by Himawari (ヒマワリ)


All I felt as the boat tipped was disbelief.

Then there was cold water in my face and I kicked out, jack-knifing my body toward the front of the boat so that my legs could kick free. One of my feet hung up on one of the bags I’d shoved down in the cockpit, but before I could well and truly panic, it came free. I was upside down, ignoring a snoot full of water and turning so that I was out of the cockpit. I tried to press against the paddle, but now that I was underwater that didn’t do any good. I let it go and felt for the side of the boat, because one way or another it was going to lead me to the surface.

My head broke the water and I spat, shoved streaming hair out of my face, gagged and spat again. Even though I could swim fine, I put both hands on the hull of the boat to steady myself. I grasped at molded red plastic upturned into July sun. Think, Karen, just like you did in the rescue course. One step at a time, what’s next? I’d taken the class with people from kayak club over the winter, a bunch of us in a pool in shorts and t-shirts, practicing flipping and righting boats. In class, though, I’d always been planning to flip a boat before I did it. I hadn’t been turned upside down unexpectedly in the middle of Lake Champlain in July with yards of black water below me. The paddle bobbed off to the side in the rest of the powerboat wake, still tethered to the line on my lifejacket, but useless for the moment. The powerboat was barely audible now, ripping up the lake away from me.

At least I had my gear pretty well waterproofed. Most of my stuff was jammed in the hatches and in dry bags, and what had been stashed in front of my feet was wedged in and packaged to stay dry. So as long as they hadn’t slid out when I exited, I’d be fine. Totally fine. Oh, and my sunglasses? Those weren’t on my face anymore. I looked around, didn’t see them, gave them up for lost. My hat was floating nearby. I scooped it up and poured the water out.

Then my eyes focused further out across the water, and I saw someone waving a paddle at me. Oh God, they hadn’t seen that, had they? I thought, even though I could definitely use some help.

It was another kayaker, and after a moment I recognized the boat. Lime green, big UVM decal on the side. Fuck.

Zena Chimbedis was about the last person from school I wanted to see right now. She was treasurer of kayak club and intramural weightlifting, and she got along with everyone. She was above all the drama and student squabbling, good at everything she did, a woman of few words. She was a tall drink of water, way stronger than me, and invited to enough of the good parties to turn down most of them. We’d taken the same kayak rescue class. And here she was, gliding toward me on the water, right into my fucking mess.

She paddled up, came to a disgustingly smooth stop with one paddle tip feathering the water, and sat there for a moment, surveying my mess. Her white tank top left her perfect tan and incredible arms on display. Her short black curls were pushed back with a bandanna around her head. The boat wasn’t new but it was a nice red one: it was probably a proper touring kayak, unlike my second-hand plastic brick. “That asshole!” She exclaimed, presumably about the powerboat. “Are you okay? Can I help?”

No, no you cannot; it’s embarrassing enough as it is. “Uh, yeah. Can you help me drain the boat?”

“Sure, bring me the bow.” I swam up while she turned her boat to make a T with mine, and she stowed her paddle. Then I brought the bow of my boat right up next to her so that she could get her hands around the tip of the without overbalancing, and swam toward the stern.

“Ready?” She nodded, her hands ready to lift. I reached up and over the stern of my boat, and leaned hard on the back. This brought the bow up so that she could guide it up to rest in front of the cockpit of her boat. Water streamed out of mine.

“Okay, I think we’re good,” she said, as the tip of my boat started to roll forward along hers, beginning to tip upright. I slid off the boat, helping it to finish turning the right way up, and she set it the bow down in the water again. “How do you want to get back in?”

“I’ll scramble.” She nodded, and held on to my kayak’s bow handle, leaning back in her seat so she was steady. With her other hand she un-stowed her paddle and set it across the cockpit to stabilize things a little more.

I swam along my boat to the spot behind the cockpit but forward of the rear hatch, and shoved it down and myself UP. I nearly overbalanced and flipped the boat back over again, but I got one leg over the side, and sat on the boat. Then I shimmied forward, inching forward while riding the boat like a horse, until I could get my butt down in the seat and my legs in the cockpit. Zena was silent the whole time. Probably thinks I’m an idiot, I thought.

