Sally watched as Leezah ran out of the water and across the sand towards her. Sally liked the beach, but for lying on, not for its proximity to the sea, which she thought was full of nasty things, and anyway, was far too wet and cold.
Leezah threw herself onto her towel, salt water splashing from her long hair and landing on Sally’s sun-warmed skin. ‘Owww,’ she cried. ‘Shit, Leezah, keep it to yourself.’ She sat up and wiped the water from her thigh.
Leezah grinned. ‘That was great,’ she said. ‘Christ, though, I’m bloody freezing now.’ She picked up the corner of her huge beach-towel and wrapped it around her shoulders. ‘Look at my goose-pimples,’ she said.
Sally looked. ‘Don’t know why you stayed out so long.’
‘This guy,’ Leezah said enthusiastically. ‘Wow. He was hot.’
Sally looked towards the sea, interested now. ‘Which one?’ It was mid afternoon on a Saturday.
The shallow water was crowded with bodies: children paddling knee-deep, mothers wrapped in towels just to seaward of them. Beyond them, people just standing looking seawards, diving under the breakers as they roared towards the beach. Further out, body-surfers, boogie-boarders and people in black wet-suits, waiting for the right wave.
‘Can’t quite make him out from here,’ Leezah said, her hand up shielding her eyes from the glare. She scanned the shoreline silently for a while, then leaned back on her elbows, the towel slipping from her. ‘Cheeky bugger he was, too,’ she said with a broad smile. Sally looked at her quizzically.
‘Felt me up twice, right there.’
Sally’s eyes widened.
‘People all around me, and he’s behind me feeling me up. Almost had me top off. Reckon everyone saw what he was doing, too. They were all looking.’
‘It was fun. If I hadn’t of been so cold I’d have stayed out there with him.’
‘Didn’t he want to come up the beach with you?’
‘Well, I was about to ask him when he lets me go and goes after this other chick.’ She didn’t sound too put out. ‘So I put a smile on my face to hide my broken heart and came out.’
‘Cheeky bugger,’ Sally said, then leaned towards Leezah laughing.
‘Wish I’d been there to see you.’
Leezah lay back on the towel, her eyes closed. The sun felt terrific on her drying skin. She sighed happily, remembering the feel of the young man’s hands on her breasts.
Sally rolled over beside her, and reached behind to undo the clasp of her bikini top, allowing the straps to fall to the sand beside her. She turned her head towards Leezah and squinted at her. ‘If I fall asleep, wake me. Don’t want to get burned.’
Leezah nodded absently, and reached into her bag for the library book she had been reading. She, too, rolled over and unclipped her bikini top, removing it and dropping it to the towel beside her. She propped herself on her elbows and found her page. People came and went along the sand between the sea wall and their spot, and it was some time before she realised that most of the people were men and boys. She smiled to herself.
After half an hour she put out her hand and shook Sally awake. ‘Come on,’ she said. ‘Don’t get burned’.
‘I was dreaming,’ Sally said. ‘I was on the deck of this huge yacht, and there were all these men that were in love with me and they’d do anything for me.’ She smiled dreamily.
‘What sort of things?’
Sally turned to her. 'I don’t know. It was a dream, wasn’t it? That’s what happens in dreams… dreamy things.’
Leezah sat up and brushed sand from her skin with her hand. ‘Here,’ she said, ‘rub some of this on my back will you?’
Sally looked at Leezah, then at the people around them. Slowly
and self-consciously she slipped the straps of her bikini top down her arms. Then she took the sunscreen and unscrewed it, squirting some on her hand, and began to rub it into Leezah’s back.
Leezah looked over her shoulder. ‘You’re moving on, then, aren’t you?’
Sally blushed. ‘Well, everybody does it, don’t they?’ She looked at the people on the beach around them: about a third of the women, the younger ones, anyway, were topless. No-one seemed to care.
‘Still,’ Leezah pressed her, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen your tits before.’
Sally blushed even more. ‘Yeah well,’ she said. She concentrated on rubbing in the sunscreen for a few minutes. ‘Perhaps I’ve been a bit slow.’
‘Don’t need to apologise,’ Leezah said. ‘You do what you feel like. All I know is it feels great to have the sun on them. And the guys looking, too.’
