It was the summer before her junior year in high school. Diana was unsure of what would happen. She was new here in this small town. Her parents had moved the family to this coastal area as soon as she and her brother had completed school. Now they were getting adjusted to living in a town that had the amount of people found on one block of her old home city. She still thought of her last home as her real home.
Diana was a shy girl. She hadn't always been that way. But the coming of age had caused changes in her. She hadn't been able to handle them as well as she would have liked. Too many silly boys were teasing her about her growing breasts. It was just dumb actually. But she developed a shell. Her girlfriends had seemed to become mature much faster than she did.
For a sixteen-year-old girl, she was still quite young. No one had ever kissed her. She hadn't even gone out on a date. She had been asked by several boys. But it had always seemed wrong to her. They ogled her and didn't seem to really care for her as a person. She just ignored them all starting from when it all went bad.
But her mother and father always told her she was pretty. Her brother didn't pay much attention to her. He was a year older. They had to share a room in their apartment in the city. But they tended to forget the other existed unless they were actually together. He was popular and had been seeing several girls at the same time. He hated the move as much as she did.
Now, in the cottage their parents had bought, they each had their own room for the first time ever. That part of the move was good for both of them. Diana had the privacy she had always craved. She could play her music and read her books and know Bradley wouldn't be interrupting her. He had always teased her about the magazines she read.
Getting married was not something she thought about a lot. In fact, she was wondering if she could decide never to get married at all. She only had one aunt who never married. It wasn't so common in her family. But the idea of just forgetting about boys appealed to her. That was not why she read her magazines. The ones with all of the girls in their wedding gowns. Diana just liked looking at the pictures.
Even if it embarrassed her a lot, she still looked forward to gym class in school. As long as no one was teasing her about her breasts, it was fine. She wondered to herself why other girls seemed so attractive to her. And she also wondered if she was attractive to them. It was a fairly nice part of the day, after getting sweaty playing games, to take a shower with the other girls. They would laugh and giggle. Sometimes they would tickle each other.
She was naive, but she wasn't ignorant. She had learned some things in school classes. And from reading. Diana read a lot. So she knew that she might not be exactly like the other girls. Or maybe she was like some of them, and she didn't know who they were. It was confusing. It was hard growing up. She didn't know what was going to happen now. She felt so alone.
Their new town was a fishing village. And there seemed to be lots of artist studios. Diana had spent days wandering the streets. It didn't take long to learn where everything was. It was so small. Their cottage was only about a five-minute walk from pretty much everything. The small port and the beaches were there to be visited whenever you wished. That was nice. She actually liked that.
One day, while her parents were both working in their office, she gathered up her beach things. She had a woven basket that would hold all she needed. She was wearing a bikini beneath a long-sleeved shirt and some yoga pants. She had on some sandals. She tied up her silky brown hair into a bun before leaving. Then she put on her large straw hat to protect her skin. She had on her sunglasses covering her green eyes. She set out to the shore.
Diana walked slowly through the narrow streets. They still had some lanes with cobblestones. She supposed it was picturesque. The tourists seemed to think so. They were out in droves today. Each was taking pictures of everything seen to prove they had been here. She knew she would never be accepted as a local, but she surely wasn't a tourist anymore. She had to live here for goodness' sake. She made her way down a path to the shoreline.
The beach was crowded. It always seemed to be that way since she had been here. Diana wondered what it would be like in the fall and winter when it got cold around here. Maybe she would be able to sit here by herself once in awhile. She walked as far away from the people as she could and settled down on a blanket she spread out. She had some lunch with her. And lots of reading material.
She discarded her shirt and pants. She was now wearing only the bikini. She glanced around to see if anyone was staring at her. They didn't seem to be. She was far enough away to be isolated. That was good. Now she needed to put on sunscreen so her pale skin would not burn. Sitting cross-legged, she spread the lotion over herself. As she did her legs, she extended them up and out. She thought they were pretty. She rather liked her feet too.
Diana had done a lot of tumbling in school during her gym classes. And she had always walked everywhere in the city that she could get to without taking the subway or a cab. She was trim. The breasts that she was so embarrassed by were not actually that huge. Not really. She had exaggerated that in her mind when being teased.
She had a small pillow that she placed under her head as she laid back. The summer sun was still not completely up in the east. And lots of puffy cumulous clouds were keeping it from shining too brightly. She was reading a fantasy book. Like many of them, it concerned a young girl who discovered one day that she was a princess. Diana didn't take it seriously. It was just fluff for the summer vacation.
Something blocked out the sun, and she took her eyes off of the book to look up. It appeared to be a girl about her age. She took off her sunglasses and squinted up at the smiling face.