“You’re better at scrambling than I am,” she said when I was seated. I checked to make sure my footpegs were still set up right. The old t-shirt I was wearing dripped water down over my thighs, and the puddle was building up under my ass. I kicked around in the cockpit, just to make sure my tent and sleeping bag were still there, and they still were. The bilge pump and paddle float were still stowed on the netting in front of the cockpit, and my charts and paddle float were still there too.

“Well, I’m not as good at dealing with powerboats, or I’d still be dry,” I said. It came out pissy, but at this point I didn’t give a shit how it sounded. I grabbed the pump and sucked some of the remaining water out of the boat, and fired it out the starboard side. Then I did another, for good measure. The cockpit was still wet, but at least I wasn’t sitting in a puddle anymore.

Zena didn’t say anything until I’d stowed the pump. I figured she was about to tell me off for being bitchy. “You wanna put in over at Valcour and eat some lunch?” She paused. “I’ve got chocolate-covered pretzels,” she added, as if that would somehow make up for a swamped boat and wet belongings and me being a soaking-wet asshole. It was more solicitous than I expected her Sphinx-ness to be.

“Yeah, sure, what the hell, I was headed there anyway.” I’d made good time until this happened, and I’d been planning to pick a campsite and then paddle around it during the afternoon. Damn, the bag of granola I’d had in the cockpit was lost, too. Suddenly I was hungry. Chilly, hot, and hungry, all at the same time, and a mile offshore.

Zena led, and we made it to Valcour in less than half an hour. “The LCPT marker is hard to find here,” she yelled over her shoulder at me.

“They’re all hard to find, they’re two inches high!” I yelled back. I hated whoever made the tiny Lake Champlain Paddlers’ Trail markers too right now, just for good fucking measure.

Other kayaks were already there, though. Their owners had taken over a few of the campsites at the south end of the beach, so we steered north and landed on the rocky shore. The wind had picked up, so at least the waves helped us to coast onto the beach.

I got out of my kayak and dragged it up above the waves, and then sat down hard on a log. My limbs were suddenly shaky. Zena sat down on the rocks next to me, and offered me a water bottle, which I took. Drinking without spilling required concentration, and I guess Zena had realized that I was woozy, because she set dry bag of food down at her feet and started rummaging in it. She handed me a granola bar, and I tore into it without really thinking about it. After I’d swallowed three bites, I felt much better. “Let me get my food,” I said, and got up to open the front hatch and retrieve it.

Between us we had little wheels of cheese, jerky strips, two or three kinds of snack bars, and a tin of mixed nuts. Oh, and we had Zena’s chocolate-covered pretzels, of course. We sat against the log, leaning back on it and stretching our legs out toward the water. With more food in my stomach, I started thinking about the water still pooling in the bottom of my boat. Most things were in dry bags, and the prepackaged food would repel water anyway. The outfit I had on was drying out, except for my seat, which was still soggy.

Zena nudged me. “Hey. You made it to shore. If you’re dwelling on it, don’t.”

I tried to smile but it came out kind of watery. “Yeah, I know, I’m just thinking about my soggy stuff.”

She shrugged. “A lot of it might dry this afternoon, in this wind.”

“But I was–” I’d been about to explain about my afternoon paddling plans. But she was right, the breeze was pretty stiff, and the waves would get worse. “Yeah, you’re right, it’s break time, if it’s this windy.”

We ate in silence for a little longer, and then she turned to look up at the woods behind us. “You want to pick out campsites?”

“Sure,” I said, and picked up my food sack and carried it back to the boat. Then we hiked up the hill to the wooded sites set aside for paddlers. They had a lot of pine needle and leaf litter, which would pad the ground under a tent as long as it didn’t rain. None of the campsites at our end of the beach were occupied yet, though most of them would be by evening.

We walked further up the overlook, past a Porta-John for this group of sites, to where the shore made a point and turned. The point wasn’t that far from the landing, but it felt secluded. It would be the quietest spot, if the campsites filled up. “You wanna share this one?” Zena asked me, gesturing to the last site. It was between a large boulder and the point, and shielded from the edge by low bushes.

“Yeah, this is great. You wanna carry the boats up?”

