Alma is supposed to be working on a school assignment on the ethics of whaling, but she's been distracted by reading about the reproductive habits of minke whales.
Breeding occurs mainly during the summer months.
Okay, she thinks, so she gets turned on by lip gloss and hammers and the edges of counters, but is she seriously getting turned on by whales?
She is lying on her stomach on the floor, and she is reading about whale reproduction, which makes her think about whales having sex, which makes her think about having sex, and now she is rubbing herself against the floor. She refuses to turn over onto her back, as she usually does when she masturbates—she is officially doing her schoolwork, okay; she is resolved—so she stays where she is and keeps the book in front of her.
But she doesn't stop rubbing against the floor.
Minke whales reach sexual maturity between three and eight years.
Alma may still have one hand on her book, but the other is down between her legs now, being crushed between her weight and the floor. Oh, thinks Alma, if I were a minke whale I could have been having sex for seven years already, or even twelve years, and no one could stop me...
She pulls her hand out from between her legs. Her other hand is still inside her book, closed between the pages she was reading.
She sighs, pulls the book towards her, opens it. Gets back to reading. Minke whales are the most abundant rorqual in the world...
The first time Alma's mother sees Artur poke Alma's bellybutton, her eyebrows go up nearly to her hairline, but she doesn't say anything. The allusion to the infamous dick-poking incident is unmistakable, but perhaps she feels she doesn't have grounds to complain about poking done with a finger. Perhaps she simply wants to pick her battles carefully.
It quickly becomes their habitual hello and goodbye, a gesture of affection they can make in front of parents and schoolteachers, friends and classmates alike. It may be a little weird, but it's nothing actually objectionable. He pokes her bellybutton, she pokes his. Poke, poke. It's fun.
When they are alone, Artur will raise her shirt up, just a bit, and touch her bellybutton skin to skin. Sometimes the same quick, half-joking, half-rough poke she gets through her clothes. Sometimes gently tracing his finger around the edge.
All the ways Alma imagined him touching her, and she never thought of bellybuttons.
Alma thinks of her mother. Alma thinks of her mother fucking. Alma thinks of her mother fucking her boss, her jogging buddy, her boyfriend, because she can fuck Arild if she wants to but she won't let Alma fuck Artur and it's not fair.
Alma takes no pleasure in it. She imagines it bitterly, resentfully—why should her mother get to have a boyfriend? Her mother goes on walks with this man, before dawn or after dark even, she can walk off hand in hand with her boyfriend and if they want to they can walk to his house, they can go inside, hand in hand, until their hands part so they can begin to remove clothing, the stupid-looking layers of exercise clothing that will look so much better on the floor away from any body. They could do it if they wanted to, undress themselves or each other, still sweating from their walk, each feeling it on the other's skin as they press against one another, as their sweat mixes together, her sweat and his sweat, old healthy exercise-sweat and new salacious sex-sweat. They could do it and no one would stop them—no one would stop them from walking there, or going inside, or taking each other's clothes off, or from having sex. They could be doing it right now.
Alma cannot have her boyfriend over for the night. She now has a boyfriend, and her mother will do anything she can to keep her from fucking him. Her mother gets to have sex if she wants to—who even knows if she wants to—and Alma doesn't and it's not fair.
Alma thinks of her mother's breasts, jiggling with motion, shining with sex-sweat, and is so furious that she almost forgets how to breathe. She thinks of all the sex her mother is allowed to have if she wants to, all the sex she's not allowed to have, and she keeps on thinking about it until she comes. If she tried to speak now it would only be a choking snarl.
"Imagine we're in a fancy resort in a faraway place," Alma says over the phone, in what turns out to be a much less certain voice than she planned. "What would you want to do with me?"
"What? I guess it depends on where we are," Artur says. "Like, go to the beach?"
He doesn't understand where she's going with this. Alma tries again. "I mean, if we were alone, in a really fancy hotel room, what would you want to do?"