"Hey. I'm Tony. They named me Antoinette, but that's a stupid name. I mean, I'm French. Or actually, French-Canadian. But why would I want people walking around calling me Antoinette? Hey, Antoinette, want to go swimming? Hey, Antoinette. What's happening girl? You know what I mean. So I'm Tony. That's cool don't you think? So who are you anyway?"
Diana was a little mixed up. But she didn't know what else to do, so she responded.
"I'm Diana. Just Diana. I didn't change it. I guess it fits me. Hey." She rose up on her elbows.
Tony plopped down on the blanket beside her. Diana could see that she had wavy brown hair, too. She had styled it shorter but still left it curly. And her eyes were a deep brown. She was in a bikini too. But a little smaller than Diana's. Tony had an infectious smile. That meant that Diana caught herself grinning like a ninny. She stopped that abruptly as she sat completely up and tucked her legs beneath her.
"So I see a unicorn on your book cover. You're into that kind of thing? I tried it, but it bored me. I mean, that stuff doesn't really happen."
"No, no. I just read it for fun. I read other stuff. I've read all of Jane Austen. I like nineteenth-century novels. I read good stuff too. This is just for wasting time."
"I'm teasing you, girl. It's cool. You can have your fantasies. I have a few of my own. So who are you then? You're not from here. I know everyone here. Who are you?"
"I told you. I'm Diana. We moved here last month. I think the real estate person called our cottage the old Liddle place. I guess they used to live there. I don't really know. I hope I'm not intruding in your town." She was feeling a little huffy now.
"You're funny. You can go where ever you want, girl. I don't mind. I know exactly where you live now. Not too far from me. But nothing is, is it? And I like new faces. I like yours. So how old are you? What grade are you in? Are you just here for the summer or for good?
Diana's head was trying to take in this creature. She was beautiful to Diana's eyes. But she seemed terribly nosy. What did she want to know all of that for? Was she just being friendly? No one had really been friendly for weeks now. They tolerated tourists, but newcomers were kept at a distance.
"Okay. I'm sixteen now. I know I'll be in the junior class. I found the school. Awfully small. And yes, I'm afraid we're here for good. My parents quit their jobs and are trying to be full-time writers. I've no idea how long that will last."
"Hey, cool. That's great. I'm a junior too. We'll have some of the same classes. Yep, it'll be cool. So do you like the beach? I love it. I think it's my favorite thing about this place. I do some surfing when it isn't too cold. I love to swim. Do you like swimming? We don't have that for a sport in school. Too small. But I do it out here when I surf and just for fun."
Diana could tell that Tony was athletic. Her legs were long and strong looking. Her skin was tanned, but still soft looking. It seemed to glow in the sunlight. What would it be like to surf, she wondered. She could barely swim as it was. They didn't go to the pool much in the city.
"I need to learn to swim better. I don't do it often. But I suppose I should be good at it if we have to stay here. I'm not sure about surfing. I never really played sports, except in gym class."
"We don't have gym class here. They cut that along with lots of good stuff. We don't have any music or art classes. It seems a little funny, you know? 'Cause this is supposed to be some kind of artist's colony or something. I'm just noticing how white your skin is. It's kind of like cream. You don't get out much, do you?"
"I get out lots. I just try to cover up. My skin really burns. I mean, it really burns, and then I get all freckly. I don't like that much. So I cover up. I hope I don't look odd. I don't want to stand out or anything."
"Girl, you look great. I mean, I really think you've got pretty skin. Yeah, you're a pretty girl. I'm not too bad, so they tell me. Do you think I'm attractive?"
Diana knew she was blushing now. She could feel the heat in her face. How embarrassing. Of course Tony was lovely. Did people ask that question right out like that? Tony was so frank and open. Was she like this all the time?
"I guess you look nice. Yes, you look okay. Thanks anyway. Only my parents ever said I was pretty."
Tony laughed. "I look okay? Gee, girl. How sweet of you to say that." She laughed again and slapped Diana on the thigh. She just sat there grinning with her legs crossed. Then she reached up and adjusted her bikini top.
"These always want to fall out of this thing. You probably don't have that problem. Your suit is not as small as mine. It looks good on you though. Probably better for swimming. I lose my top half the time when I'm out on my board. Oh, say, there's a hidden beach up the coast. It's a cove that's below a cliff. I'll show you sometime."
Again Diana felt herself flushing. There was something about Tony that made her feel so naive and inexperienced. Then she realized, that was just the way she was. Naive. She looked into Tony's eyes. Tony was waiting expectantly. Her eyes were crinkled.
"I'll think about it. Are there boys there?"
"I found this place. I know others have been there. You can see footprints sometimes. But all the times I went there it was just us. And I never went there with any boys. Just us girls. That's all."
