I live and work in New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, having departed France in my early twenties. I met Martine for the first time when, after being away for five years, I went home on holiday to the villa my elderly parents own in the countryside south of Toulon.
"Pierre, this is Martine," my mother introduced the teenager who was living with them. The girl had a haunted, uneasy demeanour, and shyly let me greet her with a kiss on both cheeks.
Later, I found out that Martine's mother, a cousin of my father, had committed suicide, and that her father had abandoned her shortly after I left home. She was thirteen then, and my parents had taken her in not just because she was useful to them around the villa, but out of charity. My being their only child, my parents had in my absence come to love her like the daughter they never had, though, now eighteen, it seemed she still suffered the effects of the double tragedy in her life.
In fact, Martine's sad face kind of made it difficult to notice anything else about her, as if it would be embarrassing to take an interest in any other part of her anatomy. Luckily she did not have the coarse features of some of the country girls of the district but was fine-boned. Her eyes and hair were brown, the latter often beguiling tucked at the sides behind her small ears. The top of her head rose to the level of my chin.
As the days passed, and when she wasn't looking at me, I noticed more about her, like the simple cotton frocks she always wore during the day. They invariably had a high neckline and a hem that brushed the tops of her shapely knees. To hide the swell of her breasts she tended to hunch when I was about, and the dresses, apart from flaring over her hips, looked shapeless unless blown against her legs by the wind.
The villa, which Martine kept cleaned, was the heart of the small vineyard from which my parents earned a living. They employed staff (both men and women) to do the harvesting and help make the wine. Martine also cooked for the family, with my mother contributing when she was well enough.
The first two mornings of my holiday I slept in late but on the third, now rested from my long journey home, the dawn chorus of birds woke me. The Mediterranean sun was streaming into my upstairs room.
Naked, I got up and went over to the open window to look out at the familiar view of the countryside, spotting Martine walking down one of the lanes between the grapevines, moving away from the villa. She was wearing a frock, and was barefoot. A white towel hung over shoulder, and I assumed she was heading towards the river that fringed the vineyard. It usually ran shallow but there was a waterhole that, after a hot day, I'd swum in myself as a child then a teenager, sometimes with members of the vineyard staff or their children.
Seen from the rear, Martine had a very feminine silhouette, and the erection I'd woken with stayed up, tightening delightfully as I watched her. Encouraged, I let the fingers of my right hand drift to the sensitive flesh. I had been without a girlfriend in Noumea for three months, after splitting up with Simone and, in the intervening period, masturbation had become as necessary again as it had seemed when I was a boy at home.
My penis thrilling to the self-stimulation, I wished Martine would turn round, look up, and see me in the window with my manhood standing proud.
In that hope, my knob jutting out of my hand, I started jerking off in full view.
But Martine didn't look my way. Her figure got smaller and smaller in the distance until it was no longer providing any stimulus for what the priests at Confession used to call my 'self-abuse'. In response to the loss of incentive my penis drooped then, after I released it, started shrivelling. I could have closed my eyes and recalled any number of sexual episodes with women, to reach a climax, but I was fixated on Martine.
I guess I wanted to be with her rather than gratify myself with a self-induced orgasm. I suppose, in my subconscious, I lusted to make love to her, but I did not consciously think about it in those terms, simply feeling a desire for her company and to find out more about her.
Acting on that impulse I searched for a pair of swimming shorts, pulled them over the remnant of my erection and, leaving my parents likely still asleep in their bed, I went outside.
The sun was low on the horizon, but its warmth reached my bare skin and heated the air around me. As I headed quickly down the row next to the one Martine had taken I could smell the earth and the vines, and the sweet smell of ripe grapes. Soon the vineyard would fill with workers for a new day.
The riverbank was lined with a dense band of native trees and shrubs, and a short path led through it to the waterhole. Birds were singing in the trees and I could hear the gurgling rush of the water running over the stony bed further downstream. I slowed, not wanting my arrival to startle Martine.
