by Arthur Saxon
“Looks like the new neighbours have arrived,” said Lorne Farmer, peeking through the lace curtains that covered the living room window. “Looks like just two of them – a father and daughter.”
“Let me see,” said little Kate, pushing her older brother aside. She was fondly referred to by her parents, and teasingly by her brother, as “little Kate” because of her petite build, which contrasted strongly with the matronly figure of her mother, and the tall, burly physiques of her father and brother. She pressed her nose to the window.
“Well don’t just stand there gawping at them!” said Josie Farmer exasperatedly as she wiped her hands on her apron. “Get out there and welcome them to the neighbourhood!”
“Oh Mum, they’ve only just arrived,” said Lorne. “The last thing they want is all the neighbours descending on them like vultures.”
But Kate was already halfway to the door. A moment later she was outside, shyly approaching the low white fence that separated her front garden from next door’s. “Hi,” she said.
A dark-haired man looked up from the boot of his car. “Hello there!” he said cheerfully. “I’m Rich … that’s my name, I mean, I’m not hugely wealthy or anything. I mean if I were I’d probably be moving into a nicer … not to say that this area isn’t nice, of course, but anyway. Rich Dawson – pleased to meet you.”
Kate smiled. “I’m Kate Farmer,” she said. “Welcome to Cambria Street.”
“Thank you, thank you,” said Rich. “Have you lived here long?”
“Since I was six,” said Kate. “I’m fifteen now,” she added.
“Really? You seem … well that’s great, my daughter’s the same age as you. Betty!”
Kate pouted internally. It was possible he had been about to say “You seem older than fifteen”, but it was unlikely. With her slight, tomboyish build she was frequently assumed to be younger than she was.
A pretty blonde girl came bouncing out of the front door, her exuberance vanishing as she saw Kate. “Er, hi,” she said.
“Betty, this is Kate, from next door,” said Rich. “Kate, this is my daughter Betty.”
“Hi Betty,” said Kate, in as welcoming a manner as she could, although Betty’s expression was not particularly friendly. She knew instinctively that the two of them would not get along well. Betty was taller than she, and more womanly, and prettier … no doubt very popular at school. She would almost certainly have little time for, or interest in, Kate and her little social fringe group.
Nevertheless, Betty came over to the fence, albeit reluctantly. “Where d’you go to school?” she asked.
“New Hill,” said Kate. “Will you be going there too?”
Betty nodded. “Any good?”
“Well I don’t have a lot to compare it to,” said Kate, “but it’s all right I suppose.”
“Does it have a swimming pool?” asked Betty.
“Yes,” said Kate. “Do you swim?”
“I was on the swimming team at my last school,” said Betty.
“How about you, Kate?” asked Rich. “Do you play any sports?”
“Running, mostly,” said Kate. “I’m on the cross-country team, and I do pretty well in the long-distance track events.”
“Yes, you look like a runner,” said Rich with a smile.
“So what do you do for fun around here?” asked Betty.
“Fun?” said Kate. “Um, well I’m quite keen on photography…”
Betty raised an eyebrow, looking unimpressed.
“Oh yes?” said Rich. “What kind of things do you photograph?”
“Nature, mostly,” said Kate. “There’s a park close by with a couple of nice walks you can take through the woods, and a river – I take a lot of my photos there.”
“Sounds nice,” said Betty, surprising Kate, until it occurred to her that perhaps Betty was being sarcastic. Her tone was ambiguous.
“Yes it does,” agreed Rich. “Unfortunately we’ve not yet had a lot of time to explore the … um … area. I don’t even have any idea where the nearest supermarket is…”
“There’s a Sainsbury’s about a mile away in that direction,” said Kate, pointing. “You just turn left at the end of the road, and keep going – you can’t miss it.”
“That’s … good to know,” said Rich. “Thank you.”
“The post office is also down there,” continued Kate. “And a few other shops. But mostly we go to the shopping centre in Barton. The bigger shops are there, as well as a cinema.” She smirked a little at Betty. “That’s where all the cool kids hang out.”
Betty grinned. “Righto then.”
“Now don’t you start hanging out with cool kids,” Rich admonished his daughter with an air of amusement. “You know I won’t have them in the house.”
“I suppose I’ll just have to go to their houses, then,” said Betty.
Rich sighed in mock exasperation. He turned to Kate. “You see what I have to put up with?”
Kate smiled. She could see that there was a great deal of affection between the two of them. “Would you like any help unloading?” she asked.
“We’re okay thanks,” said Rich. “Just a couple more, um bags... Most of our things are coming this afternoon, but there’ll be professionals, um, well, movers … I suppose you could call them professional, at least I hope they are … handling all of the furniture and stuff. Ah, who’s this?”
“Hi,” said Lorne, looking a little sheepish as he approached, his hands shoved into his back pockets.
Kate glanced at Betty, who was looking at Lorne with interest. Uh-oh, she thought. Lorne was way too old for Betty, but she was sure that Betty wouldn’t think so.
“So what do you do, Rich?” she asked quickly.
“I just started a new job, actually,” he replied, “as a geology lecturer at the university.”
“Cool!” said Kate.
“That is cool,” agreed Lorne. “Maybe I’ll see you there.”
“Oh!” said Rich. “You’re at the… well that’s … what do you study?”
“Business,” said Lorne. He grinned. “I intend to make a lot of money.”
Kate rolled her eyes. Her brother was so shallow.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you both,” said Rich. “We should probably finish, uh…” He gestured vaguely towards his car.
“Okay,” said Lorne. “Hey, why don’t you both come over for dinner? I’m sure you’ll be too busy to cook with all the unpacking you’ll have to do.”
“Okay!” said Betty.
“Are you sure?” said Rich. “We wouldn’t want to impose…”
“Absolutely,” said Lorne firmly. “Just come over at six-ish.”
“Thank you,” said Rich. “We’ll be there.”
“See you later,” said Kate to Betty.
“Yeah, see you,” said Betty.
Josie and Scott Farmer were surprised, but not displeased, when Lorne apologetically and belatedly asked them if it would be all right for Rich and Betty to come to dinner. Josie prepared a shepherd’s pie, and when six o’clock rolled around, she answered the doorbell. “Come in, come in!” she said with a welcoming smile. “I’m Josie. I’m guessing you’re Rich, and you’re Betty?”
Rich laughed. “Yes, that’s right,” he said. “Nice to meet you Josie.”
During dinner, the conversation meandered from topic to topic, until Scott happened to say, “I don’t know if you happen to be churchgoers, but our church on Oswald Road has a wonderful organist – absolutely top notch…”
“We’re not actually, uh … we don’t go to church,” said Rich apologetically.
“We’re atheists,” said Betty.
There was a short but uncomfortable silence. “Ah, well, we won’t hold that against you,” said Scott, with a slightly forced laugh.
“More pie, dear?” Josie offered Betty.
“No thank you,” said Betty. “But may I have some more coke please?”
“Of course!” said Josie.
“You look like you work out,” said Scott to Rich. “Do you play a lot of sports?”
“Not lately,” said Rich, “but I try to keep in shape.”
“Dad used to climb mountains,” said Betty.
“Mountaineer, eh?” said Scott. “Which mountains, if I may ask?”
“Plenty in Scotland and Wales,” said Rich. “A couple in the Alps.”
“He’s being modest,” said Betty. “He’s been up the Matterhorn, and the north face of the Eiger.”
“Goodness, that’s some hardcore climbing!” said Scott.
“What can I say – I love rocks,” said Rich, smiling.
“Oh yes, that’s right, Kate tells me you’re a geology professor.”
“That must be interesting,” said Josie. “Geology, I mean. I’m sure the teaching’s interesting too.”
“Both are,” said Rich. “I love to learn, and whatever I learn, I love to pass on to willing ears. Students … for the most part … are fantastic – they want to be there, they want to learn, and some of them can be very insightful.”
“Do you ever plan to climb Mount Everest?” asked Kate.
Rich chuckled. “Oh, I haven’t climbed a mountain in years,” he said.
“Not since Mum died,” said Betty.
“Ohh, I’m sorry,” said Josie. “I’d been wondering if there was a Mrs…”
“It was seven years ago,” said Rich quickly. “My priority now is making sure Betty has a secure and stable home.” He smiled fondly at his daughter.
“So, no more climbing?” said Scott. “Dear me – the things we do for our children. I had to give up professional rugby…”
“You injured your knee!” said Josie. “The doctor said you wouldn’t be able to play professionally again.”
“Well yes, there is that,” Scott conceded.
“So why did you become an atheist?” asked Kate.
“Kate,” murmured her mother reprovingly.
“What?” said Kate.
“Best not to discuss differing religious viewpoints at the table, Kate,” said Scott.
“Why not? I’m curious!”
“There’s a time and a place, Katy,” said Lorne, frowning slightly at her.
Kate sighed heavily and folded her arms.
“Anyone ready for dessert?” said Josie.
After dinner, Rich and Betty returned home to continue with their unpacking, and Lorne took Kate to task over her conduct at dinner. “Haven’t you ever heard of the rule that you don’t discuss religion, politics or sex at the dinner table?” he demanded.
“No!” said Kate. “And I don’t see why we shouldn’t. I’m interested in hearing other people’s views.”
“Well that puts you kind of in a minority then,” said Lorne. “Most people don’t want to discuss religion with people who don’t share their views.”
“Why not?” asked Kate.
“Because it leads to arguments! Confrontations! The last thing we want to do is get into a verbal battle with our new neighbours!”
“I wasn’t trying to battle,” protested Kate. “I was just interested in an intelligent discussion!”
“Yeah, but it would have upset Mum and Dad,” said Lorne. “Particularly Mum. Why are you so interested, anyway? You’re not thinking of becoming an atheist yourself, are you?”
“Of course not!” said Kate hotly. “I believe in God! I’m just curious to know why our neighbours don’t.”
“What’s to be curious about? It’s quite simple, isn’t it? Either you believe, or you don’t. End of story.”
“Yes but there’s got to be a reason for your belief! Whether you believe in God or not, surely you need to be able to justify that belief to yourself? That’s all I wanted to know – what Rich and Betty’s justification for their atheism is.”
Lorne sighed and threw up his hands. “Then go and ask them when Mum and Dad aren’t around,” he said.
“All right!” said Kate grumpily. “Fine. I get it. No religion at dinner. We must all pretend it doesn’t exist.”
Lorne bit back a retort. “Right,” was all he said.
The following afternoon, after Sunday lunch, Kate plucked up the courage to go next door and talk to Betty and Rich. Unfortunately, when she stepped outside, she noticed that Rich’s car was not there. She almost turned on the spot and went back inside, but she figured it would not hurt to ring the doorbell, just in case Betty was there.
She rang. After a few seconds, the door opened. “Oh, hello,” said Betty.
“Hi Betty,” she said. “I … uh … was wondering…” Courage was failing her. “Would you be interested in playing tennis with me on our Wii?”
Betty raised an eyebrow. “You have a Wii? Sure – I love those things. I have one myself but it’s still packed.”
“Cool,” said Kate, relieved. “Come on then.”
Back in the Farmer residence, Kate set up the Wii and started playing tennis with Betty. Soon the two girls were giggling as they whacked the virtual tennis ball back and forth. Kate was losing rather badly, but she did not mind; she was not nearly as competitive as her father and brother.
They took a break and poured themselves some lemon barley water to drink. “Want to see my room?” asked Kate.
Betty chuckled. “See your room? Are you ten years old?” she said. Then she shrugged. “What the hell – sure.”
Kate, a little hurt, led Betty upstairs. In her room, she closed the door and put on some music.
“Ah, Evanescence,” said Betty, nodding. “Not bad.” She looked around the walls. “These all your photos?”
“Most of them, yes,” said Kate. “One of Dad’s friends frames them for me.”
“They’re pretty good,” said Betty.
“Why are you an atheist?” Kate blurted out.
Betty looked taken aback. “Is that why you asked me over?” she said. “To quiz me about atheism?”
“I’m not going to try and convert you or anything,” said Kate hastily. “I just want to understand your views.”
“What makes you think I have views on the subject?” asked Betty. “Isn’t it possible I just grew up in a house where the non-existence of God was simply assumed?”
This took a few seconds for Kate to process. “But, surely…” she began.
“In your house,” said Betty, “you’ve grown up with the default position being that God exists. Naturally you assume that anyone who doesn’t believe in God must have strong and compelling reasons for their disbelief. But I really don’t. I just don’t have any strong or compelling reasons to believe in God.”
“But,” said Kate in puzzlement, “have you read the Bible?”
“Nope,” said Betty. “I know a bit about it, but I’ve never read it.”
“Then you should!” said Kate. “Once you see how much truth there is in it…”
“Hold on,” said Betty. “I thought you weren’t going to try and convert me.”
Kate blushed. “I’m not,” she said.
“Anyway, no matter how much ‘truth’ there is in it, it’s just a book. Why should I take any of it as historical fact?”
“But it’s not just a book,” said Kate. “It’s the word of God – it’s divinely inspired!”
“Why do you think it’s divinely inspired?” asked Betty. “Because it says it is? Pardon me, but that’s kind of like someone saying they’re the son of God, and expecting people to believe him.”
“But Jesus performed miracles!” said Kate. “Loads of people witnessed them!”
Betty held up her hands. “Enough,” she said. “I’m really not interested in getting into a theological debate. If you want to discuss the cases for and against atheism, talk to my dad. He’s the expert.”
Kate nodded, reminded of her purpose. “Yes, I suppose I’ll do that.”
“Good luck trying to convert him,” said Betty with a chuckle.
“Is he very closed-minded?” asked Kate.
“God no,” said Betty. “He’ll be the first to say ‘Wow, I’ve been wrong all these years’, if he’s proven wrong. But I don’t think you’ve much chance of doing that – he knows his stuff.”
“Is he very clever, then? He seems … I don’t know … a little…”
“Absent-minded? Yes, well, sometimes his thoughts run on a little faster than his speech can keep up.” Betty regarded Kate thoughtfully. “So, are your friends all God-bods too?”
Kate’s cheeks reddened. “God-bods?” she said.
“Sorry,” said Betty, though she did not look particularly contrite. “Christians.”
Kate frowned. “Does your dad teach you to make fun of other people’s religions?” she asked.
Betty bridled a little. “No, of course he doesn’t. I said sorry, didn’t I?”
Kate shrugged, deciding to let it pass. “I don’t only hang out with fellow Christians,” she said. As a matter of fact, she really only had two good friends: Julia was a regular churchgoer, while Sammi professed to a belief in God, but acted like it didn’t matter much. She was also fairly friendly with a fellow member of her school’s photography society, the very spotty Ralph, who claimed to be a Buddhist, though he was very vague on the details.
“Well maybe we can find some common ground,” said Betty. “I bet we both believe astrology’s a bunch of crap.”
“Oh yes,” said Kate, nodding. “Complete nonsense. I mean, I’m supposed to be a Taurus, but I really don’t fit the personality type.”
“You’re a Taurus?” said Betty. “Interesting – so am I. When’s your birthday?”
“Seventh of May,” said Kate.
“You’re joking!” said Betty. “That’s my birthday.”
“Cool!” said Kate, intrigued. “And you’re fifteen, right? That means we were born on the same day! What time were you born?”
“One-fifteen in the morning,” said Betty. “You?”
“Three twenty-six,” said Kate. “We were born just two hours apart!”
“That is pretty cool,” admitted Betty. “Maybe we could have a big double birthday party next May.”
Kate’s smile faded as she imagined how that might turn out – Betty, all dolled up and looking gorgeous, with dozens of friends flocking around her … and Kate, sitting in a corner with her little cabal of invisibles. “Sure,” she said without enthusiasm. “That’ll be fun.”
Betty laughed. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “Afraid I’ll steal your thunder?”
“Well,” said Kate, somewhat abashed. “I’m sure you’ll be in with the popular crowd by that time, and…”
Betty snorted. “Popular crowd indeed. What do you think I am, a … a cheerleader?”
Cheerleaders being a phenomenon primarily confined to the other side of the Atlantic, both girls laughed at this notion. But then Kate said, “Don’t tell me you’re not popular, though, with your big blue eyes and big … other things, and your blonde hair, and your pretty face, and…”
“Careful,” said Betty, smirking. “Keep up those compliments and I’ll begin to think you’re a lesbian.”
Kate turned crimson. “I’m not!” she said.
Betty laughed. “Yeah, well, thanks for the vote of confidence, but I’d rather hang out with science geeks than vapid fashion victims. I’ve never been part of a ‘popular crowd’.”
“Oh come on,” Kate scoffed. “You must have tons of boys after you!”
“Well yeah,” admitted Betty, “but I tend to ignore most of them.”
“You must have had a boyfriend,” said Kate. “Or still have one?”
“I had one,” said Betty. “We broke up about a month ago, and by that time I knew I was moving, so I didn’t bother getting into another relationship.”
“And was your boyfriend a science geek?” asked Kate, smiling.
“Actually no,” said Betty. She hesitated, seeming unwilling to talk about it. But then she chuckled. “He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, to be honest. But he was gorgeous.” She sighed. “He was in the sixth form – and on the swimming team. A body like you wouldn’t believe.” She shivered slightly, then laughed. “I’ve got a bit of a weakness for a nice manly bod.”
Kate laughed too. “Haven’t we all?” she said.
“How about you?” asked Betty. “Boyfriend?”
Kate hung her head a little. “Not yet,” she said.
Betty patted Kate’s knee. “They’re overrated,” she said. “Trust me, you’re not missing out on much. I mean, the sex was great, but my goodness, Darren didn’t half talk a lot of crap at times.”
Kate laughed in genuine amusement, though the revelation that Betty was not a virgin, while unsurprising, only further served to drive home the point that Betty was far more worldly than she herself was.
Betty watched Kate through slightly narrowed eyes. A lock of her silky blonde hair had fallen across her right eye, and she brushed it away from her forehead. “We’ll get you a boyfriend,” she said. “It’s not like you’re unattractive. Find someone you like – don’t overreach, though – and I’ll show you how to reel him in.”
Kate smiled, a little sadly. “That’s awfully nice of you,” she said. “But I think you overestimate my appeal.”
“Oh come off it,” said Betty, slightly annoyed. “Don’t give me that self-deprecation crap. Sit up straight, stick your chest out, hold your head up high, and say ‘I’m gorgeous, damn it! Any boy would be lucky to have me!’”
Kate, chastened, attempted to comply, but could not help bursting into giggles as soon as she said “I’m gorgeous, damn it!”
Betty laughed as well. “Well, baby steps, I suppose,” she said. She looked at her watch. “You want another game of tennis?”
“Sure!” said Kate. As she stood up, she threw caution to the wind and said, with nervous candour, “Think we can be friends?”
Betty looked surprised for a moment, but Kate knew it was surprise that the question was asked, rather than at the question itself. “Yeah, I think so,” said Betty, with an understanding smile.
At school the next day, Kate introduced Betty to her friends, but while Betty did her best to be cordial, it was uncomfortably plain to Kate that Betty did not think very highly of her little cabal. On the other hand, Betty quickly found friends more to her liking, and by the end of the day had sat with them more than with Kate. This was not, however, as Kate learned during the bus ride home, part of Betty’s plan.
“Kate,” she said. “In all seriousness, we need to get you away from your friends.”
“But they’re my friends!” said Kate.
“They’re holding you back! I’ve seen the way you act around them – all huddled and suspicious, as if you fear and despise everyone else. At least, that’s how they act, and you kind of emulate them to a lesser extent. But Katy, Katy … do you mind if I call you Katy?”
Kate grimaced. “I used to be Katy,” she said. “And my brother still calls me Katy when he wants to lecture me. Why, do you prefer it?”
“It’s prettier,” said Betty simply.
“Well, I don’t mind, I suppose – it doesn’t seem so bad when you say it,” said Kate, shrugging indifferently.
“All right. If you want a boyfriend, you need to tear down this barrier you build around yourself when you’re around other people. Right now, any boy with any potential interest in you is going to feel shut out, and most likely he won’t bother trying to get to know you.”
“Well I’m not like that all the time,” said Kate.
“Aha!” said Betty. “Just when you’re with your friends, right? You see? I told you they were holding you back!”
“But they’re my friends!” Kate repeated. “They need me…”
“Look, there’s nothing to stop you still being friends with them,” said Betty, “if you can keep yourself from becoming this hunched, defensive creature that I saw today. That’s probably what the two of them need, quite honestly – some leadership in getting them out of the shadows and corners.”
“But they like the shadows and corners,” said Kate. “It’s safer there.”
“Yeah, and being shut in your bedroom all your life is going to be pretty safe too,” said Betty. “The problem is that you’re going to miss out on your whole life.”
“I don’t shut myself in my bedroom!” said Kate.
Betty rolled her eyes. “It was just a metaphor. Look, for starters we need to get you wearing something a little less drab. These long baggy sweatshirts of yours make it look as if you have no figure at all.”
“Wooooah, Nelly,” said Kate, leaning back a little. “You’re going to reorganise my wardrobe now? I’m not made of money…”
Betty arched an eyebrow. “What are parents for? Don’t you get an allowance?”
“Well yes, but not a huge one… And I’m kind of saving…”
“For this,” said Betty firmly. “Trust me.”
Kate felt her stress levels rising. “Anybody ever tell you you’re kind of controlling?” she ventured.
Betty sat back in her seat. “I’m not trying to control you,” she said. “I just think it’s a shame that you’re limiting yourself the way you do. If you don’t want my help, then fine – I don’t have to do a damn thing for you.”
Now Kate felt guilty. But then she felt annoyed at Betty for making her feel guilty. “Don’t have a go at me just because I’m not a puppet,” she said huffily.
Betty sighed. “All right. But meet me halfway, okay? Let’s plan to shop this weekend, and we’ll get you an outfit – just one! – that will make you seem less … drab.”
“Okay,” said Kate, nodding. “I can do that. Maybe Dad’ll fork out for it, if I tell him it’s in a good cause.”
“Yup, just tell him you need a new outfit in order to get laid,” said Betty, grinning. “That should do it.”
Kate burst out laughing. “Oh yes, I can just see myself telling him that!”
“I’m sorry I can’t really lend you anything,” said Betty. “You’re such a little thing. I chucked out a whole bunch of my old clothes before we moved – I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t. Some of those might have fit you. Mind you, I was never as skinny as you…”
“I’ve always been thin,” said Kate. “And I eat loads.”