"Do you think your friends would want a stranger around? They don't seem to like newbies here in town."
"Oh, don't worry about that. If you're my friend, then you're their friend. We're going to be friends, aren't we? I kind of thought we were already, Diana. Besides, I think we might go there alone the first time or two." She paused and grinned. "When I make someone blush I also make 'em a friend." She laughed from her belly.
"Well, I gotta go. I'll see you around. You come here every day? I do. I'll be here. Don't mind me. I'm just this way girl. You're cool Diana. We're already friends. No sweat."
Tony was up on her knees now as she leaned forward and took Diana's head in her hands. Then she quickly pressed her lips to Diana's. Jumping up, she waved as she strode away in the sand. She was overdoing it a little, twisting her behind around. Looking over her shoulder at Diana, she laughed again and continued up the beach.
Diana's face was scarlet again. She seemed have been blushing for most of the time that Tony had been with her. She put her fingers on her lips. She didn't wear lipstick yet, but Tony did. Her fingers had a trace of the pink color on them. And the odor of the fragrance the lipstick carried. She could smell it. Just as she had been smelling Tony's aroma too. It must have been a perfume. Anyway, it lingered in the warm air around her.
She didn't feel like reading anymore. She was lost in her thoughts, watching the clouds coming together and parting above the sea. A breeze picked up, and she felt the gentle touch of sea spray. She was hugging her knees together. Finally, she looked at her cell phone to see what time it was. It was getting close to dinner time. She had forgotten to eat the lunch she brought. She was ravenous.
Gathering up everything she noticed the only footprints around her blanket were hers and Tony's. The sea would come in and wash them away in the night. There would be no trace of either of them. She would have to return tomorrow and put more traces in the sand. Perhaps Tony's feet would be making footprints again, too.
Diana walked slowly home. It had been a big day for her. She felt that. She knew it. She wanted to believe that. She wanted to feel this way again and again. Like she was floating, just a little, just a bit, off the ground. When she got home, her mother was in the front room.
"Hi, sweetie. Say, I found something on the front porch. I went out to sweep it off, and I found this. It can't be for your dad or me. Maybe Bradley. But I think it's for you. Did you meet someone recently?"
Her mother was smiling with pleasure.
It was a little garland of flowers. Diana walked over and took them into her hand. She remembered now. They were Sweet Williams. The genus was Dianthus. Close enough to Diana, she supposed. Each blossom was two colors. One color was creamy white. The other was a pink. Just like Tony's lipgloss. She smiled.
The night had brought rain. Diana listened to it splattering against her window. She wasn't sleeping, even though it was after midnight. She had been reading some Emily Dickinson while listening to music. She was thinking about what would come about here in this new town. It was a village, actually. That's what they kept telling her in the shops when they thought she was a tourist. The store clerks all wanted to tell you about the history and culture of their "village."
Well, it was interesting, she did have to admit that. Settled by French people in the 17th century. Lots of people here still spoke French amongst themselves. Maybe she would take French in school if they offered it. Such a small school. Tony had told her that there were only about one hundred students in the high school. Diana was used to a school where they had at least a thousand.
Now she was enjoying the sound of the precipitation. Diana would often go for walks in the rain. Hearing the drops beating against her umbrella was soothing to her. And she didn't mind getting wet. As long as she didn't get too cold. She did hate that. She was always the one most bundled up when outside.
Tony said it got really cold here in winter because they were right on the coast. The dampness made it feel even colder than it was. Diana would just have to get used to it. Tony surfed in the summer. In winter it was possible with a wetsuit, but she didn't have one. But she was saving her money to buy one someday. Tony liked to surf in the special cove. It wasn't crowded there, like down at the village's public beach on the harbor.
As the water trickled down her window, she thought back. Diana had given Tony her cell phone number the second time they met down on the beach by the bay. Fishing boats were coming in from the sea, and the sandy beach had been crowded with summer visitors. The two girls had chatted for hours it seemed. It was funny that they could be friends so quickly. At least, Diana thought so. She hadn't had a girlfriend for a long time. Tony was special.
When they parted that time, they had each put their number in the other's phone. Tony was the only person in Diana's phone that wasn't family. She felt her face getting flushed as she remembered how Tony had given her a peck on her lips, right there in front of the world. But she had to admit it wasn't bad. She liked it. Tony was the first person to ever kiss her lips. Except for her mother, of course.
Now she was feeling so good, lying in bed. She was thinking of Tony and the way she smiled. Tony wore lipstick, but that's all. Her skin was tanned, but it was still soft. Diana had soft skin too. Tony called it creamy.