With her back towards the path, she was sitting on a tree stump that had washed up on the bank. The white towel was placed beside her, and she was still wearing her plain frock. She was motionless, looking out across the river, perhaps staring into space and waiting for the sun to warm the water as it chased back the shadows of the overhanging trees.
I stopped and stayed still, staring at her back, undressing her with my eyes and visualising the firm curves of her sides, waist, hips and flanks. Then, like a schoolboy who had never seen a naked woman before and foresaw an opportunity, I gave in to the whim to hide in the vegetation rather than go up and greet Martine as I should have.
Sexual impulses often seem to bypass the reasoning centres of the brain, yet I knew I wasn't acting my age. I guess her youth made me feel like a boy again, perhaps subconsciously figuring that she would not be interested in a man ten years her senior.
I knelt on the ground and peeped at her through the shrubbery, knowing it was wrong but feeling too expectant and excited to stop myself. The idea of watching her undress unawares was irresistible, even if she turned out to be wearing a bathing costume under her frock. My erection had come back, elongating down the leg of my shorts, a good excuse to stay concealed, though my desire to see her body had overcome my shame.
Minutes passed and nothing happened. I thought that maybe she had changed her mind about swimming. Perhaps she had left it too late and expected the workers to arrive in the vines behind us. I wasn't wearing my watch, so I couldn't check the time.
If such an expectation had put her off then, I speculated, perhaps she had been planning to swim nude. The thought sent a thrill to my genitals, already stimulated by my hand toying with the lump under the thin fabric of my shorts.
The heat of the early morning sun, even in the shade of the trees, was getting uncomfortable and I began to regret my choice of hiding. I could have been swimming instead of sweating and skulking in the bushes like a pervert. Then again, I reconsidered, if I got to see her nude, the sacrifice would not be too great. After all (having only just turned eighteen, and being painfully shy) there was no way she would show herself to me if she knew I was there.
Without warning she turned her head. I thought for a moment she was looking at me, but her eyes swept the entrance to the pathway, perhaps to make sure no one was coming.
She stood up, her back to me, and lifted the shift over her head. I could see a bra strap and bikini briefs, both white, with a lot of tanned skin in between and all the way down her slender legs. Two white cheeks peeped out from the leg bands of her underwear. It appeared she did not sunbathe nude.
Turning her head again, briefly, she checked down the pathway then reached for the catch of her bra. Unfastening it, she slid the shoulder straps off her arms.
Now she was standing at a slight angle and I could see the side of one swelling breast, but not the nipple. The globe was fuller and shapelier than I had expected, and looked as firm out of the bra as it had in the cup, the benefit of being small-breasted.
Without checking her privacy again she slid down her briefs and took them off. She stood for a second, regaining her balance, then twisted to drop the little garment on the top of her dress. I had a fleeting view of her breasts before, all-nude, she padded down the sandbank in her bare feet. She waded into the water until it reached her knees then dove in headfirst. I had glimpsed an interestingly female nook and cranny between the peach-like cheeks of her buttocks, but was left with no impression of the detail.
Martine came to the surface out in the pool, where the river slowed and ran deep. Her hair was soaked and, with only her bare shoulders showing, she paddled with her feet as she brushed wet strands out of her eyes. Then she breast-stroked to cross the pool, kicking out, her legs repeatedly opening as she drew her knees forward. Reaching the other side, she turned and swam towards the shallows where the running water entered the pool over a bank of stones.
Beached, she turned on her back and lay in the flow, her head facing upstream and her feet towards me, the rushing water seeming to be massaging her curves. I could see the hair-covered mound between the tops of her legs, and the little peaks of her brown nipples standing out from the swelling whiteness where the suntan did not reach. Her youth and her physical beauty entranced me.
I slipped my shorts down to my knees and gripped the male organ that had sprung to attention in front of me. Gratifying it became the overwhelming need as I admired Martine's erogenous zones and womanly contours. At the moment she parted her thighs, as if she was relaxing in the warmth of the sun, my organ spouted. White semen spat out, splattering the broad green leaves of the shrub in front of me. Luckily, Martine was far enough away for my contained gasp of ecstasy to go unheard, the countryside sounds of the river, birds, and insects masking it.
