By Rene Steen

School is always a drag in summer. Especially when the mercury hits the mid 30o Celsius. Penelope Luscombe pursed her lips and blew air upward to cool her forehead, ruffling the fringe of her hair. Her brown eyes squinted as she glanced into the azure sky searching for a cloud whose presence might promise some relief from the past few days of searing heat. She carried her books in an old Nike sports bag that dangled from her left hand, the fingers of which were fast going to sleep from the strain. Stretching out her right hand at waist height, she thrust it against the iron and cyclone wire gate, sending it slamming back against the fence with a dull clash, skipping through quickly before the return spring could bring it back to bang against her shins.

Even at ten to nine on this Tuesday morning her sneakers seemed to make tacky contact with bitumen already melted in the early sun. She moved into the shade of one of the squat red brick buildings and noticed a considerable drop in temperature as the structure interposed itself between her and the sun. Some of the kids had already arrived, the boys dressed in worn jeans, black tee shirts and sneakers, while the girls wore skimpy dresses or shorts and halter-tops or boob tubes. There were sudden squeals of laughter and bantering shouts as the boys and girls showed off to each other.

Penelope glanced around the yard, over to the three old eucalyptus trees that stood near the side boundary fence. These trees were fat old gents, close to twenty metres tall, with twisted branches and blue grey leaves that showered down on the end of ruddy twigs causing a lovely pool of shade at the end of the yard. In the heat she could smell their dusty, pungent odour like old Vicks Vapour rub, hanging in the still, hot air. She peered at the group of five boys, leaning or squatting in a ragged circle within that shade. He was there standing with one shoulder against a tree, hands in pockets, nonchalantly chewing a piece of gum. Her heart skipped happily as she studied his rugged handsome face topped with a tousle of dark brown hair. He didn't see her of course, but then he never saw her. She looked away and changed direction, heading for the classroom where her first lesson would begin in about ten minutes’ time. In her mind she saw him as he had been the first time. That was...oh, twelve years ago. They were both five years old then, when their mothers brought them to the infant school to begin prep year. It had been a warm day too. Not as hot as today, probably only about high twenties. Late January, 1985. She frowned, trying to remember, but the exact day eluded her.

He had been a robust boy with mischievous blue eyes and long dark brown hair swept back from his eyes and over his collar. She had been so frightened at all the newness of the place; The large sombre buildings, the hoards of kids, some jostling, some chattering excitedly and some crying noisily while others milled around looking hopelessly lost. Her mother had been holding her hand too tight and, when she stumbled over the low brick boarder around the lawn, her arm had hurt as her mother pulled her back onto her feet. She had almost cried until she had seen him. His hand was being held too, but his face was placid. Unconcerned. As if he knew that he was going to be chief honcho around this yard some day. As the first sobs threatened to burst from her, and her eyes brimmed with tears, he looked directly into her eyes and gave her the most sunniest, widest smile she had ever seen in her life. At that moment her heart had melted and his name was forever carved upon it. Robert Charlton. Bobby, as he was introduced at that time; but now, twelve years later, it was Rob or Robert. She sighed at the memory of their meeting and a melancholy feeling came over her as her memory also reminded her that, since that first encouraging smile, he had ignored her ever since. He didn't even know she existed, yet her love for him was so strong. He was seeing other girls, she knew, but she convinced herself there was nothing in that. Those hussies on the cheer squad, or those that supported the football, would not easily seduce Robert. Yes, he had reached the pinnacle of school sporting success and now played in the first eighteens where he had won best and fairest for three years running. Oh Robert! When will you come for me? I have been very patient, haven't I?

At her desk she began removing the tattered textbooks from her bag, cramming them into the hollow under her desktop with slightly more violence than the task called for. It was still a few minutes before the beginning of class bell would sound, so she let her eyes trace the deeply carved heart on the inside of her desk lid. She had been brave to do that during one of the boring math classes at the beginning of the year. Inside the heart it read:


She smiled as she allowed the inscription to pervade her mind and in her daydream he came to her. That huge, disarming smile lighting up his handsome face, his dark hair tangled over blue eyes that danced like a lake top in a light summer breeze. He stretched out both arms, biceps bulging with muscle resulting from a rigorous training routine both on the track and in the gym. His almost six-foot frame moved lithely, like a great jungle cat, while his sneakers made small squeaks on the highly polished floor.

'Penelope, my darling. You have waited so long. I hunger to kiss you eager lips.' And he puckered for her, waiting for her to join her lips with his. She felt the warmth of his breath as she leaned forward, her lips ready, eager; almost touching when a harsh laugh snapped her back to the present. Two girls of her class were giggling and pointing at her as she kissed air while three boys mimed kissing imaginary partners held in both arms and bent back like the heroines in old Hollywood movies.

'Penny is practicing kissing. But why, Penny? Who would you kiss?' The girl's voice was teasing; nasal and abrasive.

'You mean who'd want to kiss her!' came another voice and the whole group broke up with laughter.

Penelope turned her back on them and sat at her desk just as the bell rang out for class to begin.

As she walked home that evening, alone as usual, her mind was on the school dance planned for the Friday night after the exams. It was the End of Term dance, and for many of the students it was the end of school forever dance, as year twelve drew to a close. Penelope had not been asked as a date, but that was okay. She was used to that. No one ever ask her for a date. She pushed her lank, unruly hair and glanced up and down the street before crossing in case a car, so quiet that she wouldn't hear it, might be gliding along and run her over before she got to the other side. The street was still. A hundred metres on she could see the huge water mirages shimmering on the hot tar breaking the parked cars apart in quivering waves of heat. She felt perspiration trickling down her back, under her bra strap, and she hurried across to the other side wishing for the cool drink waiting in the refrigerator at home. Perhaps she should call Robert and ask him to take her? Now that was funny! Plain old Penny ringing "super hunk" for a date. She could just see him brushing away the dozen or so future Miss World bimbos clinging to his sleeve and striding purposefully towards her house. He would be dressed in a white suit with a pale lilac shirt and burgundy tie, his fawn leather shoes polished so bright they would reflect the sky. As she opens the door he smiles and extends a dozen red roses, wrapped in paper lace, while making a deep bow.

'Enchanté mon cherie’ He says, taking her hand, kissing her fingers delicately.

