I looked over at my watch as I stepped out of the shower. "Darn it," I said to no one in particular, "I'm going to be late."
I had mistimed my morning routine because my sister was back home from college and I hadn't taken into account the extra person needing the bathroom. We had two in the house - our parents', whose bedroom was on the second floor along with another bedroom that was used as an office, and the one on the first floor that was shared by the two bedrooms occupied by me and my sister, Ashley.
I was running a little late for church - the first time our whole family would attend mass together since Ashley had been home for Christmas exodus.
"Michael, you have 15 minutes," my mother said from the other side of the bathroom door.
"I'll be ready," I said, looking again at my watch and hoping I wouldn't be made a lier.
I wasn't. We got to mass just in time. I always enjoyed going to church with my family and in the fellowship of our community. But more than that, we (my family, I mean) took the teachings of the Gospel seriously. We tried our best to follow the teachings of our Savior and the tenets of the Catholic Church. I have to admit though, no human is perfect, and that certainly includes me. Sometimes, late at night as I fell asleep, I would have a fleeting thought about my girlfriend, Tanya, that was...less than chaste. Of course I would never act on such thoughts but I am human after all! Whenever I did think about doing anything with Tanya other than the quick kiss on the lips that we often did when greeting each other or saying goodbye, I would pray and ask God for his forgiveness and strength. As a servant of God, I was saving myself for my future wife, whomever that may be. The church teaches not to do such things that will arouse desire; those acts - French kissing, touching private parts, and of course sex - are reserved for married couples.
Tanya made it difficult to always keep my thoughts pure. She was very pretty, with shoulder-length blonde hair, large blue eyes, and a very handsome figure. We had been together for six months, and I enjoyed being with her. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of her, especially when she dressed up for church, and become aroused. I knew it happened sometimes but I always felt ashamed of thinking of her as an object of desire. In those instances when I got an erection from looking at my girlfriend, I would go to confession within the next day and confess my sin to God in the presence of my priest. It always made me feel better to get it off my chest.
As you can probably tell, our small South Carolinian town is very conservative. Growing up, I didn't think much of it; everyone in our neighborhood and most everyone in town was religious - whether they be Catholic or Baptist or whatever. We lived our lives a certain way and that way was to honor our family, be chaste, and save yourself for the one you will spend your life with in service to God.
As we sat down in our usual pew, I looked over to where Tanya and her family normally sat. Our eyes met and I returned her smile. Ashley, who was sitting next to me, followed my eyes to Tanya and then looked back at me with a smile.
"She's pretty. How long have you been dating?"
"About six months," I replied.
"Six months," she said, with a surprised tone, "My little brother's growing up," she said teasingly.
At that, the service began and thoughts of Tanya or anything else moved to the background.
The following Friday, we uncovered and cleaned our in-ground pool that we had had since I was seven and Ashley was eight. We learned to swim in that pool and had our friends over almost every summer day. The main rule at our house, which never needed to be spoken because of the conservative neighborhood we lived in, was that all females - kids and parents alike - wore one-piece bathing suits. No midriffs and certainly no bikinis allowed. Likewise, males wore large bathing suits like board shorts.
The next morning, our parents went out with our neighbors for lunch and to visit the museum. Ashley and I stayed back. I planned on asking Tanya if she wanted to go see a movie. Borrowing my mother's car, I was about halfway to her house when she called my cell and said she had to cancel; so I turned around and went back to the house. An afternoon lounging around the pool would have to suffice.
When I got back to the house, I changed into my bathing suit and went out to the pool where I assumed I would find my sister. I most certainly did. Ashley was obviously expecting to be alone for a few hours. What I saw shocked me to my core; the image forever burned in my brain. My sister was lying on one of the lounge chairs facing away from the house towards the pool. Ashley was wearing a white bikini that barely covered her tanned body. Her skin glistened with perspiration, giving it a soft glow. Before I knew what I was doing, my eyes followed her toned legs up and over her exposed midriff to her large chest, which was barely contained by her bikini top. I was appalled - by my sister for blatantly wearing provocative clothing that was prohibited by our parents, and by my own weakness. I couldn't believe I allowed my eyes to linger over my own sister's scantily-clad body. Once I got a hold my faculties, I turned around, went back into the house and changed, then went for a drive to clear my head.
