1700 Miles from New York
Nic Kelman

You have no idea how it happened. You know you were staying with Jonathan, at his villa on the cliff in St. Barths. You know that it began the day he and Marjorie and Tamsin went out to shop for batik leaving you alone with Cassandra. But you were as surprised as everyone else that it happened.

You were lying by the pool and she came out for a swim. She had been there a month already, her skin was already tan. And you could see so much of it even when you just glanced up from your book, a masturbatory, soapbox piece by a CEO you knew very well.

And then when she came up out of the pool after doing some laps, she didn’t dry herself off. You think that was what did it, that was what broke your will to resist. Those beads of water on her smooth brown skin, those beads of water caught up in the transparent down that seemed to cover most of her body, those beads of water that smelled like suntan oil. She came up to your deck chair and knelt down near your head. You pretended not to notice her. She leaned over your book, her long, wet, black hair hanging down one side of her face, the side away from you, and just barely caressing the rough cut edges of the hardcover’s paper. You could see the water seeping into the paper, ruining the book. But you didn’t move for fear of frightening her away, as if she were a wild animal, for fear of no longer being able to smell her so close. That smell of chlorine and suntan oil and sun and something else, something clean, something really only young girls smell like.

“Whatcha reading?” she asked.

And while you told her she just stared at you, nodding as if she were listening but her enormous green eyes wandering all over your face, her eyes wandering as if she had managed to get very close to some deep sea creature and was only going to have this one chance to study it. She had the most beautiful lips, so full, so turgid. And her nose was so tiny, smaller than your thumb.

Or maybe it wasn’t the drops of water. Maybe it was the bee. Maybe if the bee hadn’t landed on your chest, hadn’t kind of somehow gotten caught and confused and angry in the seam of the book, maybe if that hadn’t happened then nothing else would.

But it did happen. It did land there, just as you finished explaining and she had yelped, leapt back, and you had slammed the book shut but somehow missed the bee and it had stung your chest, right at the base of the sternum. And then it was your turn to yelp and leap up and the dead bee tumbled down your body and onto your towel.

She had come closer cautiously, come closer as you swore and watched the welt grow on your chest. She had looked down at the bee and then pushed at it reservedly with her middle finger.

“They die once they sting,” you managed to say, not wanting to seem like it hurt too much, which it did, it stung like a motherfucker.

“I know that,” she said looking at you and rolling her eyes, “I’ve just never actually seen one die.” “Oh my gosh, look at your chest,” she added.

And you looked down, trying very hard not to spend too long on her recently risen breasts still glistening with dew, on her still forming hips, on her new waist, on her brown belly with its belly-button like a puncture, on the bony mound that pushed out between her legs, you looked down and saw the welt had grown considerably in just a few seconds.

As you went inside, as she took your hand to lead you inside to get you some aloe vera, you noticed the wet shades her knees and the balls of her feet had left on the sunbaked flagstone, left on the sunbaked flagstone where she had been kneeling when she had just gotten out of the pool. Like the Shroud of Turin, you thought.

She took you into the kitchen, made you sit down, and padded off to some bathroom or other. The kitchen smelled like her, like all those smells she smelled like.

When she came back you went to get up, to reach out to take it from her, and she pushed you back down, said, “Sit down.” And you obeyed her, because it was really your obedience that made you sit down, not her push. She couldn’t have pushed you over even if she had used all her weight and strength, couldn’t have even moved you.

She squirted some aloe vera on her palm, squirted another clean, fresh scent into the air to mingle with the others, and scooped a little bit up with the fingers of her other hand and rubbed it into the wound.

Then, without looking at you, she kissed it. She opened her mouth slightly and kissed it.