She sighed again as she reached her front door, opening it (it wasn't locked, as per usual) and entering the cool interior. At least her folks had remembered to leave the ducted air on today. She could hear it whisper as it moved cool air throughout the gloomy interior.

The dance was not a long time away and she knew that if she could only make Robert notice her he would remember their first meeting when love had bloomed. A short climb, and she was in her bedroom. The narrow bed was neatly made and a trio of furry stuffed animals sat watching her from in front of the pillows. There was Rajah, the one-eyed tiger that had been her companion from the day she had been born, pooh-bear, a fat, brown teddy bear with yellow staring eyes and Cindy, her cabbage patch doll with the podgy face and dimpled smile. These were her real friends. They didn't mind listening to her pour her heart out to them. Quickly stripping out of her school clothes and throwing them in the dirty clothes hamper behind the door, she stood in front of her mirror dressed only in her bras and panties. The girl that stared back was scrawny with legs that angled sharply inwards from the hips, meeting at the knees before angling outwards again to the over large feet that stood slightly splayed. Her torso was without waist or hip, while her arms looked bony and awkward. She gazed into her own eyes, two bovine pools of muddy brown beneath a thatch of dull, mousy hair cut in pageboy style. A spray of freckles splashed across the bridge of a nose that was just a tad too large for her face, and below that her thin lips frowned disapprovingly back at her.

She unsnapped her bra and let it fall unheeded to the floor. Her eyes fell on her underdeveloped breasts, looking more like a thirteen-year old than a seventeen year old. Small cones with listless nipples that were a bluish pink colour like old bruises and smaller than raspberry drops. She thought of Becky Taylor's boobs as she stood beneath the shower in the girl's gym. Becky would stand facing the dressing room so all the girls could see her and she would lather those enormous tits with scuds and scuds of white, frothy soap until the suds streamed off their mountainous slopes. She had a thirty-eight inch bust that stood firm and proud, with nipples like huge strawberries. God, if I could have tits like that Robert just couldn't resist me! She shook herself slightly as the daydream faded and she noticed she was massaging her right breast vigorously. She felt heat in her loins and knew she had aroused herself just thinking about Robert manipulating her (imaginary) giant breasts. Sighing deeply she dropped her hand to her side and made for the bathroom to remove the day's sweat and grime before changing into her volleyball outfit. There was an evening game at the local sport hall and, although she would probably be warming a bench most of the game, she wanted to be there just in case Robert's team was playing.

It was about like she had imagined. Becky Taylor was there with Monica Small and Melony Montreaux. There was also Rachel Pettyman, Nolene Harris and Linda Rumbelow all of who were friends. Penelope stood in the group as conversation passed from one to the other and she could not help glancing at Becky's incredible bosom although she immediately felt guilty at doing so. Melony was the pretty girl of the bunch. Her hair was naturally golden blonde, long and fine like spun sunlight and she had china doll eyes that were ringed with long lashes. She had a curvy figure with good, firm breasts and rounded butt, and Penelope knew she drove the boys wild. She tried to concentrate on the conversation that had been skipping from topic to topic at an incredible rate. Then someone, probably Nolene, mentioned the dance. Suddenly Penelope was interested.

'Who are you going with?' Melone asked Rachel. The other girl paused, smiling as if at some secret thought. 'Tom Grassman. You know? His father is that real estate man, Grassman and Yates? He's loaded!'

'I'm going with Gary Bateman, the football team's full forward. He kicked thirteen goals last season.' Linda said proudly. The other girls made appreciative noises and Rachel added, 'I suppose he will kick his fourteenth on Friday night, huh Lin?'

They laughed as Linda playfully flicked Rachel behind the ear.

'What about you, Monica?'

Monica reddened slightly and looked at her shoes. 'Billy Sturman, the prefect.' She said in a soft voice. The girls looked at each other and whistled.

'You mean Big Billy? The one they say is hung like a donkey? Wow!'

Monica's complexion reddened even more until she looked as if she had been scalded. She grinned sheepishly, looking at the others from the corner of her eye.

'Well! Still waters do run deep! Fancy little Monica taking on super dong!' Nolene said in an exaggerated stage whisper as she rolled her eyes comically.

'Okay Nol. How about you?' Linda was trying to get her off the subject. Nolene closed her eyes and tilted her head back, falling forward in a pretend swoon, catching herself by placing a foot forward before she replied. 'How about Dave Brenshaw, alias Dreamboat Dave?' She crooned.

'Big deal!' Becky scoffed, flapping one hand in dismissal. 'Brad Hornby's my man. His dad's got a sports store in Highbury Street. Brad is state champion track and team. Super fit!'

'Guess who I'm going to the dance with?' Melony bubbled happily, batting those baby-blue boy catchers in delight. She didn't even give them as much time as "Sale of the Century" to answer the question, but blurted out with a little squeal; 'Robert Charlton!' She hugged herself and did a little drum-roll with her feet, her face screwed up in ecstasy. 'Ooooh! The hunk!' She breathed. The other girls "oohed" and "aahed" while Monica hugged her briefly. 'You lucky thing, you. Are you and Robert an item?'

'I hope so.' Melony gasped, her eyes wide with wonder. 'We've only been going out for a few weeks, but you never can tell.'

'I can't believe it!' Moaned Rachell. 'I gave him enough hints about the dance. What have you got that I haven't?'

Melony thrust out her chest and gave it a wriggle, then stuck her tongue out at her friend. Rachell thrust out her chest in return and repeated the motion, including the protruding tongue. 'Bitch!' She said, smiling.

Penelope felt as if someone had jabbed her with a cattle prod. How could that hussy be going out with Robert? Robert was her man. He just didn't know it yet. She slunk out of the group unaware that her departure had gone unnoticed. They were still comparing boyfriends with youthful delight, too engrossed in their sexual fantasies to notice 'the mouse', as she was often nicknamed, creeping away. She would show them. Robert was her man. Her man!

