They Said it Would Be Wonderful

I Could Have Danced All Night

I Could Have Danced All Night by Lydia Selk

A short story by Susanna Solomon

At seventeen, Christy St. Claire had been a virgin long enough. All of her friends had made it with guys, but she hadn’t, no, not yet. Having a boyfriend was a big deal for her, but that wasn’t the point, not really. It was this goddamn virginity, and it was in her way. It was time she joined the club.

Roberta Ann had told her she really wasn’t a woman until she’d lost it. Maybeth, in her history class, had lost hers in the back seat of a 1954 convertible, out in the country by Lincoln. That had taken guts. But Christy, she wasn’t that bold. In her dad’s big kitchen, looking out at the barn through the kitchen window, she stirred her coffee with an old swizzle stick dad had brought home from one of his business trips, and started to formulate a plan.

Wednesday, after art history class, where she had fallen asleep watching slides to the drone of Mr. Abernathy’s voice discussing French Impressionism, which she knew by heart – her father wasn’t an art collector for nothing – she stopped by the bathroom on her way home. All the other girls were primping, curling their eyelashes, putting on gobs of eye shadow to meet boys. Her boys. Christy wasn’t into all that stuff – and why should she be? All the girls were going to her house, to hang out with her older brothers, Ray and Fred, and all their friends. To them and all her brother’s friends she was always going to be their little sister. Forever. She wasn’t going to meet any guys that way. She took off for the square.

Christy was pretty, real skinny, with sharp features and blond hair that ran down her back. She walked with a distracted air, and not wanting to waste time by just walking, she read while she walked, often Faulkner and Hemingway, and sometimes jamming her toes into the misaligned bricks in the sidewalks of Cambridge and coming to a stop, but heck, she didn’t care. She liked books, she liked being absorbed in books. She’d gone through all the authors in her dad’s ‘Limited Edition Club’ collection; and when he was out of town on business, she and her brothers had found his secret stash of porno in one of the wooden chests in the attic. That had consumed them for hours. Some of the books were in French, so they learned some very interesting words, which turned out to not be so popular with her French teacher. As she walked, she tried to remember the plot of The Story of O.

On her way under the elms and wide oaks that littered the side streets, she considered the possibilities. There was this one guy, A—, who worked nearby. He was twenty-nine, and had the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. And he liked her. They had been kissing last weekend, out on a pier on the Vineyard, and it felt wonderful. She had been so excited that he’d been so interested in her and so much older, and they were having a pretty good time at a party until someone came around the corner and stopped everything. She tried to remember exactly where he worked. On some side street somewhere, near Linnaean Street. She meandered around.

Her girlfriends had told her it was wonderful, that it made them want to explode inside, and that they were in love and stuff. She didn’t really believe in love, but she wouldn’t have minded being held, even for a little while, and seeing ‘A’ again. Maybe later he would call her or invite her out, even, and maybe make her feel special, but she’d never had a date. Ever. She loved that titillating feeling she got from her father’s books, and from hearing from Maybeth and Roberta Ann. And from the way A’s mouth had felt on hers.

Back by Leslie’s house, between Mass Ave and the Square, she pulled up beside a trailer, one of those places where Harvard had kept their ROTC offices after they were thrown off campus. A’s office. She swept her hair off her forehead and stepped inside.

It was cool. Her footsteps rattled on the hollow floors. She stepped around a corner, and there was a receptionist, her brown hair cut short and cat’s eyes glasses hanging from a chain around her neck. Christy was sure she was going to tell her to go home.

“A?” the receptionist answered, punching a red button on a black rotary dial phone. “He’s in the back, in the darkroom.”

Christy held her purse tight against her belly and wondered what the hell she was doing, in his office, on a hot Friday afternoon, going after a man she liked in such a bold way.

Halfway down the hall she stopped, changed her mind. She was not ready. She just wanted to see him, have a kiss or something, finish what they had started in the vineyard. As for anything more, that would have to wait. He was twelve years older, way too old. She wasn’t ready for that big step, not yet, not with someone she hardly knew. She found the darkroom, took a deep breath and knocked.

A was loading film into a camera, setting up a strobe light and bouncing a tennis ball against a table when she entered. The place was dark: dark walls, dark floors, no windows. He smiled when he saw her, gave her a hug. She was right to have come by for a visit, he said.

He was setting up a shot, he told her, to show the trajectory of a tennis ball for a Harvard Physics book they were developing for high school students. Christy would be perfect, A said, to be a part of the book. Did she swim? he asked, his blue eyes widening and filling with warmth. Did she want to model for the textbook? She would have to sign a release and everything.

Christy nodded. She would do anything for that kiss. He was so hot. She could feel his breath on her, his scent filled the air, desire tickled her insides. “Sure,” she said.

“Now, watch,” he said, putting his arm around her and turning on the strobe.

Flash! A bright light went off in her eyes, blinding her. Flash! Again.

“Now the tennis ball.” He threw it up in the air. Flash! Then the click, click, click of the camera taking its shots.

She opened her eyes. She could see one tennis ball, then another and another, a microcosm of the world, in yellow, bright as the sky against the dark. “Now, again,” he said, starting the shot again and throwing the tennis ball. Flash! Flash! Flash! The tennis ball seemed suspended in air, lively and joyful, and the light was so bright she had to close her eyes against it, it hurt, so much of it, and with her eyes closed, in the dark, she felt something brush then land on her mouth.

Oh, it was him. His mouth. Behind her eyelids the light continued to flash, bright, a thousand times a second, it seemed, but nothing compared to the speed of her heart.  And she was wet like those girls in her dad’s magazine, wet down there, not an altogether unpleasant experience, feeling that, on a Friday, in an office, and she was so excited as his tongue filled her mouth, open as she was to his explorations. His arms soothed her back as he brought her close. Flash! went the lights as the tennis ball bounced to oblivion in the corner and the camera kept clicking away behind them, and his hands explored further, further down, down there, down where the wetness was, and he was hers, this guy, he cared for her, as no one ever had, and his fingers went in probing, probing as she was leaning up against the table and her skirt was pulled high, and then something else went in, and it hurt.

She couldn’t believe it, not at first, that he would take the chance, in an office, and he kept hurting her, and she was afraid, she was going to get pregnant or something and she didn’t know what to do, should she stop him and he felt so good, upstairs, kissing her, exploring and the pain kept going, now mixed with the edge of the table digging into her back, but her girlfriends said you’ll get to used to it, it will feel great, but she wasn’t sure, and he kept at it until they heard a pounding on the door, a great big pounding on the door, the noise above and beyond the clicking of the camera and the flashing of the strobe, and he stopped finally, and said, in a bit of a yell, “Just a minute,” he said and zipped up his pants and disappeared out the door.

Two years later, when she came home from college for the weekend, she pried open the lock on her dad’s liquor cabinet door – dad was out of town on business again – and she and Maybeth and Roberta Ann had made lousy Singapore Slings and bad martinis until they got so drunk they just giggled around the kitchen table, chewing on swizzle sticks, and playing true confessions, and they all told stories about their first time, but no one could beat Christy’s story about the darkroom, not even Maybeth in the car, on the back seat of a convertible, in the middle of Lincoln common on a hot and sultry Saturday afternoon.

Susanna Solomon has been writing since she was fourteen. She has been a free-lance journalist for the Pacific Sun, Ross Valley Reporter and Cruising World magazine, These days she balances running and operating her own electrical engineering business with writing fiction. Susanna has been a finalist for the Francis Fabri prize, Boston Fiction Festival, Inland Empire California Writers Club and Central Coast Writers Homestead Review.

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