And it’s the desire contained in that kiss and in that declaration that decides it, that makes Claire even braver. She bites her lip, takes Mia by the hand, and leads her to the sleeping porch. Opening the door, she pulls Mia inside. With the door safely closed behind them, she leans against the frame, pulls Mia into another deeper kiss, and slides her tongue against hers.
Mia’s only reply is to press herself up against Claire, diminishing any distance between them, and to kiss her right back.
And again Claire has to steel herself just to remain standing. When she’s achieved the status of being safely upright, she works her hands slowly up the back of Mia’s T-shirt. She starts in the middle and follows her spine downward along the soft sling of her lower back to the waistband of her shorts and then all the way back up to her shoulders. Mia breaks away from the kiss, meets her gaze for a brief moment, and takes hold of Claire’s hips. She ducks her head, drops a kiss on Claire’s neck where it curves into her shoulder, and again a little higher up. Then she glides her hands around to Claire’s front and inches them upward over her top, along her stomach, not stopping until her hands are just under the seams of her bra.
Claire sucks in a breath, leans harder against the door as Mia kisses her just under her ear and smoothes her hands slowly up over Claire’s breasts. She kisses her throat before she moves to the other side of her neck. There is a dizzying sprint of blood around Claire’s body as she locks her knees and tips her head back against the door to make room for whatever Mia wants to do now.
Suddenly, Mia pauses in her journey along her neck, leans in, and presses her cheek there instead, head bowed. Her hands slide slowly off Claire’s breasts and back to her waist and pause there. She stands stock-still and breathes quietly into Claire’s neck.
Claire’s hands also come to a halt. Confused by this abrupt standstill, she holds on to Mia’s arms and waits for a cue. In this silence, she can once again hear the muffled bangs and yells from inside and the sudden quiet of the crickets.
Claire slides a hand up to the nape of Mia’s neck. “Hey, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Mia mutters. “I think I’m just…nervous or something.” She kisses Claire’s shoulder.
Claire bows her head, brows knitted. She shakes Mia and smiles. “Why are you nervous? You’ve at least done this before.”
“I know, but I was really drunk.”
“And I didn’t like her,” Mia mumbles without raising her head.
Claire stops laughing as she realises the weight that is possibly contained in that statement.
“And because,” she buries her face deeper into Claire’s neck, “with you I want it to be good.”
“It will be,” Claire shoots back without even a thought.
Her rapid-fire, cocky response makes them both giggle, which, for some reason, makes everything so much easier. The air around them lightens.
That’s when Claire decides that, even though Mia initiated this, she’s the one who will have to keep it going. She will not let this dissolve into uncertainty or slink back into the undefined attraction that it has been for so long between them. They need to make this into what it is. She takes Mia by her T-shirt again and pulls her slowly over to the bed.
Mia, obedient, sits in front of her. She looks up at Claire and bites her lip, clearly trying to hold back the giggles. They can just meet gazes by the light of the porch. It’s just enough to light the way, but not enough to confront.
“Don’t laugh,” Claire orders her although she is smiling herself. She leans down and cups Mia’s face, then kisses her and pushes her back against the mattress.
Mia lies against the covers, throws her arms up over her face, and shakes her head, smiling. “I have no idea why I’m laughing.” Then a moment later, she looks up at Claire from behind her arms, takes a deep breath, and lets it out. “Yes, I do.”
“So stop it.”
“Okay.” Mia repeats the headshake, but more fervently this time, as though trying to shake something loose. “Yes, fuck it. I’m not going to be nervous.”
And now it’s Claire who wants to laugh because she realises she has never heard Mia drop the f-bomb before. And if this is the occasion that calls for it, she knows she should feel honoured. “Good,” she whispers instead of laughing.
Claire climbs onto the bed slowly, and stops with her knees on either side of Mia. She places her hands on either side of Mia’s shoulders. She kisses her lightly once and then dips her head and runs her tongue slowly along Mia’s neck, trying to invoke the same sensations for Mia as she did for Claire just minutes ago by the door. And the sound of Mia’s rapid inward breath tells her that imitation has been the sincerest form of flattery.