This is nothing like telephone sex with Stig, Alma realizes. He always did all the work, and he always knew what to say. It must help when you're working from a script—and, yes, even at the time Alma knew that Stig must be working from some kind of script, and that he probably wasn't doing on his end what she was doing on hers (even if she couldn't really understand how anyone could talk to a person like that, say those things, and not get turned on and need to... take care of it). But doing this is harder than it seems. Possibly it helps if you aren't actually turned on yourself, if you aren't personally involved.
Now Artur understands her. He makes a noise of dawning interest—and then the background noises at his end suddenly get a lot louder. Now Artur is saying to her, "Hang on, that's my little sister. I have to go now, sorry."
"Uh, okay," Alma says.
"Bellybutton," Artur says, right before he hangs up.
Nothing about that conversation just happened the way Alma expected it to, but she thinks she feels okay about it. And she thinks that "bellybutton" means something like I love you.
If Artur could sleep over, though. If Alma could bring him into her house, into her bedroom, into her bed. If he could take her clothes off, and she could take his clothes off, and she could lay him down in her bed, and sit astride him, and have him inside her.
This is what she imagines it would be like.
Alma's cunt feels... like a candle. The flame flickering inside of her, orange-yellow, moving, hot. Melting wax dripping out of her, down her legs. And Artur's cock is the candle itself, so hard and long...
Could she use a candle to masturbate? she wonders. Would the heat of her maybe melt it? Would it break? Safer not to try it, probably; what a shame...
She thinks of those candles so wide they have three wicks, thinks of kneeling over them, legs open, so she feels the heat between her legs. She thinks of candlesticks with candles burned in them over and over, wax drippings hardened into layers of different colors: turquoise, vanilla-beige, gold.
Stig once spoke of dripping hot wax on her skin, and she wondered if it would hurt, but she thinks she would like to try it with Artur. Find out what it feels like. How would they keep the candle from dripping on the floor, from catching things on fire..?
Alma comes seeing the brightness of fire behind her eyes, clenching hard around an imaginary candlestick, wishing she could have anything inside her.
Artur tosses Alma a note in class. Simple, short:
Already looking forward to seeing you after school.
When the teacher takes the note away from her and begins to read it aloud to the class, Alma doesn't even mind. She turns to look at Artur and smiles warmly at him. The teacher reaches the signature, Dick-Artur, and stops not quite soon enough. The class snickers, and Artur blushes a bit. Alma keeps smiling at him. She likes it when they call him Dick-Artur now. It makes her feel they're in this together, that she's no longer alone.
The note, it turns out, didn't just mean seeing Alma after school. It meant, Artur's family is away. It meant, Come over, and we can be alone.
"You want me to poke you with my dick again?" Artur is smiling. His eyes sparkle. They can joke about this now.
He already has it out and is advancing toward her, mock-menacingly. Alma laughs in delight. "I'll poke you!" she replies.
"With what?" Artur says. Alma thinks of two dicks fencing, like swords. Wonders how you'd tell who wins. And what the winner would get.
"I'll—poke you with my nipples," Alma says, the first thing she thinks of. And then it seems like right away she has her shirt off and is standing very close to Artur. Poking him in the chest with her nipples.
Her nipples are hard, of course, and the tips just brush Artur's chest. She moves her chest backward and forward a bit, breaking and resuming contact. Poke. Poke. Making a point of it. She can feel Artur's dick warm and stiff against her thigh. Just like at the party. She still has her pants on; she feels it through her clothes. They're both looking down. You have to stand a lot closer to someone to poke them with your nipples than to poke them with your dick.
The two thoughts combine somewhat confusedly, and Alma wants it, so she kneels down, totteringly, and tries to poke Artur's dick with her nipple. They slide away from each other at first; then Alma takes the other side of his dick in her hand to hold it still, gently presses her left nipple against this side. Poke, poke.