When you didn’t push her away in horror, she kissed it some more, gently, her lips puckered but closed. At last she looked up at you. She didn’t need to say anything. You had to have your mouth on hers. You crushed your mouth to hers so hard it hurt you both a little. Her tongue was so small yet so strong, so resilient. You had her up on the counter in a second, had her legs spread and hooked around you, her bikini top yanked down exposing her little breasts to your hungry mouth, her bikini bottoms pulled aside, your fingers inside her as your other hand pulled her body to you by the small of her back. She couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred and five pounds. Her hands just pushed up on the underside of the cabinets, kept her from slipping too far back, kept her from banging her head against them. You pulled your trunks down and entered her. Because of her tanlines, it was over very quickly. You couldn’t contain yourself inside her. But it was the best orgasm you’d had in years. She opened her eyes at last, had been keeping them closed since you hoisted her up on the counter.

“Oh God, what have I done,” was the first thing you thought. And it must have shown on your face because the first thing she said, as she pulled off you, as she straightened her top and bottoms, as she slipped off the counter and got some paper towels, the first thing she said was, “Don’t worry I’m on the pill.” And then as she wiped up the counter she added, “And I wasn’t a virgin or anything either, if that’s what you’re worried about.” She said it as if ‘virgin’ were comparable to ‘Neo-Nazi.’ But that wasn’t what you were worried about. That wasn’t it at all. You’re not even sure you were worried. As she threw the towels away, she said with a grin, “You may want to think about pulling your trunks up, I think I heard a car.”

Or maybe it wasn’t the bee. Maybe it would have happened without the drops of water or the bee. Maybe it would have happened differently, but it would have happened.

By the time Tamsin came in, you were back out by the pool, pretending to read, your heart still pounding. She was wearing a one-piece bathing suit and a new, batik gown open on top of it.

“What happened to your chest?” she said, concerned. She wore sunglasses. You couldn’t see her eyes.

And then that night the ‘girls,’ as they called themselves, cooked. And they enlisted Cassandra to chop the vegetables. “She hasn’t really learned to do anything worthwhile in the kitchen yet,” you heard Marjorie sigh to Tamsin. Still in her bikini, still barefoot, a kind of woven, multi-colored bracelet around one ankle, a bracelet you knew the feel of pressing into your gripping palm, Cassandra insisted on using the spot on the counter where you’d fucked her to do the job they gave her.

But when she sat down to dinner like that, her mother made her go upstairs to change. You stared at your plate and speared the vegetables she’d cut and tried not to think about her getting changed in her room, about her naked body, about the triangular patches of pale skin you now knew she had around her nipples and her pussy. But you still got an erection.

And then that night, with the lights off, you couldn’t sleep. So you cupped Tamsin’s breasts in your hands and she said, “oooo - hello...” and rolled over and stroked underneath your cock with her fingers, stroked your cock precisely the way you liked best, and then climbed on top of you and fucked you pretty hard. If you kept your hands off her, if you just lay back and let her ride you there in the dark, you could pretend it was Cassandra. You could pretend it was your friend’s daughter, that is, except for the smell. When you came it was because you were thinking about Cassandra’s mouth, open slightly, moaning almost imperceptibly as you fucked her.

When you woke up the next day, you were in a panic. For some reason, you were terrified she had told her mother, confessed in sobs, made it seem like you had seduced her or worse. You brushed your teeth and you looked in the mirror and you rehearsed in your mind saying things like, “That’s ridiculous!” But you knew you could never be convincing. You knew they’d see the guilt on your face. When you went down to breakfast, you felt like you thought you would if you were going to your own execution. You couldn’t look at Tamsin. What would she say? Would she scream at you or, unable to bear it (what? the shame? the anger?), would she quietly walk out of the room? She asked you what was wrong on the way down the stairs. “Nothing,” you said, “Nothing’s wrong.”

But at the breakfast table, everything had been normal. And as you went outside to read, as you breathed a sigh of relief, you swore you’d stay away from her for the remainder of the month. Later Tamsin had said, “You’re in a good mood!” and you’d replied, “Sure - why not?”

But a couple of days later, during which Cassandra had spoken to you no more than necessary, you and Jonathan were reading out by the pool and she came out and asked her father if he would take her shopping. He said he didn’t want to, that he’d take her the next day. She had her back to you and was wearing faded jeans that could have been painted on. When he said that, in her disappointment she shifted her weight from one foot to the other and her ass moved those jeans up and down as she did so and you found yourself saying, “I’ll take her, Jonathan.”