Entering her bedroom she kicked the door shut and stripped off her volleyball uniform and underwear whilst kicking her sneakers under the bed. Standing naked before the mirror she examined her body. Her eyes travelled down her flat stomach until she was looking at the sparse curls of brownish hair that formed a triangle at the bottom of her belly. Her legs didn't meet properly there, but angled downwards from the hips to meet, instead, at the knees. The resulting gap looked somewhat ungainly but she was sure that Robert wouldn't mind once he got to see her like this. She saw him standing before her. He was five years old, his long hair swept back from his face upon which he wore that infectious smile that so melted her heart. He was naked and her eyes travelled down his young body until they came to his erect penis. It was adult size and jutted proudly from his small frame. She lifted her eyes to look at his face and saw he was seventeen again. His eyes were full of love and his smile beamed specially for her. Arms outstretched he took a step towards her.

'Come, my darling. I know you have waited a long time for me and now I am here. Come and embrace me.'

She stepped into the circle of his muscular arms and his mouth closed over hers. His tongue probed deeply and he picked her up off her feet, turning her around while still kissing her. She felt him lower her down until her quilt pressed against her back and she knew that he had laid her upon the bed. His face pulled away so that he could look into her eyes all the while smiling lovingly. She opened her legs, watching him as he guided his erection, and gasped as he entered her. Slowly she began a rhythm, rocking against his thrusts, her eyes shut in ecstasy.

Suddenly her eyes snapped open. Something was wrong! Robert wasn't there. Glancing down she saw that she had been masturbating. Feeling guilty and a little alarmed that this could happen without her being aware of it she withdrew her hand from between her thighs, got up from the bed, and began to dress.

Robert thrust his schoolbooks off the desk, into a heap on the floor with a sweep of his muscular forearm. He had been doing homework for two hours and was growing tired of it so he took out his photos and lay them out on the blotting paper. The first one showed Melony and some of her friends dressed in their cheer leader costumes, her breasts firm, pushing against stretch fabric as she sat on the ground with her knees slightly raised and to one side. The skirt was plaited, so short it hardly covered the swell of her buttocks and he could see a small triangle of snow-white panties between her legs. The second photo was of Melony in her parent's back yard, leaning on a fence, her eyes slightly squinted as she looked into the sun. Photo number three showed her by a pool wearing a one-piece bathing suit, while sitting on the edge of the pool, with her feet dangling in the water. Her face was slightly turned away from the camera as if her attention was on something just out of the photo and the sun caught her hair in golden highlights. But it was the fourth photo he treasured most. Melony had given it to him nearly a week ago and no one - not even Steve Drummond, his best mate - had seen it. It had been taken in one of those photo booths seen in malls and arcades where you put a couple of dollars in and get four pictures. It was in colour and showed Melony with her face screwed up at the camera and her hands lifting her top high up under her chin. Thrusting out at him from the photo were her naked breasts, firm and beautifully rounded. She had large areolae and from their centre jutted her nipples like ripe little plums. Robert bent forward and kissed the photo gently, then reached down and pulled an end of carpet away from the wall revealing a hidey-hole that he had sawn out years before. He removed the plank lid and placed the special photo alongside a packet of cigarettes, three condoms and a half-consumed hip flask of Jack Daniel’s. Making sure the wooden plank was replaced properly he rolled the carpet back and tucked it neatly under the skirting.

Reaching around he picked up the study books and lay them open at random on the desktop, along with an exercise book and a couple of pens. Satisfied that it looked as if he had been studying his brains out, he left his room.

'Just going over to Melony's to borrow a book. I forgot one and need it for an assignment. Okay?'

He could see the back of his mother's head as she sat before the TV engrossed in her favourite soapy. She raised her hand and waved it at him. Father looked at him over the top of his glasses, said nothing, and went back to reading his sports page.

Melony's mother opened the door as the chimes faded away. She was a blowzy woman in her early forties. Her washed out blue eyes peered owl-like from behind a large pair of glasses while her faded blond hair perched precariously on her head. Her lips spread in a smile as she saw who it was.

'Robert. Come to see Melony? She's doing her homework.'

'Good evening Mrs Montreaux. I just came to lend one of her books so I can finish my assignment.'

'Oh, all right dear. Come in.' She stepped aside to let him enter, holding her forearms up, palms out at shoulder height as if drying her nails. Mister Montreaux sat in a "Jason" reclining chair reading a novel by Stephen King. He looked up from his book, removed a smelly cigar from his mouth and gave Robert a tobacco-stained smile that came and went like a shooting star, then buried himself back in his book.

'In the study, dear.' Mrs Montreaux pointed to the closed door on the far side of the room.

Closing the door behind him, Robert entered the room and smiled as Melony looked up from a book entitled "Tutor England 1485-1603" from which she had to write an essay before Friday.

'Robert! What are you doing here?'

He walked behind her and put his hands on her shoulders, pulling her slightly back in her seat, then leaned forward and kissed her awkwardly, upside down.

'Hmmph!' She cried and pushed him back, giggling softly. 'Not like that! You'll have me falling out of my chair.' She reached for another chair, slid it next to her and waited until he sat down.

'I've been looking at a certain photograph.' He said as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her passionately. His hand went under her T-shirt, feeling for her breast, but she pulled away from him, her hand grabbing at his wrist, forcing it to withdraw.

'Not here. My mother may come in and catch us.' She giggled quietly again and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. 'What did you tell them to make them let you in?'

He shrugged slightly. 'Just that you had a book I needed for my study.'

Melony searched through her pile coming up with "Algebra made easy", which she handed to him. 'Now go away and let me get my homework done.' She turned back to her book that was lying open upon the desk and pointedly ignored him. Robert sighed and stood up, then bent over her.

'A goodnight kiss?'

Lifting her head brought her into eye contact with him and he held her gaze as he brought his lips to hers. This time the kiss was tender, lingering for several minutes until both needed to break for air.

'Well. See you tomorrow.' Robert waved from the hip as he sauntered towards the door, exiting with the book under his arm. She heard him bid her folks goodnight as she went back to Tutor England.

Penelope stood hidden behind a shrub near Melony's study window. She was fuming with anger, at the brazen way Melony had kissed Robert.

'You hussy! How dare you kiss my man!' Her face was twisted with the rage she felt for the girl inside. As she left her cover she stamped extra hard on a frangipani, squashing it into the soil. 'That bitch!' She muttered as she stomped across the road, heading for her house.