Diana and Tony went to the cove last week. It wasn't really too far away. They took two bikes from Tony's backyard shed and rode up there. It was only five miles up the coast. Then they had to climb down a trail that was overgrown with brush. You couldn't see it from the gravel road.
Tony was carrying the basket with their stuff. Just some cold chicken and salad. Plus their beach towels. She was wearing her bikini under a man's shirt. Diana had on her bikini and her usual long-sleeved shirt and yoga pants. She didn't want to get sunburned. They both had on some sandals.
"This looks a little dangerous. Be careful Tony."
"Don't be silly, DiDi. Been down this trail lots of times. It's cool girl."
Just then Diana stepped on a pebble, and her foot slipped out. She squealed. The cliff had seemed terribly high. But Tony had spun around and caught her arm.
"You okay?" Tony was breathing heavily now. "Don't do that. You scared me to death. Okay, now you be careful little girl."
They were down in just another minute or so, laughing as they stepped onto the pebbled shore. There was sand covering parts of the beach. They put their beach towels down and took off their outerwear. Diana had brought a CD player so they could have some music. But they didn't bother using it. They were busy talking.
Diana had been putting on her sunscreen. She did hate to get freckles. As she was spreading it over her legs, Tony took the lotion and put some in her palm.
"Are you going to put on that stuff? I thought you liked to get tan."
"No, I'm not gonna use it. I thought I'd help you. Here, I'll get your back. Hold still silly girl. I won't bite you."
When the lotion had begun spreading across her shoulders and back, Diana had started. This was new for her. It was okay though. Tony was a friend. It was fine.
"Here, this won't take a minute. Not much to cover up. Your back just has this strip. There." She laughed. "It's alright little girl. I'm just putting on some lotion." She was laughing because Diana had been blushing so hard she already seemed to be sunburned.
Soon they were chatting again, talking about music and movies and books, just enjoying themselves. It was all going to be alright. Diana was feeling good now. So good. And Tony was holding her hand. It was warm and damp, and it felt right.
Now, as she was lying in bed with the thunder crashing outside, she smiled to herself. She needed to sleep. She pulled the sheet up to cover herself and turned onto her side pulling her legs up. She didn't sleep quickly, but as she drifted into a doze, she remembered the special kiss Tony gave her as they were there in their secret cove.
Just the one kiss that lasted just a moment, but it seemed to last for hours. Tony had touched her cheek and wavy hair. Then they gathered up their stuff and climbed back up the cliffside. It was only about thirty minutes later when she walked up to her porch and entered the house. There was a text on her phone as she walked into her room.
"You taste sweet."
Diana had smiled at that at the time. She was saving the text. Now she was drifting off to sleep.
In the morning, they were having breakfast. Diana's father had cooked some waffles, and he was eating with them. Their mother was already in their office on her computer as Bradley and Diana ate. The two didn't talk much. She supposed she loved him, but she didn't like him much. He was always bragging about how all of the girls were after him. It seemed rather silly to Diana.
"I hope you kids are making some friends here," said her father.
"Yep. I met some guys skateboarding in the park, seemed okay. I'm gonna get my board out and join them today."
Diana was quiet.
"Hey, sis. What about that chick you been hanging with? What's her name? Tony? She a little off?"
Their dad looked up. "What are you talking about, Brad?" He turned to look at her quizzically.
"He's just being silly, Dad. Tony's a good friend. We hang out on the beach. She likes surfing."
"Hah. I heard some stuff. Watch out for her, sis."
"Well, you kids are new here. You have to be careful. Take your time and get to know people, okay?"
Diana felt herself blushing, but she stayed quiet. She wanted to throw her hot tea in her brother's face. She stayed quiet.
She headed for the beach later on. It was a daily thing now. Gathering her gear into her wicker basket, going through town to the harborside beach, and down the shoreline. She would find the most deserted area of sand and put her things down. Waiting, and hoping, that Tony would come by. She didn't always. Tony was a busy girl. She always had things going on.
She took off her outerwear, put on her sunscreen, and let her large hat keep the sun off her face. Sunglasses covered her green eyes. She began reading a new fantasy book. She nibbled on some fruit and listened to the gulls arguing over trash on the ocean waters.
Diana was a little tired after staying up late. She was dozing a little, groggy in the heat from the sun when she heard voices close by. She looked up. It was Tony and two other girls. She sat up tensely, removed her sunglasses, and smiled hopefully. The three were carrying surfboards and canvas bags.
"Hey, Diana. This is Betts and Shelby."
Betts had short blond hair and was taller than Tony. Shelby was dark with black hair. She was like a pixie Diana thought. They were both smiling, and Diana relaxed.