That night after we all watched a movie together, our parents went upstairs to retire for the evening and Ashley and I went to our bedrooms. At one point in the night, I woke up and looked over at my clock - 12:36. As I closed my eyes and settled back into the bed, something caught my ear. I closed my eyes to focus. There was the beat of my own heart and, coming from the room next door to mine - my sister's room - a faint moan. It was sporadic but it was undeniable. My immediate thought was that Ashley was having a bad dream. I was about to go to her room and wake her when I heard a more pronounced moan - this time, it was clear that if she was having a dream, it wasn't a nightmare.
I couldn't help but bring my head closer to the wall. Our beds were against the same wall, making it easy for me to hear what was going on in her room. Growing up, I could always hear her and her friends talking into the night when they had sleepovers; it always drove me nuts because they kept me up all night. Now, I listened intently, trying to make sense of the obvious noises of pleasure coming from my sister's room.
"God, I hope she's just dreaming," I whispered to myself.
Masturbation or any kind of self-pleasure was obviously forbidden and something I had never done. As far as I knew, neither had my sister. But as her moans became more rhythmic, I had a sinking feeling that she was not dreaming at all. Despite my dismay, I couldn't keep myself from listening, and as I did, the image of a bikini-clad body entered my mind. I tried not to, but I couldn't help but picture that same scantily clad woman touching herself, her hand disappearing under the wet fabric of her bikini bottom. Before I knew it, I had a raging hard-on that tented my pajama bottoms.
Steeling myself, I got up from my bed, went down the hall to the bathroom, and splashed cold water on my face. Then, having regained my self-control, I went back to my room, kneeled at the side of my bed, and asked God to forgive me.
The next morning, I was the last one up. My parents and Ashley were in the kitchen having breakfast.
"Good morning, sleepy head," my mother said. "I was about to call the cavalry; we have to get ready for church soon."
"Sorry," I replied, "I didn't sleep too well."
"Everything alright?" she asked.
"I'm fine. Just one of those nights."
"I slept like a baby," Ashley said. "Although I think I did hear you get up at one point," she said, looking over at me with a questioning look on her face.
I tried not to blush. "Yeah, I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night."
That afternoon, Tanya and I hung out at the local park. We talked about our relationship and the future - as in September when I was going to be attending the same school as my sister, the University of South Carolina, and Tanya was going to the University of Virginia. Should we keep seeing each other? Did we want to try a long distance relationship? We decided we would make a decision in August before we left for our respective schools.
It was a few nights later when, having been in bed for over an hour, I began to hear that same, rhythmic moaning coming from my sister's bedroom. It was soft but it was very clear. I tried to block it out; I tried to not imagine my sister's half-naked body by the pool. The voluptuous body remained burned in my mind as I listened to the unmistakable sounds of my sister masturbating just a couple feet from where I lay. I was both disgusted and aroused at the same time - a product of the sins of the body that I needed to combat with all of my willpower.
I felt flush, a cold sweat coming over me as I pulled the covers off my body. I was so hard, my penis ached as it pressed against my boxer briefs. I knelt right there on my bed and prayed to God to relieve me of the sinful thoughts going through my mind.
I must have been praying aloud and for some time because I heard my door crack open. I turned, shocked out of my trance-like state by the sight of my sister standing in the doorway. She was wearing her pink, silk robe, tied in a cinch along her waist, accentuating her curves.
"What are you doing?" she whispered, stepping into my room and closing the door behind her.
"Nothing...praying...wh-what is it?"
"Why are you praying in the middle of the night?"
"Since when do I need a reason to pray?" I retorted.
"Sorry," she said walking closer to where I was still kneeling. "It's just...How long have you been up?"
"A while," I replied. She was wondering if I heard anything, I thought. "How long have you been up?"
She looked at me, trying to read my eyes; she always could.
"What is it, Michael? Is there something you want to tell me?"