Betty poked her in the shoulder. “All right for some!”
Kate snorted, unconsciously imitating one of Betty mannerisms. “You think I like being this thin?” she said. “I want curves!”
Betty grimaced. “Curves are overrated. These things give me backache, sometimes.”
Kate shrugged. “All the same, I wish I was curvier. And taller.”
“Nothing wrong with being short,” said Betty. “It’s hardly held Dad back, has it? He’s climbed the Eiger and everything.”
“Your dad’s pretty cool,” admitted Kate. “I’m looking forward to talking to him.”
“Come round this evening,” suggested Betty. “The place is a bit of a mess, still, but as long as that doesn’t bother you…”
“Not in the least,” said Kate. “Thanks, I will.”
“Now,” said Betty, looking slightly crafty. “I want your advice on something. Since I’m helping you to come out of your shell a bit, I think it’s the least you can do.”
“Sure,” said Kate. “Although I’m not sure what advice I can give to someone as worldly as yourself.”
Betty chuckled and shoved Kate’s shoulder. “You silly sod,” she said. “I’m not nearly as worldly as you seem to think. Anyway, it’s about your brother.”
“Oh yes?” said Kate warily. “What about him?”
“Well,” said Betty, her cheeks reddening slightly, “does he have a girlfriend?”
Kate leaned away from Betty, and folded her arms. “And why exactly do you want to know that?” she asked.
Betty grinned. “Well, he’s quite a hunk,” she said. “And, okay, I’ll admit it – I’m interested in him. Is that so terrible?”
“Yes!” said Kate. “He’s nineteen!”
“So?” said Betty. “That’s only a four-year age difference – hardly unprecedented.” She frowned slightly. “I’m sure that’s not the reason you’re objecting. Do you think I’m not good enough for him?”
Actually this was exactly what Kate thought, and she immediately felt guilty for it. “No, of course not,” she said stubbornly. “But I can tell you now that he doesn’t think of you that way. He’s into girls his own age. In fact, his last girlfriend was twenty-two.”
“And his current girlfriend?”
“He doesn’t have…” began Kate, then she stopped herself.
“Aha!” said Betty.
Kate grunted, annoyed and amused at the same time. “All right,” she said, “he’s available. But I still think you’re too young for him.”
“Your disapproval is noted,” said Betty. “Now, how do I get him to notice me?”
“I’m not going to help you!” said Kate. “I’d really rather you didn’t start going out with my brother!”
“Pleeease…?” said Betty, leaning in close to Kate with her big blue eyes looking soulfully into Kate’s brown eyes.
Kate’s heart fluttered, and she recoiled. “Good grief!” she said, unnerved. “That’s quite a weapon you’ve got there. Does your dad ever refuse you anything?”
Betty laughed. “Not often,” she said. “I have to be careful not to overuse it though. I wouldn’t want it to lose its effectiveness.”
Kate smiled. “Not much chance of that, I wouldn’t think,” she said. “All right. I’ll give you a couple of tips, but only because I still don’t think you have a chance with Lorne.”
“Fair enough,” said Betty, clasping her hands in her lap and looking at Kate expectantly. “Do tell.”
“Oh! Look, we’re home,” said Kate. “I suppose it’ll have to wait.” She got up and hastily walked towards the front of the bus.
“Ooh noo noo noo,” said Betty, trotting after her. “You’re not getting away that easily.” As they disembarked, she said, “We’ll talk in my house.” Then she smirked. “I’ll show you my room.”
“Oh fine,” said Kate, following Betty.
Inside, they climbed the stairs and settled down in Betty’s room, which was still rather sparsely decorated. A single poster hung on the wall: it showed Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out, and it made Kate chuckle. “Did your dad give you that?” she asked.
“Nah, a friend of mine at my last school gave it to me,” said Betty. “He was cool – I kind of miss him.”
Kate knew from previous conversations that Betty had grown up in South London, so she was a long way from all of her former friends. “I bet it was tough, moving so far away from all your friends,” she said.
“A bit,” said Betty. “But never mind that. You were going to give me tips on how to seduce Lorne.”
“Oh how to sed…what?” spluttered Kate. “You asked me how to get him to notice you – and that’s all I’m going to help with!”
Betty laughed. “All right, keep your hair on!” she said. “I was only teasing. Tips on how to get him to notice me, then. Go.”
“Well,” said Kate, a brilliantly funny idea suddenly occurring to her. “For starters, he likes bald girls. So the first thing you should do is shave your head…”
She got no further because Betty had leaped upon her, pulling her off the bed and pinning her to the ground. “You rotter!” she said with a vengeful grin.
Kate squealed with laughter and tried to fend Betty off. “All right, all right!” she said. “Maybe he doesn’t like bald girls.”
Betty let her up, and sat back down on the bed, her eyes narrowing. “You wouldn’t really steer me wrong, would you?” she asked.
“No, of course not,” said Kate. “Sorry – just couldn’t resist. Okay. Well, I happen to have some inside information, actually. I was snooping on his computer a few weeks ago…”
“Oh yes?” said Betty, intrigued.
“And it seems,” said Kate, with an air of mild disdain, “that my dear brother is a bit of a pervert.”
“All boys are,” said Betty.
“Well, that’s as may be,” said Kate. “But my brother has a particular fascination, I discovered, for very short skirts. He has literally hundreds of photos of women in very short skirts, and also in skirts of all kinds where the woman is positioned in such a way that her knickers are visible. Some of the photos look as if they’ve been taken in public places with unaware subjects – you know, like someone’s stuck a camera phone under the girl’s skirt and taken a picture. I do hope Lorne doesn’t do that…”
“Interesting!” said Betty. “Well I suppose I know what I’ll be buying this weekend.”
Kate rolled her eyes. “You don’t have any miniskirts?”
“A couple,” acknowledged Betty. “But they’re probably not as short as Lorne would like them.” She grinned wickedly. “If what you’re saying is true, I’ll soon have him wrapped around my little finger.” Then she looked suddenly worried. “It is true, isn’t it?”
“I promise,” said Kate.
“You know,” said Betty, “it wouldn’t hurt for you to get a couple of miniskirts, too. You complain about your lack of curves, but really that’s all the more reason to show off your best assets, which I suspect are your nice thin legs.”
Kate shivered. “I feel so self-conscious wearing short skirts,” she said.
“Why? Because you feel like everyone’s looking at you?” said Betty querulously. “That’s the idea, silly!”
“But I don’t like to be looked at!” moaned Kate unhappily.
“If nobody looks at you, nobody’s going to ask you out,” said Betty. “Accept that, and you’ll go far.”
A car was pulling up outside. Betty looked out of the window. “Dad’s home early,” she said. “Good opportunity for you to talk to him, I should think.”
“Oh! Right,” said Kate, getting to her feet.
“Well jeez, let him get in the door first,” said Betty.
“Oh!” said Kate, flustered, and sat back down.
Betty laughed. “Come on – we’ll go downstairs and get drinks. And I quite fancy a chocolate teacake. We have Bramley apple pies, too, if you’re interested.”
“Ooh,” said Kate. “Actually I’d quite like a chocolate teacake please, if you can spare one…”
Downstairs they met Rich, who was taking off his shoes by the front door. “Oh, hello girls,” he said. “How was school?”
“All right,” said Betty. “Kate wants to discuss atheism with you.”
Kate blushed, startled. “Um,” she said, “well if you have time…”
Rich smiled. “I’m not sure your parents would like me talking with you about beliefs.”
“What’s it got to do with them?” asked Betty. “If she wants to seek out alternative information, shouldn’t you support that?”
“I should, and do,” said Rich. “But in the interests of good neighbourliness, I feel I ought to be a little sensitive to your parents’ concerns, Kate.”
“I’m sure they won’t mind,” said Kate, though she was not sure of this at all. “But as Betty says, it’s my decision who I talk to, and about what.” Then, as Rich continued to look doubtful, she added, “I needn’t tell them that I talked to you about atheism.”
“All right,” said Rich. “Let’s go and sit down, then. Betty, would you mind popping the kettle on?”
Betty rolled her eyes. “Okay,” she said. “I’ll get the teacakes too. What do you want to drink, Katy? We have coke if you’re not a tea-drinker…”
“Tea would be great, please,” said Kate.
“Plenty of milk, but no sugar please,” said Kate.
Betty disappeared into the kitchen, while Rich and Kate sat down in the living room. Kate sank further than expected into the armchair she had chosen, and Rich grinned at her look of surprise.
“Comfy, isn’t it?” he remarked.
“Very!” said Kate.
“So … what did you want to know?” asked Rich.
Kate tried to sit up straight, though it was not easy. “Well first of all,” she said, “I’m not trying to convert you or anything. I’m just curious about why you believe what you believe. Betty says she doesn’t believe in God pretty much because she was brought up in a, for want of a better word, ‘godless’ household. Was it that way for you too?”
“Goodness no,” said Rich. “My parents were very religious. Fortunately, however, they were also firm believers in education, and supported my love of science. And the more I studied, the more I started to question my beliefs.”
“But why?” asked Kate. “I mean, a belief in God isn’t incompatible with science, otherwise all scientists would be atheists – which they’re not.”
“I can’t speak for other scientists and their beliefs,” said Rich. “I can only speak for myself, and mine. In my case, I simply applied a scientific methodology to my quest for answers. I looked for evidence of the existence of God, and found … well, nothing.”
“Nothing?” echoed Kate. “But the evidence is all around you! The whole world – the universe – the human eye – the human brain!”
“Three of those things have demonstrably arisen through natural processes,” said Rich.
“But who created those natural processes?” asked Kate. “And which one is the fourth?”
“The universe,” said Rich. “But just because we don’t yet fully understand the processes that gave birth to the universe, why should that imply the existence of God? We didn’t used to understand where lightning came from, and so our ancestors ascribed thunder and lightning to one god or other. There used to be many things that humans couldn’t explain. But gradually we filled in the gaps in our knowledge with science. A few gaps remain, but would it not be foolish to assume that God lives in those gaps? That they will never be filled with science?”
While Kate was thinking about this, Betty entered with a tray. “Don’t let me interrupt,” she said.
“As for who created natural processes,” said Rich, “why do they need a creator? And why, if they were created, would the creator not need a creator?”
“Because the creator’s God!” said Kate. “He’s always existed!”
“So you’ve been taught,” said Rich. “But why should that proposition be any more likely than the eternalness of natural laws? Natural laws are, by their nature, fairly simple on a fundamental level. God, however, if he exists, must be incredibly complex. It seems more logical to me to believe in the eternalness of simple things than complex things.”
“What makes you think God is complex?” asked Kate.
“A being capable of creating a universe and knowing, even directing, its future history?” said Rich. “How could such a being be anything but complex? And our experience shows that complexity evolves from simplicity. If indeed the universe was created by a complex being, that being must have evolved from more simple beings, which themselves would not have been able to create universes. And the universe they inhabited – what created that?”
“Well that’s all very well,” said Kate, “if you happen to buy into evolution.”
“Which you don’t?” asked Rich.
“I’m on the fence,” admitted Kate.
“Do you have scientific objections to it?” inquired Rich. “Or do you simply feel that it is incompatible with a belief in God, and therefore must be suspect?”
“Well you have to admit, it’s quite a controversial theory,” said Kate. “More now than ever.”
“Only in the public eye,” said Rich. “In scientific circles, there’s no controversy over the factuality of evolution. Unfortunately there are some religious interest groups who make very loud yet completely baseless cases against evolutionary theory.”
“If they’re so baseless, why don’t scientists disprove them?” asked Kate.
“They do – frequently. The problem is that people sympathetic to the creationists’ cause seldom look beyond the inaccurate claims to find out the truth. It’s way too easy to take at face value a claim, for example, that a bacterial flagella motor is irreducibly complex, rather than looking into the scientific research which demonstrates that in fact it is nothing of the sort.”
“Woah, you lost me,” said Kate. “I’m not sure what a bacterial flagella motor is.”
“It’s not important,” said Rich. “What’s important is this: just because things happen that we don’t yet understand, it doesn’t mean that we’ll never understand them, nor that we should invoke God to explain them.”
Betty yawned. “Wishing you hadn’t asked now, Kate?” she said with a smirk.
“No, not at all,” said Kate. “This is interesting. So, Rich … what would you take as evidence of God?”
Rich shrugged. “I’m not sure. What are you offering?”
“I’m just trying to see if you’re totally closed-off to the concept of the existence of God.”
Rich stroked his chin. “I don’t believe I am,” he said. “I’m always willing to reassess my opinions in the light of new evidence. If evidence discovered tomorrow showed that dinosaurs existed in the Cambrian period, for example, then I would have to discard my support for evolutionary theory. But, since the theory has held up very well for a hundred and fifty years, I consider that eventuality extraordinarily unlikely.”
“What about the Bible?” asked Kate.
“A wonderful book,” said Rich. “But it hardly constitutes geological evidence.”
“I’m not talking about geology,” said Kate. “I’m talking about Jesus, and him being the son of God. C.S. Lewis said, I think, that Jesus was either mad, or lying, or telling the truth. Since he was clearly not mad, and was by all accounts not the type to lie, he must have been telling the truth.”
“C.S. Lewis was a clever man,” said Rich, “but that was terrible logic. To begin with, he omits two other possibilities. The first is that Jesus was simply mistaken. Maybe he had a strange dream and interpreted it as meaning that he was the son of God. Stranger things have happened. The second possibility is that he was misquoted. How do we know that Jesus said he was the son of God? Okay, the gospel writers said that he did, but it’s likely that none of them ever met him, so how would they know? Hearsay and rumour?”
“Wait a minute – what do you mean? Matthew was a tax collector that Jesus had dinner with and later joined him. Mark – okay I don’t know who Mark was. Luke … was a doctor, I think. I don’t know whether he ever met Jesus. But John was Jesus’s favourite disciple!”
“If Matthew was the tax collector who met Jesus, why did he feel the need to copy so much of his material from Mark? Most biblical scholars these days agree that it was written about fifty years after Jesus’s death, and not by Matthew the disciple. Luke’s gospel also borrowed from Mark, and both Matthew and Luke borrowed material from another common source, which is often called the ‘Q document’.”
“I’ve never heard of that,” said Kate, feeling a little out of her depth.
“It’s a hypothetical document which probably contained a list of Jesus’s sayings,” said Rich. “But anyway – on to John. Most scholars these days believe that it was written around one hundred A.D. by an anonymous author, and not by John the apostle. They could be wrong – it could perhaps have been written by the apostle himself. But if so, who’s to say that he did not exaggerate or make false claims about Jesus?”
Kate pursed her lips. “It’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that all of the gospel writers were lying,” she said.
“Is it? I think you underestimate the power of human suggestibility and the human capacity to bend the truth to fit one’s needs. Think about what people are like today: UFO abductions, Nessie sightings, and so on. Are these people all lying? Or have they deluded themselves? Have they deluded others? If we as a nation were as superstitious and scientifically ignorant as our ancestors were, two thousand years ago, might not an entire religion spring up around UFOs? Can you imagine that there would be a shortage of people willing and able to write UFO ‘gospels’ to set such a religion’s beliefs in stone?”
Kate felt uneasy as she contemplated this. She was about to ask about how Jesus’s life fulfilled Old Testament prophecies, but it quickly occurred to her that Rich would suggest that the gospel authors probably bent the truth to make it fit the prophecies better. She scrambled for some new argument, something powerful…
Then she had it. “Okay,” she said, “suppose it could have happened that way. I’m not saying it did, and I’m not even conceding that it’s possible, yet. But let’s assume that it is possible.”
“All right,” said Rich.
“But that doesn’t prove that it didn’t really happen the way the Bible says it did! Wouldn’t you concede that there is a remote possibility that the gospels are true?”
“I find the possibility vanishingly unlikely,” said Rich. “But I wouldn’t say that it was totally impossible, any more than I would say that the existence of God is totally impossible. ‘Not impossible’, however, is a very long way from ‘true’.”
“Okay,” said Kate animatedly. “But what if you’re wrong? Even if it’s just a tiny sliver of a chance, wouldn’t it be safer to believe in God … just in case? I mean, if you believe and you’re wrong, then you haven’t lost anything. But if you don’t believe and you’re wrong, you’re screwed in the afterlife.”
Rich raised an eyebrow. “That’s an interesting reason for believing in God: fear of the consequences of not believing. Well I’m afraid I can’t just switch on and off what I believe and what I don’t believe. And if I could, do you think God, if he exists, would be impressed with my motive for believing in him? Talk about hedging your bets. I’d rather have the courage of my convictions.” He regarded her with a curious eye. “How about you? Why do you believe in God? Is it fear of being wrong if you don’t? Or do you just really like hymns and prayers?”
Betty snorted in muted laughter.
“I have faith,” said Kate simply. “Faith in the Bible, faith in God.”
“Ah, faith,” said Rich. “The perfect excuse for not having to think. But Kate…” And here he leaned forward and looked earnestly at her. “I can see that you have a fine brain, with the ability to ask questions and demand answers. Why waste it on faith? Why not continue to ask questions, and continue to demand answers? That’s what a scientist does. And that is why science, if you apply it consistently, is incompatible with religion. Faith requires you to shut up and believe what you’re told. That’s the exact opposite of science.”
“Well yes,” said Kate uncertainly. “But nobody’s saying religion is like science.”
“But you must surely choose a philosophy,” said Rich. “Whether to attempt to understand the world by faith or by reason.”
“When it comes to God,” said Kate, “I choose faith. When it comes to science, I choose reason.”
“And what happens when those two areas overlap? In questions of, for example, the origin of life or of the universe? Are you going to say to yourself, ‘I have faith, it must have been God’, or are you going to seek the scientific explanation? Are you going to fill the gaps in your knowledge with God? Or are you going to hypothesize that science may indeed one day find the answer?”
Kate now felt highly uncomfortable. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I think I’d like to go away and think about it.”
Rich smiled. “No need to go away right now, though,” he said. “Unless you want to. But we can pause this conversation and continue another day if you like.”
Kate nodded. “Yes, please,” she said. She looked across at Betty, who was pretending to snore. “Come on, you,” she said. “Want a game of Wii tennis?”
Betty ‘awoke’ and stretched. “Did someone mention tennis?” she asked impishly.
As they headed next door, Betty cast a sidelong glance at Kate. “So how do you feel your attempt to convert my dad went?”
Kate chuckled. “Not very well,” she said. “But I wasn’t trying to convert him anyway. I just wanted to understand his position.”
“And your conclusion?”
“He’s much better at this argument than I am!” confessed Kate.
Betty laughed. “Yes, well, he’s had a lot of practice. And he’s very clever, and well-read.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s right, though,” said Kate. “It just means he’s better armed for the debate. I’ll have to do some reading before I talk to him next.”
“You do that,” said Betty, with a slight smirk.
On Thursday evening Kate felt better prepared, although, now knowing how knowledgeable Rich was, she was if anything more nervous than before. Once again Rich was quite happy to talk to her, and as they sat down in his living room, he smiled at her as he awaited her first question.
“Okay,” she said after a deep breath. “Have you heard of the Anthropic Principle?”
“Aha,” said Rich, amused. “You’ve been studying.”
Kate blushed. “Yes I have,” she said.
“I’ve heard of it,” said Rich. “Go on.”
“Okay,” said Kate, “so in the universe, there are a number of physical constants, like the strength of gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and so on … and if they were just slightly different, life would not be possible. The whole universe, in fact, is finely tuned to permit the development of life. If the universe was not designed by a creator, it would be extremely unlikely for all of those constants to just happen to be exactly right for life to develop.”
Rich nodded. “Gosh yes,” he said. “Staggeringly unlikely.”
“Really?” said Kate, surprised. She had not expected Rich to capitulate so readily.
“Oh yes,” said Rich. “The odds against the universe being set up this way are, quite literally, astronomical.”
Kate slumped back in her chair, half-smiling in puzzlement. “Then how do you justify your atheism, given the staggering unlikelihood of an un-designed universe?”
“Because,” said Rich, “staggering unlikelihoods occur all the time. In fact, staggering unlikelihoods are entirely inevitable.”
“I’m confused,” said Kate, furrowing her brow.
“Consider the national lottery,” said Rich. “How would you feel if you won it?”
“Very surprised,” said Kate. “I don’t buy lottery tickets.”
Rich chuckled. “Suppose you bought one today, though. And on Saturday you won. How would you feel then?”
“Very happy, I should imagine,” said Kate.
“And surprised, no doubt, given the odds against your winning.”
“True,” admitted Kate.
“To any lottery winner, it seems astonishing that they won, and beat the odds. To the rest of us … it doesn’t seem that amazing. It’s only a surprise to the person it happens to. Now, take this universe we live in. All those constants you mentioned – it seems amazing to us that they’re all conducive to life developing … but let’s face it: if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be here to remark on it. The fact that we’re here, discussing it, means that life has to be possible in this universe. And, indeed, on this planet. Perhaps there are other civilizations out there, remarking on how incredible it is that they are able to exist. Or perhaps we’re the only ones. But if we are alone, then, by necessity, this has to be the planet on which the conditions were absolutely right for life to develop.
“Now, who’s to say that this is the only universe? Maybe, before this one, there were countless other universes in which, perhaps, life was never possible. Alternatively there might be billions of other universes currently in existence outside our own. Perhaps life exists in several of them; perhaps it only exists in one. But since we are here, asking the question, it has to be this one. That’s the basis of the Anthropic Principle. It was not devised as a religious argument, but it has been hijacked by those who don’t fully understand it.”
“Ugh,” said Kate, her mind spinning. “You sort of lost me there.” She took a deep breath. “Explain it to me again – slowly.”
And so he did, very patiently and in more detail. And after a while, she got it.
On Friday night, following another long discussion with Rich, she lay awake in bed for over an hour after she had turned off her bedside light. The things Rich had told her had been … very illuminating. He had taught her the principles behind radiometric dating. He had shown her how the fins of sarcopterygian fish in the Devonian period had evolved internally, developing bones equivalent to the human limb bones. He had shown her pictures of the first tetrapods, which had possessed eight toes per foot. He had charted the evolution of the mammalian inner ear. He had explained to her how the common ancestry of humans and apes could be demonstrated by a comparison of retroviral markers. He had also explained to her why religion was an inevitable by-product of human society.
