“Hey. Wake up.”
Someone was shaking her shoulder. Jenny Dunn came back to herself and realized it was Dan Myer, the foreman of the tree-planting crew she had signed on with for the summer.
They had been travelling through Northern Ontario for what seemed like weeks. From Toronto to Sudbury, and then into Canadian Shield country. Until the sun set, it was an endless sequence of jack pines, rocks, and lakes that made her think of the Group of Seven paintings she’d studied in her art history classes.
Jenny slung the oversize backpack over her shoulder and prepared to get off the train. “What time is it?”
“About two a.m., unfortunately,” Dan said. “But we’re getting close to where we need to get off, so …”
“Where are we again?”
“Manossa Lake is where we’re getting off. There’s a few houses here, and there’s a place we can crash until sunrise. Then, it’s four hours hike to the camp.”
“Looking forward to it,” Jenny said in a flat voice. Dan chuckled.
As the conductor helped them off the train, he clapped Dan on the shoulder, saying “Have a good summer, Dan. And you’re heading up country too, miss?”
“Be careful up there… if they get a chance at you they’ll sink their teeth into you and carry you off.”
“You mean bears?”
“Hell no. Blackflies!” Dan and the conductor laughed uproariously. This was apparently a well-rehearsed routine for the newbies.
As they trudged from the train to the “crash pad”, as Dan called it, Jenny and Dan were too tired to say much to each other. The stars overhead, though, had never seemed so numerous. With no light pollution drowning them out, Jenny could see masses of stars that she had never even realized she missed. A sliver of moon was the only other source of light, but Dan walked steadily ahead without a glimmer of indecision.
“How many years have you been doing this, Dan?”
“This is my fifth. Got in the summer before I went to York for first-year, and now I’m starting grad school at Waterloo.”
“Is the money really as good as they say?”
“It can be. You’ll have to work on your planting skill, and the money will start a bit slow for you. But you’ll be okay. And besides, what can you spend it on?”
The walk brought them to a tumbledown cabin. No light showed, and Dan got his flashlight out. “Where’s that key … ah.”
He opened the door, and they stepped in. Dan walked over to a kerosene lamp and lit it, just bringing the flame up enough to not walk into anything.
“Jenny, there’s a bedroom over there. I usually hit one of those couches over there. It’s up to you – you can grab the other couch or you can grab the bed.”
Jenny thought about her options. Dan had been flirting with her, and while he was cute enough, she didn’t really find him that attractive. But she would be working and living with Dan for three months, so it might be bad form to take the bedroom. They were likely to see each other in all manner of situations over the summer. But this might be her last chance at a real bed for a while…
“I’ll take the other couch.” Where did that come from?
“Cool. Don’t bother changing. Just a waste of time.”
“Is there water?”
“There’s a handpump by the sink. But I have some bottled here.”
“It’s just for my face.” Jenny walked to the sink and got some water, splashing her face. By the time she turned around, Dan was lying on one of the couches, his pack leaned against the couch’s back. His glasses were on the coffee table, and he was lying on his back, eyes closed. He was a little cute, she thought.
She walked over to the other couch, got a thermal blanket out of her pack, and lay down. Although she thought the disruption of the train might have stopped her sleeping, it seemed like she was asleep on the way down to the pillow.
Sun streaming in a dirty window woke Jenny up. Dan was waking up as well, rubbing his eyes and staring vacantly at the ceiling.
“Hey. Sleep well?”
“Yeah. This couch knows me better than I know myself, I think. It’s like a family reunion when I come in and out of the woods.”
The pair made a quick breakfast and tidied the cabin. By 7:30, it was time to start hiking. This is it, Jenny thought. Into the woods. She had never been this far north in Ontario, and never this far from civilization. Her self-confidence, borne of hours spent in the gym and running the streets and paths of Toronto, was in contention with pangs of nervousness, about the work, the isolation, and the crew she’d be working with for the summer.
As Dan and Jenny moved up a logging road, she tried to put her doubts aside and enjoy what was turning out to be a hot, beautiful day. The silence of the forest struck her, just as the starry sky had last night. The two chattered a little, and then settled into a companionable silence as the heat gathered and they began to work their way uphill in earnest.
After about an hour, Jenny called a halt. “Dan, I’ve gotta visit the woods.”
“Do you have any toilet paper with you?”
“Yup.” Jenny had read and re-read the pack list that the forestry company she was working for provided, and besides, she figured, most women would be unlikely to forget that particular item. She walked off trail a few yards, dropped her pants and squatted to relieve herself.
As she was finishing up, she momentarily lost balance and leaned to the left, putting down a hand to steady herself. As she did that, she glanced back, and saw Dan watching. Intently. Gross, she thought. Jenny moved back into balance, wiped up, and thought about her options – make a big deal of this, or let it go. With a long summer ahead, she thought it might be better to let it go.
As she rejoined Dan on the trail, he said “Better?”
Jenny nodded, and they moved on.
