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The Recurrent Fall Of Eve


somehow she never seemed not to be thinking about it, or rather never
seemed not to be thinking about not thinking about it, and she made such a
meal of thinking about not thinking about it that you couldn't help not not
thinking about it.

It wasn't really Marina's fault either, though she didn't make things any
better. She was a good mimic, and had Miss O'Callaghan off perfectly. After
lights-out, in the dorm, she would sit up in bed and have us all in
fits---I had to stuff a handkerchief into my mouth to stifle my
laughter---as she did the mistresses in turn, but Miss O'Callaghan was her
piece de resistance, at least it started off as Miss O'Callaghan but it
became what Marion---She's the clever one---called surreal. It wasn't
Marion's fault exactly either, though her mother was partly to blame.

Marina started first. Some time after that, by coincidence, I suppose, but
they must have had a pretty fair idea when most of us would be starting
they took us into the school hall and showed us that ancient flickering
cartoon film called _The meaning of womanhood_ and afterwards Miss
O'Callaghan had stood up on the stage to answer questions. Of course there
weren't any. It wasn't that we didn't know about it, that was so
disturbing---It was the openest of open secrets, and besides, some of us
had started already---it was the sense that it wasn't just the personal
disaster for each of us separately, it was the common fate of all of us;
and we were all silenced. She stood for a while, and must have felt that
she had to say something to us, so then she told us about purity.

'It is the punishment of Eve, our first mother, who picked the apple.' she
said, very solemn, stretching up her little dumpy body with its gigantic
bust to make herself as imposing as possible, 'and a reminder to keep
ourselves pure.' I denied to myself that it would happen to me. 'What are
little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice...' not wombs
with linings that break down once a month to be flushed out like a bloody
lavatory.

'It is the curse of Eve,' Marina would say, with a pillow stuffed up the
front of her nightie, her arms folded under, and we would collapse into
giggles. 'And a reminder to keep ourselves pure, and not to go fiddling
about down there with our fingers or our fountain pens or the handles of
our hairbrushes.' Then she would pause, and Miss O'Callaghan's faraway look
would come into her eyes and she would say

'I remember when I was a girl in Ireland there was a girl who lived in our
village, such a bonny girl, much admired, and she took to touching herself.
First she went pale, then she got dark circles under eyes, and people began
to wonder, and then she went thin, and people began to suspect, and then
she became a hopeless imbecile, because the jelly of her brain was melted
by what she did to herself and flowed away, and then people knew for
certain. Now she has to be handcuffed for 24 hours a day.'

We didn't really believe the story but it did have a thrill about it.
Afterwards Marion said 'Don't be silly. That's all wrong, your brain has
nothing to do with it, all that happens is it stunts your growth, you start
to grow sideways, and get an enormous bust.'

For weeks afterwards it was hard to look at Miss O'Callaghan and not
giggle. In the refectory, at supper time, the mistresses would sit with us,
a group of girls and a mistress or a prefect, making eight in all, at a
table, and we were expected to try to make polite conversation. Marion, and
Marina, and I were among 'Miss O'Callaghan's girls'.

'I thought Miss Robertson was looking tired this afternoon during our Latin
lesson. I hope she isn't indisposed.' Marion would say as though in all
innocence---and we all knew: _indisposed_: the curse. Circles round the
eyes: we know what she's been doing---'I do hope that she is not overtiring
herself. Do you think that Miss McIntyre is losing weight?' and of course
there was Miss Martin, thin, tired, and with shaking hands. We knew what
she spent all her free time doing, and there would be more suppressed
chuckles, and if we weren't discreet, Miss O'Callaghan's eyes would dart
about, take it in, and she would ask somebody

'What's so entertaining, Angela?' and Angela or Elizabeth, or whoever it
was who had been spoken to would reply as we all did,
'Oh, nothing Miss O'Callaghan'.
'Well, in that case, compose yourself, child.'

I suppose that I was lucky in a way. I started during the Summer holiday at
home, and my mother looked after me. Some months before she had shown me
how to put on the belt and pad, and everything was ready and waiting for
the dreadful day. She wasn't very sympathetic, I can see why now. Every
other woman in the world had to put up with it as matter of monthly
c(o)urse. Every other woman had to hide it from the men in the house. Every
other woman had to feel the tension, and the drawing, and the besmirching
by the blood and mucus, and had to carry on as if nothing was happening,
looking like a princess in pretty clothes, with aching body, and a bloody
pad pressed up up between her legs. She was having to experience it twice
over, on her own behalf and on mine.