While brushing her teeth the next morning, it suddenly all crystallized in her mind. She spat out her toothpaste. “Oh my God,” she said. “There is no God.”
She wiped her mouth, and tried to figure out how she felt about this. To her surprise, she was not fearful of the prospect of her own mortality. She simply felt … relief.
“What did you say, darling?” asked Josie.
“Nothing Mum,” muttered Kate. It would not do to discuss this with Mum and Dad. Not yet, at any rate. She had little doubt that neither of them would be swayed by Rich’s arguments – their faith was too unshakeable.
“Well, do you think you could Hoover the house this morning?” said Josie. “Rich and Betty are coming around for afternoon tea.”
“Oh yes,” said Kate. “Oh but Mum, Betty and I are going out clothes shopping this morning.”
Josie looked at her watch. “When?” she asked.
“As soon as I’m ready,” said Kate.
Josie pursed her lips. “You can do the Hoovering first, and then go out.”
“Oh Mum!” Kate whined.
But Josie was not to be swayed. Rather grumpily, Kate vacuumed the entire house, which took almost an hour. As she came downstairs, Betty was standing in the hall. “Hi!” she said. “Sorry – Mum made me Hoover.”
“No problem,” said Betty. “I’ve only been here a couple of minutes. Shall we go?”
Kate looked at her watch. “Yes, we can just catch the 351 bus.”
They hurried out, and got to the bus stop with a minute to spare. The bus, however, was late. As they waited, Kate kicked at a little tuft of grass growing through a crack in the pavement. “I just became an … an atheist,” she said.
Betty’s jaw dropped. “Bloody hell!” she said.
“Your dad ‘converted’ me, I suppose is the right word.”
“Jeez!” said Betty. “What are your parents going to say?”
“I don’t know,” confessed Kate. “I’m kind of not really planning on telling them.”
“Wow,” said Betty. “I never thought you’d turn … and certainly not this quickly.”
“Your dad just made so much sense!” said Kate.
“Yes, well, I told you he was very clever,” said Betty. “But you’d find very clever people on the other side of the argument, who would seem to make just as much sense.”
“I suspect your dad would have an answer for them,” said Kate. She sighed. “He’s … brilliant.”
Betty looked at her oddly. “You’re not getting a crush on my dad, are you?”
“No!” said Kate, blushing.
“You are!” said Betty accusingly. “Oh my God! He’s old enough to be your dad!”
“Shush!” said Kate, looking around nervously. “I totally don’t have a crush on your dad – I just … like him, that’s all.”
“Well that does it,” said Betty grimly. “We need to find you a boyfriend – pronto!”
Kate nodded. “Suits me,” she said.
The bus arrived, and bore them across town to the shopping centre. Betty picked out a couple of miniskirts for herself, and then proceeded to gather up an armful of tight-fitting and/or revealing clothes for Kate.
“All right,” she said at last, with a twinkle in her eye. “Changing rooms.”
Kate was curious, despite herself, about how she would look in the clothes Betty had selected. She was not at all sure she would be comfortable wearing any of them. Still, she did want to look more attractive to the boys at school…
A couple of minutes later, both she and Betty emerged from their respective cubicles, and compared notes. “Not bad!” said Betty, eyeing Kate’s tight-fitting pink top and white ruched miniskirt. “See? You do have nice legs.”
“Thanks,” said Kate dubiously. “I feel awfully exposed.” In truth the skirt was not that short, coming down almost to mid-thigh, but it was still rather revealing for her.
“Silly,” Betty said reprovingly. “You look very sexy.” She grinned, and twirled slowly on the spot. “How about me?”
“You look gorgeous, of course,” said Kate, trying to keep the envy out of her voice.
“And sexy?” inquired Betty coquettishly. She turned and arched her back, sticking her bottom out towards Kate so that her denim skirt climbed almost, but not quite, to her buttocks.
Kate recoiled slightly. “Betty, that’s awfully short…” she said. “And awfully tight. Are you sure it’s the right size?”
Betty laughed. “Okay, so I cheated,” she said. “But the waist is stretchy, so I can get away with it. The point is, does it look sexy?”
“Well that’s not for me to say,” said Kate carefully. “I suppose some boys might find it sexy…”
Her friend grinned, but a little uncertainly. “I know it’s tight,” she said. “Does it make my bum look big?” The grin faded, replaced by worry.
Kate was surprised to discover that Betty had any trace of insecurity. “I suspect,” she said, “that other girls will think it looks slutty … but the boys will love it.”
Betty smiled again. “Including Lorne?”
Kate pursed her lips disapprovingly. “No,” she said firmly. “Lorne’s going to be completely turned off by it.”
Betty’s eyes narrowed as she tried to figure out whether Kate was serious or not. A slight quirk at the side of Kate’s mouth gave the game away. She laughed. “Oh, he’s going to love it, I’m sure of it.”
“Probably,” admitted Kate, slightly disgruntled. “But what’s your dad going to say when he sees you in something like that?”
“‘Be careful’,” said Betty. “That’s what he usually says.”
“That’s pretty … cool of him,” said Kate. “I dread to think what my dad would say if he saw me in a skirt like that.”
Betty shrugged. “My dad says it would be hypocritical of him to forbid me from wearing miniskirts, since he used to encourage my mum to wear them a lot…” She stopped abruptly.
“Oh, so your dad likes miniskirts too?” inquired Kate curiously.
“Used to!” said Betty. “Now he just thinks they’re tacky.”
“Hmm,” said Kate thoughtfully.
“Don’t you start wearing miniskirts around my dad,” Betty said warningly.
“Why not? If he doesn’t like them any more?” asked Kate.
Betty ground her teeth, then she took a step towards Kate. “He’s forty years old!” she hissed.
“But it’s okay for you to flaunt yourself in front of my brother?” demanded Kate.
“He’s only nineteen! And don’t forget, you’re the one who said even that was too big an age gap!”
“I did,” admitted Kate. She sighed. “Look, I’m not really into your dad that way, so don’t get so panicky. I think he’s great, and I want to learn from him … but he is kind of old.”
Betty relaxed a little. “All right then,” she said. “Let’s go and try on something else.”
Kate’s next outfit was a peasant-style top and a pair of tight jeans with flared bottoms. She rather liked the ensemble, although the top was alarmingly transparent: she could clearly see her bra through it.
Betty liked it. “Very nice!” she said. “You’ll have to fight off the boys in that get-up!” She herself was wearing the other skirt she had picked out. It was beige, and described on the label as a ‘chiffon tiered fluff skirt’, and it was slightly longer than the denim skirt, though not by much.
“That’s pretty,” said Kate. “I like it.”
“Thanks,” said Betty. “Okay, so that’s it for me. You go and try on something else.”
Kate nodded, and returned to her cubicle. When next she emerged, she was looking rather anxious. “God, this is very short,” she said nervously, tugging ineffectually at the hem of her grey denim cut-off pelmet skirt. She was also wearing a v-neck top of embroidered blue mesh fabric, gathered below her breasts to make the most of her rather slight figure. It, too, was quite transparent, making her bra rather obvious.
“You look great!” said Betty.
“I feel naked,” said Kate.
“You’ll get over that,” said Betty. “The important thing is that you look fantastic – the boys will just love you!”
Kate blushed. “This top would look better if I had more up top,” she remarked.
“Oh, don’t be silly – it looks very good on you. Just don’t bend over too much, because you’ll be showing off your bottom to those behind you and your boobs to those in front of you. Or,” Betty added wickedly, “make sure you bend forward in front of the right boy.”
“You’re bad,” said Kate, chuckling. “Well, I suppose I’ll try on the last outfit.” She went back into her cubicle.
She was a little happier with her final ensemble – a cream smock top with a turquoise ‘puffball’ miniskirt that came about a third of the way down her thighs. “The skirt’s a bit short,” she said, “but I like this top a lot.”
“Hmm,” said Betty. “It doesn’t do your chest any favours, though. Makes you look a little shapeless.”
“Does it?” said Kate. She turned towards the mirror. “I do like it, though.” She sighed. “I can’t get everything, so I’ll have to make some choices.”
“Well what’s your budget?” asked Betty. “Your dad’s contributing, right?”
Kate nodded, and grinned. “I told him my clothes were awfully unfashionable and I was getting teased. I knew that would work, because when he was a boy his parents were quite poor and he was often teased about his clothes.”
Betty laughed. “Clever girl,” she said. “So…”
“Oh,” said Kate. “He’s contributing seventy-five pounds.”
“Nice!” said Betty. “All right, let’s see what that will get you.”
She came into Kate’s cubicle and they counted prices. “A hundred and seventy-four pounds for the lot,” said Betty. “Hmm. Well, how much can you chip in yourself?”
“I just bought a DVD player for my room,” said Kate, “so I’m rather low on cash. I was rather hoping we could squeeze it all into Dad’s contribution…”
“Well every little will help,” said Betty. “Seventy-five pounds isn’t going to make quite the impact on your wardrobe that I would have liked.”
“All right,” said Kate. “How about thirty?”
“Good,” said Betty. “That gives us a hundred and five to work with. Let’s see – the jeans will have to go, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, but I like those!” said Kate.
“Yeah, but they’re forty quid,” said Betty. “That eats up almost half your budget.”
“I suppose,” said Kate grumpily.
“The smock top’ll have to go too,” said Betty.
“But it’s only fourteen pounds!” said Kate.
“Yeah, but Katy, it really doesn’t look that good on you.”
Kate sighed. “All right,” she said. “But you’re getting rid of all of my favourite things!” She pointed at the obscenely short pelmet skirt. “That’s twenty-five pounds – I think we should get rid of that.”
“But you look fantastic in it!” said Betty. “Look, we’ve cut out fifty-four pounds – what does that bring us to?”
“A hundred and twenty,” said Kate.
“Okay,” said Betty. “The white skirt is thirty-two quid – I’m sure we can find something similar for a lower price. Wait here.” She headed back out into the shop, and Kate waited, rather impatiently.
Two minutes later Betty returned. “Here,” she said. “Try this on.”
It was a little blue denim flippy skirt, and it made Kate grimace. “It’s nothing like the other one,” she said. “It’s shorter, for one thing.”
“I think it’ll suit you,” said Betty. “Go on – try it on.”
Kate did so, and Betty grinned. “Lovely!” she said. “And it’s on sale for fifteen pounds, so that brings us down to…” She furrowed her brow.
“A hundred and three,” said Kate.
Betty smirked. “No wonder you get along with my dad,” she said. “He’s quick at mental arithmetic too. Anyway, that brings us under budget, right?”
Kate nodded. “I’m not convinced I’ll actually wear these skirts, though,” she said, feeling uncomfortable at the prospect.
“Honestly, Katy, you’ll get used to it,” said Betty. “You’ve got great legs – better than mine – so you’ve no reason to be shy.”
Kate blushed. “Now who’s being silly?” she said. “You have beautiful legs.”
Betty raised her eyebrows. “Why thank you!” she said. “See, I knew you were a lesbian.”
“I’m not!” said Kate. “Blimey, that’s the last time I pay you a compliment!”
Betty giggled. “Oh I’m just teasing, Katy,” she said. “So, shall we go and pay for these things?”
“Okay,” said Kate. “Let me put my other clothes on first, though.”
She did so, and they went up to the counter to pay. It was past noon now, so they went to the food court and sat down at a table with trays of cheap Chinese food. Betty was less than impressed.
“Ugh, I didn’t expect this to be so greasy,” she said. “I’m going to be fighting off spots for days.”
Kate snorted. “Yeah right,” she said. “Like you ever have any problems with zits.”
“I certainly do!” said Betty. “I had a particularly bad outbreak a couple of months ago – I practically begged Dad not to make me go to school. Didn’t work, of course.”
“Well,” said Kate, “at the risk of being labelled a lesbian, again, I must say you have beautiful skin.”
“Thank you,” said Betty, smiling. “Lesbian. Ow!”
Kate withdrew her foot. “You deserved that,” she said, grinning.
Betty chuckled as she rubbed her shin. “Well all right,” she said. “Just as long as you’re not kicking me because you’re in love with me. Because that would be so primary school.”
“Do you want to get kicked again?” inquired Kate.
“All right, I’m sorry,” said Betty, giggling.
They finished their food while chatting about various boys at school. “So, where do we put these things?” asked Betty, putting her empty plastic cup back on her tray.
“I’ll show you,” said Kate, getting to her feet. “So, what are we going to do, now that we’ve spent our money?”
Betty thought for a moment. “I presume there’s an arcade here?” Kate nodded, and Betty grinned. “Ever played Dance Dance Revolution?”
Kate shook her head. “No, but I think they do have it here,” she said. “Cool – I’d like to give that a go.”
“It’s lots of fun,” said Betty.
An hour later, after a few more pounds had been spent amid much giggling on the DDR machine, Betty and Kate breathlessly emerged from the arcade. “I suppose we should head back home,” said Kate. “You’re coming around for afternoon tea, right?”
Betty nodded. “Yes!” she said. “And now I have the perfect skirt for the occasion.” She grinned wickedly.
Kate rolled her eyes. “Just try not to shock Mum and Dad, please?” she said.
Betty smirked. “I’ll try.”
In fact, when Betty and Rich came around to the Farmers’ house later that afternoon, Kate was relieved to see that Betty had opted for the slightly longer ‘fluff’ skirt rather than the ultra-short denim mini. Kate herself was still wearing jeans.
While they sat around chatting, Kate noticed three things. Firstly, that her mother was occasionally glancing at Betty’s skirt with a look of slight disapproval. Secondly, that Lorne was glancing frequently at Betty’s skirt, and although his expression was unreadable, Kate suspected that he was enjoying the view. Thirdly, that Betty was uncrossing and re-crossing her legs rather more often than was necessary. She managed to catch Betty’s eye, and frowned slightly. Betty merely smirked and looked away.
That evening, Kate went next door to talk to Betty. “You were a bit obvious, weren’t you?” she demanded of her friend.
Betty was unruffled. “No I wasn’t,” she said. “You were, though – you were watching me like a hawk the entire time we were there. It was quite annoying, actually.”
Kate was taken aback. “Well, I just didn’t want you making a spectacle of yourself,” she said.
“And I didn’t,” said Betty. “Although I think Lorne saw my knickers a couple of times.” She giggled.
Kate rolled her eyes. “Great, now he’ll think you’re a slut,” she said.
“Look,” said Betty, annoyed. “Don’t get so fucking judgmental, okay? Little Miss I-Fancy-My-Friend’s-Dad.”
Kate’s cheeks burned. “Shush!” she said. “He’ll hear you!”
Betty glanced up at the ceiling. “He’s in his study,” she said. “He can’t hear us from there.”
“I hope not!” said Kate.
“Yeah, well – just don’t interfere between me and Lorne, okay?” said Betty. “If he doesn’t want to go out with me, that’s fine – but if he does, I’ll not have you spoiling it for me!”
Kate ground her teeth. “All right,” she said. “If you’ll stop going on about me and your dad.”
“Deal,” said Betty.
The next morning, Lorne was not feeling well. “I think I’ll skip church, if you don’t mind,” he said.
Josie felt her son’s brow. “You haven’t got a temperature,” she said. “But all right.”
She turned her back, and Lorne winked at Kate, which instilled in her a sense of outrage. Lorne wasn’t unwell at all! “Mum, I think I’ll skip church too,” she said. Why should Lorne, who was still a Christian, get to skip church when she, an atheist, had to go? “I’m … not feeling that great either.”
“You look fine,” said Josie briskly. “Hurry up and get ready, or we’ll be late.”
Grumbling to herself at the unfairness of it all, Kate stomped into the bathroom. She could not yet bring herself to tell her parents about her conversion to atheism, but it was becoming increasingly clear to her that she would have to do so soon. The prospect of saying all those prayers and creeds and whatnot that she now regarded as meaningless ritual … it all seemed rather repugnant to her.
Her uneasiness increased during the service. As she spoke the words of the Nicene Creed, she felt a cold shiver run through her. Suddenly she just wanted to get out of there … and quickly. “Mum!” she whispered urgently. “I think I’m going to be sick. I have to leave!”
Josie sighed in exasperation. “Go on then!” she whispered back. “I’ll see you at home.”
Kate shuffled past a couple of elderly ladies on her way to the edge of the pew, then she hurried to the back of the church and out of the door. Outside, she took a deep breath, and looked back at the gloomy archway. Somehow she would have to find the courage to tell her parents about her atheism – she very strongly desired not to have to go back into that building again.
It was just a ten minute walk back to the house. She let herself in and wandered into the living room … only to have the shock of her life. There, on the sofa, was Lorne … and sitting on his lap was Betty. The two of them were locked at the lips, and Lorne had his hand up Betty’s tiny denim miniskirt – Kate could see him rubbing the outside of Betty’s panties.
“Oh my God!” she shrieked.
Both Betty and Lorne jumped to their feet, looking guilty. Betty tugged her skirt down. Then she looked accusingly at Kate. “What are you doing back so early? Are your mum and dad back too?”
“No! I left early,” said Kate.
“It’s not what it looks like!” said Lorne.
Both Kate and Betty stared at him. Kate folded her arms. “Really?” she said. “And what is it then, exactly?”
Lorne sighed, and sat back down. “All right, I suppose it is what it looks like,” he said.
Betty had now recovered from her shock, and she was glaring at Kate. “You said you wouldn’t interfere!” she said.
“But jeez!” said Kate. “He was practically fingering you!”
“And what if he was?” said Betty. “This is between him and me – it’s got fuck all to do with you.”
“But he’s my brother!” said Kate. “And you’re my friend!”
“Then be happy for us!” said Betty. “For fuck’s sake, what are you, the moral police? I thought that maybe now you’re an atheist, you wouldn’t be so uptight…”
“Woah, what?” said Lorne, startled.
Kate groaned inwardly. “What did you tell him that for?” she demanded.
Betty looked guilty again. “Sorry,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking.”
“You’re an atheist?” said Lorne.
Kate threw up her hands. “Yes!” she said. “I finally came to my senses, broke free of my brainwashing. And don’t look at me like that, Lorne – you were just snogging another atheist!”
Lorne opened and closed his mouth. Then he shrugged. “Mum and Dad’ll kill you!” he said.
“No they won’t,” said Kate, but she shivered.
Betty sat down next to Lorne, and put a hand on his knee. Kate stared disapprovingly at the white triangle of Betty’s panties that was clearly visible between her thighs and the hem of her miniskirt.
“So, what, you’re just going to go back to snogging on the sofa?” asked Kate.
“I wouldn’t do that in front of you,” said Betty.
“Oh, good,” said Kate, before Betty’s meaning became clear. “Oh, you want me to leave? Well, I’m sorry, but I have some television to watch. She picked up the remote from the table next to the sofa, then went to sit down in an armchair.
“Please, Katy,” said Betty. “It’s not like we have a lot of time.”
Kate scowled, and got to her feet. “All right!” she said. “Go ahead and fuck each other, for all I care.” She stormed out of the room and up the stairs. In her room, she turned her music on loudly, so she would not have to hear any noises from downstairs.
Half an hour later, her bedroom door opened, and in walked her mother. “Hi darling,” she said. “How are you feeling?”
“Still a little queasy,” said Kate. She took a deep breath. “Mum…” she began.
Kate’s courage failed her. “Um, is Lorne around?” she asked.
“He’s helping me with lunch,” said Josie. “Funnily enough, he says he feels better now. Do you think you’ll manage some lunch?”
“I’m not sure,” said Kate. “I’ll try. But Mum, can you spare Lorne for a bit? I’d like to talk to him.”
“Of course,” said Josie, smiling. “I’ll send him up.”
A minute later, Lorne entered. “Hi,” he said, not looking her in the eye.
“Oh relax,” said Kate. “Betty was right – I was being too uptight. It was just a shock, seeing the two of you like that.”
Lorne shrugged his shoulders. “No, you were right,” he said. “She’s only fifteen! What am I thinking? I could get thrown in prison for this!”
“You didn’t have sex with her already?” whispered Kate, her eyes wide.
“No!” said Lorne, a slightly panicked expression on his face. “But … honestly? I wanted to … and I think she’d have let me. I know she’s young, but…” He sighed wretchedly.
“She’s hot?” suggested Kate.
“Yes! Oh my God she’s hot,” said Lorne ruefully. He rubbed at the back of his head. “I should stop it before it goes any further.”
Kate bit her lip. She had learned from her mistakes. “Well I’m not going to comment on that, one way or the other,” she said. “Just don’t break her heart, Lorne – she’s … she and I are way different … but, well, I like her.”
Lorne smiled at his sister. “Yeah, she’s pretty likeable, all right,” he said. “I’ll just tell her that it was a mistake, that I’m too old for her, and that I think we shouldn’t do that again.”
“Good luck with that,” said Kate, with a sceptical snort.
Lorne raised an eyebrow. “Then what would you suggest?”
Kate knew of several easier and better ways for Lorne to break up with Betty, but she was not about to do anything that Betty would not forgive her for. “You’ll just have to work it out for yourself,” she said.
That afternoon, Kate went over to see Betty. “Hi,” she said, when Betty answered the door.
Betty looked a little suspicious as she let Kate in. “You been speaking to Lorne?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Kate. “And don’t worry – I didn’t encourage him to break up with you.”
“Glad to hear it!” said Betty. Then she frowned. “Is he … thinking of doing that?”
Kate nodded. “He’s really bothered about the age difference,” she said.
Betty shrugged. “I’m sure I can convince him not to worry too much about that. I’ll be legal in eight months.”
“So you’re going to wait until then?” asked Kate hopefully.
“Are you joking?” said Betty. “I’m not a virgin, Kate.”
Kate grimaced. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“Indeed not,” said Betty. “Most girls our age have done it, you know.” She grinned. “And I love sex.”
Kate shuddered. “Well I’m happy holding on to my virginity for a while yet,” she said.
“What for?” asked Betty.
“I suppose,” said Kate with a sigh, “I’d like it to be with the right man. And I don’t feel ready yet.”
“Kate,” said Betty, “if you think the first time is going to be some magical experience, forget it. It’s messy, it hurts, and most boys our age don’t know what the hell they’re doing most of the time anyway. The first time, quite frankly, sucks. It’s best to get it out of the way, so that you can start enjoying it when it gets better. And believe me – it gets better!”
Kate pondered this. “All the same,” she said. “It’ll be special to me, because it’ll feel like the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. And if it’s going to hurt, I’d rather I were with someone I love, who’s gentle and considerate.”