They started to hear human noises around noon – not that they were keeping time, but the June heat was already intense enough on them, and Jenny could feel sweat trickling down her back. The last hour or so had been almost entirely uphill, and her calves were starting to tighten up. She had put her long blond hair back in a ponytail, but even that felt moist.
Dan yelled “Hallooo!” ahead, and the answering shout “Dan the man!” came back quickly. Dan looked at Jenny and said, “We’re about a half-mile from camp. You up for a run?”
Part of her thought “Are you crazy?”, but she felt an unspoken challenge in his eyes, and her competitive spirit kicked in. She took off at a trot, and as she stepped into the pace, said “Let’s go, Dan the Man.”
Dan could run. But Jenny was smart enough to keep some of her energy in reserve. The additional exertion of running with her heavy pack immediately broke her out in a sweat. Dan pulled ahead, but she let him get out in front about 10 yards, biding her time. She could hear some of her new coworkers soon, and when she judged it was close enough for a kick, put the hammer down. She could feel her energy surge, and she began to gain on Dan. Dan heard her feet slapping the ground behind him faster, harder, and tried to kick himself, but didn’t get enough energy, and as she pulled alongside, she mustered enough energy to look to her right and smile.
They pounded up a slight rise, and saw three people standing in a camp, facing their way. Cheers erupted as the threesome realized what was underway. A guy in dreadlocks and a bandanna who must have been the one who returned the shout earlier hollered “Go Danny boy!!!”
The other two were women, and they immediately took Jenny’s side. One, a redhead with a Tilley hat, long sleeves and pants on despite the heat, yelled “Come on, girl!” The other was a petite East Indian girl. Her hair was short, and a little spiky, and she was wearing long shorts and a grimy white tank top. “Beat him!”
Both Jenny and Dan, egged on by the sudden audience, went into top gear. Dan began to gain on her, but as they got to the camp, Jenny was able to stay ahead by a few feet. When she got to a big red tent, she grabbed on and declared herself victorious with a shout. Then she dropped her pack and dropped to the ground, her chest heaving.
Her cheering section ran over. “Way to go!” She looked over at Dan. He was bent over, his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. She rolled onto her side and got up, walked to Dan, and held out her hand.
“Good race, boss.”
“Thanks,” he panted. “You’re a strategic thinker, eh?”
“I like to win.”
“Uh-huh,” he panted, and shook her hand. “Fuck. I’m gonna do a test run with the next girl I race to camp,” he said.
The redhead high-fived Jenny. “You’re the first girl to beat Danny. You’re a legend already!”
“You mean he does this to everybody?”
“Yeah – it’s a tradition. He’s been beaten a couple of times by guys, but never by a woman – until today.” The girl began to sing “Sisters are doin’ it for themselves” in a voice that was only slightly acquainted with the melody.
“Don’t listen to Siobhan sing or you’ll turn to stone,” said the East Indian girl. She put out her hand. “I’m Amani.” Jenny shook, and Amani said “Congratulations. That must have been quite the run.”
Jenny wiped her brow. “I don’t have to work today, do I?”
Dan responded. “Nah, we’ll show you the ropes a little today, and get to it tomorrow. What are you guys doing here anyway?”
The guy with dreads responded. “We wanted to make sure there was a welcoming committee for you, Dan-O. Besides, we needed to do a little work on camp today too.”
“Had some bears around last night, knocked some pots around and stuff, so I wanted to make sure we were secure and that we didn’t have anything that was going to attract them to come back.”
“Jenny, this is Marley.” Marley stuck out his hand.
“My real name’s Bob. They call me Marley ’cause of these,” he said, shaking his dreadlocks.
“That, and the grass you always bring up here,” said Siobhan. Laughter rippled through the group.
“You guys ready for some lunch?” asked Amani.
“Some water first?” said Jenny. “Then lunch. For sure.” She was starting to relax. So far, the people seemed cool, and the flies weren’t so bad.
The afternoon was spent wandering through the woods, with Dan showing her the area where they were planting trees and explaining how things worked. Siobhan and Marley stayed behind, and Amani joined them on tour.
By the end of the afternoon, Jenny was feeling ravenous again, and thoroughly sweaty. “Where’s the hot tub again?” she asked.
“Sorry, no hot tub.”
Amani said “There is a place where you can cool off, though, Jenny. We found it last year on a hike.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” said Dan. “The falls.”
“Did you want to go now? We probably have time.”
“Umm, okay.” Jenny’s desire for a dip in cool water outweighed her tiredness and empty stomach.
“You girls go,” said Dan. “I’ll go see if Marley and Siobhan need a hand.”
Dan split off from the girls, and Amani took the lead, following a barely-there trail that Jenny could hardly see.
She looked back at Jenny. “It’s not that far> Are you tired?”
“I’m OK,” Jenny said. “Besides, I really want to wash my face and hands.”
In about 20 minutes, they found themselves at a clearing. In front of them was a pool, at one end a beaver dam, at the other, a 30-foot cliff. A stream plunged over the cliff, creating a natural shower and feeding the pool.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Jenny.