She looks up, and Mia smiles at her again. But this time it’s a different, slower kind of smile. And the next thing Claire knows, Mia tugs gently at her tank and pulls it up around her armpits. Claire obediently drops her neck so Mia can draw it gently over her head. It falls onto the bed beside them, and Mia smooths her hands over Claire’s bared skin as she explores this new territory of her waist and her back and up over her shoulders. And for an indulgent moment, Claire hangs her head and savours the feeling of those exploring hands.
When she can bring herself to move, she pulls back and sits up so she is astride Mia’s legs. She takes hold of the bottom of Mia’s T-shirt and pushes it upward. Mia bites her lip and complies, looking self-conscious but willing. She arches her back slightly as Claire slides it up over her torso. Now she knows they are finally ready to admit they want the same thing from each other.
Claire immediately drops her hands onto the smooth, tanned breadth of Mia’s stomach. She slowly runs her hand over the skin and around Mia’s waist and circles her belly button lightly with her finger as Mia moves her own hands up to rest them at the hem of Claire’s shorts.
Claire inhales a deep breath and takes a brief, slightly stunned moment for herself, still not entirely sure how they got from this morning to this moment. She traces the ridges of Mia’s ribcage with her index fingers and realises she has absolutely no clue about what she is going to do. It’s a fact that might normally be daunting but right now, strangely, is not. For some reason she feels as though the ground is within her depth, as if terrified can co-exist with happy. She can command this moment just from the sheer wanting of it.
And when she finally looks down, Mia looks right back at her, the tip of her tongue caught between her teeth, expectant, her face stripped of all that uncertainty of the last twenty-four hours. In this moment, she looks calmly bound to whatever is about to happen. Claire feels a rush of something that’s part relief, part tenderness, but mostly desire.
Mia still doesn’t move, and Claire—happy to be the instigator—smiles and drops a kiss into the dip of skin just below where Mia’s bra meets in the middle, and then another just above. She moves her face over Mia’s, thrilling at the feel of their skin pressed together.
Claire pauses a breath away from her and looks down.
Mia gives her the smallest of smiles as a tiny, tense furrow appears between her brows.
“Hey, it’s just me,” Claire whispers.
Mia reaches up and strokes Claire’s face. “It’s just you.”
And that is as far as they manage to get in the undressing department.
Because the next thing she knows, they are under some sort of bizarre siege. Whatever it is that the others have been up to inside the house seems to have escalated. People spill out of the door and onto the porch, the driveway, and the path around the house. Every thump and every shout sounds closer and closer, threatening to breach the perimeter of their small corner of the world.
There seems to be some kind of game in action, one that largely involves a lot of running and yelling and loud splashes and even the occasional excited bark from Blue. When Claire first hears the sound of water being thrown across the porch, she pauses a moment and lets her mind drift into a brief prayer that whatever they’re doing isn’t in the house too. Then she simply tries to block it out. But the noise of voices and footsteps and these watery clashes are so close sometimes she feels as though she could reach out and touch the people making the sounds.
It feels perilous to be even semi-topless, to be this exposed with everyone in such close, risky proximity. The glass and screen walls of this room don’t offer much more than a mental barrier between them and this calamitous world outside. There is an unspoken consensus between them that the threat of imminent incursion makes it too hazardous to bare themselves any further.
Yet at the same time, she doesn’t want to relinquish the territory of skin each has gained. This is not ground she is willing to cede. Not now. So they stay shackled in their remaining clothes and make do because there’s no other choice. Claire knows there’s nowhere they can go where they will gain any more privacy or distance from the others. But she also knows they cannot stop now. This is not even a question in her mind.
Just as she begins to get used to the noise, getting cocky again as they thread their limbs together and explore new ground, a set of footsteps suddenly runs right up to near the window and comes to a stop. The person pants loudly as if out of breath.
Mia pulls back, and her eyes widen slightly.
Claire stares back and shakes her head, silently insistent. Ignore them, she pleads with her eyes. Ignore it.
Mia smiles briefly and obeys. She curls her hand around Claire’s neck and pulls her into another fervent kiss.