That special Friday was a wasted day at school, as no one - not even the teachers - could concentrate. Since the exams were over for the year the study periods did not hold the same seriousness or urgency. During math class the teacher had wandered off the topic until the bell found them discussing modern music versus '50's rock and roll while the English teacher had given them a free period to spend in the library. At the end of the day, Mr. Miles, their class teacher, had let them go three quarters of an hour early and they had whooped and 'yeehaaaed' through the halls much to the headmaster's chagrin. He had hoped to pretend he didn't notice them all leave early. Still, he grinned ruefully, as long as the kids enjoyed themselves.

That evening Robert stood under the shower twice as long as usual scrubbing all over with a good lather of soap. He even applied the nailbrush, that instrument of torture he dreaded so much, vigorously cleaning under his fingernails. He whistled a favourite tune as he soaped his genitals thinking that tonight he and Melony might go "all the way", and he made a mental note to take the condoms with him. A glance at his waterproof chrome watch told him it was after six-thirty. He had promised to pick Melony up at seven-fifteen. Quickly he shut off the shower and stepped out onto the terrazzo floor, streaming water until he stood in a shallow lake. He reached for his towel, dried himself thoroughly, balled it up and threw it into a corner. Mum would blow her stack at the wet floor and the towel thrown aside like that, but that was what mums were for! Rummaging around in the vanity bar he came out with his father's "Tuscany" after-shave and splashed it liberally upon his face and chest, following that with a generous squirt of deodorant. Now he was ready to rock and roll!

Melony sat before her mirror gazing at her reflection. The light blue dress she wore matched her eyes to perfection but she wasn't quite satisfied with the bodice that came up too high for this occasion. She grabbed the edge on each side of her breasts and shook it down until her bosoms swelled out of the top in a more appealing manner. She nodded her head, glancing at her coiffure. Her hairdresser had outdone herself in the way it lay like spun gold whirled upwards on top of her head with two tresses hanging down in wavy curls, one on each side of her head. It made her neck look longer, slimmer, and coupled with the eye shadow, make-up and lipstick, she looked more like twenty years old than seventeen years old. She smiled at her reflection knowing she was going to knock Robert's socks off when he saw her like this. Downstairs the door chimes called out in a two-tone voice. It was Robert. Quickly making a last inspection and finding nothing out of place, she hurried down the stairs to answer the door.

He stood there dressed in a midnight blue suit with a shirt almost the same colour as her dress, and a deep red tie. His hair was the neatest she had ever seen it, combed carefully back into a wavy style that suited him admirably. She moved aside, letting him in, then turned to face him. His eyes were screening her and she smiled slightly when they lingered on her cleavage. Men! They are all the same.

'Where's your Mum and Dad?' He asked, his eyes searching the room.

'Daddy's had to go on a business trip so Mummy went with him. They won't be back until Sunday.'

He wiggled his eyebrows and leered at her.

'Then we have the house to ourselves?'

As he spoke he grabbed her around the waist, pulling her close, but she arched back, pressing her hands against his chest.

'Stop it, Robert. We are expected at the dance. Becky and Monica will be waiting for us, and so will the others.'

He put on his best martyr look and sighed. 'Oh, very well. Let us then depart.'

Melony giggled and leaned forward, kissing him lightly on the lips. He brushed at them with the back of his right hand as they went through the front door to remove any traces of lipstick, not wanting any on him when he met with the crowd at the dance.

At the curb stood Robert's blue late 70's model Ford, all polished and sparkling. He opened the passenger door for her and tried hard to peek up her dress as she got in making her break into a new fit of giggles. Neither of them saw the tawny haired girl standing on the other side of the road frowning at them.

'Bitch!' Said Penelope as the Ford drove off with a screech of tyres.

Inside the hall the glitter ball was causing a merry-go-around of coloured light dots that skittered around the walls while the strobe light made motion seem jerky and unnatural. Music filled the room to a deafening volume while the dance floor was crowded with gyrating teenagers. Penelope crept around the walls towards the canteen, where she bought herself a diet Coke in a can. She took a sip and peered at the dancing crowd looking for Robert. She was dressed in her best lemon coloured frock with puffy sleeves; a dress she reserved for very special occasions and which was very beautiful. It was a pity that it made her look like a stick dressed up. She spotted him. He was twisting from side to side, knees together, head thrown back and eyes shut, his fingers clicking in time to the music. About half an arm's length in front of him was "The Bitch". Melony swayed from side to side carefully avoiding displacing her hair. Her eyes were shining as she looked lovingly at Robert.

'That's my man!' Penelope hissed and drank three long swallows from the can and banged it down on the counter just as the D.J. changed the record and the mood. A slow song began causing the couples to come together. Her eyes sought Robert and she saw they danced so closely it appeared someone had glued them together.

Just an excuse for the boys to cop a feel, she thought reaching for the can and swallowing the rest of the drink. Anger made her eyes smoulder as she saw Robert kiss Melony on the mouth. His right hand stole down onto her buttocks and, although Melony reached down and removed it, Penelope could tell she was delighted in this kind of attention.

You man stealing whore! She thought. Crushing the can in her hand, she hurled the twisted aluminium at a nearby bin and watched it bounce on the rim before deflecting off into the gloom. Smoothing her dress with both hands she stomped off towards the seats where she could join the other half dozen wallflowers.

A full moon shone down from a velvet sky. Its silver luminescence was intense enough that the whole neighbourhood stood visible in a soft pale light, while the still of the night was broken only by a nearby cricket. Robert's Ford stopped in front of Melony's house and the two, hand in hand, walked quickly inside. Neither saw Penelope standing behind the bushes in front of the study window. She had been home since leaving the dance and dressed herself in black T-shirt and jeans. She frowned as the door closed behind the two and she settled down to wait in the moonlight.

Fifteen minutes later the light in the upper bedroom came on over the balcony. Less than ten minutes later the light went off again. Penelope looked up at the balcony some twelve feet over her head. Using the moonlight, she searched until she saw the trestle that supported some climbing roses and was mounted in the wall. Checking the mountings she saw it was strong enough to support her weight. Carefully she peered around checking that no one was coming along the road, then began to climb carefully. Slowly. Making sure she made no noise...

Robert closed the front door and stood in the lounge looking at Melony with an inane grin on his face.

'Well?' He asked, giving a half shrug.