“I think so, yes. With two of us it won’t take long.” And it didn’t. Her boat was a little bigger than mine, but we took a lot of the bags out and carried them up first. Mine was heavier because it was still damp. Each of us took a side of the campsite. We put my boat and my stuff next to the boulder, and hers at the shore edge of the site.

Zena stretched her arms wide, and then did a shoulder stretch, one elbow behind her head. “Don’t fall over the edge if you get up to pee in the night!” she said, looking out over the drop. I snickered as I picked through my stuff.

Then I groaned. “Aww man, sleeping bag’s definitely damp. So’s the tent.” I didn’t have enough dry bags so they’d gotten double-bagged in Hefty’s finest, which had gotten ripped at some point. Zena came to stand over my shoulder, and I held my breath for her to make fun of my broke college student camping gear. She just knelt to feel the fabric of the sleeping bag. It wasn’t sopping, but it was pretty wet.

“Get them unfolded. I’ll string some clothesline. These will be dry by dark.” She dug out some paracord and ran line between two trees while I got the sleeping bag out. We flipped them over the line. It made our campsite even more secluded, to have them hanging above the boulder. “Hey, dry clothes would make you feel better. You can change in my tent if you want.” She started unfolding her tent on the ground.

“Nah, I’m not shy, there’s nobody else here. You don’t mind?” I turned my back, and I didn’t hear a response. I figured she wouldn’t care that my pudgy, pasty ass was changing near her, anyway. She didn’t say anything, and I think she had her back turned, putting up the tent. Anyway, I was an expert at changing shirts and then changing bras inside my shirt. (Hey, you try being the only ten-year-old who already has a rack, you’d learn too.) I didn’t have an equivalent trick for my pants, so I checked to make sure our line of sight to the beach and the other campsites was clear, and then dropped trou and changed as quickly as possible.

She was right, the dry clothes made me feel much better. By the time I was changed, she had the tent put up: it was a big gray hex dome. She sat down on the pine needles, wiggling her toes in her Tevas. “Wanna go for a walk?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Valcour Island was covered with trails, and I knew there was a lighthouse on the western side, but I hadn’t been to it before. We found water bottles and stuffed snacks in our pockets and took off.

There was a trail that led southwest, more or less following the coast. The woods on Valcour were heavily evergreen; probably those trees handled the wind better. Campsites dotted the coastline of the island, but we never saw anyone else up close.

After a while, we stopped to stretch and drink some water. “So where’d you put in?” Zena asked.

“Crown Point Bridge, on Thursday.” It was Sunday afternoon, now. I’d gotten a long weekend off from my uncle’s campground. He’d dropped me and my stuff off Thursday morning with coffee and an eggwich from Stewart’s and left me to it.

“That’s a long way, where’d you camp?”

“I went to Barn Rock Thursday, to Winooski River Mouth on Friday, and goofed off on Grand Isle yesterday.”

“Wow!” I looked over, expecting that to be a sarcastic “wow,” but it wasn’t. She honestly looked impressed.

I shrugged. “Nah, you saw what that powerboat did to me.”

She gave me an are-you-fucking-kidding-me look. “That guy was an asshole, and you were handling it.”

I could feel my eyes start to water. “No I wasn’t.”

“Bullshit. You were handling it!” She leaned in closer. “We took the same class. I still can’t scramble re-enter a kayak without flipping it half the time. You did, what, a twenty mile-day the other day? Why can’t you admit you have the skills?”

“I don’t know!” I snapped. Well, but I did know. I had a habit, born of being the kid who didn’t have the cool summer internships, or the nice car parked on campus. My rule was: don’t stand out, don’t get into arguments with all the kids at school who work for outfitters every summer, or work the White Mountain hiking huts. They had the equipment, and they’d been on the trips. They’d paddled the boundary waters, hiked Philmont, worked for Outward Bound. They knew it all, and I was stuck selling bags of ice at a KOA every summer. But how was I supposed to explain that to Zena? She didn’t care, not about what they thought, not about what anyone thought. I wished the not-giving-a-shit thing worked better for me.

She straightened up, her shoulders stiff. “Okay, hey. I’m sorry. I’ll butt out.”

“I’m sorry, Zena. I’m still angry about it.”

She patted my shoulder. “I’d be pissed too. But, you know, let me know how I can help, okay?”