“I know. We were blown away when we found it. I hope as long as I come up here, we’re close enough to it to come here. It’s better than a hot tub.”
Jenny had brought her small pack, and she dropped it on the ground, next to her hat. She walked to the water’s edge and cupped her hands, bringing them to her face. The cold water felt intensely refreshing, and she sighed in relief.
“Did you want to go for a swim? I could use one.”
“I didn’t pack a suit,” Jenny said.
“I won’t tell if you won’t,” Amani responded. She pulled her tank top over her head. Her breasts were small, dark, with dark-chocolate nipples. Jenny suddenly thought she might be staring, so looked elsewhere. How many situations was she going to find herself in today where she needed to try to do the ‘right’ thing, she thought. But she liked this girl.
“Deal.” She began to unbutton her shirt.
When Amani was naked, she began to walk into the water. “Oh my GOD! It’s still cold.” She turned around to see Jenny. Her legs and arms had sprouted gooseflesh, her nipples peaked.
Jenny was just stepping out of her panties, and joined Amani where the water was knee deep.
“My dad always tells me to rub the water on myself to get used to the temperature,” she told Amani, bending over to do just that. “How can a stream be that cold, anyway?”
“Who knows,” said Amani. “I think it’s partially that it’s just that hot out today.” She turned away. Her ass flashed at Jenny as she dove, and Amani’s feet splashed water on her. As Amani surfaced, she let out a whoop.
“Oh my GOD!”
Jenny dove after her. When her heart resumed beating, the water wasn’t quite as cold as she thought.
As they got used to the water temperature, they began to exchange information. Amani was from Vancouver, and went to the University of British Columbia. She was pre-med – “my parents’ idea, not mine” – and was 21. She had two brothers, one who was in engineering and the other doing an MBA.
“My parents want a tycoon, an engineer, and a doctor. That way they know they’ll have a comfortable retirement,” she said.
“I’ve just got one brother,” said Jenny. “He’s 15, and if he keeps going, the only kind of doctor he’ll be is an amateur gynaecologist. He’s crazy for girls right now.”
“Boys can be gross,” said Amani. Her breasts broke the water’s surface as she lay floating on her back. Jenny floated nearby, staring up at the blue sky. “Well, we should get back.”
As they walked out of the lake, Amani put her hand on Jenny’s shoulder. “Hold up, Jenny.”
“Don’t freak out, but you’ve got a leech on you.”
Jenny’s first impulse was to run screaming out of the lake and keep running. She’d never had a leech on her, and the thought was sickening. But she tried to sound calm and asked. “Where?”
“It’s on your back, just below your shoulder blade.”
“What do I do?”
“You don’t do anything.” Amani’s voice took on a tone that made Jenny want to obey. Maybe pre-med was a good choice for her. “I’m going to just push it off. But there’s going to be a bit of blood.”
“The leech has an anti-coagulant that it uses on you. It takes a while to disperse, so you’re gonna ooze for a while.”
“Ew.” Jenny was trying to manage her revulsion.
“Don’t worry. It won’t hurt.” Amani grasped her shoulder, and she could feel her fingernail push along her back. Suddenly, there was a dead spot – it was as if Amani’s finger had lifted – and Amani said, “There. It’s gone.”
“Is it bleeding a lot?” Jenny turned around to see the leech on the ground. Amani picked it up. “What are you doing? Omigod that’s gross.”
“He’s just doing what comes naturally. I’m gonna take it back to the water and let him go.”
“I don’t want him to come back and bite me again,” Jenny said, harbouring a desire to kill the slimy thing that had bitten her.
“This guy? He won’t need to feed for weeks,” said Amani. “Don’t worry about it.” She came back from the water a moment later, shaking her hands dry. “Let me get a piece of gauze from the first-aid kit. Then, can you check me out? We should make sure we don’t have any others on us.”
Amani rifled through her pack and produced a first aid kit. She quickly and professionally put a piece of gauze where the leech had bit and taped it in place. “Okay, can you make sure I’m clean?”
Amani turned in front of Jenny slowly, and Jenny looked for any leeches. It was odd, to be staring at a naked woman in the middle of nowhere, but it was necessary, she supposed.
Amani’s body was lean and muscular. Jenny figured she was a bit of a gym rat. Her arms were defined, her waist narrow, her calf muscles taut. She had a tattoo circling her right bicep. When Jenny’s eyes got to waist level, she couldn’t help but take in the fact that there was no pubic hair there.
“You, uh, shave?”
“Yeah, I feel cleaner down there when I shave, and besides, my girlfriend used to like it.”
Jenny’s head jerked up. Her blue eyes met Amani’s brown ones looking back down at her.
“Yeah. My parents don’t know, though. If I ever told them they’d disown me first and then throw themselves off a cliff for shame, with my brothers and me tied to them for punishment.” Jenny’s eyes dropped, she wasn’t sure what to say. The first thing she focused on was … Amani’s pussy. That didn’t reduce the tension. She looked to the left to try and find something to look at that wasn’t naked and connected to a lesbian.