"The ladies wanna sit in the sun awhile. Can they join you? I was gonna go out and surf a bit if I can catch a choice one or two." Tony was in her bikini, eager to go.
"Yes... sure. This is a big towel. Lots of room."
The two new girls stuck their boards into the sand. Then Betts plopped down quickly, and Shelby bent slowly down, sitting with her legs tucked in. They were soon holding hands. Diana smiled.
"So, you're the new friend, right?" That was Betts.
"I guess. Are you guys in our junior class?"
"Oh, sweetie, we'll be seniors. But that's okay. We don't mind being seen with you." Betts laughed.
Shelby giggled and kissed Betts' hand.
"We hear you have a brother. Bradley, right?"
"Oh, yes. I do. Why?"
"He bears watching that one does. So I understand." Betts was looking serious.
"Has he done something bad?"
"A little too full of himself, and cocky thinking he's a gift to women. That right?"
"Sweetie, you don't need to be sorry. It's him, not you. From what Tony says you're an angel." Betts laughed, and Shelby giggled.
Now, of course, Diana felt herself getting flushed. They both just smiled at her. Then they laid down, continuing to hold hands, and gazed out to sea. So she turned a little to the side and watched as Tony paddled out to the surf line.
"Don't mind us leaving now, kiddo. Just needed to warm up a little. We're gonna head out and catch a wave now."
Betts rose up and took Shelby's hand. She lifted her up as Shelby giggled. Then they waved and grabbed their boards. They went out to join Tony on the water.
It was odd, but Diana had felt herself getting a little warm. She rose up and ran down to soak in the sea, keeping her large hat on.
The waters were still a little chilly, but the surfers seemed to enjoy themselves. There were a few others stretching out closer to the port. Many more males than females. But her new friends were here in front of her. Diana was chest deep in the rocking waves. Her face was struck by a wave, and she shook her head. Her large hat was soaked.
She was waiting on her beach towel when Tony came running up from the water line. She was grinning. She took a towel out of her bag, dried herself off, and put on a jacket to warm up a bit. She crossed her legs and squatted down beside Diana.
"How you doing DiDi? See me catch that big one? It wasn't too bad today. You're looking pretty. But you know that. Don't you?"
She laughed and put her hand on Diana's knee. She squeezed it and laughed again. She loved to make Diana blush. Then she leaned in and gave her a quick kiss. She grabbed Diana's hand and then they watched the other girls still out surfing. The day passed quickly. Soon it was time to head home.
"Hey, I'll walk with you to your house. Those guys are going off on their own soon."
Tony waved to Shelby and Betts as they paddled in towards the beach. They each lifted an arm and waved back. Tony then helped Diana get her stuff together, and they walked slowly back through town to the Liddle place, where Diana lived. They walked in silence mostly, but Diana was smiling all the way.
"Okay, so I'll see you again. You take care DiDi."
They were standing in front of the house. Diana glanced up toward her new home, and then she darted in and gave Tony a peck on her lips. She turned and ran up the steps, glanced back, and saw Tony grinning. She went inside happy.
"Was that the weirdo?" It was Brad.
"Shut up. You're horrible. Please, try not to be such a loser Bradley."
"Loser. Right, I'm the loser. There are people you don't want to be friends with in this town. Know that?"
"Brad, you don't know what you're talking about. People are saying the same thing about you. Get a clue."
"Oh right. I wonder what Mom and Dad would say. Hanging out with a dyke."
"Shut up. Shut up. You creep. Tell them. I don't care. Tony is my friend. I don't care."
She hated to cry in front of him. She hated it. She ran to her room. It was spoiled. The whole day was spoiled. It was ruined.
She locked her door. She threw her things on the floor and fell onto the bed. It was a minute or two before she realized she had heard her phone texting signal. She got up slowly and went to her basket. Her phone had one text.
"Do I taste sweet?"
She wiped her eyes, and she couldn't help smiling. She saw Tony grinning in her mind. They wouldn't spoil it. It would be fine.
As Diana woke up that late summer morning, she heard a shower running. The bungalow they lived in was rather small, but she and her brother Bradley each had their own room. That was one of the nice things about living here in the village along the coast. The very best thing was her friendship with Tony.
She took her time getting up. She needed to use the bathroom, but she had to wait for whoever was in there. As she gathered up clothes from the floor, she was humming. Her window was open, and she could smell the sea air softly blowing into her room. Only five minutes away, the coast was her usual destination every day.
It had been a lovely summer. It was getting closer to the time when she would begin classes at her new school. Tony had told her all of the classes she should take. They had different tastes, but most classes were required to graduate. They would be together for most of the day. Diana was looking forward to it.