And she turned around and looked at you and you could see she wasn’t wearing a bra under her loose tanktop.

“Oh that’s really nice of you but don’t worry about it, it’s not necessary,” Jonathan said.

“No, really,” you insisted, prompted by the way the tanktop hung from her nipples in the breeze, “it’s fine, I’m not getting anything done here anyway.”

“Well, if you insist,” he said, “That’s really nice of you, Geoff - thank Geoff, sweetie, he’s doing you a favor!”

She squinted at you, the sun was behind you. “Thanks Mr. Martinson,” she said. She had called you Geoff for years but had been calling you Mr. Martinson for the last few days, had been making a point of using your name all the time.

You took the jeep and she made you drive down a deserted track to a cliff overlooking the ocean. You fucked her from behind in the back of the jeep, she didn’t even bother taking her jeans off all the way. You managed to control yourself longer this time but it was probably because you were nervous. You kept looking back up the dirt road to see if anyone was coming. She barely moved, stared out at the ocean the entire time. But she did look over her shoulder at you and smile when you came. You fucked her twice more that afternoon.

As you drove back down the track, another car drove past, heading for the cliff. You couldn’t see who was inside but she said, “That would have been funny, wouldn’t it!?” You didn’t answer her.

When you got home her father asked if she’d gotten anything and when she said, “No. I couldn’t find anything I liked,” he joked with you, “Huh - maybe you should take her shopping more often - when she goes with me she always manages to spend a fortune!”

But again when you woke the next morning, you felt fear. No, not fear this time, worry. You were worried. You brushed your teeth without practicing a word. You managed to walk into breakfast with your head up. Cassandra and Marjorie were already there. “Morning, Geoff!” said Marjorie pleasantly. You smiled back, “Morning, Marjorie.” And it even gave you the audacity to add, “Morning, Cassandra.”

“Good morning Mr. Martinson,” she said, returning your smile.

And from then on you weren’t even worried, from then on it went on untroubled. You had to invent excuses to be alone with her as much as possible, certainly. You caught a cold, faked a sprained ankle, had so many allergies that after a couple of weeks Tamsin said, “You poor dear, this just isn’t your summer is it?” You said things like, “No go on, don’t worry about me, I have all those books I want to get through,” more times than you can remember. But it was worth it to get beyond the frantic, panting gropings in the hallways. It was worth it to get what you wanted.

Not that there weren’t close calls.

One day, quite early on, you were lying by the pool with everyone. Cassandra was sunning herself on an inflatable sunbed in the pool and you were wearing your darkest sunglasses so you could pretend to read while you looked over the top of the book at her drifting around there. You were so clever you even remembered to turn the pages regularly. And then suddenly Tamsin, lying next to you on another chair, said very quietly, “Umm, Geoff, Ah-hem!” And your heart nearly exploded out of your chest but you used every ounce of self-control you had to look at her calmly and say, “What?” as innocently as you possibly could. And she frowned and glanced around and jabbed a finger with staccato movements towards your waist. Your heart began to slow. “What?” you said again, the ignorance genuine this time, you said as you lifted your book above your head to look under it. You had an erection. Embarrassed, you shifted around until it was hidden. Tamsin said, “Maybe I should be worried.” Again, your heart picked up, “What? Why?” you asked. “Because it looks like interest rates turn you on more than I do.” And when you stared at her blankly, wondering what the hell she was talking about, wondering what answer you could give that wouldn’t give you away without you even knowing it, when you stared at her like that she rolled her eyes and pointed at your book. You looked at the page you were on. It was about interest rates. You didn’t even know which book you had been pretending to read.