“Yeah. Thank you for fishing me out.”

The trail wound through rock outcroppings and over a lot of downed logs. It was gorgeous, but some spots were difficult in sandals. Zena would hold out a hand up a steep spot, and I’d offer an arm to stabilize as she climbed over a high log. Yeah, okay, the teamwork felt nice, and it was good to be walking, after long days of my ass falling asleep while I paddled.

Eventually the lighthouse came into view. It was a cute little building, made of big stone walls and a red mansard roof. The door was open, and people were picnicking on the lawn.

“You wanna go in?” I asked Zena.

“Sure.” She shrugged, but she looked kind of interested.

The interior was New England historical site plain. Old plaster walls and wooden doors heavy with paint were interspersed with drywall. You could tell which were which because the drywall surfaces didn’t have the little undulations of aged plaster. They’d hung the walls with photographs of lighthouse and island history, and a large oak staircase dominated the main room. A docent was sitting behind the table there, dressed like one of the NPR Ladies on vacation in a vest and a blouse. Her eyes lit up when she saw us; I guess it had been a slow afternoon. The print on her nametag said her name was “Lucy.”

We had the standard conversation you have with docents at historical sites: where are you from, when did you get here, have you been here before, et cetera, et cetera. I found myself answering all the questions; Zena hung back and listened.

The docent was, as I said, very eager. “Where did you launch from? My sister and her partner do trips on the Saint Lawrence every summer, and they sound like so much fun!” It was clear she’d interpreted us as a couple. I looked at Zena, expecting her to correct the woman. She was just looking back at me, watching to see how I would handle it. Jerk.

“We actually met up today, by accident,” I said.

“Oh! I didn’t–that’s–” The lady knew she’d misjudged, now.

“But it’s more fun to paddle with friends, so I’m glad we did!” Zena jumped in, now, and nudged my arm. Oh honey,, I thought, You’re trying too hard. And God, don’t tell her I capsized. That was the moment when I realized why Zena usually kept her mouth shut. It was actually a pretty good tactic for looking cool when she didn’t know what to say. God help me, was Zena a dork?

The docent recovered. “Well, there’s a gorgeous view from the light, so you should go on up!” She gestured up the stairs.

We climbed the stairs, our sandalled feet thumping on the worn treads. It had clearly been restored recently, with modern glossy finish applied over old wood, and it was gorgeous. The second floor was under the roof and had windows on all sides, though on the north side there was plastic sheeting up where they were redoing one wall. It was rippling and rustling, even though the wind was southeasterly.

A spiral staircase led the rest of the way to the light, and Zena let me go first. Once were at the top, the sun was brilliant. The signal light was off, and there was a large photosensor mounted in the glass of the south window. I tried to open the door out to the observation deck, but a gust of wind made me change my mind.

The light had a thick Fresnel lens housing, with curves and ridges to focus a beam of light. I reached out to touch one of the ridges, and squinted at the distorted image of the bulb inside. From behind me, Zena put a hand on my shoulder. “Look at the waves,” she said. I turned to look out at the waves on the lake, and she was right, they were even larger now, making little whitecaps out in open water.

Zena didn’t take her hand off my shoulder. I could feel her fingers through the fabric of my shirt.

“So, uh, I should tell you something,” she said, turning toward me. “I’m really glad I met up with you today, and I’m sorry it was… at such a bad time.” Well, hell.

“I’m glad I ran into you too,” I said. “I’m having a lot less of a crappy day now that you’re here.”

She stooped a bit, to match my eye level. “You sure? I can get lost if you want me to.”

“No, no! Please stay,” I found myself saying. Because Zena was pretty awesome, once I got past my own frustration enough to listen to her.

And then she was kissing me. I froze, because it was nice, it was really nice, and I was really glad it was happening. But it was also something I had never dared to think about before. Her lips were dry, a little chapped from the lake wind. I took hold of her arm to steady her.

I was glad we were off the water, and in a lighthouse, and making out in a light room. Ugh, I hoped that my stuff was drying out, and for a moment that distracted me from kissing. Zena reeled me back in by nuzzling my hair, just above my ear, and then we kissed some more.