She spread her hands. 'Well?' she repeated and giggled. He took a pace and gathered her into his arms, lowering his face to hers. She parted her lips as he met her in a warm kiss, sliding his tongue into her mouth; tasting her. She pressed against him smelling his cologne, feeling herself respond to the probing of his tongue. His hand was on her breast, massaging gently, stimulating her nipple through the fabric of her dress. Carefully she disengaged the kiss leaning her head back and whispered; 'Let's go upstairs to my bedroom.'

He nodded and gathered her in his arms.

Once in her room they undressed quickly. Melony switched off the light before climbing into her bed. Robert squeezed in beside her and they embraced feeling each other's nakedness warm against their skin. Now he took her breast in his hand and teased the nipple into hardness, then lowered his head to take it into his mouth, licking and sucking it gently. She moaned with pleasure and rolled over until he was below her. Still kissing him feverishly she straddled him.

Penelope reached the balcony and crept quietly to the French windows. They were standing slightly ajar. Carefully staying in the shadow cast by the wall, she peered into the room. Moonlight allowed her to see clearly and she could make out every detail. Melony's back was towards her and she watched as the unsuspecting girl rose to a sitting position facing the bed head. As Melony began to rock back and forth Penelope saw the silhouette of her right breast swaying in the moonlight. Robert lay on his back, head tipped slightly back, and he moaned with pleasure at Melony's rhythmic rocking, her hands kneading his chest, her eyes closed in ecstasy.

Penelope felt her anger rising to a crescendo. 'My man!' She thought furiously. 'That slut is screwing my man!' It was then that something snapped deep inside of her.

Rage filled her. Red, burning rage. With it came a wave of hate unlike any emotion she had ever felt before. Blind, vicious, primeval hate! She backed out of the shadows and carefully stole down the trestle until she stood again in the garden, eyes smouldering.

'She's screwing my man! I'll kill her!'

Across the road sprinted a black apparition looking neither right nor left, flitting in the bright moonlight, heading for her home. Once inside she rummaged through the kitchen drawer until she came up with a huge, triangular blade chef's knife with a wooden handle. It looked more like a sword than a kitchen tool and a silver pearl of moonlight traced the keen edge of the blade as Penelope held it up in front of her eyes. She tested the blade, running her thumb along it, drawing a small bead of blood as it sliced easily through her skin.

'Miss bloody Melony Montreaux, you whore! Now I will claim my man. In blood!' She screamed the last word like an oath, secure in the knowledge that her parents were not at home. She rolled her crazy eyes and her teeth clenched together in a rictus grin as she headed back to Melony's house.

At the bottom of the balcony Penelope paused to clasp the huge knife between her teeth like she had seen in the old pirate movies. Quickly, but silently, she climbed up the trestle and onto the balcony. There she squatted again in the shadow of the wall, peering through the gap between the French windows, into the bedroom. Melony was now crouched forward over Robert, her head buried in his crotch while he was moaning, tossing his head from side to side. His hands were kneading the back of her head as it bobbed up and down. Penelope noticed a red haze appear before her eyes as she lifted the knife. Its blade glinted wickedly, reflecting the argent light as her eyes fixed onto Melony's hunched, bare back just between the shoulder blades. Releasing a hideous scream she plunged through the French doors.

'Die you slut!'

He saw her lunge forward, the knife coming down in a vicious arc aimed at Melony's back. She hadn't noticed the danger yet although her head was rising in response to the sudden shout. Robert thrust both hands forward catching Melony in the chest, painfully crushing her breasts. She was propelled backwards onto the floor, where she lay sprawled, obscenely spreadeagled. In that same motion he threw himself forward, over the foot of the bed, blocking the downswing of the knife with his left forearm. His body crashed into the intruder who was sent careening backwards into the French windows, now shut after having rebounded off the wall. Glass shattered explosively as the doors crashed outwards and through them went Penelope backwards, arms flailing, until her legs hit the railing of the balcony. She screamed, her balance completely gone. Back over the railing she tumbled, catching a last glimpse of the huge knife as it arched away behind her, just before she plunged down into the garden. The last thing she knew, as she hit the ground, was a searing pain in her back as cold steel punched through her kidney. Then darkness.

'...blood loss. Nurse, get another unit of whole blood in here.' An urgent male voice was screaming, then came a female voice from somewhere else.

'B.P. dropping, Doctor. She's going into shock. We're losing her!' Penelope opened her eyes and sat up, looking at the sweating face nearby, its bottom half covered with a green mask. The eyes were downcast; not looking at her. She shifted her gaze to a large built nurse standing on the other side holding a bottle of red fluid upside down, watching it run into a transparent hose. She got off the table and looked around to see what they were busy doing. There was a lot of blood. On their clothing, on the floor, on the green sheet over her body...Her body! She did a double take, then moved a step closer. How pale she looked lying there with her eyes closed and a large tube in her mouth. She was on her side and a doctor was fiddling with one side of her back. Curiosity made her go around to look and she saw the gaping wound that opened deep into her body. The swell of a kidney showed through yellow fat tissue and the wound still poured out large globules of bright red blood. The air smelled sickly metallic and Penelope realised, even though she had never smelled it before, that this was the smell of blood.

'We've lost her, Doctor.' The fat nurse was screaming as she reached for a defibrillator, swinging the two pads over the corpse. The doctor had rolled her onto her back, tearing away the sheet to expose her bared chest.

'Clear!' Shouted the fat nurse as she brought the paddles down onto Penelope's scrawny chest. There was a "zonk" sound and the body jerked spasmodically. Penelope shook her head in amazement. Why were these people wasting time? She was dead! Now that was a sobering thought!

Only a few family members attended the funeral. It had been nearly a week since she had died. A week during which her body had lain in the town mortuary where the refrigeration broke down so often that the repairman had his own key. Penelope had sat patiently on a barouche during this time watching the mortuary attendants going about their daily work, unable to reunite with her corporeal self while it lay unburied, under the control of mortal beings.

Now her mother and father wept as the coffin was lowered while her few uncles and aunts stood with baffled expressions glaring at the coffin that contained the remains of a would-be murderer.