It's not much like fencing dicks after all, Alma thinks. But still. Two parts of the body. So much alike. Sexy. Stand up by themselves. Turn pink and red and rosy, feel good. Feel good together.
She slowly raises and lowers herself on her knees, brushing her nipple back and forth across his dick. Up, down. Air, rubbing across his dick, air again. His dick below her breast and then above it. It's mesmerizing.
They've been touching gently, just at the tip of her nipple on this side and her fingertips on the other. Now Alma presses her entire breast against the side of Artur's dick, squeezing his dick gently between her breast and her hand. Alma can hear Artur's breathing shocked and heavy and irregular above her. She realizes her mouth is open and dripping saliva down her chin, from her chin to Artur's dick. She can smell him, so close from here, and she wonders what it would be like to suck, to taste, to press her nose right against the curly hairs there, but somehow can't seem to get from here to there. Maybe next time. Now, she's dripping saliva and she knows they're both sweating and soon Artur will maybe probably come, spreading even more fluids around, and she knows if her pants were off she'd be dripping onto the floor herself. She thinks of it with a hazed, frantic desire: having sex all over the place until all the surfaces are covered with a thin smutty layer, the mess of their combined fluids, impossible to make clean after that. No one else would want to come in here then, and it would become a place that was only theirs, marked by them both.
Artur's dick is now rubbing firmly across Alma's breast, his fingers tangled together with Alma's on the other side. This is probably a lot clumsier than how Artur usually jerks himself off, Alma think, even though she's never seen it (Oh, but I'd like to, she thinks). Artur doesn't seem like he wants to stop, anyway. The hand that isn't on his dick is touching her head now, not quite grabbing her hair, unable to settle. His thumbnail scratches her ear, sharp and sudden. She tosses her head and his hand moves away, but she didn't move because she minded the scratch. She'd like to feel it again. Alma's other hand is on herself, rubbing—she can't not touch herself, like this.
Stig sometimes spoke of coming all over Alma's breasts. The idea strikes Alma now and she gasps at the thought, choking and coughing on her own spit a little until she can breathe clearly again. She's wondered what it would actually feel like, wonders again now. How hot would it feel against her skin? How much of it would there actually be? She wants to see it and feel it and find out everything.
When Artur starts to come, gasping and moaning, she moves to try to catch some of it. Afterward, she settles back against the wall, still on the floor, looking down at her chest with an air of bright discovery. She moves a finger through the come on her skin, feeling its texture. She takes a bit and rubs it into her nipple, the same nipple that was pressed against Artur's dick.
Artur lands on the floor by her with a thud. An amazing expression on his face as he watches her, watches her hands, one rubbing his come into her breast and the other rubbing herself through her jeans. Still too impatient to take them off, frustrating as it is.
He comes closer, walking on his knees, awkwardly, and his hand joins hers between her legs. She thrusts up powerfully, letting out a noise of shocked joy at how it feels. Their hands colliding, rubbing together as they both rub her where it feels the best. His other hand goes to her right breast. She's using her fingertips on the left, tracing them through the come, tweaking her nipple, while he grabs the other with his entire hand, enclosing it, warm, solid, pressing down hard, kneading, squeezing. Her feet kick out and for a moment she loses her grip on the floor.
She tosses her head against the wall, teeth clenched and bared. As wonderful as this is, close and warm and amazing, she knows it's not going to be enough, and it's driving her crazy. "Harder," she says, and then: "I need something harder." She clenches her hand into a fist and rubs up against it. Artur gets the message, leaves her for a moment and comes back with—a flashlight, of all things who knows from where, and offers it to her. When she nods frantically he presses it against her, between her legs, and at first he doesn't press it hard enough, but then she grabs it along with him and shows him what she needs. Her groan becomes a wail as they work the flashlight against her together.
Her fingers are only twitching against her breast now. Unable to control them. Artur's hand still presses firmly against the other one. She pushes up against his hand on her breast, against his hand with hers on the flashlight, and feels good everywhere, about everything.