She sat at her vanity and looked at herself in the mirror as she brushed her wavy brown locks. Her green eyes were smiling back at her as she giggled, thinking of the kiss she had given to Tony the other day. It was right outside her house as they were parting. She picked up her phone and read the text that Tony had sent right after that happened.
The shower stopped, and she gathered up the things that she needed to take to the bathroom. She left her room just as Bradley was walking out of the bathroom. His hair was wet, and he hadn't shaved off the mustache he was trying to grow. It looked ridiculous on him, but he was proud of it. She tried to hurry past him, but he blocked her way.
"What's the hurry, sis? Gotta get down there and play with your friend?"
"Brad, just chill out. Please? I really need to use the bathroom now."
"Yeah, sure. I think I ought to talk to the folks. You know?"
"Can you just leave it be? It's none of your business!"
"We'll see. We'll see."
She scuttled into the bathroom, almost dropping her lotions and shampoo. She felt like crying, but she wasn't going to. She wasn't. This was going to be a good day. Why was he like that?
She completed her morning preparations and was ready to leave the house. She was wearing her wide-brimmed straw hat, one of her father's long sleeve shirts, some yoga pants, and her high top Converse Allstars. In her basket, she had everything she needed to spend the day down at the shore, including some fruit and sandwiches. Enough for herself and a few others, if they happened to show up.
She was hoping that Betts and Shelby might stop and talk to her. Of course, she wanted to see Tony, but they didn't have any plans for the day. It was just summer, and people came and went as they pleased. She was passing through the front hall to the door when her mother called to her.
Diana went into the library across from the front room. Her mother was at her desk with her computer active, probably working on her Great American Novel. Diana wondered if her mom would ever actually publish anything.
"Hi, sweetheart. Come over and sit down. Please?"
Sitting down, Diana wondered what was up.
"So. Brad tells me something that's a little upsetting to me."
"What, Mom? I mean, what's he saying now? You know I'm not doing anything wrong."
"Honey, please. I'm upset with Brad. Not you. Listen. Maybe we've never talked about some things. I never thought we needed to. But, anyway. He just told me you're friends with someone he called a dyke. He's in his room now. He'll stay there, or in the house, for a week. He's grounded. I don't want to hear that kind of talk from my children. I really can't tell you how upset I am."
Diana was almost in tears. Her emotions were so mixed up. At first, she had feared she would be told never to see Tony again. Now she was about to cry because she loved her mother so much. And she was a little ashamed she had doubted her parents. They really were the best.
"But, anyway. I guess it's not really my business. I'll just say this, dear. If your friend, Tony? If she's gay or whatever, I don't really give a fig. But I do want to make sure my baby girl isn't hurt. So, what kind of friend is she to you? I mean, is she a good friend? Oh, damn. I just want to know you're not going to get hurt."
"Mom, please. You don't have to worry. Tony's nice. She's never done anything wrong. We just like each other. She's a friend. I like her a lot. I don't see why she'd ever do anything to hurt me. Really, Mom. No worries."
"Good. Well, you know best. All I ask is that you be careful. But you're a lovely, bright girl. I know you'll make good decisions. And if you ever need to talk about anything, you know, personal? You just talk to me. Or your Dad, either one of us. Okay, so go ahead and have a good time. I need to get to work."
Diana got up and leaned down to hug her mother. Then she wiped the tears off of her cheeks and from the corners of her green eyes. She was out the door quickly, tripping down the steps from the porch.
She was walking down the cobblestone-covered street. Her basket was on one arm. Her cell phone let her know she had received a text. She searched and found it on the bottom of her basket. She saw that the text was from Tony.
"Peek-a-boo. I see you," it said. She put the phone back in her basket, smiling.
She saw a shadow appear beside hers on the concrete sidewalk. A hand took hers, and she knew it was Tony.
"Hiya, DiDi. What's up little girl, heading for the beach? Me too. I'm not surfing today. I just wanted to hang out. Yeah, I think I'll just hang out. You don't mind, do you? I guess there may be other guys around. That's cool. So, anyway, you wanna meet some people? From school? I think you'll like 'em. They gotta like you. You're my friend. They gotta like you. What's up? Why aren't you talking?"
"You're so silly. Gad, Tony. Catch your breath! Sure, I'd love to meet people if they're cool."
"I don't hang with people who aren't cool. You'll see. So, what's new? Reading anything good? I don't have a lot of time now. You're looking pretty today. Every day. Yeah, you got that creamy skin going for you, don't you? Green eyes. Nice. So, anyway, I think you know Shelby and Betts. Hey, they're really pissed at that bro' of yours. You know? He's got a big mouth."
"Tony, he's grounded. He's gonna be at home for a week. Maybe he'll learn his lesson. I don't know."