It was not a traditional funeral day. There was no rain. Rather the day was mildly warm, with a faint breeze blowing, and the sky was clear blue with a few woolly clouds scudding past. Penelope sat in a tree, nearby, watching as two sombre looking undertakers, in top hat and tails, lowered her body into the ground.

She sat through it all; the guests leaving, the men with the "Bobcat" pushing the dirt into the hole and finally the mason setting the stone at the head of the grave. That slack bastard! He even planted one of his size-nines right over where her face was, six feet down. Later she floated down as the sun began to sink in the west.

'Melony! I'm going to get you, Melony." She grinned as she crossed to the grave, positioning herself just so; lying supine upon the newly turned earth. She relaxed, letting her ethereal body sink down to where her corporeal one lay interred.

She opened her eyes. Just above her nose she could see the white silk of the coffin lid no more than six inches away. Slowly, stiffly, she moved her hands from her sides bringing them up over her chest, placing her palms flat against the silky material above her. She pushed. Nothing happened! She relaxed and gathered her strength.

'Hey, bitch! Penny's coming to get you. Penny's coming to get you.' She sang in that age old taunting tone of the junior schoolyard. Bunching her muscles she thrust upwards so viciously that the satin tore. A muffled "crack" heralded that the lid had split and she was showered with earth as it fell down onto her face, into her eyes and mouth. She waited until the soil had settled before reaching through the rend in the lid, then she began to dig at the crumbling clay. Moving upwards through the soil she came, chanting in that same tune, 'I'm going to kill the bitch...I'm going to kill the bitch...'

Moonlight bathed the graveyard in grey light and sombre shadows. Gravestones stood like snaggle-teeth beneath scudding clouds, while crickets chirruped from under sods of clay, as shadows wavered and changed under a mobile sky. Suddenly the stillness shattered as the newest mound burst upwards disgorging a corpse, clad in white, arms flung towards the sky. Soil fell from her in clods. Teeth, bared in a maniacal grimace somewhere between a smile and a snarl, caught the argent glow of the moon causing them to shine wickedly in the gloom. Eyes flashed with venomous fire as she crawled from the churned earth to stand on the grassy path beside the grave. Her arms still reached high, fingers clenching and unclenching as she threw back her head and released a mewling cry that grew, deep in her dead throat, until it became a baying howl.

'Meeelllooonnnyyy! Diiieee yoouu biitttccchhh!'

Her head came forward, hands dropping to her sides as the sound snapped off. She stared around her, searching; searching for the blade her dead brain sluggishly recalled she had held...when was it? Inside the decaying body her soul drank deeply of the festering hate that lay within. It sent out an ethereal probe, questing far, searching for the blade. Finally she located it lying on a shelf. It was wrapped in a plastic bag, tagged with a buff coloured tag, marked with her name and case number.

"Penelope Anne Luscombe - item 445362" It said on the tag. There was a smear of blood on one corner where a police officer had touched the cardboard while writing that short history of the sad, dead girl.

Back at the cemetery Penelope nodded, causing dirt to fall from her hair. Screwing up her evilly lit eyes she threw extra energy forward, along her psychic probe, and the knife moved. The blade lifted off the shelf, drifted forward and sliced through the bag. The string unwrapped and the tag fell off, fluttering to the bare concrete floor. It landed writing up. Then the knife freed itself from the plastic. It hovering in the air with its point wavering from side to side for a few seconds, then it vanished.

Rotten lips stretched wide in a semblance of a smile as her death-stained right hand thrust upwards into the air. Her fist closed around the wooden handle of the large triangular blade knife that appeared in the air and she waved it like a sword.

'Now miss pretty Melony "harlot" Montreaux. Your time has come.'

Lowering the blade until she was holding it horizontally at waist height, the corpse of Penelope Luscome slowly began to walk towards the town.

Melony Montreaux had suffered a traumatic week. Firstly that business with Penny Luscombe, (who would have thought "the mouse" would have it in her?) then the police asking her and Robert endless embarrassing questions; like, 'Did Robert ever have a relationship with Penelope Luscombe?' and Robert shaking his head, a frown upon his face. The policeman looked like he didn't believe that, so he elaborated; 'Did Robert ever have sex with Penelope Luscombe?'

Now that was funny! A school full of foxy girls all panting for Robert Charlton but Robert sneaks off with Penelope Luscombe, born loser and daily taker of ugly pills, and bonks her brain sideways. He didn't laugh though, just shook his head.

The crowning interrogation of the week came from her father. He and mother had arrived home a few hours after the incident, just after daylight. Her father had quizzed her in the lounge beginning with; 'What was young Robert doing in your bedroom at night?'

What did he think Robert was doing in her bedroom? Playing monopoly? She hedged around the question, but her father was getting angry and it was obvious he would persist with the question until she gave him the obvious answer.

'Daddy, we are seventeen years old, for heaven's sake. You know what we were doing up there. We were making love.'

'Making love? Is that what you call it? Do you know what can happen? How would you cope with a child at your age?'

Melony sighed, risking a glance at the ceiling before returning her gaze to her angry father.

'Daddy, we are not ignorant children. We know how to take precautions.'

And so it had gone on until suddenly, realising exactly how close he had come to losing his daughter to that maniacal girl, he stopped talking. His face flushed, eyes screwing up in confusion, then he began to sob. Reaching out, he circled his daughter with both arms, hugging her to his chest.

'My darling Melony. Forgive me. I'm being a foolish, over-protective father. That maniac could have killed you and I'm concerned about you sleeping with your boyfriend.'

Melony returned the hug both pleased and surprised at the sudden change in her father's reasoning, but then she felt the shock of what had happened and she began to sob on her father's shoulder. For nearly an hour she cried; crying out all the fear, all the horror of that crazy attack.

It was evening. West of the town the sun was setting and evening shadows stretched across the street as Robert walked Melony to her house. Neither had gone to the funeral that day and this evening was the first time they had managed to get together since the night Penelope had died. Robert still couldn't work out why "the mouse" had wanted to kill his girlfriend but he didn't want to dwell on it.

'So, Melony. How about we meet tonight, huh?'

She was holding his hand and she squeezed it quickly.

'How about you come to my place after nine. My folks are going to a formal dinner and dance and won't be home until well after midnight.'

Robert looked down at his shoes, quiet for a few seconds, then lifted his head and looked into her eyes.