“Okay,” said Betty, “so who do you love? Scott Pearson?”
Kate smiled. “I suppose so,” she said. “But he’s with Kerry Byron.”
“Yeah,” said Betty. “And she’s a pretty girl. Sweet, too. Maybe you should aim a little … elsewhere.”
Kate gasped, and swatted Betty on the arm. “You were going to say ‘lower’!”
Betty grinned. “All right – lower!” she said. “Come on, there are loads of boys at school who are more in your league.”
“Yeah, but I don’t fancy any of them enough to lose my virginity to them,” said Kate.
“Then forget about having sex,” said Betty. “Let’s just focus on getting you a boyfriend. We’ll worry about sex later. Now – what about Andrew Finch?”
Kate wrinkled her nose. “Zits!” she said.
“Oh come on, he’s hardly a pizza face,” said Betty with a sigh. “All right then – Lonnie Woodman.”
Kate considered Lonnie – short, but not ugly. “He’s all right I suppose.”
“Also, he’s an agnostic,” said Betty.
“How do you know?” asked Kate.
Betty smiled. “I sat next to him in English on Thursday, and we got talking. “I think you and he could be good together.”
“Explain to me the difference between an atheist and an agnostic…?” said Kate.
“An agnostic believes that we can’t know whether or not there’s a god,” said Betty. “It’s a cop-out position, if you ask me, but at least it’s not Christianity.”
Kate thought for a moment. “I suppose … I could try getting to know him a bit,” she said. “But do you think he’ll be interested in me?”
“Once he sees you in one of those new miniskirts, he’ll be as good as yours,” said Betty.
“That’s the trouble, though!” said Kate. “I can’t exactly wear them at school, and that’s the only place I’ll be seeing him!”
Betty rolled her eyes. “So talk to him, get to know him a bit, then invite him to your house,” she said. “It’s really not that hard.”
“For you!” said Kate.
“All right,” said Betty, amused. “I’ll talk to him myself, and invite him here – and you can pick up from there.”
“Are you joking?” said Kate. “He’ll come here expecting something to happen with you … and when he realises he’s here for me … can you imagine his disappointment?”
“Oh stop,” said Betty, smiling at Kate. “I’ll make it clear to him that he’s not going to get anywhere with me – but that I know someone who might be interested in him.”
“If he comes over … will you please wear jeans?” said Kate.
“Only if you wear a miniskirt,” said Betty. “Want to guess whose legs he’d be looking at?”
Kate smiled. “All right!” she said. “Sounds like it might be fun, even if he and I don’t get together as a result.”
“Good girl!” said Betty. “It’s a plan, then.”
“What’s a plan?” asked Rich, entering the living room.
“Katy needs a boyfriend,” said Betty. “So I’m going to invite Lonnie Woodman over.”
“Poor chap – he doesn’t stand a chance, with you two plotting his destiny,” remarked Rich.
“That’s the idea,” said Betty, grinning.
“Um, Rich,” said Kate, anxious to change the subject, “If you’re not too tired of teaching me yet, would you be willing to talk me through the whole cladistics thing tomorrow evening?”
Betty looked suspiciously at Kate.
“Absolutely,” said Rich, “although I’m no expert. It’s hard to be a geologist without knowing plenty about fossils, but I haven’t delved as deeply into palaeontology as I would like.”
“I’m sure you could teach me a lot about it, anyway,” said Kate.
“Oh, he could,” said Betty, frowning slightly.
“Well, don’t let me interrupt your nefarious scheming,” said Rich. “I just came down to make some tea.” He headed off into the kitchen.
“Cladistics?” said Betty sharply. “What do you want to know about that for?”
“We barely touched on it in biology,” said Kate, shrugging. “It seemed interesting, and I figured your dad would know all about it.”
“Just how long are you planning on continuing these little evening tuition visits?” inquired Betty. “I thought your goal was to figure out atheism – and you seem to have done that.”
“I know,” said Kate, a little uncomfortably. “But your dad has so much to teach – and he’s excellent … far more interesting than the teachers at school.”
“Yes, well – just remember, we’re focusing on Lonnie, all right?”
“I know I know – I haven’t forgotten,” said Kate irritably. But in truth, she was far more excited about the prospect of spending time with Rich than she was about having Lonnie come over.
The following evening, Kate was debating what to wear for her tuition session with Rich, when her bedroom door opened. “Darling, we’re just off…” began Josie, when she saw what was in Kate’s hand. “Whatever’s that?” she asked.
Kate’s cheeks reddened. “Um, it’s one of my new skirts,” she said. “Betty made me buy it. All in the name of fashion, I suppose.”
“There’s nothing to it!” said Josie. “Does it even cover everything?”
“Yes!” said Kate. “It’s low-rise, Mum – but don’t worry – I’m not all that keen on it anyway.”
“Then whyever did you buy it?” asked Josie. Then she held up a hand. “Don’t tell me – peer pressure.” She sighed. “You young girls today. Just don’t wear it in church, okay?”
“I promise I won’t,” said Kate.
“Anyway I just came to tell you that we’re heading off to the council meeting. We’ll be home by eleven, I hope.”
“Okay – have fun.”
“Unlikely, but thanks,” said Josie. “Bye!”
Two minutes later, as the sound of her parents’ car faded away, Kate looked from her denim flippy skirt to her jeans, and back again. Finally reaching a decision, she nervously pulled on the skirt, and fastened it. Heading downstairs, she stuck her head into the living room. “Just going next door,” she said. “I’ll be back later.”
Lorne, engrossed in a movie, waved his hand while not removing his eyes from the screen for a second. “Bye,” he said.
Her heart beating rapidly, Kate left the house and went next door. She rang the doorbell, and her heart sank as it was answered by Betty, who immediately looked down at Kate’s bare legs.
“Kate!” she hissed. “What are you doing?”
“You made me buy it!” retorted Kate. “You can’t tell me I can’t wear it!”
“I can if you’re planning to wear it in front of my dad!” snapped Betty.
“Look, at least I’m not wearing a see-through top!” said Kate. In fact she had chosen a dark blue t-shirt.
“That’s not the point!” said Betty. “Go home and put some jeans on, for heaven’s sake!”
“No I will not!” said Kate. “I can wear what I like – and you pushed me into wearing miniskirts!”
“But there’s a time and a place!” said Betty.
“Look, just … shut up and listen!” said Kate, determined to play her trump card despite the moment not being right.
“What?” said Betty in surprise.
“I have some information you might be interested in,” said Kate.
Betty folded her arms. “Yes?”
“My parents just went out,” said Kate. “They won’t be back until eleven. Lorne’s next door – all alone…”
Betty’s eyebrows rose. “Really?” She glanced at the driveway next door. “Interesting.”
“Now you can either go over there and spend some time with my brother, or you can hang around here getting all uptight over my miniskirt,” said Kate.
Betty pursed her lips. “Just … don’t kiss him or anything, okay?” she said.
“What if he kisses me?” asked Kate.
“He’s not going to!” snapped Betty.
“Well – I promise I won’t make the first move,” said Kate.
Betty glowered at her. “Good enough, I suppose,” she said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and freshen up a bit before heading next door.” She bounded up the stairs excitedly.
Kate entered and closed the door. “Hi Kate!” said Rich, from the living room. “Oh my goodness!”
“What?” asked Kate, though she knew what he had just seen.
“Um, nothing – I don’t think I’ve seen you in a skirt before,” said Rich.
Kate blushed, but said nothing as she went into the living room. She sat down in the armchair next to the sofa where Rich was sitting. “Okay,” she said. “Teach me.”
Rich smiled. “Okay,” he said. He picked up a piece of paper from the table in front of him, and showed it to her. “Here are three animals: a hummingbird, a crocodile, and a monitor lizard. Now, what we do with cladistics is to draw in the relationships of these three animals. This can be done in three ways. First, we can draw it like this, which indicates that the bird and the lizard are closer relatives to each other, than either is to the crocodile. Do you think that’s correct?”
“No,” said Kate.
“Quite right – that’s clearly wrong,” said Rich. “So how would you draw it?”
“So that the crocodile and the lizard are the close relatives, and the bird is more distant,” said Kate.
“I think most people would agree,” said Rich. “The only problem is – that isn’t correct.”
“It isn’t?” asked Kate in surprise.
“In fact,” said Rich, “the crocodile and the bird are more closely related to each other than either is the lizard. So we draw it like this.”
“But surely,” said Kate, “the crocodile and the lizard are way more similar…”
“In most obvious ways, yes,” said Rich. “But with cladistics, you have to set aside ancestral traits, and focus instead on derived traits. This is a better way of ascertaining the relationships correctly. It’s useful to compare them all to an animal that is more primitive than any of them – such as a frog. Sure, both the lizard and the crocodile are cold-blooded … but so is the frog, so cold-bloodedness is likely to have been the ancestral state of all three animals. Birds may be warm-blooded, but their ancestors were not.
“And that’s what cladistics is all about: building family trees of organisms, and groups of organisms, by figuring out what traits the common ancestors must have had. If you look at a crocodile’s heart, you’ll discover that it has four chambers in it – much like our own. Birds, too, have a four-chambered heart. A lizard’s heart has just three chambers.”
“But mightn’t the four-chambered heart have come first?” asked Kate. “I mean, might the lizard’s three-chambered heart be a … a derived trait?”
“Good thinking!” said Rich, smiling at her. “And so we look at the frog. And what do we find? It has a three-chambered heart, just like that of a lizard. Well, almost. It’s even more primitive in fact. The lizard ventricle is partially divided, whereas the frog’s is fully undivided. Here…” He briefly sketched the heart layouts of an amphibian, a lizard and a crocodile. “You see?”
“Cool!” said Kate. “So … crocodiles and birds had a common ancestor?”
“Indeed. And a common ancestor, moreover, that was not also ancestral to the lizard. And hence we draw our cladogram like this…”
“I’m off next door,” said Betty, coming down the stairs.
“Next door?” asked Rich in surprise. “Good heavens, Betty – is that for Lorne, by any chance?”
Betty made a token effort to pull her skirt down. “Maybe!” she said.
“Just be careful, all right?” said Rich, sounding concerned.
“I will Dad – I have condoms.” Betty held up a small packet.
Kate gasped. Rich got up from the sofa and went over to speak privately with Betty. Kate tried to ignore their whispers, though she was mightily curious about what was being said. When Rich returned, he was stone-faced, but Betty was looking rebellious. “Fine!” she said, flinging the condom packet back up the stairs. “It’s not like I’m a virgin, Dad!”
“Having sex with boys your own age is one thing,” said Rich. “But Lorne would be committing statutory rape if he had sex with you. Think of him, and his reputation, if you won’t think of your own.”
“All right!” snapped Betty. She stomped out, and shut the door unnecessarily vigorously behind her.
“She’s a good girl really,” said Rich apologetically. “Just a little ahead of her years.”
“I know,” said Kate. “So … you’re okay with her going out with Lorne?”
“Not ‘okay’ exactly,” said Rich. “But I know what battles I can win, and what battles I can’t. Forbidding her from seeing him will only make her all the more determined to see him. By permitting her a little leeway in one area, I get to enforce other rules. But enough about that. Where were we?”
“The cladogram,” said Kate.
“Ah yes. Now, suppose you draw me a cladogram for a lungfish, a salmon, and an elephant?”
Kate took the pen from him and began to draw. “I’m guessing it’s not obvious?” she said.
“That depends,” said Rich, “on whether you are thinking about ancestral or derived traits.”
“Um Rich, I’m kind of getting a crick in my neck sitting like this. Do you mind if I come around to your other side?”
“Um, no, I suppose not,” said Rich.
Kate got up, crossed in front of Rich, then sat down next to him on the sofa. As she glanced down, she noticed with alarm that her skirt had ridden up a little, but fortunately her panties were not yet visible. She leaned back, and looked up at Rich, just in time to see him flick his eyes back to her diagram. As she drew, she smiled a little at the thought that he had been looking down at her legs.
“There,” she said. Her diagram showed the salmon off by itself, while the lungfish and the elephant shared a more recent common ancestor.
“Perfect!” said Rich. “Can you tell me why?”
“Um,” said Kate, “well this is probably wrong, but I figured that the lungfish and the elephant have lungs, but the salmon doesn’t…”
“This is true,” said Rich. “But might the salmon’s lack of lungs not be a derived trait?”
“No,” said Kate, “because more primitive fish, like sharks, don’t have lungs either.”
“That’s absolutely correct,” said Rich, pleased. “See, now you’re thinking like a scientist. Do you want to try another example before we move on?”
“Sure!” said Kate, thrilled that she was getting this new concept so easily … and that Rich was pleased with her.
“Okay, how about … a kangaroo, a duck-billed platypus, and a human,” said Rich.
Kate thought for a minute. “The kangaroo and the human are most closely related,” she said, “because the platypus lays eggs, and presumably the ancestors of mammals were egg-layers too.”
“They were,” said Rich. “Excellent!”
Kate pulled herself up straighter in her seat, happy that she was doing so well. Over the next few minutes, however, as Rich started going into the finer details of cladistical analysis, she gradually slid downwards and forwards, and as her bottom crept towards the front of the sofa, her skirt stayed in place. It was not until she handed the pad of paper back to Rich, so that he could draw another diagram, that she realised her panties had started to peep into view. For a second she stared at them with a mixture of panic and excitement. Unless he was blind, Rich had probably seen her panties already. She knew she should hastily cover herself up, but … she discovered that she wanted him to see her panties – to look at them, to lust after her…
On the other hand, the last thing she wanted was for him to think that she was showing her panties deliberately. Perhaps she could just pretend she had not noticed – perhaps he would think that she was too intent upon what he was telling her to notice her clothing mishap. So she looked up at Rich, then at his drawing, and nodded at what he was saying, although by this point she was barely taking it in, so focused was she on whether or not he was looking at her panties.
At last she was rewarded, as she caught Rich looking down at her lap. She felt a tingle of excitement. But then she was brought swiftly back to reality.
“Want to have a go?” asked Rich.
“I’m s-sorry?” she stammered. “My mind had started wandering. What did you want me to do?”
Rich looked slightly disappointed, which made Kate feel awful. “Perhaps that’s enough for one evening,” he said.
“No! I’m sorry,” said Kate. “I’ll pay better attention. I was just a little distracted for a moment.”
“All right,” said Rich after a short pause. “I was talking about tetrapod groups. Would you like to have a go at building a cladogram to show how they are related, based on what you’ve learned so far?”
“Oh! Yes please,” said Kate. She took the pad back, and began to draw. “Okay,” she said, half to herself, “to begin with we have amphibians…” Then she frowned. “But reptiles arose from within the amphibians, right? So mightn’t some amphibians actually be closer to reptiles than they are to other amphibians?”
“An astute hypothesis,” said Rich, smiling again, which made Kate glow. “But actually modern amphibians are part of a distinct clade. The confusion here unfortunately is in the word ‘amphibian’, which many people use interchangeably with ‘basal tetrapods’. I’m not going to make you show where all of the various extinct tetrapod groups are on the cladogram, so suffice it to say that ‘amphibians’, as a clade, is the de facto sister group of extant amniotes.”
“I’m not going to ask what ‘de facto’ means,” said Kate. “I think I get the broad thrust of your meaning.” She continued to work on her cladogram, all the while thinking that what she really wanted was for Rich to take her in his arms and kiss her.
But he did nothing of the sort. And when he went into the kitchen to make drinks for them both, Kate finally fixed her skirt so that her panties were covered. She had been excited to note, however, that as he had got up from the sofa, he had taken one last brief glance down at her panties. Next time, she resolved with sudden determination, she would wear her cut-off skirt … the one that was even shorter than this one.
Their lesson continued until about nine-thirty, at which point Rich said, “Well Kate, I hate to kick you out, but I still have some assignments to mark before tomorrow.”
“Oh!” said Kate. She got to her feet and turned towards him, straightening her skirt. “Well, thank you so much for telling me all of this. I really learned a lot.”
“You’re welcome,” he said with a smile. “It’s my pleasure.”
“May I come again tomorrow evening?” she asked hopefully.
“Um, not tomorrow,” said Rich.
“Oh,” said Kate, disappointed. Perhaps he was getting tired of her.
“Only because I have a departmental meeting,” said Rich. “You could come over on Wednesday night, though, if you want.”
Kate beamed. “Okay!” she said. “Thanks!” She almost skipped to the door. With her hand on the door handle, she turned and looked back at him.
He was watching her, and smiling. “You look very nice this evening, Kate,” he said.
Kate blushed, and felt light-headed. “Thanks!” she gasped, almost flinging herself outside. Closing the door, she clutched her cladograms to her chest and sighed happily. “I’ve got him!” she whispered jubilantly to herself. She had seen something in his eyes as he had looked at her – an expression that she was sure was one of lust. Also, why else would he have paid her that compliment, except to encourage her to wear similar clothes in future? And she absolutely would!
Hurrying back to her own house, she opened the door cautiously, and closed it softly behind her. She peered into the living room, but nobody was there. As she started to climb the stairs, she froze at the sound of gasps and moans coming from upstairs. Her jaw dropped open. They wouldn’t! Not without condoms! Surely!
She ran upstairs, and paused outside her brother’s room. The door was closed.
“Don’t even think about coming in!” came her brother’s warning voice from within.
“I can’t believe you’re having sex!” she exclaimed.
“So what if we are?” came Betty’s voice.
“But you left your condoms behind!” said Kate.
There was silence for a moment, followed by a creaking sound. Then the door opened, and Betty came out on to the landing. She was wearing Lorne’s dressing gown, and looked rather guilty.
“All right,” she said. “We got carried away. I honestly didn’t mean for it to go that far … I just got so horny!” She sighed. Then she smiled at Kate. “How did it go with your lesson?”
“It went very well!” said Kate. “I learned a lot. And…” Here her voice dropped to a whisper. “I know you don’t approve, but I really think your dad wants me. He kept looking at my legs … and my knickers…”
“You flashed him?” exclaimed Betty in a fierce whisper.
“Not deliberately!” said Kate. “All the same, he looked … and afterwards … he told me I looked very nice.” She beamed.
“Oh he did, did he?” said Betty, folding her arms and pursing her lips. “Well just for that, I’m going to go right back into Lorne’s bed, and I’m going to make damn sure he comes inside me. Fuck protection!” She stormed back into the room and slammed the door behind her.
“Please don’t!” begged Kate through the door. “If you get pregnant, who are you punishing but yourself?”
“You think I don’t know that?” came Betty’s voice. “Oh, just go away.”
Kate kicked the door. “Lorne, don’t you dare get Betty pregnant, do you hear?”
“Blimey!” came Lorne’s irritable voice. “This isn’t much fun, Betty. Kate’s right – this is a mistake.”
Betty screamed in frustration, then said sharply, “Kate, get the fuck in here.”
“What?” said Lorne.
Surprised, Kate opened the door, and peered in cautiously. Betty and Lorne were in bed together, with Betty lying on her back and Lorne on top. Lorne’s duvet was draped over them both, so Kate could only see them from the shoulders up. From what she could see, she guessed that they were both naked.
“Why’d you invite her in?” asked Lorne peevishly.
“Because we’ve got to resolve this,” said Betty, scowling with displeasure. “I want sex, and you want sex, but we’re not going to get any peace while Kate’s got our best interests at heart.”
Kate put her hands on her hips. “Too right!” she said.
“Well listen, Kate, believe it or not I have no desire to have a baby at the age of fifteen – or sixteen, rather. I’m pretty sure it’s a safe time of the month for me, but just in case, I’ll get a Levonelle from … oh crap, we don’t have a GP yet. Never mind – I’ll pick it up from Boots. That’ll be twenty-four quid though … Lorne, would you split the cost with me?”
“Heck, I’ll pay for it myself,” said Lorne.
“There you go,” said Betty to Kate. “Now would you please give us your blessing? I’d really like to have your support in this.”
Kate shrugged helplessly. “Give you my blessing to break the law by having sex with my brother?”
“Yes,” said Betty firmly. “Please?”
Kate sighed. “All right – if it means that much to you,” she said.
“Thank you…oooh!” said Betty.
Kate’s jaw dropped. “Did he just…?” But her unfinished question was answered, as Lorne and Betty began moving rhythmically back and forth beneath the duvet. She watched, fascinated – she had never seen anybody having sex before. Except on the internet, of course, which didn’t really count.
Betty, who had closed her eyes, now opened them again. She raised an eyebrow at Kate, and smirked slightly. “Would you like me to pull the duvet back, so you can see better?” she asked.
Kate’s cheeks flushed. “Don’t be silly,” she said. “I’m sorry – I’ll leave.” She turned and left the room, returning to her own.
A few minutes later, after some climactic moaning from both parties next door, Kate looked up in startlement as her door opened, and Betty walked in, once again wearing Lorne’s dressing gown. She sat down on the bed next to Kate. “Thanks for being so cool about this,” she said.
Kate propped herself up on one elbow. “Did he really … you know…”
Betty smiled. “Come inside me? Yes he did.”
“Wow,” said Kate. “My brother, the criminal.”
“You can’t talk,” said Betty, poking Kate in the shoulder. “You want my dad to become a criminal too.”
Kate blushed. “No I don’t!” she said. “I’d be perfectly happy to wait until I’m sixteen.”
“And what are you going to do in the meantime? Just kiss and cuddle?”
“What’s wrong with that?” asked Kate.
Betty shrugged. “Nothing,” she said. “I suppose. It would drive me crazy, though. I love sex.”
“So are you going to do it with Lorne again?”
“Sure,” said Betty, nodding. “As often as possible. Why, do you want to watch again?” She chuckled in amusement.
Kate blushed. “You’re mean,” she said.
“It’s okay to be curious, Katy,” said Betty affectionately. “I’d even let you … you know … see the ‘details’ … but I don’t suppose Lorne would be too happy about that.”
“Eww, gross!” exclaimed Kate. “Why would I want to see the details?”
Betty’s cheeks turned pink, but she looked defiant. “Are you telling me you wouldn’t?” she said. “Be honest now.”
Kate wanted to deny it, but she knew Betty could see right through her. “Maybe if it wasn’t my brother,” she reluctantly conceded.
“He’s got an outstanding knob, I have to say,” said Betty reflectively.
“EWW!” said Kate, picking up her pillow and hitting Betty with it. Betty giggled and jumped up from the bed.