I still wasn’t sure what this was about. I mean, clearly she liked me more than I’d realized, and I definitely liked her now that I had the brains to realize it. I hadn’t really planned to hook up during this trip. Oh man, she was warm, and way softer than I’d thought she’d be, for someone who lifted weights a lot. I put a hand on her hip and then slid it around to rest in the small of her back, and she sighed onto my cheek as she moved to nibble my ear again.

Eventually we climbed down from the light room, but not until after there had been quite a bit of kissing, and some ass-groping to boot. “I’m getting hungry again, you wanna go back and pool our food again?”

“Sure,” I said, and tried not to blush too horribly as I waved goodbye to Lucy the docent.

The sun hadn’t moved on much, even though we’d been up in the lighthouse for at least an hour. It was windy as ever, but still plenty warm. The weather forecast hadn’t predicted any rain or storms this weekend, but the wind made it feel like a storm could pop up. Zena took my hand more often, as we walked back to the other side of the island.

Zena’s tent was still standing, and my tent and sleeping bag were still on the line. I patted at my hanging belongings. The tent might be dry by dark, but the sleeping bag was still pretty damp.

Zena sat down on the ground and got her food sack out of the hatch of her boat. “Okay, what have you got?” I got mine too, and sat down next to her.

We spread out our options. I had some of those prepackaged pasta and cheese dishes that come in a foil packet, a can of ham, and a can of chicken. She had some of those red beans and rice packages, and a bunch of little plastic-wrapped sausages. We’d brought pots big enough for our own meals, and backpacking stoves, so we set water to boil. “You wanna trade for some ham?” Zena asked.

“I was gonna ask you for some sausage, yeah,” I said.Then I suggested sharing the results, too. So we did that: I cut up sausage to put in my broccoli cheese vermicelli, and she put ham in her beans and rice, and we used the lids of our cooking pots to share portions. I got my sleeping pad out and lounged on my side while I waited for the food. Zena unzipped her tent and shook out her sleeping bag, then lounged in the doorway. It made me twitch a bit because that was a good way to get mosquitos all through your tent, but with the breeze and the lake air, they weren’t around right now.

Finally dinner was ready. Even as a college kid I’d gotten tired of these prepackaged pouches of food for dinner, because I could make better things from cans in my student apartment. But after a long paddling day, the hot starch and flavorings were the best sort of comfort food. I liked my own food a little better than Zena’s, but the variation was nice. I was finishing my last sporkful of food when I looked up to see her licking the lid of the pot, where she’d dished out some food from my pot. I giggled, and she caught me looking. “What?”

“It’s just funny. You’re efficient. Who cares what it looks like?”

“Well, at school, I’m trying not to draw attention to the fact that I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks. It shows anyway, but at least it’s quiet.” She had that right, it did show. She turned the lid to show off how clean it was. “Would you like a fire tonight? I could gather wood, or you could while I wash up the dishes.”

“I’ll wash,” I said. “A fire would be nice.” We were allowed to scavenge downed wood from the forest around us, and a some nice half-burned logs were left in the fire ring. By the time I had our pots, lids, and sporks all washed up, she had a nice pile of twigs and kindling in the fire ring. Before long it was smoking as she coaxed it to life. Zena clearly took joy in building a fire, crouching over it and blowing on it from time to time, moving to shield it from the worst of the breeze. Eventually it was crackling.

I dug in my bag and got out my hoarded evening treats, wrapped in plastic. “What are these?” she asked, as I handed her one.

“Graham cracker sandwiches,” I said, “Peanut butter, or chocolate, and some have Nutella. It’s kind of a surprise.” I didn’t want to carry marshmallows, but these felt a little like s’mores, after a long day.

“Oooh!” She went to her food bag, and got out a package of marshmallows. Then I noticed that she’d found two roasting sticks and whittled them to points while I was busy with the washing. Man, Zena was prepared. She slid a flask out of a separate dry bag, and offered it to me.

I opened it and sniffed. Brandy? I took a sip. Yup, definitely brandy. Zena got the sticks and put a marshmallow on each, and offered me one.

We settled down by the fire, turning our marshmallows on sticks. Zena was the type to toast hers as evenly as possible, but I catch mine on fire. I found a nutella graham sandwich and twisted it open so I could stuff my charred marshmallow inside.