Martine remained sprawled on the gravel bank across the pool, resting on her elbows, letting the cooling water flow under her buttocks and play teasingly around her genitals. I think her eyes were closed. The elation of my sexual release was slowly ebbing, but I could still see up the valley of her thighs to her vulva, though I could not get any sense of what lay under the mat of hair.
I guess she wasn't worrying about being disturbed -- perhaps thinking it was still too early for anyone to be about. Then I recalled it was Sunday and that, from the vineyards on either side of the river, it was unlikely anyone would happen along and see her.
I watched Martine turn over onto her front, prop herself on her arms, and plunge her lower half into the shallow water, the peach of her buttocks exposed provocatively in the sunlight.
Pulling my shorts up, I thought fleetingly, and unintentionally, of my parents rising to go to church and expecting me to join them. But, too delighted by carnal attraction to Martine, I experienced no more than a passing guilt.
After I had shifted position several times to ease cramped muscles, I saw Martine slide back into the pool and swim across to the sandy bank near the point I was concealed. As she came out of the water she was facing my way, and I got my first full-frontal view of her nude. It took awhile for my eyes to get from the gap between her legs to her face, but when I saw its habitually haunted expression I immediately felt ashamed of having taken advantage.
Even so, I couldn't move away without running the risk a noise might reveal my presence and, having decided to stay put, I remained the voyeur.
The girlfriend before Simone had been the first woman I had ever seen stark naked, but catching Martine unawares had been almost as exciting.
Still facing in my direction, she dried her youthful breasts, making them jiggle pleasantly then, knees akimbo, put the towel between her legs to blot her pubic area.
I could glimpse a hint of pinkness as she slipped her panties over her feet, but she hid it, and her pubic hair, when she pulled the undergarment all the way up.
She lifted the towel again and started giving her hair a more thorough drying, leaving it tousled. All the while, her firm breasts had jiggled nakedly in a way that was even more delightful than before.
When she finally put on her bra, and then her dress, I felt like a child whose treat had been taken away.
Martine headed back towards the villa, and I trailed her unseen, two lanes of lush grapevines over, and got back to my room without encountering my parents. There, I checked the time (I was not late after all), and dressed respectfully for church.
Martine sat with our family group, next to me in the pew, still shy and, of course, unaware that I had seen her private parts. She had on her best frock and I was supersensitive to every movement of her thighs and lap, as well as to the rising and falling of her chest. Her eyes were downcast most of the time, and she did not catch the looks I gave her. My parents, naturally, were too devout to be paying me any attention in church, or to suspect the lecherous thoughts I was having about their teenage ward.
After Mass, before we returned home, my parents proudly renewed my acquaintance with various villagers clustered outside. Martine made brunch at the villa, innocently unaware of me accurately undressing her with my eyes. Now that I knew what beauty lay beneath her plain dress it was not difficult.
I did try to engage her in conversation during the meal, to develop a relationship, but she gave brief, jerky replies even to open-ended questions. I saw that my parents thought I was only trying to be like a big brother to her, and I felt guilty that my interest had been less honourable.
The next day I surreptitiously followed Martine into the vineyard when she took wine and cheese out to the workers to supplement their lunches. The men, though scolded by the older women, gave her a hard time, pretending they were going to reach under her dress or grasp her breasts, and making ribald comments. Though rebuffed, they only stopped toying with her when I came on the scene.
She gave me a grateful look.
Later, when we walked back to the villa together and I prodded, she told me the men often behaved that way towards her. She was used to it, she said, but I could see that it upset her really.
"Shall I have a word to my father about it?" I asked, glad to have any sort of private conversation with her.
She told me not to, that the men just did it good-humouredly. I was not so sure, knowing the thoughts I had entertained myself. I let her know that if any of the men ever actually touched her improperly she should tell me, but her face did not show any sign she would do more than bear the harassment stoically. "The women will keep them in check," she said.