“I’d better be going,” she said. “It’s past ten o’clock.”
The door suddenly opened, and Lorne stuck his head in. “Mum and Dad are back!” he said. He thrust a pile of clothes at Betty. “Get these back on, quickly!”
“Jeez!” said Betty, hurriedly taking the clothes. She stripped off Lorne’s dressing gown and tossed it at him; he caught it and pulled it through the door as he closed it.
Beneath the dressing gown Betty had been wearing only her panties, and Kate stared with interest at Betty’s large but beautifully shaped breasts. As Betty straightened up, putting her bra on, she caught Kate’s gaze. “Knew you were a lesbian,” she muttered.
“Hey!” said Kate indignantly. “You promised!”
“Sorry!” said Betty, rolling her eyes. “Your fascination with my breasts is entirely intellectual, I’m sure.”
“It is!” said Kate. “Well – kind of. I just think you have a beautiful body. There’s nothing sexual about it – I just appreciate your beauty.”
Betty paused in the process of pulling up her skirt. To Kate’s astonishment, her friend’s eyes seemed to be watering. Then, to her even greater surprise, Betty leaned over and enveloped her in a warm hug. “You’re very sweet,” said Betty. “Thank you Katy.”
“Don’t mention it!” said Kate, feeling a warm, fuzzy internal glow from Betty’s affectionate embrace.
Betty fastened her skirt, and was in the process of pulling her t-shirt on when there was a knock on the door. She hastily stuck her feet into her sandals, and pulled the rear straps out from beneath both heels.
“Come in!” said Kate, not a second later than she dared to wait.
It was Josie who stuck her head in. “Oh hello Betty,” she said. “Just wanted to let you know we’re back, Kate.”
“Welcome home,” said Kate.
Josie smiled, then withdrew.
“Whew!” whispered Betty. “That was a bit close.”
“Yes, well, you’ve got to be careful!” said Kate.
“You sound just like my dad,” said Betty, smirking. “Maybe you’d make a good step-mum after all.”
Kate’s eyes widened. “Heck, I hadn’t even thought of that,” she said.
Betty chuckled. “Well, you’d better believe it’s on my mind every time my dad so much as looks at a woman,” she said. “I must say, I’d never imagined my step-mum would be my age – to the day, no less.”
“I think you’re jumping the gun a bit!” said Kate.
“But that’s what you want, isn’t it?” inquired Betty, putting her head on one side. “For my dad to sweep you off your feet, fall in love with you, and ask you to marry him?”
Kate blushed. “I haven’t yet ruled out Lonnie, you know.”
“Good!” said Betty. “Because I’m hoping he’ll make you see sense. A good snog with a nice boy your own age will be just the thing to get you over your crush on my dad.”
“Maybe,” said Kate. But she was not convinced.
The following day at school, Betty got chatting to Lonnie in the classroom, and softened him up for a while before extending him an invitation to her house. Eventually, however, she said, “So Lonnie, do you want to come around to my house after school?”
Lonnie looked both surprised and, after a second’s rapid thinking, delighted. “Sure!” he said.
“Don’t look so excited,” said Betty. “I have a very big and very jealous boyfriend. But I do know someone who’s interested in you.”
“Oh?” said Lonnie. “Who’s that? Kate?”
This rather took the wind out of Betty’s sails. She must have mentioned to him that she lived next door to Kate. “Um, well, yes actually.”
Lonnie shrugged. “I’m not really that interested,” he said. “And why hasn’t she said anything, if she’s keen?”
“She’s shy,” said Betty. “Give her a chance, Lonnie. She’s a sweet girl, and wait ‘til you see the skimpy outfit I’ll be making her wear for the occasion.”
Lonnie chuckled. “I can’t imagine Kate in a skimpy outfit,” he said. “But really – I sort of have plans for after school…”
Betty shrugged. “Your loss,” she said. “I was thinking we might have some of my dad’s booze, play a little strip poker … but if you have plans, then forget it.”
“You know, maybe Kate deserves a chance to make an impression on me outside school,” said Lonnie. “I’d hate to disappoint the poor girl.”
Betty grinned. “All right then,” she said.
After the lesson, however, she turned to Lonnie again. “You know what?” she said. “Forget coming over. I shouldn’t have offered strip poker. If you’re not interested in Kate, then fine. As I said, your loss.”
Lonnie looked disgruntled. “Whatever,” he said.
The next lesson was one Betty shared with Kate, and they sat together at the back. “It’s not going to happen with Lonnie,” she said. “He’s not good enough for you.”
“Oh?” said Kate, feeling a little disappointed. “I was just getting used to the idea.”
Betty shrugged. “Other fish in the sea, Katy,” she said. “Come on – there must be someone else you like. In your league, I mean.”
“Nobody in my league,” said Kate with a sigh.
“What about Adrian?” asked Betty, watching as the slim, red-haired boy hastily gathered up some papers he had dropped on the floor.
“Now you’re just being insulting,” said Kate.
“I’m serious!” said Betty. “He’s sweet. He’d absolutely dote on you. And he’s a clever lad.”
“He lisps!” said Kate. “And have you seen the way he walks?”
“Shallow much?” inquired Betty.
Kate pulled a face. “I can’t imagine you going out with any spotty nerds,” she said.
Betty fished in her bag, and pulled out a little wallet. As she opened it up, Kate peered with curiosity at the small photos contained in the many plastic pockets. Betty pointed to one of them, and said, “Here, what do you think of this stud?”
“Not much,” said Kate. “What’s up with that hair? And those awful glasses? Who is he?”
“My dad,” said Betty, “aged seventeen.”
“No way!” said Kate, truly astonished. She peered again at the photo, and suddenly saw the resemblance. “Wow, he really improved with age!”
“A lot of boys do, you know,” said Betty.
“So why on Earth do you keep a photo of your dad as a teenager?” asked Kate in amusement. “And what are all the other photos?”
“Mostly they’re just friends I’ve known,” said Betty. “I keep the one of Dad because I think it’s hilarious and I like to tease him with it sometimes.”
Kate chuckled. “Do I get to be in there?”
“Yeah, of course,” said Betty. “When I get around to taking a picture of you.”
“It’s a pretty cool idea,” said Kate. “I should do the same.”
“You should!” said Betty. “You are the photographer, after all.”
Kate nodded, then smiled. She was about to respond when the teacher entered, cutting short their conversation.
It seemed to Kate that Betty had given up on finding a ‘date’ for her, but as the last lesson finished and they hurried out of the building, Betty pulled her aside. “Wait here,” she said.
“What for?” asked Kate.
“You’ll see,” said Betty.
A moment later, they were joined by Nick Barrett, a boy in the year above them. He was average-looking, but Kate had spoken to him a couple of times and considered him to be quite a nice boy. His only drawback was that he was, or had been, rather overweight, which Kate found a real turn-off. Today, though, as she looked him up and down, it occurred to her that he must have been working out – he was a little slimmer than she remembered, and a little more muscular than she had given him credit for.
“Hi Nick,” said Betty. “You know Kate, right?”
“Yes,” said Nick. “Hi Kate.”
“Hi,” said Kate. Yes, she thought … he would do.
“Hi Kate!” said Julia, Kate’s best friend, approaching her while ignoring Betty and Nick. “Are you coming to Sammi’s house later?”
Kate glanced at Betty. “I can’t,” she said. “I have plans.”
“Oh,” said Julia. “Fine. Well, I’ll see you.” She turned and walked off.
Kate sighed. “Oh dear,” she said.
“You’ll make it up to her,” said Betty. “Come on.”
“Can you believe Nick’s never seen Four Weddings and a Funeral?” said Betty as she walked with Nick and Kate to the bus stop.
“You haven’t?” said Kate.
“Well it’s … I don’t know … more of a girls’ film really, isn’t it?” said Nick.
“Yes, because only girls have a sense of humour,” said Betty, rolling her eyes. “It’s a comedy, Nick! The only qualification you need to watch it is the ability to laugh.”
Betty kept the conversation going all the way back to her house, talking about practically nothing, but talking practically non-stop. Kate was full of admiration – she herself was hopeless at small talk.
“So I told her I didn’t see what the big deal was,” Betty was saying as she let them into her house. “It was only a few nuts. And it wasn’t like she was allergic or anything, she wasn’t going to blow up like a balloon or start choking or whatever, she could easily have scraped them off. But she made all this fuss like I’d drowned her kittens or something … anyway here we are. Kate, I’m going upstairs to change out of my uniform. You want to pop next door and do the same? Sorry Nick, you’ll have to stay in yours … unless you’d rather be in your underwear. If you do, that’d be cool – Kate and I wouldn’t mind, would we?” She winked at Kate.
Nick laughed. “No I’m fine thanks,” he said. “You go ahead. I’ll just browse through your DVD collection while I’m waiting.”
“Feel free,” said Betty. “We’re still watching Four Weddings though.”
“Okay,” said Kate. “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”
She left the house and went next door to her own. Upstairs in her bedroom, she took off her school uniform and contemplated what to wear. Betty wanted her to wear a miniskirt, and she supposed she ought to – she didn’t want to upset her friend, who had worked so hard to contrive this little get-together. But which one?
She really did not want to throw herself at Nick, and either of the two denim skirts would, she felt, give that impression. Even the puffball skirt was far shorter than she felt comfortable wearing in front of Nick. But she had no other miniskirts, so it would have to do. She also put on a white t-shirt. As she looked at herself in the mirror, however, it occurred to her that Betty would consider the t-shirt far too baggy and figure-concealing. Also, she had to admit that it really did not go with the skirt.
But neither did the pink top that she had bought on Saturday. She wished Betty had let her keep the smock top – there was no way she was going to wear either of the transparent tops that Betty had made her buy. Rummaging in her drawer, she found an older white t-shirt that was a little less baggy than the first. It would have to do. She put it on, then hurried back next door to rejoin Betty and Nick.
They were already sitting on the sofa, with Nick occupying the central spot and Betty on his left. Betty, true to her word, was wearing jeans, although Kate found that she now wished Betty were also wearing a miniskirt, so as to deflect attention away from her own very exposed legs.
“Wow!” said Nick, grinning at her. “Nice skirt!”
“Nice legs, you mean,” said Betty, chuckling. “Come on Katy – sit yourself down.”
Kate, somewhat nervously, sat down on Nick’s right hand side. This, of course, meant that her left leg was worryingly close to his right hand as it lay idle on his thigh.
“Ooh,” said Betty, “I’ll draw the curtains – bit of ambience.” She started the DVD playing, then got up to close the curtains. The room was plunged into semi-darkness, and Betty sat back down. “Best first line of any movie, ever,” she said. “Wait for it.”
Half an hour later, engrossed in the film, Kate froze as she suddenly felt Nick’s hand touch her thigh. He was only grazing it with the edge of his little finger, but there was surely no way that the touch was accidental. Assuming that it was deliberate, she had mixed feelings. On the one hand, she was a little excited at the thought that he was, she felt sure, slowly and carefully working his way towards a more extensive groping of her thigh … but on the other hand, she was annoyed that he had gone straight for her leg instead of her hand. She would even have preferred him to attempt to put his arm around her. Nevertheless, she did not make any move to discourage him … yet. It was, after all, just possible that his hand had simply slipped off his thigh, and he was so involved in the movie that he had not realised.
Five minutes later, however, he was very slowly stroking her thigh with his little finger. Back and forth … back and forth… And now Kate was finding it hard to concentrate on the movie. Somehow, this delicate little touch by just one of Nick’s fingers was proving way more erotic than a full-fledged open-handed caress. He was really taking his time … and this made it all the more exciting. She found she did not want him to stop.
Indeed, as he gradually lengthened the range of his stroking, she found herself wishing he would hurry it up a little. It had been at least fifteen minutes since he had first touched her, and still all he was doing was very slowly making small circles with the tip of one finger, working his way with supreme patience from just above her knee, up to within two inches of her hemline, and then back again.
Then he added more fingertips, making her gasp. She sensed that he had turned to look at her, and she held out for only a few seconds before turning her face up towards his. He leaned in and kissed her, and her eyes widened, then closed. Her first kiss! She was not sure how to respond at first, but after he had pressed his lips against hers a couple of times, she felt his tongue running along the underside of her upper lip, and she opened her mouth.
There seemed to be a roaring in her ears as she lost herself in the entwining of their tongues. The movie was forgotten – only this moment mattered. His tongue caressing hers, his hand sliding under her skirt, stroking higher and higher up the inside of her thigh. Her excitement mounted as he grew bolder, creeping ever closer to her panties. She could feel herself getting wet, and she moaned softly as his fingers reached her pussy, brushing against the damp cotton covering it.
Soon he was brazenly stroking her pussy through her panties, and she had parted her legs to allow him easier access. Then he had pulled the cotton to one side, and was running a finger between her labia. The suddenness of this shocked her, and she opened her eyes – this was going a little too fast now for her comfort. Nevertheless, she supposed she had invited this by parting her legs – and so she tried not to whimper as he slid his middle finger up into her vagina.
She was kissing him more half-heartedly now, feeling more and more uncomfortable by the moment. She wished she could see his eyes, to know what he was thinking while he was thrusting his finger in and out of her. He slowly introduced a second finger, and she winced a little. She wondered what Betty was thinking about all of this. She reached out with her left hand, and found Betty’s arm. She slid down to Betty’s hand, and held it. Betty gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
Comforted a little, Kate closed her eyes and tried to enjoy the two fingers sliding in and out of her vagina. Nick’s other hand was now working its way up underneath her t-shirt. His fingers were worming their way beneath her bra cup. And now he was cupping her bare breast, and squeezing it, her nipple trapped between two of his knuckles.
She was feeling increasingly violated. Her sexual excitement was ebbing, and her discomfort was mounting again. She broke off from the kiss, pulling back to look anxiously at Nick’s face. He smiled at her as he stroked deep inside her with his fingers. In his smile, Kate read barely disguised lust … and something else. Her stomach knotted as she realised he was feeling … amused!
It all became sickeningly plain to Kate. Nick was considering her an easy conquest – a girl who had foolishly let him get his fingers inside her during their first kiss. A girl who did not even try to stop him when he reached inside her bra. And no doubt he would get a big kick out of telling his friends about this tomorrow.
She pushed his arms away, so that his fingers slipped out of her, and his hand came out of her bra. She struggled out from beneath him, and got to her feet. “I’m sorry,” she muttered, “I have a headache.” Then she hurried to the door, opened it, and ran back to her own house with tears starting in her eyes. This, she realised belatedly, was why girls were supposed to play hard to get.
“Are you all right, darling?” asked Josie in concern as Kate ran past her up the stairs.
“I’m fine thanks!” said Kate, before shutting herself in her room. She climbed into bed and curled up next to her fluffy panda, Jerry.
A couple of minutes later, there was a knock on the door. “Katy, it’s me,” came Betty’s voice. “Can I come in?”
“No!” said Kate.
The door opened, and Betty entered. She closed the door behind her.
“What part of ‘no’ didn’t you understand?” asked Kate peevishly.
“What happened?” asked Betty. “Did he hurt you?”
Kate sighed. “No, but it was going awfully fast … and I didn’t like the expression on his face.”
“What do you mean?” asked Betty. “What expression?”
“He was smiling! And not in a nice way – it was as if he found it funny that he was getting so far with me.”
Betty raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure it wasn’t just, you know, an ordinary smile?”
“I’m sure,” said Kate. “I’m very good at reading people’s expressions, Betty. Nick doesn’t like me at all – he just thinks I’m an easy lay. Or he did, anyway.”
“It’s possible,” admitted Betty. “I’m sorry, Katy – maybe I was a bit too keen to find you a boyfriend.”
“Where is he now?” asked Kate.
“He left. I figured he’d hurt you, so I kicked him out.”
Kate grunted. “Thanks,” she said. She tucked her knees up higher. “I can’t believe I let him … finger me.”
Betty kicked off her shoes, walked around to the far side of Kate’s bed, lifted the duvet, and climbed in behind Kate. She cuddled up close to her friend and put her arm around Kate’s middle.
Kate stiffened uncomfortably. “Now who’s a lesbian?” she asked.
“Daft sod,” said Betty, chuckling. “You just looked like you needed a cuddle.”
Kate relaxed. “Thanks,” she said.
“So,” said Betty, “what are we going to do about your boyfriend situation?”
“What situation?” asked Kate. “I don’t have a boyfriend situation.”
“Precisely my point,” said Betty. “Clearly, though, we need to find you someone who will respect you.”
“That would be nice,” agreed Kate.
“But whoever we find for you, you’re going to have to learn how to stop him before he gets too far,” said Betty. “Don’t think that a boy is going to give up on you just because you keep him out of your knickers. I mean, he might after a few weeks of that, but for a while, at least, you just need to give him hints of what’s to come, and he’ll stick with you.”
“All right,” said Kate dubiously. “But all the boys at school will no doubt hear about what Nick did with me, and…”
“No they won’t,” said Betty firmly. “And even if they do, just deny it! It’s his word against yours, and boys are notorious for making up details about their sexploits. Just tell anyone who asks that he tried to stick his hand up your skirt and you kicked him out. I’ll totally back you up on that.”
“Thanks,” said Kate gratefully.
“Okay then,” said Betty. “I’ll work on trying to find someone more appropriate for you.”
Kate smiled as she snuggled backwards against Betty. “You’re being very sweet to me,” she said. “I don’t know why, but … thanks for being such a good friend.”
Betty leaned over her, and kissed her on the cheek. “I like you, Katy, you funny little thing,” she said affectionately. “Of course, it helps that you’re obviously in love with me…”
“Am not!” protested Kate, outraged.
Betty wriggled her fingers, tickling Kate, who squirmed and giggled.
“I’m joking, you silly thing,” said Betty, smiling. “But I have to confess, I was kind of touched when you said you think I’m beautiful.”
“I was just stating a fact,” said Kate, squeezing Betty’s fingers to stop her from tickling her again.
“Would you like to photograph me?” asked Betty.
“Well I don’t normally do people,” said Kate, “but … yes, I’d love to.”
“Okay – so what would you like me to wear?” asked Betty.
“Something pretty,” said Kate. “White, maybe. A long, floaty, white dress. I could photograph you down by the river – we could put flowers in your hair…”
Betty chuckled. “Sounds quite romantic,” she said. Then, as Kate opened her mouth to protest, she added, “Keep your hair on – actually I quite like the sound of it. But I don’t think I have a dress like that. All of mine are short.”
Kate shrugged. “It was just one idea,” she said. “We could take a look through your wardrobe if you like – I’m sure we could come up with something.”
“I’m sure we could,” said Betty.
The next evening, Kate agonized for ten minutes over what to wear for Rich. She was longing to wear her shortest skirt – the tiny denim cut-off one – but she was afraid of what Betty would say, and also she was afraid that Rich might think badly of her. Yet … she had seen his expression as he had looked at her panties on Monday… She was willing to bet that he would enjoy seeing her panties again.
She put on the skirt. It was just too bad if Betty disapproved. All she wanted was to see that lust in Rich’s eyes again. She wanted to make him want her so badly that he could not resist taking her into his arms and kissing her … and running his hands all over her body… If he did that, then Betty would hardly be able to blame her for kissing him back…
On her top half, she wore a thin white t-shirt. Not see-through, but not entirely unsexy. She was not feeling quite brave enough to wear a transparent top in front of Rich … for one thing, she was unhappy with the small size of her A-cup breasts, and for another, she wanted his attention to be drawn mainly to her legs, of which she was justifiably quite proud.
She was almost at the front door when her father called to her from the living room.
“Yes,” she asked nervously, approaching the doorway.
“What on Earth are you wearing?” demanded Scott. “Aren’t you going next door to study?”
“Yes,” said Kate. “This is one of the new skirts Betty made me buy. I thought I should probably get some use out of it.”
“But there’s hardly anything to it!” exclaimed Scott.
“I know!” said Kate. “But if I’m going to wear it, I thought I should probably wear it here or next door rather than to a party…”
It was a masterstroke. Scott’s eyes widened. “Heavens,” he said. “Don’t go wearing that to any parties, for goodness sake. It’ll be asking for trouble. But whatever will Rich think if you show up at his house looking like…”
“Like what?” asked Kate.
“Like, I don’t know, a woman of easy virtue…”
Kate laughed. “Oh Dad, you’re so old-fashioned.”
Scott threw up his hands. “Just don’t blame me if Rich sends you back here to put on something more respectable.”
“I won’t,” Kate promised him.
Excitedly, she left the house and went next door. She rang the bell, and Betty answered.
“Kate!” she hissed through gritted teeth. “I thought you were going to give boys our age a chance.”
“I will,” said Kate defiantly. “But so far that hasn’t worked out very well, and I still fancy your dad … so I don’t see why I should be blamed for giving him a chance to make a move on me.”
“He won’t!” said Betty determinedly. “But if you keep making it harder and harder for him to resist you … I mean jeez, he’s only human!”
Kate smiled. “You really think he won’t be able to resist me in this outfit?”
Betty opened her mouth, then she closed it again, narrowing her eyes. “Katy,” she said, “just promise me … oh what’s the point? He’ll never do anything with you!” She snapped the last part angrily.
“We’ll see!” said Kate, pushing past Betty. “Hi Rich!”
“Hi Kate,” said Rich, smiling at her from the living room. Kate noticed that he studiously avoided looking at her legs. “Come on in.”
As Betty rolled her eyes and turned to go upstairs, Kate practically skipped into the living room, and sat down on the sofa next to Rich.
“Well,” he said, with just the briefest glance down at her lap, “what would you like me to teach you today?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Kate. “Um, I suppose I’m still a bit hazy about the timeline of the history of life – what happened when and all that.”
Rich nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Well, you may recall that the Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old – but that’s a rather large number to effectively imagine. I can bandy numbers about, but without a good sense of scale it’s not going to mean as much as it should. I think I’ll take a leaf out of David Attenborough’s book, and shrink the history of the Earth down to a single day … I presume you’ve seen his series ‘Life on Earth’?”
Kate shook her head. “I’ve seen ‘Planet Earth’,” she said.
“Oh my goodness!” said Rich. “We’ll have to remedy that. It will help you a lot, I think, to see ‘Life on Earth’ in its entirety.”
“You have it on DVD?” asked Kate, her heart sinking a bit. She wanted Rich to pay attention to her, not to a television screen.