The worst thing was that my father knew the very day it happened. Before I
went to bed, while my mother was clearing up the supper things, he would
read aloud to me. I loved climbing up into his lap, and lying in the crook
of his left arm, and looking down at the pictures in the book as he read
the story to me. He didn't read me girls' books: he read the exciting books
he had read as a boy, big old-fashioned cloth-bound books with gaudy chromo
pictures. I even remember the book. We were reading _King Solomon's Mines_.
That evening he didn't sit down in his armchair, he sat down on the sofa
and beckoned me towards him. I went to sit in his lap as usual but he said
gently,

'Not tonight, Meg, that's just for little girls. Your mother tells me that
you are a grown-up woman now, and so I must start to treat you like a lady.
Come, sit here and we'll carry on with the story.'

I sat down beside him because I didn't know what else to do. I was very
sad.
He started to read, but it was a meaningless string of words.
'I love you, Daddy.' I said.
'I know you do, my dear,' he said, 'and I love you.' He closed the book.
'Perhaps you have too much to think about now...tomorrow, maybe?'

I went to bed bereft. We never finished _King Solomon's Mines_.

'Is that all?' said Marion, 'You're lucky: you haven't got a brother', and
she went on tell about her brother Ranald sneaking into her bedroom and
finding the box of tampons and hiding them. 'And then he stole the
instruction sheet---You know the one: the one with drawings of the girl
putting it in, and showed it to all his friends.

'What instruction sheet? Mummy got me pads.' I said.
Marina said 'I asked if I could have tampons, but my mum said that she
didn't want me putting anything in there just yet.' She grinned and added
'I couldn't think what she meant.'
'You're awful', Marion said, 'and so's your mother.
'Well anyway, I've never had to have pads and I think tampons are best.
I've got a box in my locker, and I'll lend you the instructions and you can
read them after lights-out in the dorm.'

That night, under the sheets with my torch I looked at the blue-printed
drawings of the girl wearing the baby-doll nightie and the slippers with
the pom-poms, squatting down and inserting the tampon. I thought her
posture was absolutely obscene, but I remember feeling curious, I
remembered Miss O'Callaghan and I remember wondering about touching myself.
I switched off the torch, put it under my pillow, with the leaflet, and
composed myself to go to sleep. Judging from the even sounds of breathing
the other three girls in the cublicle were asleep. I was puzzled about
touching myself. What was the point in that? I turned on to my side, and
tried to go to sleep, but I couldn't get the picture of the squatting girl
out of my mind. Would starting a baby be like that? I wondered. I knew that
the man had to put his penis into the woman's vagina, and that spermatazoa
come out of him and fertilised the ovum, but I couldn't understand why
anybody would want to do anything so obscene even if they wanted to have a
baby. Penis and vagina, dick and quim. Then I wondered about how he would
get it inside. I caught the hem of my nightie with my toe and flexed my
knee bringing the hem up the bed to where I could get hold of it with my
fingers and pull it up to my waist.
I touched myself, feeling the disgusting hair that had come, and I was
shocked to find myself wet. If felt sick, as if I had become incontinent, I
could foresee that for the years to come I would seep and leak between my
legs and be completely unable to control it. I found the opening of my
vagina---all those ugly words, _vagina,_ _vulva_. Is there ever a word
uglier than 'vulva'? Nasty name for a nasty thing---and pushed my finger
into it. It was very tight and very slimy. I tried to dry off the wetness
with my fingers and there it was, in an instant, a curious tension
demanding some kind of resolution, but how? I touched myself, and the
tension developing, tenser and tenser, until, encountering the beach, a
long crescent of deserted sand in the moonlight, the slow sea-swell began
to shear, to tumble, foaming into guilty fulfilment.

'But once won't turn me into an imbecile...' I hoped, prayed, remembering
what Miss O'Callaghan had said, 'First she went pale, then she got circles
under her eyes...' as fingers and quim decided together, independently of
my conscience or my wishes to seduce each other a second time, a third
time...

