By Sue Gourlay
*Polo at Portsea is a female coming-of-age story with sexual/erotic content.* (Note added by Geelong Writers)
When Sally and I first went to bed, we wrapped our arms around each other and pretended we were making love to film stars. She rubbed her fingers across the crotch of my thick, white cottontails, neither of us ready for pure flesh. Later we sucked at each other’s tiny, pink nipples and wondered where the milk came from.
I knew some women kissed each other, and used cucumbers. Sally and I discussed this behaviour at length and thought it was disgusting.
‘It’s not like us,’ I said to Sally, ‘It’s different from us, we’re just pretending.’
All the same we decided to keep our activities to ourselves.
When I was in Sally’s arms, I told her about playing hospitals with Margaret, the girl next door. I was about six then. We’d been playing pick-up-sticks and Margaret had started injecting me in the arms and the legs and then pretty soon, she was pricking and prodding me with those coloured skewers all over my body. After a while, she took down my underpants and examined me with the magnifying glass we’d fried ants with earlier in the day. Margaret always got to be the doctor, even though, when she grew up she wanted to be a ballerina. She’d hum La la la! as she prodded around with her plastic surgical instruments, all the time demonstrating her pas de deux and pirouettes.
‘That was just kid’s stuff,’ Sally said, but later produced a magnifying glass with a built-in torch that her father had used for who knows what.
When Sally gave me that first tonguey, I tinkled like a crystal bell. Later, we practised all the sorts of things, so we’d be experienced when we met the right man. I’d close my eyes and dream about gorgeous rich movie stars, TV soap actors and too-cool lead singers.
Sometimes, I’d think about boys from school and wonder what sort of husbands they’d make. Whenever I opened my eyes, Sally would be staring down at me, smiling, and then I’d just think about her.
Marty Williams was the first boy to kiss me. Every time I see the name Marty Williams in the newspaper, I wonder if it’s that Marty Williams.
Back then Marty had sandy coloured hair and hadn’t yet started (or stopped) shaving. We met after school at the back of the old Henry’s place. He dropped me when I wouldn’t let him put his hand down my knickers because I wasn’t ready to practice with boys. When I see Marty Williams on Television, I sometimes fantasise that if I had ‘done it’ back then, I might have ended up living in Toorak wearing designer gumboots to the Polo at Portsea set and being friends with celebrities I don’t know the names of.
Sally’s breasts were beautiful breasts, way before mine were, full and ripe, her knickers already stained by the onset of puberty.
Sally’s dad asked me to join their family for a special Sunday lunch. I sat around the Formica table with Sally’s mum and her sisters wondering what was so cool when Mr Jones stood up and announced, ‘Sally, I’d like to congratulate you on becoming a woman.’
Sally’s mother and sisters had actually clapped while I didn’t know where to look.
Then Mr Jones instructed us on how Sally would have to be doubly careful because all the boys would be able to smell her menstruation. We never spoke about periods at our house and I had no idea that boys were aware of such things, other than my mum telling me to make sure I doused myself with talc ‘down below’.
When, impossible-to-rinse-under-the-shower, red smears eventually became apparent in my knickers, a variety of Femfresh products discreetly appeared in the bathroom cabinet.
Sally and I made a pact. We’d always, always be friends, and never, never-ever tell anyone about our practising for Mr. Right. Then we pricked each other’s thumbs with a burning hot, match sterilised, embroidery needle, and, pressing together, made a bond for life; blood sisters.
Sally traced her thumb across my forehead, soon moving down to my still-forming breasts, and further, to my butterfly-filled stomach where she squeezed her thumb and forefinger, spilling a droplet of blood into my navel.
‘You’re my very best friend, Lizzie,’ she whispered.
‘I think I love you,’ I answered. And, in case she thought I meant it added, ‘Just pretending.’
I asked Sally if it was true, what her father said, about the boys being able to know.
‘We’ll experiment,’ she said.
That afternoon, we went down to the mall and paraded around like we’d seen the older girls do. A pack of boys seemed to follow us everywhere, but Sally just turned her head whenever they tried to speak to us.
‘Bloody snobby bitches,’ taunted the pack, but still kept trailing behind.
‘See!’ said Sally. ‘It must be true.’
Like Mr Jones had predicted, wherever we went, boys started surrounding us like dingoes. And, although we quite enjoyed their howling attention, we weren’t interested in just anyone. Of course, we were saving ourselves. Sally and I had both agreed to wait for Mr. Right.
In the meantime, perfectly content on our regular Saturday night sleepovers, we explored each other’s bodies in the quiet of Sally’s single bed.
We discovered how to make love bites and sucked at our own arms before attempting to lay claims on each other. Eventually, I sank my teeth into Sally’s neck and sipped at her skin like it was a vanilla thick shake. When I came up for air, I saw that I’d left a neat, little, scarlet bruise the exact shape of my mouth. I grabbed a mirror so Sally could see too. For the next ten days, she wore her hair loose to cover the imprint I’d left. Sometimes, walking home from school, a cross-wind would sweep her curls to one side and I’d catch a glimpse of the fading mark and shiver, right there in the warm sunshine.
Mum said it wasn’t healthy, how much time Sally and I spent together. She kept nagging me to invite other girls over. ‘Nice boys too, if you want, with the obvious coda, ‘as long as your father or I am at home.’