“You’re OK with it, right?” Amani squatted down to catch Jenny’s eyes again. “Look, I’m not going to rape you or anything. You’re not even my type.”
Torn between liking this girl and being a bit intimidated by the situation, Jenny decided to confront the situation. “I’m fine with it. I just didn’t know, that’s all. Maybe the next newbie that comes north, you could tell her when she’s not naked and staring at your vagina. That could make things a bit more relaxed.” The two broke up.
“All right. Deal, I promise to tell the next person while we’re both clothed. Now I need to check you out.” Amani waited a beat. “For leeches.”
It was an odd sensation to have this young woman look at her body, knowing that it was what turned her on. Jenny turned around slowly, and Amani gave her the thumbs-up. “Jenny, can you just lift your tits a little? You’re bigger than me, and a leech might be under there.”
Jenny touched first her left breast with her right hand, then the opposite. Her nipples were peaked again, and she felt her face blush a little.
“You’re good,” Amani told her as she walked over to put her clothes back on. “And Jenny?”
“Yeah?” Amani’s back was to her as she put her tank top back on, her buttocks taut.
Jenny blushed again, but felt she had to be face-forward. “I thought I wasn’t your type.”
Amani turned and flashed a devilish smile. “Yeah, but we’re way up north, with no six-foot-tall biker chicks to chase after…”
When the two walked back to camp, the sun was slanting through the trees, and they could see that someone had started a fire – the plume of smoke rose almost straight up on the windless day.
Dan and Marley had taken an hour to go fishing, and come back with trout – “Whoo, fresh trout tonight, ladies” – to fry over the fire. That, with potatos wrapped in foil and banked in with coals was the evening’s menu. As the fish sizzled in the cast-iron pan, Jenny could feel her stomach growling.
Supper was eaten around the fire, as questions bounced back and forth, the three crew veterans quizzing Jenny and she trying to find out more about them. Siobhan was from Newfoundland, and studied at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay; Marley was supposedly studying at York in Toronto, but it was agreed he was “majoring in herbal studies,” as Dan put it.
“What a crew – Newfoundland, Ontario, BC. We need someone from the prairies and a Quebecer, and we could be in a national-unity campaign,” said Dan.
“I think the black flies are from Quebec,” said Marley.
After dinner, the girls cleaned up – fair play for not having done meal prep, said the boys – and rejoined the circle around the fire.
As the sun got lower, Amani tapped Jenny on the shoulder. “I should take a look at your bite, just to make sure it’s stopped and you haven’t bled over your clothes.”
Jenny took off her blouse, and Amani pushed the tank top strap off. “Looks good. Just let me take this tape off…” Jenny could feel the tape pull, which was a good sign, she supposed. “There. Yup, you’re good.”
“‘dja have an African Queen moment in the blue lagoon, Jenny?” Marley asked. He was lying with his head on an old log, staring at the fire.
“A leech. Like in The African Queen, with Bogie and Bacall.”
“Hepburn,” said Dan.
“Yeah, Hepburn, whatever.”
“No, just one leech. Amani got it off me. I was fine.”
“Most challenging operation I’ve ever performed,” Amani said. “She only fainted three times.”
Eventually, Marley went to his tent, and came back with a tiny, oddly-shaped guitar in one hand, and a Zip-loc bag in the other. “Time for a little relaxation,” he said. He put the guitar down and opened the bag.
“Did you bring anything besides the guitar and the grass, Marley?”
“You forgot the rolling papers, man.”
The five passed a joint around the fire, and Marley began to play. “This is called a Backpacker guitar,” he explained to Jenny. “Made by Martin – the same guys who make the best guitars in the world. Great for coming here, except Siobhan can’t sing.”
“Screw you, Marley.” Siobhan put on an exaggerated accent. “All’s us Newfies loves ta sing, b’y Jayzus!”
“I didn’t say you didn’t like it, Red – I meant you were no good.” She threw a sweatshirt at him.
Darkness fell, and the singing continued. Jenny didn’t know what time it was, but she could feel herself getting sleepy. She yawned, stretched, and looked up to see a sky filled with stars, more stars than she had ever imagined could carpet the sky. She knew that it was at least partially the pot, but she felt so at peace and part of the world. The moon was waning, so its wedge was even thinner than the previous night. “My God,” she murmured.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” said Amani. “Everybody who comes here sees the stars and does what you’re doing.”
Jenny looked around the fire and saw that everyone else was looking up, too. She smiled. “I guess I’m not as stoned as I thought.”
“I dunno,” said Marley. “That’s some fine Bubbelicious we smoked.”
“Some what?” Dan said.
“Bubbelicious, man. That’s the variety.”
“Very … chewy.” Laughter rippled around the fire.
“I’m gonna go to bed,” said Jenny. She gave a round of good nights. “Thanks for making my first day fun, guys.”
