs. Hewitt. I showed her the progress of my symphony. She was becoming familiar with it; she recognized important themes, and was now acquainted with the forms of shorthand I used in indicating the orchestration. I, in turn, was becoming familiar with her interpretation of the Mozart and Brahms sonatas, the technical challenges she was confronting, and her conceptions of how to interpret the works. We were developing a musical friendship.

But increasingly, I was becoming aware of Emma as a woman -- a young and innocent woman, but a woman nonetheless. Her sweet, full-lipped smile seemed to me to have lurking within it the capacity for sensuality. And it was difficult to ignore her burgeoning bosom -- more than once she caught me contemplating it, but her face betrayed no reaction.

I worried about the social ramifications of my friendship with Emma -- her youth, the difference in our ages, the difference in our races. I was concerned about how other Jamaicans, and in particular my gracious benefactress Mrs. Hewitt, would view a liaison between us.

Then, one night Mrs. Hewitt came down, bearing liver, yellow yam, rice, and steamed vegetables. She chatted with me about the progress of my symphony, about France, about local politics, and as I ate, she helped herself to a bit of the yam. Then she said, "Emma seems to like you."

"Yes," I replied cautiously.

Mrs. Hewitt smiled. "Emma is a very sweet girl. I was a schoolteacher once, and I taught her parents. Her father became ill and died when he was 30. No one ever knew why. Emma grew up with just her mother, and I guess with me, too, because I've always been here and Emma would spend time with me when her mother was working. I encouraged Emma to become interested in music." At that, Mrs. Hewitt beamed with pride.

She continued, "Georges, I'm going to tell you a few of my secrets. You don't mind listening to an old lady, do you?"

"Not at all," I replied.

"My first husband was an attractive Frenchman, just like you." She smiled flirtatiously. "That was a long time ago. He taught me so many things." Here, for just a moment, she got a faraway look in her eye. "He took me to many different places, introduced me to other cultures, and when I finally came back here to live, I must confess to you, Georges, that in some ways, Jamaica began to seem just a little provincial to me. Perhaps you know what I mean."

I didn't. All I had really seen of Jamaica was her back yard. I looked back at Mrs. Hewitt and raised my eyebrows inquiringly.

"In Europe, young people learn about love early in their lives. I think that's the way it ought to be. I didn't meet Jacques until I was 30." She sighed. "So many wasted years! I think I'm a good judge of people, Georges. I like you. I think that perhaps you know something about women." There was a playful gleam in her eye. "I'm hoping that you know how to treat a woman well, very well."

I inclined my head respectfully, and answered, "I hope that I do, too."

"Emma has never had any boyfriends, so far as I know. She has always been busy with her music and her studies. And do you know, she turned 18 this year?" Mrs. Hewitt smiled again. "My lord, it's about time!" Then she gave me a quick but perceptible wink and departed.


Later that week, Emma came to my door in the morning with a guest. She was a young woman of about Emma's age and complexion, wearing her hair in a mid-sized Afro and sporting somewhat ostentatious hoop earrings. She smiled broadly, revealing a slight gap between her front teeth. Her bosom was not as astounding as Emma's, but it was nice, and her tube top called attention to it. Her bare midriff was smooth and enticing.

"Georges, this is my friend Natalie. She's from the United States. She plays clarinet in the orchestra," Emma explained.

Natalie extended her hand. "So, Georges, you're from France, right?" Natalie gave me a flirtatious smirk. "Ooh la la!"

Emma explained further. "Natalie's father is Jamaican, and she comes here every summer." She smiled at her friend. "She's a good clarinetist, and she tells me everything about the United States!"

I told Natalie that I was pleased to make her acquaintance.

My visit with the girls, as it turned out, was a little awkward. Much of the time, the two girls chattered with each other about the social life among the members of their orchestra, and otherwise, Natalie flirted with me shamelessly and with little finesse, which made me uncomfortable and seemed to make Emma jealous. I thought I saw hints of vexation in her face, but Emma was a naturally gracious girl who would strive not to display a bad mood.

After a mercifully short interval, Emma said, "Natalie, don't forget, we need to get to rehearsal early today."

