Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July...read more 2015 by Inspired Quill. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for May 2017. A former clinical psychologist, she is also the author of over 60 published short stories, a book blogger and speaker on fictional therapists and on transfiction.
REMEMBER THOSE SUNDAYS when we used to sleep past lunchtime? It used to drive our mums wild. These days, I wake up long before the night has done with strutting its stuff and lie motionless in the dark, waiting for my brain to figure out where I am. Then I remember my clitoris, and laugh.
At school they showed us how to put a condom on a cucumber. You turned to me and said, Urgh! Could you imagine taking a thing like that inside you? It’s worse than a fucking tampon. That night, babysitting for your shrimp of a brother, we opened your mum’s book, the one with the hilarious photos of hippies holding a mirror up to their cunts, and learned how to do it for ourselves. Along with that first Oh-oh-oh, we discovered that the little pearl hidden away next to our piss-hole had a proper name, and a purpose. We were so full of ourselves back then.
Some women here like to trade their dreams at breakfast, dreams in which they’re constantly on the go. Swimming the Channel or climbing Everest or running the London Marathon; but the dreams they like best are the ones where they’re flying. Flying trumps the lot. They can look down from the sky on all the poor sods who have to trundle around on two legs, and feel smug. Or so they make out.
Remember how we tittered over the chapter on lesbians? It looked as if that girl-on-girl stuff had been written specially for us. It turned out we were only killing time till the boys we half-fancied caught up: you for Toby to be introduced to the wonders of deodorant; me for the goth at the gymkhana to prove himself capable of jumping a clear-round. Until we found someone worth shoving a cucumber up our fannies for, we were content with fingering each other.
These early mornings, before my brain cottons on to where it is, I believe I can feel my clitoris. If I concentrate hard enough, I swear there’s some sensation there. I feel it in the pool, too, sometimes; it’s like being tickled by a ghost. I don’t say anything, but the physio smiles at me, as if she knows.
When you get back from university, you will come and visit, won’t you? Everyone here is nearly as old as my mum, and I get so bored. I know you’ll want to go around with your other friends, but you could spare an afternoon, couldn’t you? Please!
I’ve never dreamt of flying. In my dreams, I’m galloping through a forest on a piebald stallion. I’ve taken off my hat to feel my hair streaming behind me like a banner. I’m naked, and riding bareback, and each time a hoof hits the ground, my clitoris tingles. I hold tight with my knees and jiggle my arse to rub myself against the horse’s back. And then I come, right down to my toes. As I say, it’s just a dream, but when they turn me over in the night they think I’ve wet myself and have to change the sheets.
You’ll want time with Toby, too; isn’t it weird about sweat being an aphrodisiac? I suppose you’ve moved on from those cucumber-condom lessons now. Did you need your mum’s book, or does it jigsaw together when you’re in love? Like in the songs?
In my dream, the forest closes in on us, but we don’t slow our pace. We thunder through the cracks between the trees and I lean right and left to dodge the lower branches. Still woozy from my orgasm, I can’t duck quickly enough and the forest claws at my naked body, leaving an autograph of blood across my breasts. Far far away in the background I hear my mum screaming, Slow down! You’ll break your bloody neck.
Will you try to get a job for the holidays? Maybe you could come and work at the unit. Wouldn’t that be weird? You’d need a car to get out here. Would your mum lend you hers?
When it gets lighter, I flick my eyes to the side to squint at the clock. It’s not long then till the day staff come on duty. After their handover, one of them will come into my room and squeeze past the equipment to open the curtains. How did you sleep? she’ll say. Shall I turn you or are you ready to get up?
Remember how we used to think we were so streetwise? Sure we could handle all the calamities that could befall a teenager, right through from a disastrous haircut the day before a party to our parents looking solemn and announcing they were getting divorced.
Like I said, my day starts differently these days. I wake early and lie motionless in the dark, waiting for the day staff to come and move me. I lie here, thinking about the old days. Then I remember my clitoris, and weep.