“It’s not all like this,” said Dan. “Be ready to work tomorrow.”
Jenny wasn’t sure what was more amazing – how quickly she had fallen asleep, or how it seemed like no time at all had passed between lying down in her tent and hearing someone clanging a spoon against a frying pan and yelling.
“Grub’s on! Time to get up!”
She pulled herself out of the sleeping bag, stretched, grabbed a fleece pullover to cut the chill in the air, and unzipped her tent flap.
Marley was the cook for the day, and she could smell bacon. Her stomach rumbled. Must be the Bubbelicious, she thought, and smiled.
Breakfast was quick, and the crew piled into the back of a dilapidated Dodge Ram truck with giant tires and a box full of equipment.
“Where’s Dan?” Jenny asked Amani as the truck bounced and jounced over the terrain.
“Dan’s always gotta be up before us. He takes off on an ATV, makes sure our blocks are ready to plant, gets our seedlings to us. He’s the supply guy.”
“Wow. Sounds like a lot of work.”
“He doesn’t work hard as us,” said Siobhan, “but if he doesn’t do his job for us, then we all suffer when pay time comes.”
Marley chimed in. “Yeah, man, without the boss, you can’t do shit in this job. And Dan’s a good boss. You’re gonna be the handicap today, JD.”
“Aw, leave her alone,” said Amani. “We were all virgins once.”
About an hour later, they got to their planting area. Dan was there, with what looked like a thousand bags full of seedlings. The crew geared up, with their spades, their planting belts.
“Yo, JD – what’s with the gloves?”
“I thought they’d protect my hands,” Jenny said.
Marley said “C’mere, I’ll give you a tip.” He produced a roll of duct tape from the truck. “Let’s wrap up your fingers. You’ll do better, and it’s the best protection. I swear by it.”
The day was both fast and slow. Jenny tried to count, and lost count of the seedlings she planted, a dozen times in the morning alone. Marley worked next to her, watching her technique, stopping her when her spacing went off, and making sure she was on the right line.
“Marley, I’m slowing you down,” she said.
“Listen, girl, if I keep an eye on you, this work won’t have to get redone. I’d rather catch the errors now and get more money in the end than have you off on your own and end up helping you replant 2000 trees, ‘know?”
By lunch, they’d planted several thousand trees. The heat was intense. Water seemed to go down Jenny’s throat and out her pores at equal rates. After a few attempts to keep up her end of conversations with Marley, she quieted down and just focused on planting. Under the duct tape, her fingers were still feeling raw and sore. Her back ached.
As she sat with the group and ate, she barely paid attention to the chatter and boasting about who’d got more planted. As people got up to get back to work, she felt a tap on her shoulder.
“How’s it going?” Amani asked.
“This is … hard. I thought I was in better shape than this.”
“You are. It’s just that this is different from anything you’ve ever done. Don’t worry. It’s manageable. Watch out for sunstroke, though.”
By the end of the day Jenny was utterly exhausted. She had lost track of how many trees she had planted. As they waited for the truck to arrive to get them back to camp, the others compared notes with her and each other. She discovered she’d planted about 500 trees. For 10 hours of draining, backbreaking labour, she was getting about 40 bucks.
“Oh my God,” she said. “I’m going to kill myself for less money than I’d make at McDonald’s!”
Don’t worry,” Siobhan said. “Everybody starts slow. By the end of the week you’ll be at 1000, I’ll bet.”
She was right, but it was the hardest week of Jenny’s life. The days ran together into a cycle of waking up before the sun, eating, silently being driven to the new block, taping up, and planting. Sometimes she’d hear lunch called and think “I just started, how can it be lunch?”
Her numbers slowly increased. So did the bugs. By Thursday, she told the other members of the crew she thought she’d used enough spray to endanger her unborn children. They laughed. Marley said, “Hey, think about how many you’ve eaten, if you wanna think about something.” That was not helpful.
She was sore all the time. Amani, however, came through with some heavy-duty pain pills that let her sleep. “Don’t overdo it, though, Jen. I’m dosing you with these one at a time, ‘k?”
By the end of the first week, she did hit 1000 trees. By the end of the second, she was doing between 1800 and 2200. Even Dan was impressed. “You’re getting the hang of this, Jenny.”
They worked for 17 days straight planting. “How much area have we covered, Dan?” Jenny asked one day. “About five per cent of this cut.”
The terrain amazed her. Freshly cut, the woods were almost flat, except for the unwanted trees that were left behind by the crews. The expanses of cutting were larger than she could have imagined. And she saw vibrant areas where other crews had replanted. “That’s 2000,” said Marley. “That’s ’96, my brother planted there.”
After 17 days, it was time to move camp, and time for a break. The crew broke down their tents and gear and stowed them in the transport vehicles. As they jounced down the road, the mood began to lift.
“Beer!” Marley shouted out. “BEEEER!”
“Showers!” Amani responded. “HOT WATER!”