"No, no...no, what do you mean?" I yammered, sounding like I was guilty of something. Well, I was guilty of something but Ashley was by far in deeper waters than me. I wondered if it was possible she had lost her virginity at college. No, I convinced myself; there's no way my sister would be that reckless.
"I don't know, you tell me. You can tell me anything; you know that, right?"
I knew I could but this was different. "I know. There's nothing to tell."
She searched my face for an answer to a question she did not have to ask. She knew that I heard her; there was no doubt about it. The question was, what should we do about it?
"Can I ask you something personal?" She had a dead serious look on her face as she approached the bed and sat next to me.
"Of course, sis. What is it?"
"Do you ever...think about...do you ever fantasize about Tanya?"
I did not see that coming. My mind was racing. Do I answer her truthfully? Where is this leading? "I'm human. I do sometimes," I replied, my voice trailing off.
"Do you...ever do more than fantasize?"
"No," I said truthfully. Then I realized where she was going with her questioning. "Do you?"
Ashley looked me straight in the eyes. "You know I do. You heard me tonight; you probably heard me last night."
"Ashley, it's okay. Have you asked for forgiveness? Did you go to confession?"
"Of course I go to confession," she said, "but I can't help myself, Michael. I get these urges; I have for years but I never acted on them until I was at college. Now that I know what..." She whispered, "...it feels like...I need it more and more."
I felt sorry for Ashley. She was obviously tormented by her body's betrayal. I kneeled at the side of the bed and motioned for Ashley to follow. "Let's ask God for forgiveness and guidance. Can I ask you something, sis?"
"Are you still...a virgin?"
"Yes," she said very quickly and defensively.
"Then let us pray."
* * * *
I didn't hear my sister committing a cardinal sin for almost two weeks. That changed one Saturday afternoon while our parents were out running errands and I was lying by the pool. When I went inside to get a drink, I heard a muffled sound coming from the other side of the house. As I drew closer, the sounds turned into groans. I felt my heart in my throat. I turned down the hall past my room to my sister's bedroom. Her door was cracked open just enough for me to see inside. My body betrayed me as I instantly became aroused.
Ashley was on top of her bed on her knees, face down turned away from the door with her butt up in the air. She was naked. She had what I knew to be a dildo inside her body, moving it in and out in a slow, rhythmic motion as she used her other hand to rub her clit. Ashley moaned in cadence with the thrusts of the dildo, muffled by the pillow her head rested on. I was disconcerted by her weakness...and mine - because I should have barged in and stopped her, but I didn't. Instead, I stood in the doorway and watched with a mixture of loathing (directed at both myself and Ashley), shock, and desire. Ashley flipped onto her back, her body lying diagonally on the bed so that I could see her face and the dildo pumping in and out of her vagina. Unaware that I was watching or that anyone was in the house, Ashley's moans became more urgent, her voice hoarse, her fingers on her clit matching the speed of her other hand.
"Ugh, ugh, ugh...oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," she exclaimed as she raised her hips off the bed.
"Huh, huh, ugh..." The veins in her neck pulsed as her mouth fell agape in a silent scream. Her legs clamped together, trapping the dildo still shoved deep inside her body. She screamed out, completely losing control as she furiously pumped the dildo in and out of her body. Squeezing her left breast with her now free hand, she pinched the nipple between her thumb and forefinger. "Fuck!" she hissed through clenched teeth as her body quivered, then convulsed as she covered her mouth to smothering another scream.
Finally, she slowly pulled the dildo out; it was slick, wet with her arousal. Ashley placed it next to her, let out a sigh that solicited a quiver from her body, then wiped the perspiration from her forehead with the back of her hand. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like it, of course, and it forever changed me and my relationship with my sister.
I looked down at my bathing suit. The bulge in my shorts was undeniable. I became sexual aroused from watching my sister bring herself to orgasm. How could I possibly confess this to our priest?
I was about to leave when Ashley put on her panties and t-shirt and knelt on the floor.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, hands clasped. "God, forgive me for my sins just as you forgave Peter and those that crucified you." She reached into the bottom drawer of her nightstand, lifted something up, then pulled an object from the drawer. It was an instrument of pain - a black, leather flogger. It was large, with a thick handle and long leather straps.