Before my eyes long parallel bars of gold were sloping gently downwards to
the left, resolving into shafts of sunlight shining on the wall through
curtain-gaps---A beautiful Summer morning, tennis in the afternoon---to the
cold-shower shock of recollection: I had still been touching myself when I
had fallen, exhausted, into sleep, some time in the small hours of the
morning. I looked at my watch, forty minutes to go before the Rising bell.
I wondered if my mind had been damaged, if I had forgotten anything that I
was sure I knew. I declined _mensa_, and _dominus_, and _rex_; I could
remember them so that seemed all right. We were 'doing' Tennyson in English
literature; so without thinking about its content I recited _The Lady of
Shallott_ to myself, and then of course when I got to '..."The curse is
come upon me" cried the Lady of Shallott...'---fits of suppressed giggles
in the classroom, but here and now not a giggling matter at all---and my
mind turned back to what I had been doing. But perhaps things weren't too
bad, I hoped; perhaps nobody would notice. I wondered if the circles under
the eyes had come in the night, and if my hands had started to shake
already. I turned over on to my side and resolved to keep my fingers away
from my quim. There was a small sound, and I looked across to Marina. She
was lying on her left side, her back towards me. I could see that under the
bed-clothes her right arm was moving rhythmically...and I knew. As I
watched the rhythm accelerated until she sighed and stretched under the
covers and lay still.

In the middle of the afternoozn we were changing for tennis. I always
stayed close to Marina when we got changed. I always change quickly: off
with the skirt, unbutton the blouse, slip my arms out of the sleeves, pull
my bra down, pull the back round to the front, unhook it, reverse the
process with my games bra, step into the back of the tennis dress, pull it
up, blouse pulled out before the tennis frock zipped up, and I was changed.
Marina always seemed to manage to be more naked than the rest of us. She
would unbutton her blouse and take it off. Then she unhooked her bra,
always from the back, and would stand self-consciously un-selfconsciously
cupping her breasts and she would complain to me,in secret pride, it
seemed, about their weight, and about having to wear a D-cup bra already,
and how lucky I was not to need the support---and she would slip the straps
over her shoulders, lean forward slowly, easing herself into the cups of
the special sports bra she needed for tennis, hooking it together behind
her back.

I used to watch pinned in a balance between fascination, and revulsion at
her flesh, her fatness; but she wasn't fat. I don't suppose that I was the
only one who stared at her. I think Miss Milligan was fascinated a little
because there always seemed to be a pause before she would say 'Come along,
girls, we haven't got all day.'

That day we were standing together. Nobody else was close enough to hear. I
was changed and she was changing. As lightly as I could---My heart was
pounding so hard I could see the front of my frock shaking--- I asked
'What were you doing this morning?'
'Nothing...' but the contradicting blush surged to the tops of her very
shoulders, her skin thickening with the scarlet 'When do you mean?'

I felt hot myself. I suppose that I was flushed as well.
'This morning before the Rising bell.' I felt fluttery inside, different
from the anything I had ever felt before, changed.
'I saw your arm moving. You were touching yourself weren't you?' but before
she could say anything,
'Come along, girls, we haven't got all day.'

So Marina finished dressing quickly and we went out to play tennis. We were
playing doubles, and we had separate partners, but we were in the same
foursome. It was while we were playing that I remembered what Marion had
said about touching yourself: it made your bust grow and I could hardly
look away from her to watch the ball. We had laughed when Marion had said
it; I thought it was just a joke, but then Marina had such a large bust...

Later that evening Marion and Marina and I were sitting together in the
common room in the half-hour after prep before bedtime. I was feeling
skittish and, I suppose, spiteful.

'Would you like to know a secret?' I asked Marion.
'Not especially.' deflating me; but I went on anyway,
'I saw Marina touching herself this morning.'
'It's not _touching yourself_' said Marion, contemptuously, 'It's
"frigging". That's the word for it, and if you weren't such a baby we'd
have told you about it before, but you're so infantile... My mum told me
about it. She said that it's perfectly normal so long as you don't do too
much of it. I frig, Marina frigs, you're just too immature. You're probably
the last girl in the form to start.'

'But I frig.' I said, without quite knowing why I said it. 'I've done it
for ages.'