Siobhan joined in. “KFC!” Her Newfoundland accent came closer to the front as she got irritated with the laughter around her. “Whass d’matter w’dat? I like KFC.” The crew rolled around the truckbed.
There were showers, but no beer or KFC at the cabin. Time was marked with military precision. “Come ON, Jenny! There’s only so much water in the tank!”
Eventually, showered, shampooed, and feeling oddly and unbelievably clean, the crew headed into town to party it up before the next stint.
Lac Rouge was a logging town, and despite its name, you’d go a long way before you heard a French accent. A main street filled with four-by-four pickups and Jeeps, a grocery store, a supply store, and two bars. As the crew jumped down from their truck, their spirits were high. “Let’s go!” said Amani, and headed straight for the Fleur-de-Lis. Inside, it was dark, and a few old-timers leaned into the bar nursing beer.
The girls grabbed a table next to the jukebox, and the guys headed to the bar to check out the TV over the bar and catch up on sports scores. A paunchy bartender came over, a scowl on his face.
“Hi, Skip!” He grunted. “Can you run us a tab?”
“Whaddayawant.” He looked Amani up and down.
“Six pints for a start. Thanks!”
He muttered something as he walked away.
“He hates us planters,” said Siobhan, “the old prick. I think he doesn’t like anyone young.”
“It’s not that,” said Amani.
“What is it, then?” Jenny asked.
“It’s that we’re HOT.” The girls broke up.
The evening went predictably. The boys tried to drink their weight in beer, and the girls worked on keeping the jukebox in action.
“Omigod. Pink! I love Pink!” Amani jumped up and grabbed Jenny’s hand. “Come on. Dance with me.”
Jenny got up as the first verse of “Get this party started” began.
Amani was a great dancer. Her eyes closed, brown skin under the white tank top, she was immersed in the music. Jenny could hear her tablemates hooting at her and started to feel the groove of the music move her.
Halfway through the song, Jenny began to note there were more hoots, and not coming from their table. Well, she thought, we are HOTTT! and kept dancing. Amani grabbed her hands, and they began to dance more closely together, when suddenly, the music died.
Boos erupted around the bar. Jenny looked over to see the bartender Amani had called Skip standing by the jukebox with the cord in his hand.
“This ain’t no strip bar. You wanna do a lezzie show, go down to Kapuskasing.”
“What’s your problem?” Amani asked.
“You know what my problem is, sweetheart? Snotty little college brats like you who come in here and think they own the town ’cause they got money in their pockets. Why don’t you go the fuck back to Pakistan or wherever you came from?”
“WHAT did you say?”
Skip’s eyes glinted as he realized he’d struck a nerve. “I told you to go home, you little Paki cunt. All of you –” he gestured to the planters, who were now all standing – “fuck off back to –” his words were cut off by Amani’s slap.
The sound of it rang through the bar, and seemed to echo in Jenny’s ear. A red mark began to rise on his left cheek, and there was a moment of stillness. Skip’s hand stole up to his face, as if it needed independent confirmation that this girl had slapped him. Two guys got up off their bar stools.
“You’re fucked, Paki. You’re fucked now.”
“Fuck you, Skip.”
He stepped toward her, and Dan and Marley stepped between them.
“All right, guys. We’re leaving. Back off, Skip. We’re going,” Dan said. He turned to look at the three women. “Come on. Grab your stuff.”
One of the guys at the bar said, “Yeah, take off, paki.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Marley responded.
They left the bar with their eyes darting around them. They felt like soldiers trying to beat a strategic retreat. Outside, Skip opened the door.
“You owe me $78,” he said.
“Bullshit,” said Dan. “We had 10 beer at the most. That’s what – fifty-five bucks?”
“Guys – 11 bucks each.” They dug in their pockets and silently gave the money to Dan. Amani was silent and made eye contact with no one, but when she gave her money to Dan, he wouldn’t take it. “Oh, no. Yours is free.”
He handed forty-five to Skip. “You know what, Skip? My girl Amani gets hers free, since she was served so badly. There’s your money.”
“You’re fucking joking.”
“Perhaps you better call the police, then. I’m not giving you another penny.”
Marley chimed in. “Yeah, call the cops. Maybe they’d like to hear what you call customers. And what goes on in that back room on Tuesday nights.”
Skip’s eyes moved from one to the next. “Get the fuck outta here.”
“Bye, Skip,” said Dan. “And don’t think that we won’t be telling every other planter about what you said to one of my people tonight. None of us are coming back here, trust me.”
Skip grunted, turned, and went back in.
As the five of them walked back to the truck, Jenny put her arm around Amani. She shrugged it off.
“Just leave me alone,” she said. “Just don’t.”
“What do you guys want to do?”
“I’m done,” said Amani. “I don’t wanna party.”
“Okay,” said Dan. “Can you take the ATV back up to the cabin?”
“Can someone go with her?” He looked around.
“I’ll go,” said Jenny.
“No, it’s OK,” Amani said. “I’m fine on my own.”