Leezah lay back on her towel, and Sally hesitated. Leezah looked up at her, her hand shielding her face. ‘The front too, if you don’t mind.’ She had an impish look on her face.
Sally squirted some more cream on her hand, and cautiously transferred it to Leezah’s shoulder, rubbing it in small circles.
After a few moments Leezah half-rolled towards her. ‘Come on,’ she said. ‘Do it properly.’
‘What d’you mean?’ Sally enquired innocently.
‘They’re just boobs,’ she said. ‘They need it too.’
Sally knew what she should have said then, but didn’t want to appear too prudish. Her hand moved in wider circles, just taking in the swell of the sides of Leezah’s breasts. But that was as far as she’d go.
After a few minutes Leezah sat up again. ‘Okay, give it to me.’ She held out her hand, and Sally slapped the tube of sunscreen into it. Leezah took an extra-large dollop of cream from the tube, and rubbed it in, two handed, over her breasts, taking special care over her nipples. It seemed to take far longer than Sally thought really necessary.
She held out her hand. ‘I’d better have some too,’ she said.
Leezah hesitated. ‘No,’ she said quietly, ‘I’ll do you in a few minutes. Let me finish first.’
Sally blushed again. That wasn’t what she wanted. Not at all. She
watched silently as Leezah rubbed in the cream on her belly and her legs.
Once she was finished, Leezah turned to her. ‘Okay, let’s have your back.’
Sally turned around and offered her back to Leezah.
This wasn’t the first time they had applied sunscreen to each other. Not by a long chalk: they had been doing it since primary school. But this, suddenly, was different. Even just on her back. Sally found it difficult to control her breathing.
Leezah prattled on as she rubbed Sally’s back, giving more details about what she had got up to in the sea. But gradually she fell silent. ‘Lift your arms,’ Leezah said after a while, and when Sally did, Leezah reached around and rubbed cream into the sides of Sally’s breast.
This was what Sally had been dreading. But she was nineteen, nearly twenty, and it seemed so… silly. ‘I’m, um, not so sure about this,’ she pleaded.
Leezah stopped for a moment, the flat of her hands, both of them, pressing inwards on Sally’s breast. The were nice breasts, just as nice as her own. Leezah knew that she had more than just a passing interest in Sally’s breasts, but she pushed that to the back of her mind. This was about educating Sally.
Slowly her fingers curled until both hands were gently caressing Sally’s nipples. She could feel them tauten. ‘It’s just sunscreen,’ she said quietly.
But Sally knew, somehow, that it was more than that. She lowered her hands and moved Leezah’s, and turned to look at her friend. ‘I’ll finish it,’ she said firmly. There was enough cream on her to cover her whole body, and she spread it carefully.
‘Are you… you know? Are you gay?’
Leezah was embarrassed, an unusual reaction for her. ‘No,’ she said, and forced a laugh. ‘Jesus, no, of course not.’ She looked away, and inspected her toes as she forced her feet through the warm sand.
‘But,’ pressed Sally, ‘you’re pretty keen on my breasts, aren’t you?’
Leezah kept her head down. ‘Don’t be daft, Sal,’ she said. ‘Course I’m not.’ But she realised only too well that Sally wasn’t going to believe her. She paused for a moment as though making up her mind, then raised her head defiantly. ‘Look, I’m not a lezzo, Sal. But you know, I reckon it’s alright to enjoy your body, breasts and all. I like people touching my breasts. That guy in the surf, he knew what he was doing, and it was fabulous.’
She looked out to sea once more, her eyes scanning the crowd in the shallows. ‘I liked you putting cream on me, too. It feels good. Not because you’re a chick, but because creamy hands slithering over my tits feels terrific. Wouldn’t matter who was doing it.’
Sally was silent. She knew exactly what Leezah meant. She loved it when her friend helped her with sunscreen. Over the rest of her body, that was great. And to tell you truth, she’d have loved to have had her breasts covered, too; it was just that… well, it was sort of taboo, wasn’t it? It would have been bad enough if they had been alone on the beach, but with everybody looking—and they had been looking, too, Sally had seen people slyly watching from the corner of their eyes, pretending to look elsewhere—with everybody looking it was just too much.