Natalie was smiling intently in my direction. "We do?" she said.

Emma explained patiently, "Yes, for sectionals."

"Oh drat," said Natalie. She flashed her smile at me again, saying, "Nice to meet you, Georges!" And with that, the two of them were off, leaving me to resume my composing.


That afternoon it rained unusually hard. Armadas of thick, roiling clouds sailed in until the sky over Kingston was crowded with them, and then the rain came down. The roar of the rainfall was deafening, but also soothing. Then, suddenly, the clouds dispersed, and the sunlight sparkled from every droplet that clung to the palms and the bushes.

Mrs. Hewitt delivered dinner early that evening and then left. Right away Emma appeared at my door and asked if she could join me. She was hungry and shared my meal, which, thanks to the energetic efforts of Mrs. Hewitt, was plenty for two. As we ate, the sun went down; the days are short in the tropics. Then Emma asked if I would go for a walk with her. I said that I would.

We walked along the fence in the dim twilight until we came to the spot where it was partially collapsed, and we crossed it there onto the land where Emma's home was situated. Abruptly, Emma stopped and embraced me awkwardly. She pressed her face into my chest for a moment, and then looked up at me expectantly, with her lips slightly parted. I understood that she wanted me to kiss her, so I did. Our tongues made delicate contact, and explored one another tentatively. I could feel Emma's taut bosom pressing against me, and I began to get an erection. I was embarrassed by this, and I tried to shift my weight on my feet so as to not press it against her. Sotto voce, Emma cried, "No!", and put her arms around my waist, holding me fiercely against her. She put her head once more on my chest, and stood still, pressing her belly against my hard cock for a long time. Then she whispered "Good night," and slipped away up the path to her home.


The next morning I got up and went into the bathroom, where I looked at myself in the mirror. I wanted to see what it was that Emma liked. I have always thought of myself as an ordinary-looking person. I am of average height, 5'9", not much taller than Emma. I am, of course, white, which made me stand out in Jamaica. In those days, my hair was curly and I wore it long. If I stretched my imagination, I could see that I might make an exotic impression in a land where nearly everyone is dark-skinned.

Emma did not visit me that day. I felt mildly troubled, but I put it out of my mind by concentrating on my symphony. I had written the finale, which made it necessary to go back and re-do the other movements, so that they would better set the stage for the final one. Late in the afternoon I heard Emma's violin.

The next day, Emma arrived just after sundown, as I was finishing the jerk pork and callalloo that Mrs. Hewitt had delivered. She said, "Hi,' and then seated herself at the little table without making eye contact.

"What's new with you, Emma?" I asked conversationally.

Emma ignored my question. She looked up at me shyly. "Georges... would you please make love to me?"

"Well," I answered evasively, "I like you very much, Emma. I think you're a beautiful girl."

"Georges, I've never made love before." She put on a brave smile. "But I know how to do it! I took a Family Life course at school with the guidance counsellor. And Georges... the other night, I know you wanted to. You were hard!" Emma said earnestly. "I could feel it!"

"But, Emma," I responded, "I understand that for a woman, the first time can be... difficult."

"I don't care!" said Emma defiantly. "I've waited long enough! I have three friends in the orchestra at school who are my age, and they've all done it."

"Are you sure that I'm the right man for your first time? In a few months I'll be going back to France. I can't be your boyfriend."

Emma said brightly, "If I get accepted to the conservatory, maybe I could visit you!" And then, thinking better of it, she continued, "...but if I don't see you again, that's all right, too. I don't want to get married or anything like that. I just want it to be this summer." And with that, she looked straight into my eyes with a gaze that spoke of innocent longing and hope. I couldn't say No to this girl. But what if she were to become pregnant? That would derail her musical career. My mind raced, and I came to a decision, one that would fulfill Emma's desires, although not necessarily mine.

I rose from my chair, and came around to help her with hers. When she moved away from the table, I embraced her and just stood there for a minute, holding her. She smelled lovely. I think it was just the scent of her bath soap, and Emma herself. Again I was conscious of the pressure of her breasts against me, and I began to grow hard. Emma felt it right away, and again she fiercely held me close, so she could feel me against her belly.

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