A chorus of “no” was the only response. They got the ATV out of the truck bed, and the two girls helmeted up.
“I’ll drive,” said Jenny.
“You know what you’re doing?” said Dan.
They climbed on and took off. The ATV headlights showed them the flickering ghosts of Lac Rouge, and then the woods. Amani held on behind and occasionally shouted out directions as they went through the dirt tracks back to the cabin.
When they got there and climbed off the four-wheeler, the silence seemed complete, and the echo of the engine seemed to roar in their ears.
“I don’t wanna sleep inside,” Amani said. “Can we pitch a tent and stay outside? I mean, would you stay with me?”
They grabbed some gear.
“I know where we can pitch it,” said Amani.
They walked a short distance away from the cabin. The tent went up quickly, and within a few minutes, they were inside in sleeping bags, their lantern extinguished.
“Jenny?” Amani said.
“I have a surprise for you.”
A lighter flicked in the darkness. “Bubbelicious.” They giggled. “I borrowed a joint from Marley’s stash.”
They passed it back and forth between them. Jenny could feel the tension of the night slipping away, felt her upset recede. But she felt alert, as if something were about to happen. Spidey senses tingling, she thought, and giggled.
They smoked the joint, and lay in silence for a while. Jenny would look over periodically, but Amani’s eyes were open – she could see that much. Neither was sleepy.
“What an asshole,” said Jenny.
“Yeah,” Amani said shortly. “It’s great to be born in Canada, brought up here, and still be a Paki cunt.”
“He’s a jerk, Amani.”
“That doesn’t make it hurt any less.” She wiped her eyes. “God, I don’t know what word I hate more.”
Jenny moved out of her sleeping bag. “Don’t think about it.” She knee-walked over to Amani and stroked her face.
“Will you lie down with me?” Amani opened her bag. Jenny lay down beside her. “I just want to feel someone close to me.” Her arms encircled Jenny. Jenny stroked her face again, and felt warm tears on her cheek.
“It’s okay, Amani.” She kissed her on the cheek, tasting the salt of her tears on her skin. It was then that things changed.
Afterwards, neither of them knew what had really marked the beginning. Was it the kiss on the cheek, the opening of the sleeping bag, the decision to pitch the tent?
Amani turned her head. Her lips met Jenny’s, and the two kissed for the first time, mouth to mouth. And suddenly they were kissing. Jenny felt both overwhelmed by sensations and aware of every nerve ending in her face. Her lips were touching another woman’s. She was kissing Amani the way she’d kissed boyfriends, and her body was responding with arousal. She was confused, excited, and fighting between being carried away by pure sensation and trying to analyze what was happening.
As all of this went on in Jenny’s head, she continued to kiss Amani, and Amani was responding in kind, or perhaps Amani was kissing her and she responding. Amani’s tongue slipped out of her mouth to touch Jenny’s lips. Jenny’s mouth opened, and their tongues met. Tingles of pleasure found their way to Jenny’s brain.
After seconds, or minutes, the kiss broke. Jenny opened her eyes to find Amani’s eyes looking at her. She thought she could read similar feelings in Amani’s face to her own.
“Amani, I don’t know wha—”
“I know. I don’t know either.”
“I’ve never done—”
“Shut up.” Amani’s lips curved into a smile, before they moved back in to find Jenny’s. “I just want to feel good. Do you feel good?”
Jenny thought for a moment, but her body was telling her the answer to the question. She did feel good. She felt right with Amani. She kissed her back, hard.
Their kisses became steadily more passionate. Amani put her hands on either side of Jenny’s face, kissed her on the lips, the cheeks, the ears, the neck, as if she were trying to taste every inch of her skin.
Jenny again felt overwhelmed by sensation. Her hands moved down Amani’s back and stole up inside her shirt. Her smooth, warm skin felt soft and gentle under her hands, roughened from planting. She pushed the shirt upward.
“Let’s – ”
She only had time to say the one word before Amani sat halfway up and pulled off the shirt. Jenny did the same. She felt as if she were stepping off a cliff, into the air, falling, not knowing what lay beneath, but unable to stop herself or change her mind, and almost serene, her serenity combined with arousal, her arousal combined with nervousness.
Then Amani’s hands were on her breasts, and Amani’s lips were on her neck. Her nervousness faded into the background as roughened thumbs touched her nipples. Her breasts sent signals of pleasure to her brain, and she closed her eyes. None of the boys she’d been with had ever created feelings like this in her, aroused her in this way. She was amazed at how horny she was, how hot she could be. Her pussy felt hot, wet, like she was filled with liquid gold.
Her hands stole towards Amani’s small breasts. The nipples were already hard, and as she touched them Amani groaned in her throat, exhaled. Jenny gently pushed her down onto her back. She lowered her mouth to kiss Amani’s left breast, licking and sucking. Her nipples were amazingly hard – harder than Jenny’s ever seemed to have been.