Sally looked at Leezah for a moment, then smiled. ‘Okay then.’
Inside, though, Leezah knew there was more to it than that. But she wasn’t going to admit to it. Not just yet.
‘Not in my day, no,’ Sally’s mother told her. ‘No way.’ She was ironing in front of the television, but the sound was off because it was the news. She was waiting for the next program, which she had been following for weeks - people renovating apartments. How this was made interesting was a bit of a mystery, but Shelagh had supported one of the teams right from the start, even rang in and voted.
‘Leezah and me had a bit of a talk about it today,’ Sally said. ‘I even took my top off for a while. Completely off, I mean.’
Shelagh stood the iron on the end of the board, and stared at her daughter. ‘You never!’
Sally nodded, grinning. ‘I did. Bit by bit. Straps off first, then sat up and took the rest off.’
Shelagh gave Sally one of those looks. ‘Just don’t get burned, then. Nipples burn easy.’
Sally laughed. ‘How would you know?’
Shelagh pressed on, not looking up. ‘Never you mind,’ she said. ‘In my day there was an inspector who would fine you if he found your swimming gear ‘suggestive’. Was that what they called it? Yeah, I think so. Long time ago now, though.’
‘So do you think it’s okay, then? To show your breasts?’
‘These days? Seems like anything goes. You see it all the time, don’t you? What did Leezah think?’
‘She’d been in the water with this guy who was feeling her up in front of everybody. Said she loved it.’
‘That Leezah,’ Shelagh said, and shook her head slowly. Leezah had a bit of a reputation. A wild thing, that’s what they called girls like her. She turned to look at her daughter. ‘Don’t get too carried away by what Leezah does, love.’
Sally nodded absently. ‘Yeah, I know. But she has a hell of a lot of fun.’
‘That sort of fun usually ends in tears, my girl. Just watch out for yourself.’
‘Then we put sunscreen on each other.’
Shelagh didn’t look up. Oh, she thought. Here it comes.
‘And Leezah wanted to do my breasts.’
‘What do you mean, ‘do’.’
‘Rub sunscreen on them.’
Shelagh put the iron down once more, and turned towards Sally. ‘Oh yeah? Why couldn’t you do that yourself?’
‘That’s what I said. It started when she wanted me to do her, but I didn’t want to. She did her own, then, and took ages about it.’
Her mother was silent for a moment. ‘Did you talk to her about it?’
‘Yeah, we did. She said it feels great. I asked her if she was a lezzo… lesbian, I mean.’
Shelagh guffawed. ‘What, just like that? ‘Are you a lezzo, Leezah?’?
Sally laughed. ‘It wasn’t funny at the time. But yeah, that’s more or less what I said.’
‘She said no. Said she likes hands on her body, doesn’t matter if it’s a chick or a guy.’
Shelagh reached for a packet of cigarettes and lit one, blowing a cloud of smoke towards the ceiling. Giving herself time to think. ‘Well,’ she said in a thoughtful way, ‘I suppose she’s right. In theory, anyway. I mean, if you closed your eyes and you didn’t know if it was a bloke or a girl, if it’s nice, it’s nice, isn’t it?’
‘Mmmm,’ said Sally.
‘What does that mean?’
Sally looked down. ‘Well, I wanted her to carry on. I was just embarrassed, on the beach and all.’
‘Oh. Yeah. Of course.’
It rained for the next two days, so it was Tuesday before they met once more. There was a slight… reticence between them, but that soon passed. Sally stretched out and read as usual, and Leezah, after a bit of sun-baking, ran down to the water’s edge and plunged into the waves. There wasn’t much a crowd that day, being a weekday, and Leezah, though she looked for the guy again, was swimming mostly by herself. When she got back to her towel she found Sally topless, and raised her eyebrows in slight surprise. She lay down, removed her top and dried herself with a corner of her towel.
‘No hot guy today?’
Leezah laughed. ‘No. No luck on a Tuesday.’
She turned towards Sally, who had a peculiar look in her eye. Her friend proffered the sunscreen. ‘Here,’ she said. ‘Do me first, will you?’
Leezah took the tube.
Sally could see the question in Leezah’s eyes. ‘Just do me, okay?'