And there was the time it was rainy so everyone was inside and you went into the media room, a big open space with lots of entrances, and Cassandra was in there alone stretched out on the couch watching some Disney cartoon. She was just wearing an over-size t-shirt, her bare legs with their recently acquired curves curled up beside her like bows cut from green wood. You couldn’t help yourself. From experience you knew she wore nothing beneath that t-shirt except her panties and you had to sit down next to her and slide your hand up the smooth brown skin of her thigh and slip it under her shirt and pull her panties aside and gently stroke that slit between her legs and go to kiss her. But she smacked your hand and pulled her head away in irritation. “Stop it,” she said, “I’m trying to watch this.” So you pulled your hand away and it was a good thing too because right at that moment Marjorie came into the room. And the two of you must have looked guilty because when she saw you she said in a mock scold, “What have you two been up to? It’s thick as thieves in here!” But before you could answer, she went on talking but just to Cassandra this time and said, “Have you been telling Geoff all your secrets again?” And she came up close behind her daughter, stood behind the couch where you both sat, and gently pulled her daughter’s hair back into a pony-tail and caressed it and carefully pulled her daughter’s head back so they were looking at each other upside down. And then she said, without looking at you, still stoking her daughter’s hair, still looking at her daughter, “She really trusts you, you know, Geoff - she told me so...my little angel.” And she kissed Cassandra on her forehead and let her return her head upright, facing you. Then, with her mother behind her and no one behind you, Cassandra blew you a little kiss. Then she shifted her body just slightly so you could see up her t-shirt, shifted her body just slightly so you could see her panties were still pulled to one side. You glanced at Marjorie who was now absorbed in the cartoon, trying to figure out what was going on, one hand still resting absent-mindedly on the back of her daughter’s head. You suddenly felt like you were going to throw up. You suddenly wondered what the hell you thought you were doing.

And there was the time shortly before you left when you were all arguing at dinner and you went upstairs to get a book that proved your point and when you turned around to leave the room Cassandra was in the doorway. That time there were several guests, people you both knew who were on the island that weekend and everyone had dressed for dinner. That time she wore make-up and earrings and a man’s white shirt and a mini-skirt despite her mother’s objections. That time you paused and stood still with the book already in your hands and when you paused she knew you wouldn’t resist at all so she walked into the room, still not confident on the carpet in her heels she walked into the room and pushed you back onto the bed and knelt between your legs and unzipped your pants and pulled your already erect cock out with one hand while she unbuttoned her shirt with the other. Then you leaned up off the bed, supported yourself on your elbows, and watched while she rubbed the head of your cock over her nipples, watched as she slipped all she could of it into her tiny mouth - barely more than the head, watched as, just as you came, she pulled her mouth off you and held your cock close to her cheek, watched as, with a smile, with her eyes closed and her head thrown back, with both hands, she rubbed your semen into her face, her throat, her breasts. It was only then you noticed she’d left the door open, only then you noticed that, you who was always so careful about everything. And, noticing, you suddenly panicked, shoved yourself back in your pants, pulled her to her feet by her arms, her enormous green eyes opening at your touch, and pushed her into your bathroom to clean herself up. That time you made her go downstairs first, that time you had to change your pants, that time you came back downstairs after fifteen minutes, relieved to see Cassandra already there and chatting pleasantly with the old woman next to her, when you came downstairs and said, waving the book in the air, “Sorry! Couldn’t find it.” That time when, after you sat down, you noticed Tamsin studying you with a frown. That time your wife leaned over and said quietly in your ear while you looked around at everyone else, everyone else absorbed in other conversations, while you played with your wine glass, that time she whispered, “Why did you change your pants?” That time you had no answer.

But these were exceptions. For the most part the two of you had nothing to fear. When the house was empty you fucked her everywhere. You fucked her out by the pool, in the shower, on the living room couch. She told you to choke her, panted, “No - No - keep doing it,” when you apologized for banging her head against the headboard, asked you shyly if you’d call her your ‘little teen bitch.’ Even wanted you to fuck her in the ass but decided it was too painful after you eagerly agreed.

