We've been in this attic ever so long. Long enough that our bodies no longer look the same as they did when we entered this monstrous house.
The twins are asleep downstairs, napping as they often do now. Without sunshine, without any kind of nourishment that comes from the outdoors, they find themselves wooden and sleepy. We don't discourage them, even though we know the grandmother would probably be angry if she knew.
But then, the grandmother would be angry if she knew what Christopher and I were doing right now, on the stained mattress in the attic where we've shared so many secrets.
Christopher says he's done this by himself in the bathroom sometimes, and I can't help myself:
"But, Christopher, isn't that against one of the rules?"
"Everything is against the rules, Cathy," he says to me, with his smile. "But there's nothing wrong with this. It's a perfectly natural thing."
"I don't like it," I say, squirming on the mattress beside him. I am naked, entirely, my hands unsure of where to rest, as Christopher, also naked, lies on his side and watches me.
I am on my back, staring up at the rafters.
"You will like it," Christopher says. "Just give it a chance."
"I don't know what to do," I confess, quiet and exposed.
Christopher's hand is on that part of him that is so different from me; the bits that hang out untidily. He is stroking ever so lightly, and it's changing before my almost-averted eyes—I can't quite not look, it's all so curious, really—growing and swelling.
"Christopher!" I hiss, anxiousness thrilling through me. "What are you doing? What's happening?"
But of course I have read the books Momma brings, and though this is very different—who has seen such a thing in real life, up here?—I do have a slight idea. Still. Christopher laughs a little at my innocence—the innocence that I have held onto purposely, as long as I could.
"It's called masturbation, Cathy," he says with that playful glint in his eye. "Try it. Touch yourself."
"Where?" I ask, breathless and caught up in this whole idea. My body feels funny, like my skin is too tight, and I can feel sweat building beneath my armpits—and between my legs.
Funny, I've never felt sweaty like this there before.
"Anywhere that feels good," Christopher says. He rubs at the top of his male-part—his penis, my mind whispers traitorously—and a drop of liquid squeezes out of it; I can't help myself, I am fascinated.
I think about what he's doing, and then his free hand is covering mine, guiding mine towards my body.
He lays my hand over one small breast, the little bumps of flesh I had been trying to hide for so long—but Christopher knew, he always knew. He knows what he's doing now, too. The moment my hand touches my bare skin, my fingernails brushing against my nipple, something runs through my body.
It's hot and almost unwelcome, this new feeling, and after it spreads throughout everything, it settles low in my belly, more between my legs than anything.
It's almost like the ache I get from that messy monthly thing, except where that hurts, this actually feels kinda… good?
Christopher lets go of my hand. "Try rolling your nipple between your fingers," he instructs. "It ought to feel good. Or so I've read." He smiles a little bashfully. "I'm not a girl, so I can't know for certain."
I do as he says, fiddling with my nipple until it starts to build something inside me. It's starting at my lower body, in that secret place on our bodies that we're not even supposed to touch while bathing, and I almost jerk my hand back, but something stops me.
I glance over at Christopher again; he's got his lower lip in his mouth and a look of intense concentration on his face, mixed with something I've never seen before.
I forget to play with my breast as I watch Chris, who is now holding his male part in his fist and yanking it—it looks like it ought to hurt!
But Christopher can see what I am thinking on my face, just like he always does.
"Don't be worried, Cathy!" he says, laughing. There is a catch in his voice that I don't understand. "It's good. It feels good."
He lowers his voice a little, leaning closer to me. "Put your hand between your legs, Cathy," he says.
I stare at him, shocked. Somehow it seems worse if I should do it, than only him! He can do these things, he is going to be a doctor—he will probably never view any part of the body as wrong.
But I know instinctively that it is wrong for me to put my hands there. Still, I obey, even if only a little.
I run my hand down my flat stomach, the dancer's muscles there, and find that part of me I'm never, ever supposed to touch.
"Cathy," Christopher whispers urgently, "Cup your hand around it." I do, and gaze at him, waiting for whatever he might say next. "You know how it's kind of like a flower? That opens?"
I don't, not exactly, but Christopher says, "You have lips there too. Push your fingers in between them."
I do as he says, and surprised, I feel something else go through me, like being struck with the belt—only, again, it's a pleasurable feeling, not a painful one.
I discover, too, that what I thought was sweat is something else. It's too slick and strange to be sweat, and it's dripping out of me.
"That's normal too," Christopher whispers. "If you feel around, there should be… like, a little button of flesh. If you press your fingers against it, you should feel really good."
Christopher's hand is speeding up, and I wonder just what all of this is leading up to, and whether we can ever come back from it. But it's so dark and thrilling that I don't stop, even though I know the grandmother would whip the skin off our backs if she found us.
But Chris says we're not really doing anything wrong, and Chris knows everything. If he thought this was bad or dirty or wrong, he wouldn't be teaching me how to do it.
I do, somehow, manage to stumble on what he's talking about, because lightning shoots through me and my legs bend, my hips buck, and I'm suddenly drenched in sweat and panting.
"What was that?!" I gasp, staring into Christopher's blue eyes.
"Your clitoris," he says. "Do it again. If it's too much to touch it directly like that, put your thumb and forefinger around it, like, and rub in circles. I guarantee it will be worth it—" his breathing falls off a cliff and his face twists.
When I look down, where his hand is, I see white, wet, messy goop coating his hand and part of his maleness.
"Ick," I say, but Chris just watches me, so I do as he says, and with a little bit of my flesh as a barrier, I begin to rub circles over that part of me he told me to find.
I feel it immediately, a strange sort of rising tide in my body; everything gets hot, sweat collects at the back of my knees, and I feel my eyes close as, without even knowing it's what I was aiming for, I crash against a shore and then bowl over it, mouth open on a hoarse scream that is quickly muffled by Christopher's hand.
My whole body shakes apart, my lower bits throbbing and convulsing, and I feel it slip through me in wave after wave until finally, long after my hand has fallen away to clutch at the mattress, it begins to subside.
"What—?" I ask Christopher when I can breathe, talk again.
"An orgasm," he says smugly.
I struggle to catch my breath. "That's what that was? Is it sinful?"
"Some people say so," Chris says, shrugging and wiping his hand against the mattress. Suddenly I wonder about some of those old stains. "But it's a perfectly natural occurrence," he says. "Sometimes it even happens spontaneously. Did it feel good? You looked like you enjoyed it."
There's a smudge in his eyes that I can't interpret, a strange way he's watching me.
Suddenly I feel very naked, and very damp all over, especially between my legs.
"It is very messy," I say. Christopher grabs one of the sheets that used to cover some old piece of furniture, and gently, so tenderly I could cry, he dries off the sweat from every part of me, wipes at that spot between my legs that is so embarrassingly drenched, and then he allows me to cover myself with it before opening his arms.
I go into them and huddle my face against his shoulder.
"I want to get out of this attic," I say miserably. Christopher strokes through my weakened, platinum hair.
"Just look at it this way," he says, "every time you do that, you can fly."
And that is how it begins, I think. The whatever between us, began because Christopher taught me how to fly—how to be free, even locked up in an attic.