But as soon as the footsteps depart again, on to the next battle in whatever stupid war they are waging, Claire pulls away and jumps off the bed. As quick as lightning, she shoots over to the windows and unties the flimsy cotton curtains on the porch side of the room. They don’t offer much in the way of security, but they provide at least a comforting illusion of privacy. She strides over and shuts the glass door and pulls down the blinds, shutting out a little more light from the house. Then she turns to the dimly lit, shadow-spattered shape that is Mia, and steps forward slightly so she can make out her face. She lies on her side on the mattress, her head on her arm, still in her bra and her shorts, with her impossibly longs legs curled against the sheet. She gives Claire a small conspiratorial smile as if she’s reeling her back in. Not that she needs to. Claire never left.
She stretches out on the bed. They lie there and stare at each other from this small distance and take a little moment to cement something between them. Certainty.
And before they can even touch again, the outside world invades once more, this time in the loud sound of footsteps and the splash of water as it hits wood, followed by a loud gasp and a laugh. Some of the water penetrates the wire screens and spatters on the floor near the window.
Mia opens her mouth to whisper something, and Claire, scared she is going to suggest they stop or postpone, that this could be brought to an end by whatever this bedlam outside is, halts whatever she is going to say with another long, breathless kiss. She has to. Because if she doesn’t do that, she doesn’t know how she’s going to stop herself from storming outside and telling everyone to shut the fuck up and let them have this precious, new, and slightly terrifying moment in goddamn peace if that’s what it takes to make sure it happens. And she knows she probably doesn’t want to do that.
But to stop what they have started is not an option. So, adamant that there will only be the two of them in this room, no matter how much the outside world tries to march in and occupy this territory with its noisy clamour for attention, Claire will not allow it. Instead, she cups a hand over the side of Mia’s face and anchors her to the moment, sealing them both back into their tiny world together, doing everything she can to renew the urgency again. She presses her mouth onto Mia’s and moves her tongue against hers—a silent command for Mia to hold her ground.
And it works. Mia’s arm snakes around Claire’s neck and pulls her into a fierce, returned embrace while her other hand glides along her spine, down over her shorts, and as far along the back of her legs she can reach. She slides her fingers upward, wraps her hand around Claire’s thigh, and pulls it up and over her own.
Claire breathes hard into the kiss and does precisely what that hand asks of her. Mia languidly slides her fingers up and down the sensitive skin at the back of Claire’s thigh, up to the hem of her shorts and down again. Driven by this new level of boldness, Claire runs her own hand up along Mia’s torso and eases it slowly over the swell of her breast. She traces the edge of Mia’s bra lightly with her finger before she replaces it with her mouth.
For a while, they manage to maintain the sanctity of this tiny but fiercely held piece of ground despite the unrelenting chaos of everything that comes at them in the form of thuds and shrieks and shadows that dance along the walls. It’s easier now as they delve into this new hot and reckless territory.
They manage to stave off their fear of invasion until the dizzyingly anticipatory moment when Mia has slowly unbuttoned a button and gradually lowered a zip. Claire is breathless and strung between two urges—to accommodate the tentative ease of Mia’s hand into her shorts and to not relinquish any proximity between them. That’s when footsteps come dangerously close and stop.
And it’s also when, as Claire feels the first, vertiginous waves of sensation urged by that hand, that the world crashes back at them in full force.
Because that’s the moment there is a loud tap on the door.
Mia pulls her head back, her eyes wide.
Claire, dauntless at this crucial point, locks her gaze to Mia’s and says nothing. She shakes her head, hoping it will go away. She pushes herself against Mia’s hand and bites at the soft skin of Mia’s ear lobe, recalling her to the exigency of her task. And Mia, obedient to this silent command, complies.
Then a voice rings out into the hot night air.
“Claire, are you in there?”
Claire draws herself as close to Mia as she can, burrows her face in her neck, pulls in a breath, and holds it. Mia’s free arm closes around her head, a flimsy but welcome protection against this latest invasion.
Nina calls out again. “Hey! Are you asleep?”
That’s when Claire finally takes a deep, furious breath, pulls her head back, and yells into the night. “Yes! Go! Away!”
And that’s when the footsteps retreat without another word.
“Fuck.” Claire releases a drawn out, frustrated moan and presses her face into the pillow for a moment. Eventually she lifts her head. Mia raises her eyebrows and lets out a breathy laugh.