“oh, fuck, yes,” Amani said from somewhere above her. She moved to her right breast. More murmuring, from what seemed like a million miles away. Jenny was consumed with the taste and the feel of Amani’s breasts, the slight salt tang, the nothingness, the hard nipple covered in soft skin, the opposites together of it.
She could feel Amani moving beneath her, and reached her arms up to hold her arms down. Her breasts brushed against Amani’s, and the sensation of their nipples touching made her quiver. She sighed and rolled against her as Amani responded. They kissed again, this time more deeply than before, if that was possible.
Their breasts, now pushed into each other, their ribs, their bellies, all touching, their lips on each other’s, their hands entwined – all combined to make Jenny feel an orgasm approach. She surrendered to the sensation, felt her consciousness split between her head and her pussy, and let the kisses and the feel of Amani’s nipples brushing her breasts carry her over the top.
Suddenly she found herself on her back. Amani had flipped her, and as she did, her hand stole down to touch Jenny’s cunt through her underwear. Her body overloaded and she came, crying out softly, thinking there might be other people from the camp within earshot. Amani’s fingers on her made her even wetter, hotter. Suddenly she felt the soaked crotch of her panties pushed aside and a finger gently inside her.
“I want to kiss you,” Amani said. She brought her finger to her lips, tasted Jenny.
Jenny felt ravenous. She reached up to kiss Amani, and tasted herself on her lips. She reached down, lifted her hips, pushed her panties down. Amani raised herself to her knees, helped take the panties off.
She looked up at Jenny. “You don’t smell like me. It must be the curry.”
The two giggled for a moment, then Jenny said, “Turn around. I want you, too.” Amani moved to her knees for a moment, pulled her pajamas and panties off in one motion, and turned around.
As Amani’s legs settled on either side of Jenny’s face, she looked up at her friend’s vagina, closer than she’d ever been to one. Chocolate brown labia framed pinkish pussy, in the dusky light. She could smell her, just slightly. Not curry, but not like her own. But different. She breathed in, thinking for a moment that she was crossing a line, and then lifted her head.
Amani tasted … wonderful. Jenny kissed her pussy like a second mouth, wanting to love it. Jenny could feel her consciousness trying to split in two, one half of her mind wanting to make Amani come, the other focused on her own vagina, where Amani was slowly inserting a finger.
Her senses began to waver downward as Amani began to move her finger in and out of her pussy. And she laid her head back on the ground and closed her eyes when she felt Amani’s mouth on her clit.
“Oh my God. Oh, Amani.” She came.
As the wave subsided, she moved her brain back to Amani and her pussy. She flicked her tongue out and licked at her lips, tasting salty sweet tang and idly thinking to herself that it seemed incomprehensible she had never done this before. She moved up and down, not focusing on her clitoris, but the whole deal. Her hands stole up Amani’s body and found her nipples, played with them. Amani’s body shuddered in response.
She could feel and taste Amani’s arousal growing, and it made Jenny want to push her further along the path. She brought one hand down to Amani’s ass, and gently rubbed her anus. Gasps and more shudders. She put one finger inside, and – my God, I’m playing with a woman’s ass – began to thrust in and out slowly, letting her relax and allow her in.
Somewhere in the distance, she heard a wolf howl. Jenny wanted to howl along with it. She felt as if she were a wild animal, rutting, fucking. She moved her finger faster, stiffened her tongue, began to fuck Amani’s pussy with her mouth. She could feel the sensations overtaking Amani, felt her began to thrust backward, to respond to being fucked by her tongue and her finger.
Amani began murmuring something, a mix of English and another language, almost nonsense syllables, incomprehensible to the tiny part of Jenny’s brain that was trying to understand them as words. Jenny was focused on bringing Amani to orgasm, and on the feelings it was bringing to her.
She slipped a second finger into Amani’s ass.
It was as if everything had changed. The taste of Amani changed. She almost gushed fluid from her pussy. Her back stiffened, and her arms lifted her up, her elbows locking. Jenny could visualize her from an observer’s viewpoint, watching her. She’s cumming, she thought. I’m making my friend come, and she’s being overwhelmed by the orgasm I’m giving her. Wetness coursed from Jenny’s pussy, and her lips tried to curve into a smile.
Amani cried out and she held absolutely still for a moment, then ground down on the fingers in her ass and the tongue in her pussy, pushing herself onto them. Jenny was amazed at the force she could feel, the energy that her lover was exuding as she came. It seemed to last forever, but it was over in seconds.
When Amani relaxed, it was as if she’d been deboned. Her cunt and ass loosened, and Jenny slowly withdrew her fingers. Amani slumped on top of her, leaving a wet spot at Jenny’s collarbone as her pussy continued to seep. Her back raised and lowered as she caught her breath.
Amani got up and turned herself around. She lay on top of Jenny, breasts touching, pussies almost matched to each other. They kissed, gently, the urgency out of them both now.
“Making me feel so good.”
“What does this mean?”
“Why does it have to mean something? It’s just a seed right now. Just let it grow.”
In minutes, they were asleep.