"Count not my transgressions, but my tears of repentance." With that, Ashley swung the instrument over her shoulder, striking the middle of her back. A sigh escaped her lips as she struck herself again. "Remember not my iniquities, but my sorrow for the offenses I have committed against you." Arching her back, Ashley struck her butt with as much force as she could muster, eliciting another whimper.
"Count not my transgressions, but my tears of repentance." Thwack!
"Remember not my iniquities, but my sorrow for the offenses I have committed against you." Whack!
With each heavy blow, my body flinched in response. I was entranced - by her devotion and commitment and by the spectacle of self-flagellation. This continued for at least another five minutes before Ashley replaced the flogger in its hiding place and finished her prayer. It was only then that I noticed the beads of sweat on my forehead...and the hard-on that still raged in my shorts.
I avoided conversation with her during dinner, not knowing what to say. That night as I lay in bed, I begged God to forgive me and Ashley for our sins and I hoped he would give us a chance to redeem ourselves.
* * * *
All was quiet over the next few days. I started working part-time in a hospital cafeteria so I could have some extra spending money while Ashley worked as a hostess at a restaurant. The next "incident" occurred on a Wednesday morning. I awoke to the obvious sounds of Ashley in the throes of an orgasm. It was muffled but it was deafening to my ears. With a start, I looked over at my bedside clock, worried that our parents were still home; it was 8:15. They had both been gone for work for at least a half-hour.
Determined to help my sister, I got up and went to her door, which was closed. I was about to open it when it dawned on me that she would probably be naked, and she didn't know that I had seen her previously. I knocked.
"Ashley, it's Michael."
I heard her reply in a muffled tone, "Just a second." There was a shuffling and then she opened her bedroom door. She wore her silk nightgown. Her long, dark hair was in a tussle and she had a dazed look in her eyes as she looked into mine.
"Where is it?" I asked, referring to the glass dildo I should have helped her get rid of before.
"Ashley, I can't help you unless you meet me halfway."
She gave me a look that was both quizzical and guilty.
"Are you going to make me say it?" I asked. "The dildo," I whispered, embarrassed.
She turned and retrieved the instrument from under the sheets. I had interrupted her before she could clean it. Her scent was strong, sending my blood to places I wish it wouldn't go; I closed my eyes in concentration and left the room. Placing it in my gym bag so that I could dispose of it later, I went back into Ashley's bedroom. She was on her knees facing the bed, the flogger resting by her side as she prayed.
"God forgive me for my sins."
She must have heard me in the doorway because she turned her head and shoulders to face me. "Michael..."
Her eyes followed mine to the flogger, a leather strand touching the exposed skin of her toned calf.
"I know you've been engaging in self-flagellation to repent your sins," I said.
She looked more relieved than surprised.
I stepped across the threshold, not knowing what to do. Should we go to the church together and confess our sins? Should we pray together here and now? I was so confused, I just talked. "Does it...work?" I was searching for the right word. "Does it help?"
"Yes," she sighed. "I need to be punished, not absolved." She turned to face me, still on her knees. "I need to feel my penance." She took the grip of the instrument in her hand and lifted it above her head toward me. "Please, Michael. You're the only one I can trust. Help me."
Needless to say, I was absolutely floored. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. Should I help her with her penance? Was it my place to help her? Shouldn't she be seeking help from a priest or maybe our dad? As terrible as Ashley's sins were, I was not innocent in this. How could I "turn her in" when I could help her strengthen her will instead; after all, wasn't that at the heart of the problem. We are all flawed; some of us have better willpower than others. If I could help my sister gain the will to resist these urges, I was going to do whatever it took. I took the flogger from her outstretched hand, testing the weight of the leather as I swung it through the air.
Ashley stood and said, "Thank you, Michael...Where do you want me?" There was a hint of anticipation in her voice that almost gave me pause.
"On the bed," I said without emotion. I tried to stay even-keeled.