I mastered my feelings about her for a week and didn't follow her to the river though, most mornings, I watched from my window as she headed there to swim. Afterwards (in my room) I would masturbate as I pictured her nude at the waterhole. I guess I could have done more about trying to befriend her, but she seemed so much younger than I was, and had a vulnerable quality that made me hold back.
During the week she did speak to me more freely when the occasion required, like at meal times, and I even managed to make her smile a few times with stories about my life in New Caledonia. They entertained my parents too, and I realised how much I'd missed them while I was away.
"You're good for Martine, Pierre," my father said to me when we were alone one day. "What a pity she is not your age. Otherwise the two of you could have married."
I thought over his words afterwards and wondered if he guessed how I felt about her and was warning me off.
By Monday of the following week memories of seeing Martine nude were not enough any longer and I ached to view her bare flesh again. I followed her to the river, not long after dawn. It was fortunate I did. I found she had another admirer, concealed in the same place I had crouched the week before, but his intentions were even less honourable than mine. He carried a length of rope with which to render her defenceless and a sack to put over her head.
When I was no more than a pace or two away he turned, perhaps sensing my presence. I recognised him as one of the swarthy vineyard workers who had harassed Martine. He was so startled by being discovered in his guilty plan that I had time to take a swing at him. He narrowly avoided it, but lost his balance and tumbled through the bushes out onto the sandy bank along the water's edge. I leapt on top of him and we grappled fiercely.
I heard Martine scream, but was too preoccupied with defending myself to try and see what state of undress she was in.
The worker recognised me as we grappled, and his resistance shifted to getting away rather than inflicting further injury. I contrived to let him think he'd broken free, and he ran off towards the vineyard. It seemed the better course to let him go, despite his criminal intentions. He hadn't done Martine any real harm, and I had a bleeding nose and gouged face from thwarting his planned rape, so I did not want any further injury.
Martine, I saw, was standing few feet away and clutching her dress to her neck, frozen to the spot. I couldn't tell if she had underwear on or was nude.
I blurted when I stopped panting, "He intended to tie you up and rape you."
Martine burst into tears, and I didn't know what to do. My intention of swimming with her, of developing a new rapport in the mutual enjoyment of a recreational activity she liked, had been ruined. Her uncontrollable sobs did not seem as if they came just from relief I had saved her, though.
Nonetheless, filled with sympathy, I took her heaving body in my arms, one hand on her back encountering her bra catch. I looked down her spine to find she had her panties on, and I felt jealously happy the worker had not seen her nude.
Though in a state of semi-undress, Martine let me comfort her, and I tried not to be conscious of her soft body pressed against me, jerking as she sobbed, or to think about the temptation to undo her bra.
When the flood of tears ended she pulled away and apologised for them. I turned my back to let her put her dress on, and then shepherded her to the villa in silence. She did not come down to breakfast afterwards.
I got my father alone, and told him what had happened earlier. "That he should attempt such a thing! Martine is like a daughter to me!" His face darkened in outrage. I described the man for him. "Ah yes, the Yemeni... There are so many migrant workers these days, Pierre." "Will you go to the Police?" "I think not." "But..." "Martine has been through enough in her life. Her uncle raped her when she was thirteen... The Yemeni will already be on the run. I will have his work permit revoked for leaving my employment and he will be deported when he's caught."
I stayed awake in bed that evening, lying on my back, unable to stop thinking about what had happened to Martine when she was thirteen. Her haunted demeanour and unease around me now had a more convincing explanation. To lose her virginity that way, and so young, was tragic.
In the moonlight from the window I saw my bedroom door opening. I recognised Martine as she slipped through. She closed it behind her quietly then turned towards the bed as I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. I felt the cover lift and then she was lying beside me.
"Martine..." I began, wanting to let her know she shouldn't be there. "Shshsh." She put her finger on my lips as she turned towards me. Then her arm slipped over my bare chest and she cuddled up. I could feel the softness and warmth of her breasts but her cotton nightie was a tantalizing barrier to skin-to-skin contact. "Go back to sleep," she said.