“Yes,” said Rich. He got up off the sofa, went over to the television stand, and dropped to his hands and knees while he looked through the DVDs on the shelf next to the DVD player. Kate stared idly at his bottom for a moment (rather nice for a forty-year-old man, she thought) before it suddenly occurred to her to imagine what Rich would see if she were to browse through his DVDs. The thought sent a shiver through her. Did she dare to do that?
Rich pulled out the first DVD in the set, and popped it into the DVD player. Then he got up and turned towards Kate, who rejoiced internally as she noticed him glance between her legs. She knew that there was no way he could not see her panties from that position. She had worn a pair of white silk panties, which would show up very well even in shadow. She smiled to herself as he sat down, and whimsical fantasies ran through her mind as the intro to the program started.
“I couldn’t help noticing your panties,” she imagined him saying. “They’re very pretty.”
She imagined herself blushing, and saying “Thank you.”
“I can’t help wondering if you’re showing them to me on purpose,” said imaginary Rich. “Are you?”
“Yes,” her imaginary self confessed.
He smiled. “I thought so. You’re a very pretty girl, Katy, and very sexy. I’ve been greatly enjoying the time we spend together.”
“Me too!” she said breathlessly. “Oh Rich – I hope you don’t think I’m just a silly little girl, but … I love you.”
“I thought so,” said Rich with a smile. “And I hoped so. The truth is … I’m falling in love with you too.”
“Really?” she exclaimed joyfully, and she threw her arms around him. Then she pulled back, and they kissed … and it was perfect.
Kate shook herself back to reality, and tried to pay attention to the program. In less than a minute, she was hooked – and for a while, at least, her fantasies of being swept off her feet by Rich were put on hold.
During the program, she unconsciously shifted position a few times, and when the credits rolled at the end, she glanced downwards and shivered in excitement as she realised that her skirt had ridden up, though she could not quite see her panties.
“Tea break?” asked Rich, his eyes flicking up from her legs.
“Yes please,” said Kate. She hoped that when he got up, he would look down at her panties, which he would be able to see from almost anywhere in front of her … but he did not.
While Rich was in the kitchen, Kate debated with herself whether to pull her skirt back down, or leave it where it was … or even hike it up a little higher. The latter possibility filled her stomach with butterflies, but it also excited her. She decided to experiment – she could always pull it back down if she decided it was too much.
She lifted her bottom off the sofa, and tugged the waistband upward a couple of inches. Sitting back down, she nervously noted that her panties were now very visible even when viewed from directly above. She wondered what they would look like from a few feet in front of her, at the height of Rich’s head. Probably very obvious. Too obvious? Would it look as if she had done it deliberately? Would there be any ambiguity? She was not sure she was ready for Rich to know for sure that she was flashing her panties at him on purpose. If he suspected, but was not certain, that was all right. But if he knew for sure, and yet did nothing about it … that would be a rejection. And she was not prepared for that.
She lifted her bottom again, and tugged her skirt back down a little. Now, when she sat down, she could only catch a glimpse of her panties if she craned her neck forward. This, she felt, was a reasonable amount of exposure to expect if she had simply shifted position a few times while Rich was making the tea.
Even so, Rich might still realise that she should have attempted to cover herself up, and deliberately had not done so. The more she thought about it, the more she felt as if she ought to at least make a pretence of wanting to seem decent. On the other hand, the more rebellious side of her (a side Betty had awakened) felt like throwing caution to the wind and hiking her skirt back up again.
But this was not the louder voice in her head, and caution was slowly winning the battle. She had almost decided to pull her skirt down a bit, when Rich entered with the tea tray. The butterflies returned as he handed her her tea, glancing down at her panties as he did so. Inside her head, Kate was screaming at him to say something, to compliment her, to tell her he liked her little skirt and her panties, to tell her it was okay for her to expose herself like this for him. But of course he said nothing.
As they watched the second episode, Kate barely even noticed her skirt climbing higher and higher with each cycle of pulling herself up straighter and then slowly sliding forward on the seat cushion beneath her. Towards the end, however, she noticed with a little thrill of nervous excitement that the back of her skirt was now behind her rather than beneath her. The skirt’s hem at her sides was practically bisecting her hip-bones, and at the front her panties were extremely obvious as a large, brightly white triangle between her legs.
And then she noticed something else. Out of the corner of her eye, apparently believing her to be completely absorbed in the program, Rich was looking down at her panties. Not glancing, but staring. It was hard to be sure, of course, without turning her head, but she didn’t want to do that because he would stop looking. Also, she didn’t want to alert him to the fact that she was aware he was looking. She could feel her panties getting damper and damper by the minute.
The credits finally rolled, and Rich turned towards her. She looked back at him, smiling. “Thank you,” she said. “That was very interesting.”
“We’ll save the rest for another evening,” said Rich. “Or several. Do you have any questions or thoughts about what you’ve seen so far?”
Kate felt so naughty, and so excited, to be having a serious conversation with Rich while her panties were so clearly on display. The fact that he had not mentioned either her skirt or her panties told her that he was in no hurry for her to cover up. Therefore, she was in no hurry either.
“Actually,” she said, “I was just wondering if the stuff in these programs was still current. I mean, scientists are always making discoveries that overturn old theories, right?”
“True,” said Rich. “But the broad thrust of the story is still the same. A few details may have changed. For one thing, since the 1970s palaeontologists have actually discovered animals with hard parts prior to the Cambrian period. Just one species so far, I think, but that was pretty much the definition of the start of the Cambrian – the appearance of hard parts.”
“And when you say hard parts…” prompted Kate.
“Shells, bones, that sort of thing,” said Rich. “Bones of course did not appear until later, but some of the early Cambrian creatures had hard exoskeletons, like trilobites. And now, it seems, some of the late pre-Cambrian creatures. Also, they’ve actually come up with an official new geological period to designate the last few million years of the pre-Cambrian: it’s called the ‘Vendian’.”
“I’ll never get the geological periods straight,” sighed Kate. “You don’t happen to have a good mnemonic for them do you?”
“No,” said Rich with a smile. “But I’m sure I can come up with one.”
“That would be cool – thanks,” said Kate. As Rich glanced down at her panties again, she suddenly felt rather self-conscious. But still she felt reluctant to pull her skirt down. In fact, more and more she was feeling the urge to do something outrageous, like asking Rich if he thought her skirt was too short. Or standing up and turning to face him so that her panties were right in front of his face. And then asking him if her skirt was too short. She shivered at the thought – she wished she was brave enough to do something like that … but she was not.
“Well,” said Rich, “perhaps you ought to be getting back home. I presume your teachers give you homework?”
“Oh yes,” said Kate, “but I did it already. All the same, it is getting late I suppose. Thanks for showing me Life on Earth. May I come back and see more tomorrow?”
“Sure,” said Rich, smiling. “Um, Kate…”
“Yes?” she said breathlessly, her cheeks flushing. Here it comes! she thought to herself.
Rich cleared his throat. “Are you aware…” He seemed a little embarrassed. “Um, are you aware that I actually have a few pre-Cambrian rocks?”
It was such an incongruous sentence that Kate knew immediately that he had changed what he had been going to say. She was sure that he had been about to ask her if she was aware how much she was showing … and yet he had changed his mind. Either because he was too embarrassed to bring the subject up, or because he did not want her to cover up. She hoped it was the latter.
“Really?” she said. “I’d love to see them.”
“I’ll show them to you,” said Rich. “But tomorrow perhaps.”
“Okay,” said Kate, smiling. She got to her feet and tugged her skirt down … but not before she was sure that Rich must have seen her panty-clad bottom. She felt delightfully wicked – like a temptress, teasing Rich with glimpses of her body. It was very arousing. “Well, good night!”
“Good night,” said Rich.
The following evening, Scott and Josie went out again, and Betty came around to see Lorne. Kate was rather surprised to see her friend in jeans, but she supposed that they would not be staying on for long. She herself had put her shortest skirt on again, and Betty rolled her eyes as she saw it.
“You honestly think that’ll work on my Dad?” she asked disapprovingly.
“It is working,” said Kate with a playful grin. “He couldn’t take his eyes off my knickers last night.”
Betty glared at her. “Just don’t have sex with him!” she said. “Don’t even kiss him!”
“I won’t,” said Kate grudgingly. “But if he kisses me, I’m not going to stop him.”
“But you promise not to kiss him first?” said Betty.
Kate sighed. “I promise,” she said.
“All right,” said Betty, slightly mollified. “I suppose I can understand you having a crush on him – but it would be really awful if anything ever came of it.”
“I don’t see why,” said Kate grumpily.
“Because it would be weird!” said Betty sternly. “Really weird! He’s my dad!”
“I know!” snapped Kate, beginning to feel irritated. “But I’ve no intention of being like a mother to you or anything – I’d just be a friend of yours who happens to be going out with your dad.”
Betty scowled. “It’d be weird,” she repeated, before stomping off upstairs in search of Lorne.
Heading next door, Kate rang the bell and waited, fidgeting. The door opened and Rich smiled warmly at her. “Come on in,” he said. “You ready for some more Life on Earth?”
Kate nodded. She wanted to offer to put the DVD in for him, but her throat was dry. The thought of so blatantly showing her bottom and panties to him was scary, but exciting – she had been fantasizing about it ever since last night. As they headed for the sofa, she took a deep breath, preparing to take the plunge.
But the menu of the DVD was already on the television screen. Disappointed, Kate sat down. Over the course of the third episode of the series, she glanced down occasionally, noting with approval that her skirt was climbing higher and higher.
At the end of the episode, Rich said, “Another one?”
“Yes please – would you like me to change the DVD over?” Kate blurted out.
Rich looked a little surprised. “Sure,” he said.
Almost shaking with nervousness, Kate leaned forward and dropped off the sofa on to her hands and knees. Crawling towards the television, she wondered in momentary panic whether she should try to put a sexy wiggle into her hips as she crawled. But she did not dare to, and merely stopped in front of the television stand, looking through the DVDs for the Life on Earth box. She could not immediately see it, which gave her a little thrill – she would have to continue giving Rich a view of her bottom and panties while she searched for the box.
However, there were not so many DVDs that it took more than a few seconds for her to ascertain that the box was not there. Rich must have put it somewhere else. “I don’t see the Life on Earth box here,” she said.
“I’m sure it’s there somewhere,” said Rich from the sofa behind her.
Kate was about to retort in the negative when she suddenly realised, with a shiver of delight, that Rich wanted her to stay in her current position. She wondered just how much she was showing. Her panties, certainly. Her skirt had risen up pretty high – she must be showing him practically all of her bottom. And he liked it! He must, or he would have offered to find the box himself.
Emboldened by this discovery, Kate arched her back a little, pressing her stomach downwards so that the crotch of her panties would rise up into better view for Rich. She also spread her buttocks apart, so that the outer edges of her panties slipped slightly towards the middle. Though she could only imagine what Rich was seeing, and thinking, right now, Kate felt instinctively that she was being very, very sexy.
It felt like forever that she stayed in this position, offering Rich this highly erotic view of her buttocks and panty-covered crotch, but in reality it was just a dozen or so seconds before she said, a little breathlessly, “I still can’t see it.” When Rich did not reply immediately, she added hastily, “I’ll keep looking.”
She had had another idea. On the pretext of looking across at the other end of the television stand, she walked her hands to the left, and moved her left knee almost twelve inches in that direction, while keeping her right knee in place. Quickly seeing that there was nothing on the left-hand shelf but a couple of remote controls and a channel guide, she turned back towards the right-hand shelf, while keeping her left knee in place.
Her thighs now spread wide apart, she lowered her torso to the floor while rocking forward, raising her bottom up and over the point directly between her knees. Using her buttock muscles she spread her buttocks even wider apart. A more blatantly sexual position she could hardly imagine – her panties had all but slipped between her buttocks, and her uplifted pussy was in full view of Rich, with the silk material stretched tightly over her labia and dipping into the groove between. She knew that her panties were getting wetter and wetter by the second, and was sure that Rich must be able to see that … but so far he had not said a word of objection, and that made her more excited than anything. He was watching her! Lusting after her! Oh, how she wanted him to come up behind her and touch her…
“Katy,” came Rich’s voice from behind her. It was low, soft…
Her heart hammered in her chest. What was he going to say? Was he going to tell her off, finally? Had she completely misread the situation? She began to tremble, suddenly fearful.
“You look … amazing,” said Rich. “Incredibly sexy.”
In an instant Kate was on her feet and jumping into Rich’s lap, throwing her arms around his neck. His eyes bulged in sudden discomfort, but as she pressed her lips against his, he put his arms around her and held her close.
Only for a moment, though. Then he gently disengaged from the kiss, to which he had not responded, and pushed her away. “You’re very sweet,” he said softly. “And that was a beautiful sight, for which I am very grateful … but Katy, I’m far too old for you.”
Kate shook her head vigorously. “No you’re not,” she insisted. “You’re everything I could want in a man – you’re handsome, clever … so clever! … and you’re … you’re just the best man I’ve ever known! I want to be yours, Rich … forever…”
Rich smiled sadly, and stroked her cheek. “Katy, you’ll find that there are plenty of boys your own age who are both more handsome and more clever than I am. Maybe not more knowledgeable. But more intelligent, and with the potential for great things. I only seem clever because I’ve been around a long time and learned a lot. You should be with someone who is clever, but still has a lot to learn. Then both of you can grow together, learn together … and be the closer for it.”
“But Rich, it’s you that I love,” said Kate, softly but firmly, looking deep into his eyes. “I don’t care who else is out there. You’re the one I want to be with. I know there’s a big age difference – but it wouldn’t be the biggest in history.”
Rich sighed. “Oh Kate, you’re so young… And, I’m sorry to say it … but you’re really too young for me. I’m sure that some day I’ll marry again … but it won’t be to a teenager. I’m forty years old, and I need someone who is my own age, who has been through some of the same experiences, has the same cultural references. You’ve grown up in an age of iPods and camera phones and Facebook and instant messaging. I grew up in an age of video cassettes and eight-tracks and flared trousers … okay bad example, since they seem to have come back recently … but the point is, we’re worlds apart in some important ways. We’ll never click like couples should. What you’re feeling is just a crush – it’s not love. And … I’m afraid I just can’t love you in the way you want.”
Tears sprang into Kate’s eyes. “You don’t know what I’m feeling,” she said. “You may think I’m just a silly teenager but this isn’t just a crush.”
“I don’t think you’re silly,” said Rich gravely. “I think you’re a wonderful and intelligent girl, rapidly becoming a wonderful and intelligent young woman. But you don’t have a lot of experience with love.”
“But I do know the difference between a crush and real love,” said Kate stubbornly. “And don’t you think you could grow to love me … some day?”
Rich shook his head slowly. “Katy, the age difference is just too great. Even if you were twenty-five, it would be too much of a problem. I went through my twenties a long time ago – you’ve still got them ahead of you. In two or three years you’ll be heading off to university, and you’ll meet a lot of young and brilliant men there. You’ll fall in love … maybe once, maybe several times over. But you and I … we’re just not in each other’s future.”
“I think you’re just saying all this because you think it’s the right thing to say,” Kate accused him. “I think really you want me … otherwise why did you watch me for so long?”
Rich looked uncomfortable. “I shouldn’t have,” he admitted. “I should have stopped you. But … it was a very erotic sight.”
“So you really do want me?” Kate pressed hopefully.
“No,” said Rich firmly. “At least … it has nothing to do with love. It’s just raw physical attraction…”
It was the wrong word to use, and Kate pounced on it. “So you’re attracted to me?” she asked.
Rich shrugged helplessly. “Kate, I can’t deny that you’re a pretty and very sexy young woman. I’m not blind. Yes, I enjoyed looking, though I feel bad about it. But I just can’t love you the way you want me to.”
But Kate felt sure she had a way into Rich’s heart now. “I think you’ll come around,” she said. And then … she thought she felt something else. She wiggled her bottom into his lap, and was sure of it. “Rich, I can wait for you to grow to love me,” she said. “In the meantime, though, wouldn’t you like to have sex with me?”
“No!” said Rich. “I think you’d better get up, Katy.”
“Why, because you can’t control your arousal?” asked Kate.
Rich blushed. “Because it’s not appropriate for you to be sitting on my lap,” he said. “Come on – get up please.”
She reluctantly got to her feet, though she obstinately neglected to pull down her skirt, which had ridden up so that it was showing a couple of inches of her panties at the front. She turned to face Rich. “Shall we watch the next episode, then?” she asked.
He looked surprised, and shook his head. “I think you’d better go home,” he said.
Kate’s heart sank. “Are you not going to teach me any more?”
“Do you want me to teach you?” asked Rich. “I’ve been getting the impression that you’re more interested in teasing me than in what I have to teach you.”
“Oh, no, I definitely want to carry on learning from you,” said Kate adamantly.
“Then I’ll be happy to teach you,” said Rich. “But you should probably stop letting me see your underwear.”
Kate’s heart leapt at the reluctance with which Rich said this, and the word ‘probably’. “I’ll think about it,” she said with a small grin. “So I can come over tomorrow evening?”
Rich nodded, and Kate sighed happily as she left his house. She was convinced that he would fall in love with her soon. It was only a matter of time – all she needed to do was keep teasing him and arousing him, and soon he would not be able to resist her any longer…
The lessons continued, and Kate grew totally shameless in her teasing. Rich pretended not to notice, even when she sat on the sofa watching Life on Earth with her knees wide apart and her skirt bunched around her hips. She could see out of the corner of her eye, however, that he was spending a lot of time looking down at her panties. She started wearing her see-through tops as well, and on Friday even removed her bra after she left her house, tucking it behind a bush before going to ring Rich’s doorbell (fortunately Betty was out with Lorne at the time). Kate was gratified to see Rich’s eyes drop to her chest several times. He never mentioned her state of dress, however, and for her part, Kate did not attempt to sit on his lap or kiss him again.
Saturday morning arrived in a downpour of rain, to Kate’s dismay. She and Betty had arranged to shop for a long dress for Betty, so that Kate could take some photos of her by the river. If the rain continued, that plan would come to nothing. However, a quick look at the weather forecast raised Kate’s hopes that the sun would break through by mid-morning.
At the shopping centre, she and Betty got lucky fairly quickly, finding a white sundress which came halfway down Betty’s calves and had slender shoulder straps. After a bus ride back home, during which Kate smiled up at the clearing sky, Betty changed into her new dress while Kate fetched her camera.
Ten minutes later, they were walking along the path by the river. Kate knew what she was aiming for, and guided them off the path, heading upriver to one of her favourite picnic spots. As they came to a bend in the river, she touched Betty’s arm. “See that big flat rock in the river?” she asked. “Do you think you can jump over to it?”
“Yeah, no problem,” said Betty. She jumped down a short bank on to a little pebbly beach, and then leaped across on to the rock with no difficulty. Fortunately the sun had been on it for a while, so it was quite dry.
”Well done,” said Kate. “Now just sit down on the rock … no, not like that. Sit in that Little Mermaid pose – you know … yes, that’s it. Great! Now look down into the water, sort of wistfully…”
Betty complied with Kate’s instructions, and Kate snapped away from various angles. She had Betty strike several different poses, and felt rather envious at the ease with which Betty managed to look gorgeous, sexy and, despite her generous curves, graceful. Kate had never been graceful.
“Okay, slip that strap off your left shoulder,” said Kate.
Betty looked amused as she did so. “You trying to undress me?” she inquired.
“Don’t you dare call me a lesbian!” said Kate. “I’m an artist, and you’re a beautiful model.”
“Well if you want to photograph me in the nude, just say so,” said Betty, still smiling in amusement.
Kate lowered her camera and narrowed her eyes suspiciously. She was not sure if Betty was making fun of her. “Would you let me?” she asked.
Betty shrugged. “Sure,” she said. She chuckled. “Just make sure I look good. I’m not very happy with my tummy.”
Kate watched, her eyes widening slightly, as Betty stood up and took off her dress, shoes, bra and panties. “Just toss them on to the bank,” she said. “Wow, you … shave everything?”
Betty, having thrown her clothes on to the top of the river bank, clasped her hands self-consciously in front of her pussy. “Men seem to like it,” she said. “The ones I’ve been with, anyway.”
Kate felt suddenly very hairy and unsexy. She resolved to shave herself completely at the first opportunity. “Well,” she said, “perhaps you could get back into that first pose – the Little Mermaid one.”
Betty assumed the pose, and Kate took a couple more pictures. “God, you’re beautiful,” she muttered candidly, making Betty laugh.
There was a rustling of undergrowth nearby, and both girls froze. Their eyes met; Betty’s looked alarmed. She hastily covered herself as a man appeared, a little further down the bank.
“Hello, you two!” said Lorne. “What’s going on?”
“Lorne!” Kate snapped angrily. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Looking for you,” said Lorne, unabashed. “I thought I might find you here.”
Betty had relaxed upon seeing that it was her boyfriend who approached, and she dropped her hands. “Come to enjoy the show?” she inquired impishly.
“I didn’t know there was going to be a show!” said Lorne. “Still, now that I’m here…”
But Kate did not want him here at all. “Why were you looking for me?” she demanded. “What was so urgent that you couldn’t wait until I got back?”
Lorne shrugged. “I just thought you might like to know that your mysterious package arrived,” he said. “I hid it under your bed, since you seemed so anxious for Mum and Dad not to know about it.”
“Oooh!” said Kate, her eyes widening.
“What package?” asked Betty, curious.
Kate blushed. “Never mind,” she said. “I’ll open it when I get home. Thanks Lorne.” When he continued to hang around, smiling at Betty, she cleared her throat and added, “Thanks Lorne! You can go now.”
“Oh I’m dismissed, am I?” said Lorne.
“We’re in the middle of a photo shoot!” said Kate exasperatedly.
“All right, all right!” said Lorne, throwing up his hands. “I’d really like to know what’s in that package though.” He turned to leave.
“Me too!” said Betty, getting to her feet and jumping, naked, back to the little beach. She retrieved her clothes and started putting them on.
“It’s private!” said Kate desperately.
Betty smirked. “I seem to recall you mentioning a certain website… Is it an item of clothing, by any chance?”
Kate blushed. “Maybe,” she said.
“Ha! Then I’ve got to see it,” said Betty.
Kate scowled. “Oh all right,” she said irritably. “Not Lorne though.”