'Didn't you get in trouble with your old man over last time?'

'Well, he did do the protective parent thing to start with, but then he realised it was something that would just happen whether he liked it or not.'

Robert looked at her, mouth slightly agape. 'You mean he's not going to make a big deal out of it?'

She shook her head, cuddling his arm. 'No, but I won't "do it" when my folks are home. Tonight, however, they are not!'

Bitumen stays warm long after the last rays of sun have died away, although it didn't concern her as she plodded slowly along the road to town. Her feet were bare and cold from the grave as she stumbled along clutching the large knife tightly in her fist. Her dirt stained gown, once white, was discolouring in the rear as putrid fluids mixed with decomposing blood wept from the large gash in her flesh. As she walked, the rough bitumen tore at the flesh of her feet and more fluids wept from them leaving foot-shaped stains on the black road surface.

Each time a car came along, and that was not very frequently, she threw herself off the road, concealing herself in nearby bushes. She did not want anyone to see her, to spoil her revenge. A few miles ahead she could see the dots of light that were street lamps. The town was getting closer with each slow step.

'Tonight, my pretty little whore. I will jab my knife into you. I will destroy you.'

Robert had arrived shortly after seven thirty. He rang the doorbell, then brushed at his hair with both hands trying to force some kind of order into it before Melony opened the door. he hadn't succeeded by the time she did this, but he forgot all about it when he saw her. Her beautiful golden hair lay about her; loose, like a cloud. Her lipstick was subtly put on and her cornflower eyes gazed at him from above her lazy smile. She wore a negligee made of some shimmering see-through material that became opaque over, and just covered, her most sensitive spots. She stood for a while letting him caress her with his eyes, then stepped back into the hall.

'Come in Robert. We wouldn't want the neighbours to see us, would we?'

He nodded and entered the hallway. Swinging the door closed behind him, he swept her into his arms and began kissing her deep and long, probing with his tongue. She returned his kiss for several minutes before gently breaking away. Then she led him by the hand, up the stairs to her bed.

In the bedroom she half sat, half lay on the bed in a Queen Cleopatra pose and watched him as he undressed. Why did boys always do it so ungainly? She thought. Just rip the clothes off. No finesse. She smiled at him as he stopped dressed only in his jockey shorts. He had his thumbs hooked in the waistband and was looking at her. She raised her hand and gestured in almost a royal command. He smiled and removed them.

She paused as the large metal sign loomed near not more than a few yards off to her left. The town was quiet and no cars had come past for nearly an hour. With great effort she read the words on the sign and knew she had entered the town limits.

'Pop. 22,344' said the bottom line. Minus one, she thought hefting the knife. She smiled her evil smile, then turned towards the town and kept walking.

Mister Golding had worked the milk round in this town for nearly twenty years and had seen his share of strange things during the night, but what he saw now made him freeze in his boots. He had just reached the front gates of the house, coming back to his van, when he saw what appeared to be a poor lost girl walking along Downing Street. But she was not really walking. More like shuffling. She wore a torn and dirt smeared white gown and her feet were bare. He was almost going to call out when he saw that she carried a very large knife. Her hair was clotted and disarrayed and her eyes! Her eyes shone with devil light while her mouth was twisted in a purely evil grin. Mister Golding hung back in the shadows and let the apparition pass, noticing the great red stain on her back as if she were bleeding from a large fatal wound. As the creature disappeared along Downing Street he crossed himself three times and made up his mind to put the milk round on the market that very next morning. A tune came to his head and he shuddered. It was about a lonely lost ghost that wandered the streets of Dublin. The ghost of Molly Malone.

Melony lay beneath Robert who was smiling down at her as they gazed into each other's eyes. Both were naked, bodies pressed together in intimate embrace, sharing themselves with each other. She wriggled into position and let him enter her, moaning as he began his rhythmic motions. A faint breeze stirred the curtains and they ballooned into the room revealing the silver night outside where the large baleful eye of the moon shone through the French window, now repaired. Melony closed her eyes against the light and wrapped her legs around her lover, concentrating fully upon the pleasure of the moment.

She crossed the road in slow halting steps, eyes searching the shadows, peering up and down the bitumen. It would not do to be seen. Not now that she was so close. Up onto the footpath now and Melony's house lay before her in the darkness. Her glowing eyes looked up to the balcony where her last attempt had been thwarted, fixing on the French window. She brought the huge blade up level with her face and gazed at it, half smiling half snarling as she watched the bead of light race from handle to tip along the sharp edge as she turned the weapon. She tightened her white, dead grip on the wooden handle and moved towards the house.

The trestle was still standing under the balcony, still strong and able to bear her weight. Again she placed the blade between her teeth, clamping down with a secure bite onto the metal to ensure it would not fall and be lost during the climb. Her stained hands, pale with death and mottled with corruption, reached out grasping firmly onto the lower latticework. One shredded foot set itself between the slats, staining them with the ooze of fluid from her wounds. With utmost determination she began her ascent.

Reaching the balcony she again squatted in the shadows, crouching low so that a casual observer, looking out from inside the room, would not see her. Slowly, quietly, her hand closed around the haft of the knife and drew it away from her teeth. She held it down and back, the blade level with her hips, and carefully peered through the partly open window into the darkened room. Robert was humping her! She ground her teeth together in anger as she watched him with Melony, both clinging to each other, moaning in ecstasy. Abruptly she stood up, thrust forward her free hand and barged through the window, splintering the frame and scattering glass across the room in an explosive shattering smash.

It was like a bomb had exploded in the room. Robert released Melony and rolled sideways, springing from the bed to confront the danger. A dark figure landed out of the spray of debris and now stood only a few feet away brandishing a huge knife. Just like the one Penelope Luscombe was carrying when...

'Penelope?' His voice was anxious as he squinted his eyes in the gloom trying to make out the features of his attacker. The intruder stood silently like a grotesque Statue of Liberty with a knife where her torch should be.

'Who are you?' This time his voice was slightly sterner and he straightened, taking a careful step towards the menacing figure while waving one hand behind him, hoping that Melony would see it and go for the door. Melony did see the hand. Just. She turned her head and looked at the door, a sheet clutched to her chin.