As they move the flashlight against her, the button on the side flicks on and off, erratically. The light flickers in Alma's face as she gets closer, and closer, and finally she comes laughing.
Afterward, she finds herself slumped all the way down to the floor, lying with limbs every which way. Some of her hair is spread over her face, catching in her lips and eyelashes, and it feels annoying but she can't find the energy to move it away. Artur sprawls over her, hot and heavy, comes even closer and kisses her through her hair, their lips and tongues touching through the network of fine lines. Alma's throat is very dry. She wants to drink three entire glasses of water and then do it all again.
When the kiss ends, Artur gently brushes her hair away from her face. She can see him again. She stares up at him.
The flashlight has tumbled several feet away on the floor, still on.
Artur is walking her home through the woods. It's nice to walk together, hand in hand. Alma still feels a bit nervous, though, tongue-tied, doesn't know what to say. Even though they just had sex. (Because they just had sex?)
The question Artur's asking right now doesn't help. "That time my sister and I saw you in the grocery store—" Alma groans and presses her face against Artur's shoulder. Shakes her head. She doesn't want to have to talk about this! Artur wraps an arm around her shoulders as he continues. "I wondered... what were you thinking about?"
Alma looks up at him, mouth opening, but silent. She finds him blushing. Thinks he must feel as awkward and uncomfortable as she does. She doesn't want to tell him the answer to his question, but she wants to show him parts of herself anyway. Anything he wants to see.
It isn't like her fantasies, where each of them silently knew what the other wanted them to do. She imagined being with Artur a hundred times, but never imagined anything he's actually done.
"I... I was riding a roll of coins," she offers. Shyly. But doesn't look away from Artur.
Something lights up in his eyes. After a moment he says, "What did you do with them after we left?"
"Put them back in the drawer."
He bursts out laughing, nearly doubles over, his arms still around her. She laughs with him. "But then the next person who picked them up—" His laughter starts again.
"I know, I know! It was horrible," Alma groans as she holds her head in her hands, pressing her face to Artur's chest again.
Gradually they quieten and still. Artur holds Alma close. "So that's what you were doing. I can't believe it," he comments fondly, shaking his head and kissing her on the side of her head. "What were you thinking about, though?"
Alma shakes her head, slowly. Visions of her best friend's father doing pelvic thrusts against his bike helmet filled her head. Visions of telling Artur about it seemed somewhat less appealing. "I... don't think I want to tell you about that yet."
"Was it something about me?" Artur sounds pleased at the thought.
"I do think about you a lot..." Alma trails off.
"Mm. But not that time, huh?" Artur says, understanding. Reluctant but honest, Alma shakes her head. What will he think of her, thinking of other people? She thinks about everyone. What would he think of her thinking about girls?
Artur squeezes her gently. "Sometime, I would really like to watch you. When you... do that. And listen to you tell me what you're thinking of. Just everything that comes into your head."
"Really?" Alma lifts her head, looks at him. "Everything in my head? Even if... it's about someone else? Or it's something... strange?"
"I like what's in your head, Alma." Artur dips his head, nuzzles against her cheek. His voice drops as he adds, "Especially about sex."
Alma is overcome with warmth. With heat. "I. Yes, I would like to do that. With you. And, I'd like to do that with you, too. I mean, watch you and listen to you." She trips over her own words, flustered, but—it's okay. If they're both pink and hot and embarrassed, at least they're together. It's not so different from sex.
Alma kisses Artur's jaw. His chin. Works her way up to his lips, and when they meet it's warm and good. It's tender and safe and close.
When they part, Artur looks at her face for a moment, then darts in and kisses her cheekbone, right below her eye. Alma pokes Artur's bellybutton, and he pokes hers back, and they have a brief tickle fight, fencing and parrying with their fingers. Alma catches Artur's hand in hers and holds it. Holds it as they turn to walk on through the woods.
Holds it as they talk together, all the way home.