And yet the night you would - wish you could - repeat again and again without hesitation, the night you have absolutely no regrets about even now Tamsin has found out and left and Jonathan and Marjorie are trying to prosecute you, a case you’re told they don’t have a hope of winning, the night you remember the most vividly, that night had nothing to do with sex.

It was the night the four of you were supposed to have left Cassandra alone and flown over to Paradise Island for dinner and gambling and stayed in a hotel but instead you pretended you had sprained your ankle. You had been thinking about it for days. As soon as you had all agreed on the excursion, you the most enthusiastically, you had begun machinating over the best way to be left behind with Cassandra, all alone with her for an entire night. A whole night! It was the first thing in your life you found you didn’t just want, didn’t simply desire, you who’d desired so much and gotten it all, it was, instead, something you had to have, something you felt you couldn’t live without, would go mad without. You knew you would do anything for it, pay anything for it, degrade yourself in whatever way necessary for it. If you’d thought it might help, you would have possibly killed for it. Yet, in the end, all you had to do was fake a sprained ankle.

And so you had her to yourself for an entire night. And as soon as it had started, as soon as Tamsin and Jonathan and Marjorie got in that beat-up island cab to head for the tiny island airport (“Look after Geoff, dear, make sure he has everything he needs!”), as soon as you couldn’t believe this was really going to happen, as soon as you couldn’t believe you were actually going to be this lucky, this blessed, as soon as that, you knew this night was going to be unequaled by any other night of your life.

But not because of the sex. Not that you didn’t have sex, of course, and more times in one night than in a very long time (at least for you). But because afterwards, when it got late, when she fell asleep, you just lay there holding her young body against yours, as close to yours as possible. Smelling her. Staring into the dark. You just lay there like that all night. Awake. Not moving. You didn’t sleep at all, you who was always so tired. You didn’t want to waste one moment you could possibly be enjoying that sensation, that sensation you were fairly certain you’d never felt and doubted you’d have the chance to feel again. That sensation of being alive.

And in the morning when she woke, she kissed you, played wife, made you breakfast, said, “You look tired.” “Must be the ankle,” you joked. She laughed then and also later when you said the same thing to Tamsin when she said the same thing to you. Although you had said it quite differently that second time.

And yet even after that, closer to when you were supposed to be leaving, she still began to get cute. She left a copy of Lolita in Tamsin’s bathroom. She flashed you her tits after you and her father walked past her in the hallway. She even somehow snuck through your room at night and left a message on your bathroom mirror in lipstick - “Couldn’t sleep,” it said, “Kept thinking about your cock.”

And so the first time you were alone, the first chance you got, you grabbed her by both arms and shook her and shouted, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Do you think this is some kind of game!?” And she had started to cry. And you had let her go right away, apologized. And snuffling, holding back tears, she said, “I thought you’d think it was funny!” Then she wiped her nose on the back of her hand and ran upstairs. You barely had time to comfort her and get her looking decent before the others came home.

At breakfast the next morning you nearly choked on your coffee when Jonathan told her to come here and looked closely at her arms and asked her where she got the bruises barely visible on her tan skin just above her biceps. But she was very good at lying. She gave nothing away. She just shrugged and said she didn’t know, in the pool maybe. Even though you could make out a mark your ring had left, Jonathan believed her. “Well, just be more careful OK? I love you - I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you,” and he kissed her on the forehead and she nodded and said she loved him too and sat back down. Then Jonathan looked at you and rolled his eyes and said, “Kids!” You snorted in agreement, conspiratorially, and drank some more coffee.

But when you did leave at last, she confused you. When you did leave at last, to your amazement, she had been crying. When you did leave at last, she stopped you alone in the hallway and said, “But I love you.”

Then she collapsed against you, sobbing, hugging you. And you patted her on the back while you looked up and down the corridor in case someone came. You didn’t understand. You didn’t think it had anything to do with that. You didn’t think it had anything to do with that at all.


Nic Kelman is a fiction writer, essayist, and photographer. The above selection is an excerpt from his first novel, girls, currently available from Little, Brown and Company.


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