And Claire smiles sheepishly and again pleads, in a silent entreaty with her eyes, for Mia to stay with her. And just in case Mia considers straying, Claire mirrors her. She reaches around and slides her own hand teasingly up Mia’s thigh and inside the leg of her shorts, giving her no choice but to forget whatever is going on out there and to stay deliciously here with her. And the perceptible gasp tells her it works.
And from this moment on, the world is reduced to the simple but all-consuming sensations conjured by just one hand and the hot press of Mia’s mouth on her neck. That hand and those lips are enough to shrink the world entirely around her. This is all she requires to keep her in this dizzyingly hot place.
They are enough and they are too much at the same time too. So much so that it feels as though it’s only minutes before she pushes her face into the soft inward curve where Mia’s neck meets her shoulder and tries to quell the sounds coming from her in throaty gasps. At the same time, she refuses to surrender her own project of bringing Mia to this place with her. And it turns out that Mia isn’t far behind her. She presses her face sideways and breathes out her own orgasm into the pillow.
And then the room is filled with the quiet sounds of their breath hollowing out. They become the hushed eye in the storm of thuds and bangs and shouts that surround them. Paralysed by the product of their own daring, they are capable only of a weak but insistent clutch of limbs, bound together into a slightly shocked silence. Claire blinks heavily, closes her eyes, and presses her lips against Mia’s shoulder, unnerved by the hair-trigger nature of the desire that got her to this place so soon. She has rarely felt so instantly kindled and never so quickly sated.
Everything about this is unexpected, of course. But most of all it’s the unbelievable effortlessness of this call and response they’ve just discovered in each other.
Now, it has rendered her bashful, this first ardent display of wanting. It’s left her too afraid to lift her head and acknowledge its passing. In the past, she’s always been quick to brush off sex, slightly embarrassed by the intimacy of the aftermath, no matter how much pleasure it brought. She’s always needed to close out the moment with something quippy or sassy, something that would end the silence and haul the moment back to reality. But right now she cannot. Not now and not with Mia. Not yet.
In the end, it’s Mia who breaks the silence. But she breaks it in silence. She pulls her head back and waits until Claire meets the relentless fix of her gaze. Mia smooths the hair from Claire’s cheek and smiles, that cute, tender crinkle at the edges of her eyes recalls Claire back to familiarity. It’s just Mia. And Claire smiles sheepishly back, astonished by both the simplicity and the intensity of the feelings this girl provokes in her. Why did it take her so long—both of them so long—to be aware of this possibility? She tucks her head back under Mia’s chin, breathes in and out slowly, and notes the sudden quiet outside.
“You okay?” Mia whispers as she slides her hand under Claire’s hair and curls her fingers against the base of her skull.
Claire nods, presses her lips against Mia’s collarbone, and runs her hands along Mia’s side. She’s not willing to break the silence just yet. So they lie there a little longer, entwined in a bundle of limbs and awareness. Their breath eases in and out, flowing over each other’s skin.
Suddenly, the newfound calm outside is ruptured by the crash of the back door as it flies open and the thuds of footsteps from the house. They thunder across the porch and down the steps. Someone says something about the water. They must be going for a swim. She listens as footsteps dash down the path and voices call out into the night.
“Thank God.” She sighs as their voices fade away down the lake path. She rolls onto her back, grabs Mia’s hand, and clasps it between them on top of the sheet because she still needs to touch her.
Mia follows her anyway, turning on her side. She presses her face into Claire’s arm and looks up, grinning. They dissolve into giggles over the ridiculous duel just fought between the clandestine intensity of what was just happening in here and the utter chaos of everything that surrounded them. Now the storm has passed, they are free to find the incongruence of the scenario completely hilarious. And they do.
“That was…interesting,” Mia whispers as her giggles abate to breathless hiccups. She pulls Claire over and kisses her.
“I have never wanted to murder someone more than I did just then,” Claire mumbles. She rolls on top of Mia and luxuriates in the way their legs instinctively tangle together in a delicious slide of limb against limb.
Mia laughs again and folds her arms across Claire’s back. “You weren’t supposed to have murder on your mind.”
“Just for a minute.” Bashful, Claire pushes her face into Mia’s neck. Then she groans loudly as she imagines the potential carnage in the morning. “Oh God, do you think they have trashed the house completely?”