We all stopped. Somehow we had all confessed to more than we had intended
to, but there was no way to bite the words back, to unsay them. We looked
at one another not knowing what to say next.
'I think I'll read until bedtime.' I said and left them. I was feeling
fluttery again, and I could feel my insides were melting. I yearned to go
somewhere quiet with Marina and hug her and apologise, and be hugged by her
and forgiven.

Later, that night, I was thinking about Marina, about her bosom. I didn't
want to be like her, but my bosom was like two little cones with sore pink
tips. I would have liked a proper B-cup bosom. I felt very sorry that I had
messed things up: it was hard to understand my former mood. I didn't think
that I was spiteful normally; and the annoying thing was that I wanted to
ask so many questions, but didn't because I was scared of showing my
ignorance. I wasn't sure about what to make of Marion's mum's advice about
not doing too much of it. I was lying on my side, and under the bed covers
my fingers were gathering my nightie in little tucks, my arms staying quite
still. 'Perhaps it won't do me any harm if I don't do it too often, and it
might help my bust to develop.' I thought. But it wasn't a question of what
I wanted any more. It was the conspiracy of hand and quim that demanded the
touching. I swore before Christ and all His angels that I wouldn't touch
myself again; but my fingers and quim had sworn no oath and would not be
bound by mine: they were ravenous for each other. They managed the matter
discretely---I'm sure that even the closest scrutiny could not have made
out the cycle of my hand beneath the sheet---and my soul was transported on
the breaking wave of pleasure---such self-extinguishing intensity of bliss;
and afterwards self-ravished, heart pounding, sweating, sighing in
satiation, the guilt, the state of sin overwhelmed me: I had sworn and
broken the oath at the very same moment, and now I was damned. I lay a long
time in the darkness on my back. I folded my hands across my breast as they
would fold them when they put me in my coffin, and imagined Hell. After a
while, recognizing for the first time that I, my very own self, was going
to die, I was dazzled by the blaze of my own mortality, and groaned aloud
and had to look away.

I woke up to the angled bars of gold and felt the old voluptuous pleasure
of rising into consciousness from innocent dreams. I was free of all
restraint: damned by my oath-breaking I was free to frig as much as I liked
because Hell was absolute: nothing I could do could make it any worse so I
could do whatever I liked. I felt like frigging, and I was frigging when
the Rising bell rang.

The others got up as usual but I would not get up until I had completed my
exercise.

'Are you all right? Should I call Matron?'
Marina asked, and then realising whispered 'Golly, don't get caught or
you'll be for it.' I seized my pleasure and weak-legged got out of bed and
dressed myself.

In the weeks that followed I spent most of my free time alone in the two
places in school where there was any privacy, the lavatories, and the
chapel, and there I spent hours, in solitary ecstasy, experimenting with
myself, hard and soft, quick and slow, plumbing, at first with tentative
fingers, the limits of my quim.

Sometimes I would leave my knickers off and spend the day smiling
enigmatically, sitting demurely, with my hands folded in my lap. Somehow my
whole body had become sensitive: aware of the slightest brushing of a
sleeve against my arm, a cat's-paw breeze in my hair; and by that time the
slightest movement, the tensing of one finger of the hand resting in my lap
was enough to dislodge the pebble that dislodged others in the fall,
cascading into one more variation on the theme of bliss.

The days were dreams of pleasure, but at night I would awake to Hell. At
first I simply lay, in the coffin posture, sweating in horror, but then one
night, sore and satiated though I was, I frigged until I came, in defiance.

For a while, after I disclosed her secret, Marina was too shy to frig in
bed before the Rising bell. Most mornings I woke early and whiled away the
time, in pleasure, waiting for the bell. And then when I was lying on my
side, facing towards Marina's bed, one Summer morning, discreet, beginning
the sequence of devotions that would punctuate my day, I saw her stir, look
drowsily towards my bed, turm over on her left side---And so thrilled I
wanted to sing, cry out, to gather up all my strength and halloo at the top
of my voice with happiness, I watched her right arm moving, almost
imperceptibly, linked, it seemed, telepathically with mine; and I willed it
to be my fingers at her quim, hers in mine. And though she seemed not to
know it, we shared the ecstasy together.

On the back of the photograph: 'From Marina to Meg, with _all_ my love.
xxxxxxxxXXXXXXX June 1954.'

End of Story