"Wow. Cool." She laughed loudly, startling some tourists looking into shop windows. "So what did the twerp do, anyway?"
"Oh, well. He said something. And Mom got upset. So, anyway, he's grounded. My Mom is cool!"
"Well, maybe you take after her." Tony grinned, and, ducking under the straw hat, quickly gave Diana a peck on her pink lips.
Diana was startled, but not upset. She held her head down, smiling. She squeezed Tony's hand. She had started wearing some pink lipstick because Tony did. It made her feel closer to her friend. They continued down to the seashore, wanting a spot far down the strand, away from tourists and townies closer to the marina. There was already a group of young folks on large beach towels. They were laughing as Tony and Diana approached.
"Hey, you guys. Start the party. I'm here. Hey, Stefano, what's going on? This is Diana. Kinda pretty, isn't she? See, DiDi, that's Stefano. He's on the wrestling team. You already know Betts and Shelby. Stefano, is your boyfriend coming over? See, his boyfriend is from another school. Why's everyone so quiet? What's going on?"
Everyone was laughing. Tony was like that. Once in a while you could get a word or sentence out, but it could be hard going when she was in full flight.
Stefano had risen, and he bowed to Diana. She gave him a curtsy, just for the fun of it. He grinned. He was shorter than Tony, but he was bulky. He looked like he would be a good wrestler. He was in a speedo and was rather hairy. But he looked like a nice person. She'd see. She hoped they were all nice people. She did want to be part of Tony's group.
There were two surfboards standing in the sand, and Diana supposed they belonged to Shelby and Betts. She put down her basket, smiling and greeting those two girls, and then spread out the large beach towels she had brought, for her and anyone else who came along. Then she started taking off her outer garments, displaying her bikini clad body. In the near past, she would have been embarrassed by this, but she felt safe here. These were going to be friends.
The two senior girls were sitting close together, holding hands. They would talk with the others, and then take the time to give each other a kiss. No one else seemed to care, so Diana just ignored it, as much as possible. But it did give her feelings that she was trying to understand more clearly.
Tony had gotten rid of the work shirt she usually wore. She was sitting on the towel watching Diana as she put tons of lotion on her pale skin. Diana hated to get freckles, which came whenever she allowed the sun to try to tan her creamy skin. She didn't tan, she just burned, and then the spots appeared. Tony liked to help her put it on, and that was pleasant. It made Diana feel so good when Tony's strong hands rubbed the lotion on her skin.
All of the girls were wearing bikinis. And they were all attractive in their own way. Shelby and Diana were both small, but Diana had more curves. Shelby was like a little pixie, with black hair. Her friend Betts was tall. The tallest in this group. Her hair was short and blond. Tony was about five feet eight inches. Taller than Stefano, who did seem out of place here. But he didn't seem to mind.
Finally, after having a bite to eat, Betts and Shelby decided to get some surfing done. They took their boards and ran down to the waves rushing up the shoreline. Stefano apparently didn't surf. But he decided to get wet. He waved at the remaining two and joined the seniors in the water. Tony took Diana's hand.
"So did you say Stefano had a boyfriend?"
"Yep. Not a problem, is it DiDi?"
"Please, Tony. It's all good for me. Just want to know. So why did he have to find someone from another school? I mean that's miles away, isn't it? I don't really know the geography around here that well. We have, what, two high schools in this county?"
"His friend is going to the high school in the county seat. He lived around here, but he transferred so he could play football. We don't have that here. We're lucky to have wrestling. But, he and Stefano are friends from way back. I think they were the only gay guys here in school. At least, that have come out."
"Was that hard for them? I don't know people here yet, but I know that can be so hard. I mean, so I hear."
"Tell you what. If you're good at sports, it isn't a problem around here. It has been, but it's getting better. It's really a good place for us. I mean, people like us. You and me. You know?"
"Like us? What's that mean, Tony?"
"DiDi. Come on. You and me. And the girls in the water now. Us. We're gay. Lesbos. That's us, little girl."
Diana was struggling inside. She guessed Tony was right. But she hadn't really come to terms with it. Not really. Not yet. Was she a lesbian? She wondered if her Mom thought she was gay. Would that matter? She didn't think so. But she couldn't be sure. Did she even know, herself?
"What's happening, DiDi? Diana, are you crying? Don't do that little girl. Please. I'm sorry. I thought you were cool with this. Please, Diana. Don't cry."
Tony was holding her now, as her tears fell. She hugged her friend. She didn't even know why she was crying. It didn't feel bad to her. She was actually pretty happy, being held by Tony.
"Hey, what's going on? What'd you do, Tony? What's wrong with her?" That was Stefano, grabbing a towel to dry himself off. Diana looked up at him. He was frowning. She shook her head.