Mia runs her hand through her hair. “Don’t worry. We’ll get it cleaned up, okay?”
“Mmm, we have to. Or my mum will kill me.” Claire frowns as she slides her hand along the undulated stretch of Mia’s side, from hip to underarm and back again.
“Shh,” Mia tells her. She dips her hands into the back of Claire’s shorts and then runs them all the way up Claire’s back. “Don’t think about it now.”
“Okay.” Claire sighs, agreeable, unable to stop the relentless sweep of her hand up and down the sleek landscape of Mia’s skin. These hands are, it seems, thoroughly addicted.
She draws in a breath, unable to shake her shock at this beautifully strange turnaround. She cannot quite believe that not so long ago—not even an hour ago, probably—Mia came and sat beside her on the steps and kissed her out of a seeming nowhere. And now they are lying here, halfway to naked, sealed together in this tender aftermath. And Mia’s skin under her hands is her proof that this is actually happening.
Claire lifts her head and looks down at her, needing to see Mia as proof to further believe it. She rests her chin in her hand and stares. She notes the way the light from outside reproduces itself in small pinpricks of light in Mia’s pupils and how one eyebrow raises just slightly in response to her stare. But Mia doesn’t say anything at first, just obediently subjects herself to this scrutiny. Eventually though, when Claire has clearly stared at her for too long, a small, nervous half smile crosses her face.
“What?” she whispers.
“Nothing,” Claire says quickly. She shakes her head and smiles. She has no idea how she could possibly explain any of these feelings, so she isn’t even going to try. Instead, she kisses her.
And it’s only now, in the safety and privacy of this moment, they are freed a little and are able to become bolder. Now they get to go back and take the remedial lessons they were forced to skip during that urgent, covert little scene.
This time they get to revel in those fun baby steps they missed, like the simple but provocative striptease of removing clothes. She relishes the delicious baring of skin and how it feels as if they’re now showing off for each other, confident that swagger will be met with desire in return. They linger in these moments and make slow new acquaintance with this as yet unmet lay of the land. It’s new and hot and even a little graceless sometimes when clothes won’t cooperate, or teeth clash, or she momentarily loses her way.
But even those awkward moments, moments that would usually embarrass Claire or make her feel clumsy, don’t. Because this is happening with Mia, the one person in the entire world who makes her feel not awkward and not stupid and not embarrassed. And, most of all, she’s stunned by this almost electrifying new knowledge that Mia is the person she most wants to feel desired by. It’s also during these lessons that Claire learns valuable and highly flattering little trinkets of knowledge about Mia. And these trinkets are as much derived from sight as they are from feel. She notes and relishes the smallest flicker of reaction on Mia’s face and in the undivided attention she attracts when she sits astride Mia and slowly, and just a little flauntingly, removes her own bra. She studies the way Mia’s eyes narrow slightly, how she bites her bottom lip as she reaches for the flesh now laid bare, her immediate response to Claire’s little show. And Claire gets to craft her own lessons in the shape and feel of different tracts of Mia’s newly bared skin as together they remove what is left of her clothing. And later, and even bolder, she learns the reflexive ripple of desire that runs through Mia’s body when Claire kneels over her, presses her knee between her legs, and dances her tongue along the underside of her breast and then up to her nipple. Then she learns the small, intimate sounds of Mia’s desire as she yields more vocally to Claire’s touch again, evoked this time by a series of slower, playful, and less clumsy cadences of hand.
And this indulgent slowness is the best part for Claire. With the threat of any imminent encroachment gone, they take the time to learn the valuable lessons that can only be learned by starting right at the beginning with the need for urgency and secrecy gone. These are lessons in how to take their sweet damn time.
It’s as though they go backward in some ways. But it doesn’t matter because it’s a thrilling, heady backward, and Claire never wants to stop. The only reason she lets it end in the early, silent hours of the morning is because she knows it will still be here tomorrow. So she takes in her final lesson for the night as Mia curls herself around Claire’s back. She listens as Mia’s breathing peacefully evens out and then turns away to fall the rest of the way into sleep on her own. And when Claire hears the others make their whispering way back into the house, she pulls the light cotton sheet over them and follows suit, landsliding into sleep.