We lounged around the fire for a long time, making s’mores and passing the flask back and forth. We didn’t talk about much, and when we did it was about the wind and where to camp over in Grand Isle and the weather reports we’d heard from people of the past few days. Zena was going back to work at the camp she worked at every summer up near the Canadian border. This trip had been in the break between sessions. I was headed back to Uncle Nick’s KOA down by Saratoga. We would be heading in opposite directions tomorrow.

“Hey, Zena? I heard you were dating Elly Johnson this spring. Is that still a thing?” it was a little late to ask, but the liquor had loosened my tongue.

“We’re, uh, seeing other people. I mean, it’s an open relationship. Plus, it’s summer.” She hesitated, then grinned. “She’s fucking some guy at her job up in Ontario, and she tells the cutest stories about their dates. Is that weird, that I think they’re adorable?”

“Uh.” I wasn’t sure what to say. I hadn’t known Elly dated guys at all. “If it makes you happy, it’s a good thing?”

“Yeah. It’s still weird, but I like it.” She was leaning back on her sleeping pad. “Oh crap, was that a raindrop?”

A moment later, I felt one too. “Yeah, it was.” I looked over at my tent and bag, still damp on the line. She followed my gaze.

“Get your sleep stuff into my tent, we’ll wait it out in there.” We got up and put the snacks away into our food bags and into the hatches of our boats. I brought it all in, even my poor damp tent, and tried to fold it out of the way. Zena had already gotten into the tent and was making room next to her stuff for mine. It wasn’t raining hard, but it was enough that being out of it was nice.

I took off my sandals under the rain flap and got in. She’d put her pillow at the door end of the tent, and was lying on her stomach, looking out at the fire. I scooted around to join her. The fire was still giving off a little bit of flame, and hissing a little in the rain. We should have put it out, but the rain would probably take care of it soon enough.

Zena dug a wet nap packet out of her pocket and passed it to me, and then got one out for herself and began carefully cleaning the marshmallow residue off her hands. I did the same. She unzipped the tent and threw the wet naps toward the fire, but they fell short. “We’ll clean up tomorrow.”

“It might not rain for long,” I said. It was only starting to get dark.

She put out one finger and booped my nose. “Yeah, but who says we wanna get up again?”

I grinned. “Yeah, okay, you have a point.” I ran my fingertips down her arm. She turned on her side and wriggled closer to me. I scooted closer as well, but then leaned back and pulled her partly on top of me. Her hand was already under my t-shirt, stroking my side and up over my covered breast. Oh man, I was going to need to lose the bra really soon. I got my fingers in her curls to pull her closer, and she leaned in to kiss me. She wasn’t going light this time, so I got tongue and tasted the echo of brandy and the sweetness of marshmallow. My hips already had a mind of their own, trying to press against her and grind. That was better than okay.

My other hand made it up inside her tank top. Her breasts were broad and shallow on her frame, even when they were hanging down like this, and the nipple I could get to was marvelously hard. I brushed my thumb across the knot and she jerked and leaned into the touch, whining into my mouth.

We rolled around, making out and slowly working each other’s shirts off, and then my bra. I hooked two fingers into the waistbands of her shorts and underwear to pull them down. Zena lifted her hips so I could slide the fabric further. As she lifted herself up, I caught one of her nipples in my lips and tugged. She moaned as I did that, and then squirmed so that she could get the clothing the rest of the way off. Then she did the same thing to my clothing.

Once we were naked we curled up together for a while, running our hands over each other’s backs, squeezing asses, caressing hips. Zena climbed above me again, leaning over me so that her breasts hung down. Our legs were intertwined, and I was still rubbing up against her. She shifted her thigh to give me more pressure, and I sighed. I felt her kiss at my throat, her tongue tasting my skin, and I shivered. “I like the way you squirm,” she said into my ear, so I reached up and rolled both of her nipples between my fingers.

She threw her head back and moaned, louder this time. I ran one hand down her side to pet at the curly hairs below her waist, still rubbing and tweaking a nipple with my other hand. Her legs were a little apart, and she shifted to give me more room to stroke at the skin between her thighs. I pushed at her shoulder, and she took the hint and laid down on her back. I sat next to her, and ran my hand up her thigh and through curly hair to the folds of skin between her legs. She was velvety soft, there, and when I reached down to move my fingers between her lips I could feel wetness on my fingers. Zena sighed a little moan and wriggled as I stroked her. She closed her eyes while I continued to pet and pick up more liquid on my fingers.

