Reading Sundays: THE END OF CHILDHOOD (Part 9), a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

I made a low curtsey and turned to go. “One more thing, my dear.” He put his hand on my arm. “Call me John.”

“John,” I breathed.

“Yes indeed,” and he kissed me again, thrusting his tongue inside my mouth.

I fled.

The chamber that I shared with Maria was quiet, as she was spending the afternoon with her mother. What should I do about his ring? Should I wear it, or not? Perhaps I should wear it. It was the only evidence I had of Mr. Clayton’s intention to marry me.

There was a knock at the door, and I hurried to open it, thinking it was Annie the maid, wanting advice for the kitchens.

There stood Mr. Clayton. “Ah, Susan. I hoped to find you here.” He smiled as he took both my hands within his own. “My affianced bride.” He looked around. “May I come in?”

The back of my neck prickled. I was alone in a bedchamber with him, just where Martha had warned me never to be. But he seemed so normal, so gentlemanlike, not at all like the ravening animal she’d told me about. So I curtseyed and gestured for him to come in. He shut the door quietly behind him.

“So this is where my beloved makes her nest.” He fingered the drapes of the canopied bed I shared with Maria. “These look old,” he remarked. “What do you think?” He turned and smiled at me. “What color would you like?”

“I—.” I twisted my hands together in front of me.

“Come now, my love. Don’t be coy. Young ladies always have opinions about furnishings. Perhaps a deep blue to suit the color of your lovely eyes?”

I opened my mouth to speak, when suddenly he was upon me, his lips seeking mine. “Don’t,” I murmured. “Don’t.” But his hands caressed my body as I melted into his arms. Beneath the hammering of my heart, my body thrummed like a bubbling pot as a kind of molten sweetness coursed through me. Before I had time to think, he’d carried me to the bed. I moaned as he eased his thumbs underneath my bodice to massage my nipples. He kissed my bosom, distracting me while he eased my gown off.

I raised myself on one elbow, clad only in my silken drawers. “No.”

His lips blocked any further protest. “Yes,” he murmured. “You want it just as much as I do.” He kissed me all over my face, only stopping when he ran out of breath. “Take those off,” he whispered.

When I hesitated, he took the fabric and ripped it apart. I cringed as the cold air hit my naked body, making goose-bumps. How ugly I must look. But he gazed at me, transfixed. “Lovely, so lovely,” he murmured. Then he fumbled in his breeches and took it out. It was hard, just as Martha said.

“No,” I moaned.

“Yes,” he breathed into my ear as he mounted me and thrust in.

I tried so hard not to cry out, knowing instinctively that it would displease him, but as he pried open my soft inner parts, a fishermen prying open oysters, I screamed.

He clamped his mouth over mine. “You’re all right now, my love. It always hurts the first time—.” He couldn’t say more, because he was gasping for air, his face hardening into lines of pain. Gradually, the pain ceased and was replaced by waves of feeling I’d never had before. I was powerless to stem the tide.

[To be continued.]