'Don't come any closer, Robert. I know she has put you under a spell and you might not behave yourself.' She lowered the blade until it was level with her chest, pointing towards him. He noticed her voice was a harsh whisper, the sound of it cracking and breaking as if she had laryngitis. There was a fetid odour about her that reminded him of animals lying along the roadside, dead too long in the summer sun. He still couldn't see her very well but he could see her eyes glowing with a white and furious fire. She raised her free hand and pointed at Melony.

'Move aside, my love. Let me crush the spider that has trapped your soul, then we can be together.' She shuffled forward a step, raising her knife. As she did, she walked into a bright moonbeam and Robert could see her face.

'Penelope? But you are dead.' He hissed, eyes opening wide. She stopped, looked at him and laughed. A hissing laugh, full of evil and madness. He smelled the stench of her breath and almost gagged.

'Dead, Robert? Did you miss me, my darling? Let me take care of your stray pussy and we can be together again. Just like always.'

'Like always? What do you mean, like always?'

'Come now, my darling. Doesn't she know? Haven't you told her?' She turned her dirt-encrusted face to gaze at Melony who was still holding the sheet up over her naked body.

'He is my man. He has always been my man. Ever since prep school. Not yours bitch!'

With that she pushed forward, aiming at the girl on the bed, dead muscle bunching for a vicious, killing thrust.

Robert stepped up and grabbed her raised wrist, holding the knife high over their heads.

'No!' He hissed. 'You cannot do this!’

She seemed to relax, but not much. 'I must kill her, Robby. She has turned your mind. She has killed your love for me.'

Robert thought fast. He honestly could not recall what had happened in prep school, and if he had he would not have believed that such a small incident could have caused such a warped effect all these years later. Without anything to go on except the fact that this maniac believed he loved her, he tried a desperate gamble.

'But, Penelope. I do love you. I don't love her! She was just someone to while away the time with while I waited for you to notice me.'

This time she lowered the knife down to her waist and looked at him. The hate in her eyes drained away until a softer glow burned deep behind the pupils. Her face had a confused look as she studied him.

'You were waiting for me?' She whispered.

Robert nodded, holding his breath, signalling to Melony behind his back to keep out of it. She was sobbing and hid her face under the sheet.

'That's right, Penny. I can call you Penny, can't I?'

Now the knife was dangling from her fingers. Forgotten. Her dead, mottled face creased in a smile that brought a rush of revulsion to Robert. He controlled his face, not letting the emotions show as he awaited her answer.

'Penny is nice.' She replied in a small voice. Again she swung her gaze to Melony.

'Hear that, tart? He says he doesn't love you.' Then to Robert. 'But how do I know you mean it? You must prove your love for me.' And she held out her arms invitingly, the knife still dangling from her right hand, the blade swinging out. 'Come to me, my darling. Embrace me. Kiss me.'

He closed his eyes. Bile rose in his throat as he moved towards her, into the circle of her dead arms, feeling her cold embrace. He swallowed quickly, trying not to breathe too much through his nose, as her odour was overpowering. She brought her putrid lips to his and kissed him, holding her body close to his. He could feel the huge blade pressing sideways against his back as she clung to him. Behind him Melony was vomiting, but Penelope did not seem to notice. Robert used all of his power not to be sick as the rotten taste of her entered his mouth; a sickly sour slime, putrid and unwholesome. She was cold and awful, but he did not resist her. Melony's life hung on this kiss.

It seemed like forever, but was probably only a few minutes, then Penelope broke the kiss. She pulled her head back and looked deep into his eyes, her mouth curved into a smile.

'Why, Robert! You do love me. I always knew you did.' She released him and stepped back, the smile vanishing to be replaced by an expression of utmost sadness.

'Oh, my darling. We could have been so good together, but I cannot stay. My grave is calling me and I no longer have the energy to remain in your world. I shall remember your kiss for eternity.' Slowly she backed to the broken window, unmindful of the slivers of glass that pierced her naked feet. Again she looked at Melony, then back to Robert.

'It has gone.' She whispered.

'What?' Robert asked hoarsely. 'What has gone?'

She looked confused, hesitating a moment before answering.

'The hate. The energy that brought me here. It has gone.' Then she lifted the knife to her face, looking at it as if she were seeing it for the first time. 'I guess I don't need this any more.' She said in a small voice, and the knife vanished; banished back to the exhibit room of the police station, back to the shelf from which it came.

Again she smiled, sadly this time. 'Robert, my dearest. I'm sorry that I must leave you, but I can no longer remain here. My time has come.' She ducked out of the shattered window and straddled the balcony rail in preparation to jump, then turned to him.

'Keep your little crumpet, Robert. Enjoy her, but remember me always, my darling.' And then she vanished over the edge of the balcony.

Robert moved to the balcony and spat the foul taste from his mouth where he had held it since Penelope's kiss, not daring to swallow. As he looked over the edge he saw a figure dressed in soiled white walking slowly along the road, heading out of town towards the cemetery. On her back he saw a wide blotch of red, like blood from a deep wound. Then his stomach revolted and he heaved over the rails, retching and vomiting until he was empty.

Darkness. Overhead a mantle of cloud covered the moon, but Penelope could see clearly the tombstones lined along the grassy path. She came to the churned up grave and paused, her eyes fixed on the new white marble headstone at one end;

Penelope Anne Luscombe

1980 - 1997

Rest well beloved daughter

and let the angels guide you

to your eternal salvation

Salvation? Perhaps there was a chance for her. She lifted her face to the sky and the clouds parted letting a moonbeam through to shine on her upturned face. She revelled in the light of it and smiled, then turned towards the messy hole she had dug a few hours earlier and climbed in, working her way down until, some time later, she lay once again on the silk lined bottom of her coffin.

Yes, she thought, Robert loves me and I do believe I can still obtain salvation. A broad, happy smile crept onto her face just as death claimed her one final time.


Copyright 1997 by R.J. STEEN

About the Author in his own words: "I am 44 years old, male and live in Port Lincoln, South Australia where I work as a police sergeant. Writing has been a hobby of mine for about ten years, although I have written stories earlier than that. To date I have not sold to a publisher. I am married with two children, a boy 22 yrs and a girl 19 yrs."

You can e-mail Rene at:

Aphelion Letter Column A place for your opinions.

Return to the Aphelion main page.