It was setting me off to feel how full and wet her lips were. My own lips felt tight and ached a little as they warmed up in sympathy. I wet my thumb by brushing it along her inner lips and down in the vestibule, careful in case my hands were roughened by paddling. She really was spectacularly wet, which would help. Then I turned my hand so that I could run my thumb up and over her clit, which was standing out from its hood a little. She gasped and shook a little, her hands pressed against her hips.

“Is that too much?” I asked her.

“That’s perfect. Can you finger me while you do that? That would be so perfect.” Zena’s voice had gone thin and higher than usual, and she was panting. I put my other hand on her breast, not tweaking this time, just fondling and stroking, and dipped two fingers inside her. She clutched at me with her muscles, and I felt around, just experimenting. The pitch of her moans changed as I rubbed different spots.

I settled on a rhythm, stroking inside her with two fingers, then three, then four, as I massaged her clit with my thumb. The muscles of her vagina squeezed and pressed my fingers, but gave enough room to engulf my hand to the knuckles. It got harder to reach her clit, so I slicked two fingers of my other hand, and used them instead. She began to buck against my hand as her muscles pushed and pulled at me. Her breath got louder and more shallow. Eventually I slid my thumb down to fold against my palm, and curled inward as her body made room for it to ease inside her. My strokes became gentle pressing more than movement, to allow for the snug fit, but I kept up my petting with the other hand. I lost track of time as she shuddered and shouted and came, clutching my hand inside her body. She panted and settled down while her muscles clenched and fluttered around my hand. Then she shook and came again, pushing my hand out in the process. After the second time, she put fingers over her clit to signal a stop. “That was… thank you,” she said, once she had some breath back.

I sat there with her, an arm around her raised knee, listening to her breath in the failing light and the patter of drizzle on the tent. She began petting my leg, then reached for me to give me a kiss. She rolled me on my back, petting me and squeezing my breasts as she curled up against me. I felt her hands drift down past my waist and through my fuzz to pick up the wetness between my legs. She started stroking my clit with one finger, and it got really hard not to squirm with joy. “Can I lick you?” she asked.

I nodded. “Yes,” I whispered, already too aroused to speak any louder. She climbed between my legs, and I opened them wider, offering her whatever she wanted. She leaned over and breathed on my clit, and all the heat and ache of arousal was back. Then I felt her tongue against me, licking up from the vestibule over my clit. She swirled her tongue around to press the hood back, while her fingers tugged and stroked at the folds of skin. She alternated, now licking, now kissing my clit, now licking lower to spread the wetness around. I felt her tongue dip inside me, while her nose pressed against me. I jerked, trying not to buck. She laughed with her face against me, a kind little snicker, and put her tongue inside me again. Pretty soon I felt her slide fingers into me, instead.

I lost track of what she was doing after that, with her lips on me and her fingers stroking the textured, muscled walls inside of me. Her breath was in my hair and on my inner lips. I was quaking, panting, breathing in shallow gasps as if I didn’t dare move too much for fear of disrupting the spell of her mouth and her fingers. A wave of pressure built in me until I was coming, and it felt like I was gushing, washing the orgasm through my body with it. The waves kept coming, mixing with the patter of the rain and the sound of my breath in my ears. My shuddering stilled, but I was gasping for breath, trying to get more air into my lungs. My crotch was soaked; the gushing hadn’t been my imagination. Zena sat up, wiping some of the liquid off of her face, and put a comforting hand on my stomach as I came down.

After a while I pulled at her arm, signalling her to curl up with me. It was raining a little more now, and in the dark our fire had gone out completely. The breeze was drying sweat on our bodies, but it would be a while before I got cold. Zena drew my still slightly damp sleeping bag up to cover our feet, and then tucked me against her. “You don’t have to say so now, but can we do this again, if you still want to, after we get back from summer?” she asked me, in a whisper.

I snuggled closer, and nodded. “Pretty sure the answer will be yes.”

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