Lorne shrugged. “If it’s clothes, I’m not interested anyway.” He looked down at Kate’s skirt as they started heading back to the house. “What’s got into you, though, with all these miniskirts? I hardly see you in anything else lately.”
Betty chuckled. “She has a crush on my dad.”
Kate gasped. “Betty!” she said, swatting her friend on the arm.
“Oh Kate!” said Lorne in disgust. “He’s … old!”
“He’s not old, he’s only forty!” snapped Kate.
Both Betty and Lorne laughed at this, and Kate’s cheeks reddened.
“Good grief, Kate, that’s pretty sick, you know?” said Lorne.
“I keep telling her he’d never be interested in her,” said Betty. “But she doesn’t listen.”
“Yeah Kate, if he’s normal, he won’t be into you,” said Lorne. “And if he were into you, then he’d be a paedophile, and why would you want to be with a paedophile?”
“I’m not a child, Lorne,” said Kate sulkily. “I’m almost legal.”
“In eight months!” said Lorne. “Until then, you’re what they call jailbait.”
“Meaning,” said Betty, “that he could go to prison if he does anything with you.”
“Mm-hmm,” said Kate noncommittally.
Betty looked at her warily. “You haven’t … done anything with him, have you?”
“Not … much,” said Kate.
Betty gasped. “What does that mean? What have you done?”
Lorne laughed humourlessly. “She’s just winding us up,” he said. “Come on Kate – as if Rich would be interested in you!”
“He is interested!” shot back Kate. “He doesn’t want to be, but he is anyway. He likes me to tease him, and I sat on his lap for ages, and…” Then she stopped, mindful of her promise to Betty, which she had broken.
“And what?” asked Betty sharply. “You didn’t kiss him, did you?”
“No,” said Kate quietly, staring ahead of her as they walked side by side.
Betty reached out and grabbed Kate’s arm, stopping her in her tracks. “Are you sure about that?” she asked.
Kate couldn’t bear to lie to her friend. “It was so sudden – it was in the heat of the moment!” she blurted out. “He had just paid me a really nice compliment, and … I couldn’t help it…”
“You couldn’t help kissing my dad?” Betty shrieked. “You promised!”
Kate knew it, but did not like to admit that she had done anything wrong. “Oh don’t pretend you’ve got the moral high ground,” she snapped back. “You had sex with my brother! Like practically the first time you met him!”
“So what?” exclaimed Betty. “That’s got nothing to do with it!”
“So I’m not going to take lessons in morality from a…” began Kate.
Betty’s eyes widened. “Yes?” she said in a dangerously quiet voice. “A what? What were you about to say? A slut?”
Kate felt a little guilty, but she could not help muttering, “If the shoe fits…”
With a howl of fury, Betty launched herself at Kate, grabbing hold of her hair. Kate shrieked and stumbled backwards, falling to the ground with Betty on top of her.
“Ow, get off me you slut!” yelled Kate as she tried to free her hair with one hand and grab a handful of Betty’s with the other. She managed to push Betty off her, but her hair was still caught in Betty’s fist, and she ended up rolling over with Betty until she was lying on top of her friend.
“Traitor!” screamed Betty, slapping one of Kate’s cheeks.
“Slut!” shouted Kate as they rolled over again.
Lorne stepped forward to intervene, but as the two girls continued to fight and roll back and forth, Betty’s dress climbed higher and higher, and soon two pairs of panties were flashing between two pairs of flailing legs. Although Lorne had no interest in his sister’s panties, he was certainly aroused by the sight of Betty’s, and found the whole situation rather erotic. So he stood back, and simply watched…
Kate, her hair finally free, managed to knee Betty in the stomach and push her away. She rolled out of reach, and got to her feet rather shakily. “Enough!” she said breathlessly.
Betty, too, got to her feet, her dress torn and gaping at the front so that her right bra cup was uncovered. She pulled the right strap up over her shoulder, which helped only a little. “Take it back!” she said. “Apologise for calling me a slut!”
But Kate was not ready to apologise – not when Betty had struck the first blow. “Well you kind of are…” she said. Then she started to run backwards as Betty howled and ran at her again. Her last couple of steps seemed rather squishy…
Betty cannoned into her, and the two girls flew several feet before landing in a heap, with Betty on top. The impact was softer and wetter than she had anticipated. She only had a moment, however, to take in the fact that they had landed in a patch of deep mud, before Betty was pulling her hair again.
“Jeez!” exclaimed Kate in pain and annoyance. “What’s up with the fucking hair-pulling? You fight like a girl!” She grabbed a handful of mud from by her side, and slapped it hard into the side of Betty’s face.
Betty gasped. “You little shit!” she cried, and she grabbed a couple of handfuls of her own. Slapping mud against Kate’s head, she started to massage it into Kate’s hair.
“Oh gross!” said Kate, trying to throw Betty off. She succeeded, and Betty’s elbow and knee sank deep into the mud as she landed on her side. Kate now struggled to free herself from the mud, but she had been pushed quite deep by Betty’s weight. “Ugh! Fucking … mud!” she complained.
Betty struggled on to her hands and knees, which immediately sank six inches or so into the mud. She tried to get to her feet, but each leg that she planted sank almost up to the knee. Kate finally managed to get into a sitting position, and she looked up towards Betty, who was standing a few feet away, feet apart, and buried up to her lower thighs. To her astonishment, Betty was starting to laugh.
“Look at us!” gasped Betty, laughing until tears ran down her cheeks. “What a sight we are!”
Kate, her bottom slowly descending deeper into the mud, had to admit the ridiculousness of their situation. She began to chuckle, and then she threw herself back and reclined into the mud, laughing hysterically.
“You two need a hand?” asked Lorne, from a safe distance.
Betty stared at his jeans. “Pervert!” she said. “Look, Kate, he’s got a fucking hard-on!”
“Eww!” said Kate, averting her eyes.
Betty burst out laughing again. “Go on home, Lorne,” she said. “We’ll be fine.”
Lorne shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said. He turned and walked off through the woods … with just one more backward glance at Betty.
With a few yanks on her right leg, Betty managed to pull it free with a sucking sound. Then she sat down, and did the same with the other. Crawling over to Kate, she tried to help her friend free her entrenched bottom. It took a bit of doing, but soon both of them were crawling, covered in mud from head to toe, on to firm ground.
“I’m sorry I called you a slut,” said Kate. “I’m just envious really.”
Betty gave her a hug. “I’m sorry too. You know, maybe I’m just overreacting about Dad. It’s just … when I think of you and him … I just kind of freak out.”
“I can understand that,” said Kate, sighing heavily.
“But if you’re what Dad wants,” said Betty, “then I suppose I shouldn’t try to stop it.”
“He does want me,” said Kate earnestly. “He totally undresses me with his eyes, all the time.”
Betty nodded. “He does talk about you, you know,” she said.
“Oh?” said Kate. “What does he say?”
Betty rolled her eyes. “Oh, about how you’re such a sweet girl, and how it’s nice that I’ve brought you out of your shell and got you wearing nicer things … by which of course he means shorter skirts…”
Kate smiled happily. “See?” she said. “I told you he liked looking.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Betty. “So are we going to clean off in the water then?”
Kate nodded. “We probably should,” she agreed.
“So what’s this package?” inquired Betty as they walked back towards the river.
Kate grinned. “I ordered a couple of skirts from eBay,” she said. “They’re like so short!”
Betty chuckled. “I’ve created a monster!” she said. “And I suppose you’re going to wear them for my Dad.”
Kate bit her lip, but nodded.
Betty sighed. “All right – I’ll try not to freak out about it. You’re certainly making his evenings – he just loves having you come over and flash your panties at him.”
“Good,” said Kate, beaming. “I’m coming over this evening again … if that’s okay with you.”
“Oh sure,” said Betty. “I’m going out with Lorne anyway.”
They stripped naked and washed themselves and their clothes in the river, then they wrung out and donned their clothing for the short walk back to their respective houses. When Josie wanted to know what on Earth had happened to Kate, she simply said she had fallen into the river.
The longer of the two new skirts that she had ordered was just six inches in length. She pulled it out of her package that evening, and tried it on. It sat low on her hips, but even so, she could feel her buttocks peeping beneath the hem at the back. It gave her a thrill of excitement to think of wearing this in front of Rich, but in truth, she knew now that she would get away with it, so it was not a frightening prospect.
Next she pulled on a longer skirt over the top of the first, just in case her parents saw her leaving the house. Once outside, she discarded it and hid it behind a bush. Then she hurried next door and rang the bell. Rich answered, and he let her in.
She walked ahead of him into the living room, knowing that he was watching her bottom. She shivered with excitement, and sat down on the sofa. When he came and sat next to her, she swung her legs across his lap, and lay back, stretching out across the whole length of the sofa. He raised his eyebrows, and glanced down at her panties, which had just come into view. Then he cleared his throat and looked away.
“I don’t mind you looking,” said Kate. “Take all the time you want.”
Rich sighed. “Katy,” he said, “I’d love to, but I just can’t…”
Kate drew her knees up to her chest, then spread her feet apart. Rich looked back down at her panties, and his eyes widened. “Oh God,” he muttered.
“Are you allowed to say that when you’re an atheist?” asked Kate, amused.
“Of course,” said Rich, apparently now unable to take his eyes off Kate’s panty-clad pussy. “It’s Christians who aren’t supposed to.”
For a moment, Kate considered reaching between her legs and pulling her panties to one side, but her nerve failed her. Instead she said, “You can … touch me if you like.”
Rich jumped to his feet. “No!” he said. “Kate, you’d better go home. I … this is wrong…”
Kate sat up, and pulled her t-shirt up and over her head. Rich stared in a mixture of shock and disbelief as he saw that she was not wearing a bra underneath. “Kate!” he said in a strangled voice.
But Kate, with a new sense of determination filling her, next pulled down her skirt and panties together, kicking off her shoes in the process. Naked, she stood before Rich, fighting an impulse to clasp her hands together over her newly-shaven pussy, which Rich was trying not to stare at. “I’m yours,” Kate said simply, as tears filled her eyes. “Please don’t reject me.”
Suddenly he was holding her in his arms, and kissing her, and Kate was swept up in a whirlwind of heady emotions. She kissed him back with more enthusiasm than skill, ready for him to lay her down and make passionate love to her. She did not even care if he used a condom or not.
But he disengaged, and gently pushed her back. “All right,” he said, holding up his hand. “We’ve kissed. I suppose we’ve started something. But that’s as far as it can go right now, Katy. Please put your clothes on – you can’t be naked with me.”
“Until I’m sixteen?” asked Kate hopefully.
Rich nodded. “Once you’re sixteen, if you still want to be with me … and I hope to goodness you don’t … then we’ll talk about it.”
Kate smiled happily as she pulled her panties and skirt back on. “I can wait!” she said. “Just as long as you’re my boyfriend in the meantime.”
Rich put a hand to his forehead and groaned. “We can’t let anyone know,” he said. “It’ll have to be a secret, okay?”
Kate nodded. “I’m not stupid,” she said. “I don’t want to get you into trouble.”
Rich suddenly looked past Kate, his face stricken with panic. “Betty!” he said.
Kate whirled around; her friend was standing at the foot of the stairs, her arms folded.
Betty looked disapproving, but nothing more. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Dad,” she said.
“I am!” said Rich unhappily.
“Then stop,” said Betty. “Kate wants you, and you want Kate, so great, you’ve got each other. I’ll keep your secret – just don’t do anything stupid and we’ll all be happy.”
Kate ran over and hugged Betty. “Thank you!” she whispered. “Thank you thank you thank you.”
Betty smiled. “Don’t mention it, Katy,” she said.
For the next three weeks, on the pretext of learning more from Rich, Kate went next door every evening to kiss and cuddle with him. Sometimes he still taught her, too – but often their lessons degenerated as her mind wandered and she started revealing more and more of her legs and panties to her new boyfriend. Gradually, Rich’s looks of anguish and torment became less and less frequent, as he got used to the idea of having an underage girlfriend. Although she told him she loved him every chance she got, though, Kate was continually disappointed that Rich did not reciprocate.
“I’m fond of you,” he would say to her. “Very fond. But love … it takes time, Katy. I’ll get there – just please be patient. I don’t want to tell you I love you until I really mean it.”
This was enough for Kate, for now. But it troubled Betty, whenever Kate discussed with her friend how she was feeling about the relationship.
Betty, for her part, was having sex with Lorne every chance she got. Frequently they would have sex in Betty’s bedroom while Rich and Kate were smooching downstairs. One evening, Betty came downstairs wearing just a pair of panties which, Kate could not help noticing with a shudder, were rather damp in the crotch.
“Heavens, Betty!” said Rich with a pained expression. “Put some clothes on!”
“Oh Dad,” said Betty, pouting, “Katy doesn’t care, do you sweetie?”
Kate shrugged. “I don’t mind,” she said.
Rich stood up, shaking his head. “Well I’m going to put the kettle on,” he said. “Tea, Betty?”
“Not for me, thanks,” said Betty, sitting down on the sofa next to Kate. Once Rich had left the room, she said, “So how’s it going?”
Kate smiled. “Great!” she said. “But I wish he’d … you know … do more. Any time I suggest something, like oral sex, or even a bit of touching … he says ‘Not till you’re sixteen’. Ugh – it’s driving me crazy.”
Betty chuckled. “I bet it’s driving him crazy too,” she said. “But I’m glad he’s sticking to his guns – I’d really hate for him to go to prison.”
“Me too!” said Kate. “But who’d know?”
Betty shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “Better to be safe than sorry, though.” Then a troubled look crossed her face. “Although … I can’t talk…”
“What do you mean?” asked Kate.
Betty looked a little sheepish. “Um … I never actually took that morning after pill…”
Kate gasped. “Whyever not?” she asked.
Betty sighed. “I didn’t think it was necessary! I’d only been off my period a couple of days … well, four – I thought it was too early in the cycle to worry about getting pregnant. So I saved the pill for a day when I might need it more…”
“But let me guess,” said Kate. “Now you’re late for your period?”
Betty nodded, and looked worried. “I’m normally pretty regular,” she said. “It could just be stress or something … but I’m a little freaked out.”
Kate took Betty’s hands in hers. “We’ll get you a pregnancy test at Boots,” she said. “I’m sure it’ll be negative, but just in case it isn’t … what will you do?”
“I don’t know,” said Betty. “I’ve nothing against abortion … but even so, I’m not sure I’d be happy getting one myself.”
“Does Lorne know?” asked Kate.
Betty shook her head. “I don’t want to panic him,” she said. “If it’s positive, I’ll tell him. Do you … do you think he’d want me to get an abortion?”
“Heck no,” said Kate. “He’s dead against them. Not that you should let that stop you from getting one if that’s what you want … but if you want to keep it, I’m pretty sure he’d stick by you.”
Betty sighed. “God, I don’t even know if I want him to. I mean, he’s a great lay and all, but…” And here Betty dropped her voice. “He’s a bit … boring!”
Kate sniggered, and Betty joined in. “Boring in bed, or just generally?” asked Kate.
“Generally,” said Betty. “No, he’s great in bed. Huge willy. Wonderful tongue, too.”
“Ugh!” Kate held up her hands. “Enough details!”
Betty laughed, but quickly sobered. “Anyway, I don’t know what I’ll do. But … you’ll come with me to the chemist’s?”
“Of course!” said Kate.
“Thanks,” said Betty, smiling. Then she chuckled and said, “You can take your eyes of my boobs now, you lesbo.”
“Sorry,” said Kate, blushing. She sighed. “I wish mine were like that.”
“No you don’t,” said Betty firmly. “Yours are going to look good way longer than mine will.”
“Oh shush,” said Kate. “The only way mine are going to look as good as yours, ever, is if I get implants.”
“Don’t you dare!” said Betty.
“Oh relax, I’m not planning to,” said Kate. “Rich says he likes my breasts just the way they are.”
“There you go, then,” said Betty, smiling. “Makes sense, actually – Mum was your sort of shape.”
“What was she like?” asked Kate, curious.
Betty shrugged. “She was a good mum. She loved me, she loved Dad. She loved gardening. She wore these little round sunglasses that I used to play with when I was little.” She let out a deep breath. “She loved singing – she was in a choir for a while. Until the accident, actually.” Betty fell silent, looking slightly melancholy.
“Sorry,” said Kate. “Didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”
“It’s okay,” said Betty, patting Kate’s hand. “So, who’s this old biddy that’s keeping you from Dad tomorrow?”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Old friend of the family,” she said. “Mrs Whitaker. My godmother, actually, so unfortunately I have to go along. She’s always given me the creeps, to be honest.”
“Why’s that?” asked Betty. “And stop staring at my nipples.”
“I wasn’t!” protested Kate. “I was just staring into space! Your nipples just got in the way…”
Betty burst out laughing and fell back against the arm of the sofa. “You are such a closet lesbian,” she said.
“Am not,” said Kate grumpily. “I can’t help it if your breasts take up half of my field of view.”
Betty gasped, and reached out quickly, tickling Kate, who jumped to her feet and backed away, giggling. Rich now re-entered the room, and set down three cups of tea. “Did I miss something?” he asked.
“Not a thing,” said Betty, smiling.
The next day, a Saturday, Betty and Kate were sitting in Betty’s bedroom, staring at the pregnancy test Betty had bought.
“Uh-oh,” said Kate, turning pale.
“I don’t believe it!” whispered Betty.
“It could be a false positive,” suggested Kate hopefully.
“I hope so!” said Betty. She sighed. “But I’m very afraid that it isn’t.”
Kate hugged her, and Betty seemed quite content just to be held for the next couple of minutes, so Kate did not let go. “When are you going to tell Lorne?” asked Kate eventually.
“After the next test,” said Betty. “I’ll take another one in a few days. If it’s positive too … then I’ll tell him.”
Kate sighed, and pulled away. “Betty, are you going to be okay? I wish I weren’t going out tonight.”
“Yeah I know,” said Betty, chuckling.
Kate smiled. “Not just because she’s creepy,” she said. “I’d like to keep you company – give you moral support.” Then she brightened. “Hey – why don’t you come with us?”
“To the creepy old lady’s house?” asked Betty, smirking. “Sounds tempting.”
“Come on – it’ll be fun,” said Kate brightly.
“I don’t think I’m invited,” Betty pointed out.
“Oh, she won’t mind me bringing a friend,” said Kate. “But I’ll call her to make sure, first.”
Betty shrugged. “I suppose it would take my mind off things,” she said. “Fine – if you can make sure it’s okay, I’ll come.”
Mrs Whitaker, it turned out, was quite happy for Kate to bring a friend. “The more, the merrier!” she said over the phone. And so Betty accompanied Kate, Josie and Scott to the old lady’s house, which was fifteen minutes away by car but only ten on foot – Kate explained to Betty that this was because on foot you could cross the canal by a more direct route, using the footbridge.
Lorne, who had already decided not to go, did not even change his mind when he learned that Betty would be going. Josie and Scott had discovered that Betty and Lorne were seeing each other, and although they disapproved, they had not forbidden Lorne from seeing Betty. If they had known that the two teenagers were having sex, they would have felt quite differently, but Lorne and Betty had so far managed to be either discreet or lucky each time.
Dinner with Mrs Whitaker turned out to be quite as boring as Kate had feared. The old dear was sixty years old, and a lifelong spinster, whose house was overrun with cats. At least it seemed that way to Kate – in reality there were perhaps only seven or eight of them. It still seemed like an awful lot.
“So do you have a boyfriend?” the old lady asked Kate conspiratorially, leaning across the table towards her goddaughter.
“Please, Margaret!” said Scott. “She’s only fifteen.” He shot a pointed look at Betty as he said this, but she did not notice.
Kate bridled at this. “I’m old enough to have a boyfriend,” she said. “But no, I don’t yet,” she added quickly.
“This is a wonderful risotto,” said Josie to Margaret.
“Yes, delicious,” agreed Betty, dubiously examining a stiff, hairy object she had just found lurking between two sticky clumps of rice.
“I remember when you were just a teeny baby!” said Margaret to Kate.
Kate’s stomach cramped, the way it always did whenever the daft old bat insisted on relating the story of her birth. Back then, Margaret Whitaker had been a midwife, and she had helped to deliver Kate. Theirs was a long and, for Kate, uncomfortable association.
“Just popped out like a bullet from a gun,” said Margaret, causing Betty to snort in amusement.
Josie, aware of how uncomfortable this subject made Kate, attempted to change the subject. “Apparently,” she said, “Kate and her new friend Betty were born on the same day.”
“Really? How interesting!” gushed Margaret. “And which hospital was that, Betty? I’ve worked in quite a few in my time.”
“Basingstoke,” said Betty, and she nudged the hairy object towards the side of her plate.
Kate gasped. “No way!” she exclaimed. “That’s where I was born!”
Betty looked up in surprise. “Wow,” she said. “That’s a pretty amazing coincidence.”
Then Kate noticed that Margaret was staring open-mouthed at Betty. She saw the old lady’s eyes flit from Betty to Josie, and back again. The colour (what there was of it) had drained from her face. “Oh my,” she said quietly.
“What’s wrong, Margaret?” asked Scott.
“I was … I was weighing them…” stammered Margaret, her face ashen. “I couldn’t remember which was which – but I thought I knew – I thought I had got it right…”
“What are you talking about?” demanded Scott, while Josie suddenly turned to Betty, her eyes wide.
A horrible sensation was welling up inside Kate as she looked from Betty to her mother. She was amazed she had never noticed the resemblance before…
“Betty is your daughter, Scott!” exclaimed Margaret in a terrified whisper.
Josie let out a little scream, and clapped her hands to her mouth. Kate jumped to her feet, and stared at Betty, who looked aghast.
“Oh my God!” said Betty finally, pushing her chair back as she got to her feet. “Oh my God!” She rushed from the room.
Kate ran after Betty, her thoughts in a whirl. “Betty!” She caught up with her friend, and took hold of her arm.
Betty whirled around. “I’m fucking pregnant with my brother’s baby!” she said, not quite loudly enough for the grown-ups to hear. “What the fuck am I going to do?”
“Oh shit!” replied Kate, who had been more focused on the fact that Rich was apparently her real father. “Well you’ll have to abort, won’t you?”
“I suppose,” said Betty unhappily. “And … oh my God … am I going to have to live with your parents now?”
“I don’t know!” said Kate. “But what about me? I’m in love with my own dad!”