"I'm fine. I'm just being silly. It's nothing."
Tony was still hugging her. "She just got it, dude. She just got it. She didn't understand, and now she knows."
"Oh. Okay. I see. Yeah. It can mess with you if you let it. Hey, Diana. It's cool. You'll be fine. The world can be good. It's gonna be fine."
He plopped down and touched her hair. Tony gave her a little kiss on the cheek, and she wiped her eyes, for the second time today. She was feeling good. She was. She was happy. She had friends. And she thought maybe Tony really, really liked her. She felt okay now.
She whispered to her friend. "Tony? Tomorrow? Can we go to your secret cove? Just the two of us? That would be nice."
Tony squeezed her tighter. She chuckled, and Diana giggled. Then they both laughed.
"What's funny now? Are you two wacky?"
"Nope. It's great, Stef. Nothing crazy here. Okay. It's getting cooler. I'm going home. Can I walk you home now DiDi?"
"Yes, please. Stefano, I should be getting home anyway. I'm so glad we met. Oh, I didn't ask. What grade are you going to be in?"
"Little girl, I'm a senior. But as we say around here, I'll still talk to you, juniors."
He laughed and got up to go to his own large towel. He dropped down and put in some earbuds. He waved as they walked away together after they had gathered up all of their things.
They held hands all through the village, heading for the Liddle place where Diana lived. Some tourists gave them odd stares, but the townspeople just went about their business.
At Diana's house, they parted. This time Tony gave her a hug, and then they kissed each other. Quickly, but thoroughly. Then Diana giggled and ran into the cottage. Her mother was standing in the hall.
"Was that Tony, just now?"
"Yes, Mother." She ducked her head.
"She's a pretty girl. Athletic looking. Well, just be careful, baby." She went back into her office, sipping her cup of hot tea.
The next morning Diana walked over to Tony's house just two blocks away. It was early enough that the sun was just above the horizon, over the ocean. She could hear the gulls calling as they swooped down to pick up debris from the boats setting out to sea. It wasn't a red sky, so it should be clear sailing for the fishermen.
She had passed her brother in the hallway as she left. He was just heading back to his room. He was sleeping in since he was grounded, but he had just been to the bathroom. They didn't speak.
Her parents had still been in bed, too. She didn't bother eating much breakfast. Just a muffin. Then she gathered some bread and cheese, along with some fruit. She was eating an apple as she left the house. Soon she was approaching Tony's place and saw her outside at the shed, waiting with a grin on her face. Diana had to smile back, in happiness.
They chattered as they brought two bicycles out of the shed. Both girls set out on the road north towards the secret cove. It was only thirty or so minutes up the coast, but it was hidden below cliffs. The trail down to the beach was completely hidden from the road that went past it. They were sweating as they arrived. It wasn't a difficult ride, but the sun was out today with few clouds in the sky.
Both girls were careful on the pathway because it could be dangerous. Arriving at the bottom, they dropped their baskets and towels on the rocky beach. They looked around and saw no one else was there. The patches of sand were clear of footprints. Diana looked at Tony and giggled. They picked up the gear and found a soft area of sand.
"Okay, so let's get comfy, DiDi."
Both girls got rid of their outerwear, leaving only their bikinis. Tony was faster than she. Tony was standing on her bare feet, letting the breeze from offshore play over her skin as she held her hand up, shading her eyes, looking out to sea.
She really did look beautiful, to Diana's eyes.
She was blushing over her whole body as she grabbed the large towels from her basket. She was spreading them out as she heard Tony laughing.
"What are you laughing at, you silly hyena? I'm just getting this stuff out for us. You could help me, you know?"
"I just love the way you blush at everything, little girl. You look sweet, DiDi. Here, I'll help you. Then we have to get some lotion on your tender, precious skin. We can't have freckles, oh, no."
Both girls sat down, and Diana got her sunscreen out of her basket. Tony seldom used anything, but today she was spreading the lotion on her own skin as Diana was doing the same to herself. Then Diana felt Tony begin putting the cream on her back. Tony's hands were firm but gentle. It was so pleasant that she almost fell asleep.
She sighed and let herself fall back against Tony. Tony wrapped her arms around her and held her close. Diana turned her head, looking into Tony's eyes. They smiled, and their lips came together. The kiss was the most intense feeling she'd had in so long. Diana reached up, wrapped her fingers in Tony's wavy brown hair, and kissed harder.
Then Diana buried her head in Tony's shoulder, not really knowing how to react. She just knew she couldn't remember ever feeling this happy. She never wanted it to end. And the day was barely starting. They had a long time ahead of them. Most of the day, the rest of the summer, two years of high school. A long time together.