‘It’s not that I don’t like Sally,’ she said. ‘It’s just that, well Lizzie, it doesn’t seem natural to spend all that time with just one friend.’
I was furious and asked her if she’d rather I hung out like some slut with a gang of boys and get up the duff before my fourteenth birthday. I’d never spoken to my mum like that and I felt pretty bad, to tell the truth, but at least it shut her up.
‘Your mother is so weird,’ said Sally, ‘She deserves it.’
School holidays, it was already after 2pm and Sally hadn’t rung. It was a pact we’d made last holidays; that we would take it in turn to ring each other every day. I checked my diary again – it was definitely Sally’s turn, but I rang anyway.
Mr Jones answered the phone.
‘I’m sorry Lizzie, Sally’s gone shopping with her sisters, she told me to tell you she’d ring you later.’
‘Oh! That’s okay, ‘ I answered, trying to sound natural. ‘That’s right, Sally told me about shopping, I just forgot.’
I don’t know why I said that. Sally probably had told me, anyway, so it wasn’t really a lie. After all, we told each other everything.
I rang back at 4pm but there was no answer, and when I rang back at five-thirty I was told, before a rushed goodbye, that Sally had decided to go to the movies with her sister. Up you! I thought, before yelling into the dead phone.
‘YOU CAN RING ME.’
Days later, when I finally rang back, Sally answered. ‘Sorry I haven’t caught up Lizzie, I’ve been that busy, you know. I went to the movies with my sister, and her friends and, well, things are kind of different. I met this guy.’ She was laying it on so thick, it made me want to puke.
‘I can’t believe it. Brian. His name is Brian, he’s dead-set gorgeous, and he reckons, I’m amazing, he told me I’m amazing, and well, he’s a bit older, you know, he’s got a car.
A car! How old was he? For some reason, I felt panicky and what I’d practised saying about what a great time I’d been having without her, didn’t come.
‘Wow, Sally, that’s sooo cool,’ I sucked. ‘Ah, mm, why don’t you get Brian to drive you over to my place, I’m dying to meet him.’
It didn’t even sound like me. Shit, he was old enough to drive a car, what would my mum say?
Sally didn’t sound like Sally either.
‘I don’t think so, Lizzie, seeing it’s the holidays, Brian’s taking me for a drive. You’ll never guess where – oh my God – Portsea!’
It was soon afterwards, that I kissed Marty Williams. Marty’s lips were cold and thin and it was hard to breathe when he forced his tongue down the back of my throat.
‘What’s up with you, then?’ he snarled when I pushed him away. ‘You’re just a little cock teaser.’
He left me sitting there, at the back of old Henry’s place as he wandered up the hill.
‘Mole!’ he yelled back when he reached the corner where his mates had been watching.
I rang Sally when I got home to tell her what a bastard Marty Williams was, but Sally had gone out. Again. With Brian. I thought she’d ring me later on but she didn’t call that night, or the even the next day. It turned out that I had to wait through the whole weekend until I saw her, back at school.
Marty Williams and his friends were all hanging around the canteen, making wanking gestures, laughing and calling out.
As soon as I saw Sally walk in the gate, I ran up to tell her what happened and what a shithead Marty was.
‘You’re so pathetic, Lizzie,’ she said in this hoity-toity voice. ‘What did you expect? You probably are a little teaser. Let’s face it, what were you doing at the back of Henry’s place anyway? God, Lizzie, you’re so immature.’
I was inconsolable – my best friend, how could she say that?
‘Me? God Lizzie! What about you?’ I screamed. ‘So grown up aren’t you, you’re probably already screwing this Brian. Ha, in the back seat of his car. Mr Right is he? You were saving yourself for Brian were you?’ Shit, the words just kept spilling out, ‘Wrong, he’s probably just Mr Clap.’
Pauline Young told me she’d never liked Sally.
‘She’s so up herself,’ she said.
‘I know,’ I said, and told her about Sally’s father’s crazy speech when she first got the rags. ‘The whole family is really weird.’
Sally shouldn’t have said those things to me.
The first time Pauline invited me to stay the night at her place, I lay there in her room on the usually spare bed and remembered how good it had been in Sally’s arms.
I put my hand to my breast and felt my growing nipple harden at the thought of soft kisses and the touch of inquisitive fingers. In the darkness, I could hear the steady deep breathing of my new friend.
‘Are you still awake, Pauline?’ I didn’t wait for an answer. ‘It’s just, well, I’m a bit cold.’
Through the moonlight, I watched her sliding out of her bed and slowly creeping towards me.
She bent down and I could feel her warm breath on my cheek.
‘Me too,’ she whispered.
Pauline wasn’t exactly Sally, but at least she wasn’t Marty Williams.
And she didn’t mention Mr Right once.
About the author:
Sue left school the day she turned fifteen, accomplished VCE in her forties, and went on to complete a Diploma of PWE at RMIT.
Prolific in all areas of creative expression Sue’s stories and poetry appear in various anthologies including The Boroondara Literary Awards Anthology when she won first prize. Sue recently became a finalist with Geelong Writers Prize 2023.
Sue paints and regularly exhibits her work. Her photographic image was selected for the cover of the 2022 Geelong Writers Anthology.
Sue’s employment encompassed various roles within the media industry, including the editing of children’s books together with providing both lyrics and melodies for a range of children’s songs.
Sue regularly meets with like-minded locals who enjoy writing simply for pleasure.