“God, yes – and he doesn’t know,” said Betty. “I’d better call him.” She pulled out her mobile phone.
Kate seized Betty’s wrist. “No!” she said. “Please don’t! Let me see him first.”
Betty frowned. “Look, he’s my dad,” she said. “I should be the one…”
“Apparently he’s not!” said Kate. “But that’s not my point. I’m not trying to steal your thunder or anything – I just want to … to give him the bad news myself…”
Betty shrugged. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll see you at home.”
“Thank you!” said Kate. She rushed to the front door, and flung herself through it. Even if her parents left Margaret’s now, they would not get home until at least five minutes after her – not if she took the shortcut across the footbridge.
She ran all the way, tears filling her eyes. She could not believe it! She had just fallen in love with the most wonderful man in the world … and he turned out to be her own father! It wasn’t fair! She wanted to be his girlfriend, his lover, even his wife … not his daughter! She already had two parents – she didn’t want another! She liked her relationship with Rich the way it was, and she desperately wanted it to stay that way. But how could she prevent him from finding out?
She couldn’t, of course. He would find out today – if not from Betty, then from her own parents. Or foster parents, or whatever they were now. But at least … at least she could have five minutes with him. It was better than nothing.
But what if he was out? The thought sent her into a momentary panic. But as she jogged up the hill and on to Cambria Street, she saw his car, and heaved a sigh of relief. She ran up to the front door of Rich’s house, wiped her eyes, and rang the bell.
He took a painfully long time to come to the door, and when he saw her, he started in surprise. “Katy!” he said. “Well this is a pleasant surprise. The emphasis being on the ‘surprise’ … is something wrong?”
She pushed past him and ran up the stairs. “Follow me!” she said. When she entered his bedroom, she quickly started taking off her clothes.
“What are you doing?” asked Rich, entering the room behind her. “Katy … we’ve discussed this.”
Stripping off her panties and shoes, Kate fell to her knees in front of him, and looked up with a pleading expression. “Rich, I know we’ve talked about this, but please … just please, please will you make love to me?”
Rich sighed, and crouched down in front of her. “Katy…”
“Please!” said Kate, tears springing from her eyes. “Please Rich, please Rich … this is so important to me.” She hung her head, staring at his knees. “Please – we have to do this – it’s so important.”
Rich looked at her, perplexed. “Why now? What’s happened?”
“Please!” cried Kate, her voice cracking. It was a tragic sound, enough to melt the hardest of hearts. “I’ll never ask you for anything again. Just please – do this one thing…”
Rich found his own eyes moistening as he watched her abject pleading. “But why?” he asked softly, putting his arms around her. “Help me understand, Katy.”
“Don’t ask me why,” whispered Kate into his shoulder. “Please Rich – don’t ask any questions of me. Just make love to me – take my virginity. There’s nothing more important to me in the whole world.”
Rich sighed, and stroked her hair with his hand. “All right, sweetheart,” he said. “I know I’m going to regret this, but I’ll do as you ask.”
“Thank you!” said Kate in a grateful squeak. “And Rich – please – no condom. I want the first time to be perfect…”
He looked troubled. “We can’t afford for you to get pregnant, Katy…”
“It’ll be all right,” she said. “It’s not the right time of the month. But even if it were, I could get a morning-after pill.”
He pursed his lips, but nodded. “They’re not supposed to be used as contraceptives, Katy … but never mind. I’ll trust you on this.”
She gasped as he lifted her bodily, carried her to the bed, and laid her gently down on her back. He kissed her cheek, her neck, her shoulder, her chest … and then he took her nipple into his mouth. This was nice, but Kate was terrified that the phone would ring, or that her parents would arrive back and want to speak to Rich immediately. “Rich,” she said softly. “I just want to … get to it…”
He smiled at her. “No foreplay? All right…”
He took off his t-shirt – such lovely muscles! Kate thought – and then his jeans and boxer shorts. His penis was already erect; it was smaller than Kate had imagined, but she did not care.
“Just a moment,” said Rich, and he walked quickly out of the room.
Kate’s stress levels rose. What now? Why more delay? What was he doing?
He returned with a small jar of Vaseline. “This’ll help it hurt less,” he said, scooping out a chunk with two fingers. He lubricated his penis, and then climbed on top of Kate. She eagerly opened her legs wide for him.
The phone on Rich’s bedside table rang, and Kate’s heart leaped into her mouth. “Don’t answer it!” she cried, as Rich looked across at the handset. He looked down at her oddly, then nodded. “All right, Katy.” He reached down between their approaching pelvises, and positioned himself appropriately. Then he eased forward.
It hurt! She gasped, and he went more gently. Then he was inside her, sliding deep. She wrapped her legs around his back and held on to the backs of his shoulders with her hands. “Oh Rich!” she whispered, savouring the feeling of his penis sliding in and out of her vagina. The pain was ebbing away. It was still not quite a pleasurable experience, from a purely physical standpoint, but because of what it meant to her, Kate was in a state of sheer bliss.
The phone had stopped ringing. After a few seconds, however, it started up again. Rich looked up at it in annoyance. “Someone’s persistent,” he said.
“Just ignore it,” said Kate, pulling him further inside her with her calves.
He began to thrust harder, and Kate started to feel a sweet tingling inside. Little by little, it began to build, and Kate moaned aloud as she pressed her cheek against Rich’s bicep. Then Rich groaned, and Kate felt the head of his penis bulge and pulsate inside her. She knew he was ejaculating, and she squeezed her vaginal muscles, milking his penis of every last drop, wanting to ensure that he filled her with as much sperm as possible. For she knew that this was in fact an excellent time of the month to get pregnant, and she had no intention of taking a morning-after pill…
The phone rang again, and Rich grunted in annoyance. He kissed Kate on the lips, then he pulled out of her and crawled across the bed until he could reach the handset. Kate could only hear his side of the ensuing conversation, but she could guess how to fill in the blanks…
“Sorry – I was in the bathroom…”
“Oh – yes, she’s here.”
“Tell me what?”
“What?? Run that by me again?”
“She’s … what?”
“My … daughter?”
“Wait, are you absolutely sure about this? I think I’m going to need to see some proof…”
“Well I suppose they’re superficially similar…”
“I suppose … yes, there’s a passing resemblance…”
“Oh my God…”
“Oh my God…”
“Listen, I need some time to think about this. I suppose we’ll talk later. I need to talk to Kate right now.”
“Okay – bye.”
Rich hung up, and stared at the floor for a moment. “You knew,” he said. “You knew, and you didn’t tell me.”
Kate burst into tears. “I love you, Rich!” she wailed. “I can’t bear to think of losing you – this is such a horrible stroke of fate!”
He turned towards her, his expression filled with pity and compassion. “But Katy – you’ve gained me as a dad, haven’t you?”
“I don’t want you as a dad!” cried Kate. “I mean, yes, you’d be a brilliant dad … but I want you as a boyfriend! As a … a husband eventually…”
Rich sighed, and ran both hands through his hair. “Katy, what we just did was … unbelievably wrong. I can’t blame you for it – I knew it was wrong as I was doing it … but I didn’t realise how wrong…”
“I don’t care if it’s wrong,” said Kate, pulling her knees up to her chest. “All I care about is being your girlfriend and lover.”
Rich pulled on his boxer shorts and jeans, and started to pace up and down the room. “Kate, a relationship is nothing if it’s not built on trust,” he said. “What we just did … it was a lie.”
“Don’t say that!” whispered Kate, tears rolling down her cheeks. “It was the most beautiful, wonderful experience of my life.”
He smiled sadly at her. “We can never do it again,” he said.
“Why not?” asked Kate. “If I come and live with you, and Betty goes to live with my parents … what’s to stop us?”
“Morality!” exclaimed Rich. “And wait – what’s all this talk of changing living arrangements? Don’t you want to live with your parents any more?”
“No!” said Kate. “I want to live with you!”
Rich sighed. “Of course you do. But Betty – I’m not sure I want to give her up! And I’m not sure she’d want to live with your parents, either.” He pounded his forehead with his palm. “Good grief, what a mess…”
“Then I’ll live with you and Betty,” said Kate. “If … if you’ll let me…”
Rich closed his eyes, shaking his head. “A lot of talking will have to take place,” he said. “Between you, me, Betty, your parents… I’m sure there will be legal ramifications. Christ! We’re all going to have to take DNA tests…”
“Can’t we just settle it, I don’t know … by mutual agreement?” asked Kate hopefully.
“I doubt it will be that simple,” said Rich. He looked at her again, and he smiled slightly. “You know, I can totally see Mary in your face now. I can’t believe I never saw it before.”
“Maybe that’s why … you like me…?” suggested Kate.
“Could be,” said Rich, sitting down again. He took her hand. “Listen, Kate, I’m sure you’ve gone through a complete roller-coaster of emotions since you found out about this. I don’t blame you or think any less of you for reacting … in a rather extreme way. But please try to understand that … if you’re my biological daughter, which seems highly likely, then we need to try to work on having a father-daughter type of relationship. And I don’t mean that it has to be like the relationship you’ve had with Scott. It’ll be a special relationship – one that we’ll work on together.”
Kate turned her face so that her cheek was against the pillow. “It sounds nice,” she said tonelessly, “but it’s not what I want. Or at least…” She turned back to look at Rich directly. “If we could have that kind of relationship and be lovers as well…”
Rich sighed in exasperation. “We’d be criminals, Kate!” he said. “Even after you turned sixteen, we’d be criminals. Me especially. More importantly, it would be an extremely bad idea from a sheer biological point of view. There’s a reason incest is illegal, Katy – the offspring often have genetic defects that arise from both parents being carriers.”
“But that’s not certain, right?” asked Kate. “We might not both be carriers of any bad genes, surely?”
“No, but it increases the likelihood,” said Rich. He seemed to suddenly notice how she had positioned herself. “Are you … trying to get pregnant?”
Kate bit her lip, and said nothing.
“Oh my God!” exclaimed Rich. “Did you lie about this not being the right time of month?”
More tears leaked from Kate’s eyes. “I want to have your baby,” she said.
He stared at her. “But why?” he demanded.
“So that you’ll have to be with me!” said Kate desperately. “If we have a baby together, you won’t be able to deny our relationship.”
Rich got up from the bed. “Jesus,” he said. “I need some time to think.” He left the room … only to come back a moment later. “Is there anything I can say that will persuade you to take that morning-after pill?”
Kate smiled sadly. “That you’ll marry me and be with me always?”
“I can’t marry you!” said Rich. “You’re my daughter – it’s illegal!”
“Then just promise to be with me always – as my husband in everything but name,” said Kate. “And promise to give me a baby … maybe two or three.”
Rich shook his head. “I can’t do that…”
“In return,” said Kate quickly, “I’ll promise always to wear the shortest skirts imaginable when I’m around you. Or whatever you want me to wear. I’ll do anything sexual that you want.”
He looked at her oddly. Then he said, “You don’t know what you’re asking. I expect a lot from my lovers.”
Kate seized on this eagerly. “Anything! I don’t care – you can do anything you want to me.”
“In particular,” said Rich, rather coldly, “I like to tie up and whip my lovers, until they bleed. That’s what turns me on.”
Kate was shocked. “Really?” she asked, wide-eyed.
“Yes,” said Rich. “Have you heard of sadomasochism? I demand nothing less from my lovers. I expect them to obediently lie still while I attach electrodes to their nipples and give them electric shocks. I like to shove champagne bottles into their anuses, so that they scream in pain. That’s what I love to hear, you see Katy … the screams of pain. They excite me. I like to stick needles in their breasts, and permanently mark them with red-hot cattle-brands.”
Kate was stunned into silence. The thought of Rich doing all of those horrible things to her … it scared her more than she was prepared to admit. She did not enjoy pain, and did not think she ever could. Yet … a stubborn streak burned within her. Yes, she could endure it all – for Rich. For their life together. For the babies he would give her.
“I don’t care,” she said defiantly. “You can do all of that to me and more. You can whip me every day and I’ll never complain.”
Rich’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Christ, Katy, I don’t really like to do any of that stuff. I was just trying to put you off! I’m not really a mean and cruel lover, and I couldn’t possibly do anything to inflict pain on you.”
Kate was filled with relief. “Then what would you like me to do for you?” she asked. “Or what would you like to do to me? Name it – I’m open to anything. I’ll do whatever you want if it means you’ll be my lover.”
Rich looked at her sadly. “Will you break me out of prison?”
“You won’t need to go to prison!” said Kate. “We’ll keep this a secret!”
“It’ll get out,” said Rich. “Somehow, it’ll get out.”
“Not if we’re careful!” said Kate. “We’ve got the perfect excuse to live together now – I’m your daughter. As long as we don’t get too affectionate in public, nobody will have any idea.”
“And what if you do get pregnant?” asked Rich. “And the baby does have genetic defects? They’ll run tests – I’ll be implicated as the father.”
“What are the chances?” asked Kate. “Can you do some research on that? You must be able to figure out the odds, based on what you know of your own medical history and … my real mum’s. If it turns out to be a small chance, then I think it’s a risk worth taking.”
Rich sighed. “That’s not a bad idea. All right – I’ll do that.”
Hope filled Kate. “So … you’ll stay with me?”
“I haven’t said that,” said Rich, frowning. “But it won’t hurt to be armed with some knowledge of the consequences.”
The doorbell rang. “Get dressed!” said Rich.
As he went downstairs, Kate got up and hurriedly put her clothes on. Then she tip-toed through to the bathroom, flushed, came out again, and trotted down the stairs.
It was Betty – she was already in conversation with Rich. “Well – I suppose I can’t call you ‘Dad’ any more,” she said, looking disgruntled.
“Of course you can,” said Rich gently. “You always can. This doesn’t change anything between us.”
“I’m not going to live with Scott and Josie!” said Betty.
“Good!” said Rich. “I want you to continue living with me.”
“All right,” said Betty, mollified. “But what about Katy?”
Rich sighed. “I don’t know,” he said. “Unfortunately, something just happened … before I found out all this.”
Betty gasped as she looked over at Kate. “You didn’t!”
Kate was not quite sure whether that question was directed at herself, or Rich, or both. But she nodded anyway. “I’m sorry Betty – I just couldn’t bear the thought of losing Rich as a boyfriend.”
Betty stared at her. “And how was it?” she inquired, frowning.
Kate glanced at Rich. “Um, do you think Betty and I could talk about this on our own?”
“Oh – of course,” said Rich. “I’ll be upstairs.”
Once he had left the room, Kate and Betty sat down on the sofa. Kate took Betty’s hands. “Oh Betty, it was amazing!” she said.
Betty snorted. “Great. So losing your virginity to your own father was amazing. Well, I’m happy for you.”
Kate looked earnestly into Betty’s eyes. “Betty, I really want to come and live with you and Rich. And I want to … be with him. You know – share his bed and everything. But I still want us to be friends just the way we have been. That’s an awful lot to ask of you, I know … but … is it possible?”
“What if I say no?” asked Betty. “What if I tell you that I’ll move out if you move in?”
Kate’s eyes began to brim with tears again. “Please don’t do that,” she said. “I love you, Betty. Not in that way! But I do love you. If moving in with Rich would break us apart … I don’t know what I would do. Please don’t make me make that choice.”
Betty said nothing for a few moments. Then she patted Kate’s hand. “Katy, I’ve had the prospect of you sleeping with Dad hanging over me for long enough now that I’ve sort of got used to the idea. The thought of you sleeping in Dad’s bed – even having sex with him – it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. The fact that apparently he’s your real Dad … well, that’s between you and him.”
Kate threw her arms around Betty. “Thank you Betty!” she whispered. “Oh thank you!”
“Yeah yeah,” said Betty, patting Kate’s back for a moment before pulling away. “But how the hell are you going to explain it to your parents? Or, my parents, I suppose I mean.”
Kate shrugged. “I’ll just tell them I want to move in with my real dad,” she said. “That’s not so hard to understand, is it?”
“Hmm,” said Betty. “Well, good luck with that.”
“Anyway, what are you going to do about Lorne?” asked Kate.
Betty sighed. “I’m pregnant with his baby, so it’s complicated,” she said. “I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m not moving in next door, though.”
Kate hesitated. Then she said, “Betty, can I tell you a secret?”
Betty smiled. “Of course,” she said.
Kate leaned closer to Betty, and said, “I actually think incest is sort of … sexy!” She blushed, and put her hand over her mouth, as if this would prevent any other secrets from escaping.
Betty laughed. “Oh you do, do you?”
Kate nodded. Then she said, “The thought of you having sex with Lorne … suddenly it seems more exciting now. Now that I know you’re brother and sister.”
“Well I never knew about this perverted streak in you,” said Betty, smirking. “I suppose it makes your relationship with Dad all the sweeter, knowing that he’s your real dad?”
Kate nodded again, her eyes wide. “He wants to do the ‘right’ thing, but I think I’ve got a good chance of persuading him to carry on being my lover.”
“Good for you,” said Betty. “Unfortunately, even if I wanted to stay with Lorne, I can’t imagine that he’d want me to. He’s totally freaked out about having had sex with his sister. God knows what he’ll think if and when I tell him I’m pregnant.”
“You’ve told him already that he’s your brother?” asked Kate.
“I came over the bridge shortly after you did,” said Betty. “I went to see Lorne first, so that I would have a chance to tell him before Scott and Josie did. He already knew, though – they’d phoned him.” She sighed. “They’re all over there now, discussing it. I’m sure they’ll be coming over pretty soon.”
Kate nodded. “So … does the thought of having sex with Lorne again … appeal at all?” she ventured.
Betty chuckled. “Not a lot,” she said. “It’s a little gross that he’s my brother. But heck, I wouldn’t rule it out.” She shrugged. “He would, though.”
“Oh come on,” said Kate. “Are you telling me you couldn’t seduce him now? You couldn’t persuade him to knowingly have sex with his sister?”
Betty laughed. “You dirty sod!” she said. “You make it sound quite tempting, actually.”
“I bet you can’t,” said Kate, grinning slyly.
Betty swatted Kate on the arm. “You really want me to, don’t you?” she said.
“Well I’d feel less like a freak if I wasn’t the only one sleeping with a family member,” admitted Kate ruefully.
The doorbell rang again. “Uh-oh,” said Betty with a sigh. “Time to face the music.”
Scott had done some quick research on the internet, and had ordered a DNA test kit. It was mutually agreed that all of them would get swabbed, even Lorne, whose parentage was not in doubt. The samples were labelled and sent back to the lab, and a week later, the results came back.
Betty was definitely the daughter of both Scott and Josie. So was Lorne. Kate was confirmed as Rich’s daughter. Upon receiving this news, Kate begged to be allowed to live with Rich, but neither Scott nor Josie were happy about this. Eventually they agreed to let Kate spend three nights a week with Rich. Kate wanted to hold out for more, but Rich persuaded her to accept the compromise.
He also had another condition for her – no more sex until she turned sixteen. In the meantime (encouraged, strangely, by Betty), Kate and Rich spent much of their time kissing, cuddling and fondling each other. This was mostly instigated by Kate, but as time passed, Rich grew more and more used to the idea, and would sometimes approach her from behind, then slip a hand between her legs to stroke her pussy through her panties. Kate now exclusively wore very short skirts, to further encourage him. When she was fully dressed, at least. Sometimes she would wander around the house wearing just a pair of panties, or even nothing at all. She was delighted to see the effects this had on Rich.
Betty, prompted by Kate, set out to seduce Lorne again. Two weeks later she succeeded, and as he climaxed inside her, she told him that she was carrying his baby. She had expected a horrified reaction, and was startled when he simply kissed her. Half an hour later, he was fucking her again.
As the months passed, Betty’s belly grew … but Kate’s did not, much to her disappointment. Rich was very happy about this, however – he was determined for Kate to go to Oxford or Cambridge, a feat which he knew was well within her grasp. He coached her constantly, and she found herself rising to the top of her class in mathematics, geography and the sciences.
On her sixteenth birthday, Kate reminded Rich of his promise. For the second time, they had sex in Rich’s bed … and once again, they used nothing for protection. Kate wanted very badly to have her father’s baby, and Rich, although highly fretful about the possibility of an unhealthy child, reluctantly ejaculated inside her. From then on, they had unprotected sex every day.
Betty’s baby came early, and, to everyone’s relief, it was fine. Scott and Josie had been appalled to learn of Betty’s pregnancy, and they guessed immediately that Lorne was the father, a fact which neither denied. Betty had been prepared to fight for the life of her baby, but it turned out that Scott and Josie were against abortion even in cases of incest. Of course they forbade Lorne and Betty from ever having sex again … which made their increasingly frequent couplings even more exciting. Before baby Andrew was two months old, Betty and Lorne were having unprotected sex again.
Kate was ecstatic to discover that she was pregnant with her dad’s baby. When questioned by Josie and Scott, she told them that the father was ‘a boy at school’, but she would not give them a name, saying that it was ‘SO over’.
By the time Kate’s baby arrived, Betty was getting quite large with her second. Scott and Josie had been very upset to learn that their children had continued to have sex with each other behind their backs, but once again, abortion was out of the question.
Lorne, having graduated from university, found himself a well-paying job almost immediately. He put down a deposit on a house, and invited Betty to move in with him. Scott and Josie were very much against this, but eventually bowed to the pressure of inevitability, being strong believers in the importance of the nuclear family.
Kate’s baby, like Betty’s first, was fortunately very healthy. Rich doted on little Annie, and tried not to dwell on the fact that she was both his daughter and his granddaughter. He was very relieved when finally Kate went on the pill – now that she had got what she wanted, she was quite happy to wait a few years before having another baby.
Kate’s camera clicked.
“I’m getting cold,” said Betty. “We’ve been at this for hours.”
Kate chuckled. “Don’t exaggerate,” she said, moving into another position. “It’s only been half an hour, at most.”
“Yes, well it’s still a long time to be sitting around in the nude,” said Betty.
“I’m sorry,” said Kate. “I’m almost done. It’s just that you look so beautiful pregnant!”
Betty smiled. “Thanks,” she said. She arched her back and batted her eyelashes at the camera. “Having Andrew definitely didn’t do my body any favours, but I think I recovered pretty well.”
“You certainly did,” said Kate, snapping another photo. “All right – you can put your clothes back on. I suppose.”
Betty grinned. “You just love to keep me naked, don’t you?” she said. “You’re such a lesbian.”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Whatever,” she said.
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