Eighteen-year-old Jessica Dering thought about the New Modesty as she walked home with her eighteen-year-old friend Erin Kennedy, both of them wearing their school uniforms of white blouse, knee-length plaid skirt, and knee socks. She found it hard not to think about the New Modesty ever since she and Erin had found the naughty book—just as she found it hard not to think about the white cotton bra and panties she wore, and Erin must also be wearing, underneath the blouse and skirt.
Erin had found it, and given it to Jessica without a word but with a blush that made Jessica blush herself. How could a book that was called Schoolgirl Tales, and had a picture of a schoolgirl like them on the cover, looking over her shoulder and biting her lip as if worried she might be called to the headmaster’s office, cause that kind of blush? Even before Jessica had opened the cover she had known somehow that the book concerned the kinds of things the girls of West Girls’ High were specifically told they were not permitted to learn about in the New Modesty class that mostly taught them about how to make a husband happy.
The kinds of things that did get you called to the headmaster’s office for punishment with the school strap. Just last week Jenny Oppenheimer had gotten whipped when her history teacher had overheard her talking about a boy.
Jessica had been trying to work up the courage to ask Erin the question that, since the book, she never seemed to be able to push far enough back in her mind for comfort or peace. Now, not daring to look at her red-haired friend but instead fixing her eyes on the sidewalk ahead of them, she broke the silence that had seemed to prevail in place of their old camaraderie ever since the book.
“Why do you think they make us wear these uniforms, when… you know, in the book…” She felt the blood rush to her face; she hadn’t even been able to get the whole question out.
Now she dared a glance at Erin, whose own face had gone very red, as only a redhead with a healthy complexion can blush. She hoped desperately to see that Erin at least understood some part of what she meant. Jessica had intended to say something like when the teachers in the book are always talking about how much they like raising plaid skirts and taking down white cotton panties.
But really her question seemed to her much bigger than that. The naughty book, with the girls kissing and touching each other in their dorm rooms, and the masters and mistresses punishing them on their bare bottoms and then awakening them to the pleasures of the lewdest acts imaginable, didn’t just make Jessica think of the New Modesty because of the uniforms. No, it made her think of the educational regime under which she had grown to young womanhood because the school in the book, Portman Academy, could have been designed by the president or whoever designed the single-sex schools boys and girls attended these days—except that instead of making the girls less inclined to be wicked, the school’s customs seemed to make them more inclined to do things like kissing each other between their legs and even having secret trysts with boys from the neighboring school at which they let the boys do terrible things to them with their hard penises.
Worst of all, every time she looked at Erin—every time she looked at herself in the mirror, even—all the strange, grownup feelings that had seemed to lie under the surface before the book now came rushing into her head, her heart, and truth to tell inside her bra and between her legs, where she seemed unable to help dampening the gusset of her white cotton panties. Somehow the book, combined with the New Modesty the book seemed to expose as deeply flawed, had turned Jessica into a seething cauldron of what she knew must be sexuality despite vowing over and over never to admit that she had any of the feelings her teachers told her she must save for marriage.
“I don’t know,” Erin said so softly that the sound of her voice nearly lost itself in the homeward tramp of their Mary Janes.
Jessica almost gave up—indeed, she almost said something that would make Erin think that she had misheard, and Jessica hadn’t meant to bring up the book at all. But as she looked at her best friend walking beside her, a thrill of affection and even of longing went through Jessica’s heart. Jessica liked boys, or, she supposed, men—there wasn’t any question about that, at least after reading Schoolgirl Tales, in which the girls’ visits to the headmaster’s office made her feel so strange when she read them.
And Erin talked about boys sometimes, and even—embarrassingly—about their real headmaster, in the half-joking way that you knew had more seriousness in it than it had humor. They never said anything nearly as naughty as they had found in the book, of course. But they had still made it very clear to one another that they both saw husbands in their futures, especially after the unit in New Modesty class where their teacher Mrs. George had solemnly told them that now that they were eighteen they should search their hearts, and if they felt like they thought they might like to have a woman as a spouse, rather than a man, they could come talk to her and start a special process leading to a same-sex marriage.
None of the girls had been able to look at each other during that lesson, and there had of course arisen rumors that this or that girl had gone to see Mrs. George, but the school seemed equipped to handle the matter discreetly: either none of the girls had actually gone to see the New Modesty teacher or everything about the special process was confidential in fact, and not just in word. But of course, since that happened only a week before Erin had found the book behind some other books on a shelf in the library stacks, stashed as if to conceal it, or perhaps to pass it on to deserving and needy hands, Jessica’s mind had seemed afire as she read of the girls’ dorm-room behavior with thoughts of what it would be like to have a female spouse—of what it would be like to be Erin’s wife.
Jessica didn’t give up. She needed to know whether Erin had any of these thoughts and feelings. She didn’t know what they would do about it, either way, but she didn’t think she could live without knowing that her best friend didn’t think she had gone insane—or at least that they had both gone insane that way. She took a deep breath and stopped on the sidewalk. Erin stopped too, and turned to Jessica with a puzzled look, her thumbs hooked into the straps of her school backpack.
Jessica had the sudden urge to reach her hand out to touch Erin’s, as if the contact of their skin might somehow communicate the troubled feelings of her heart and make words unnecessary.
“Look,” she said, forcing her voice not to trail off again but instead to stay even and matter-of-fact despite the way her heart raced. “I need to know… I mean…”
Erin’s cheeks had gone deep crimson once again, but she looked Jessica in the eye. Jessica didn’t think she had ever found Erin prettier than she did right then, and she suddenly had one of those thoughts she seemed to have when she tried to concentrate: thoughts that seemed completely off topic but probably had some much deeper connection. She hoped that Erin, looking at her, thought she looked pretty, too, though Jessica considered her straight dirty blond hair and sea-blue eyes much inferior to Erin’s wavy red tresses and green eyes. Their slim bodies seemed more or less of the same shape when Jessica sneaked a peek in the locker room, though perhaps, she thought with a rush of shame, Jessica’s breasts had grown a size or two bigger than Erin’s had.
“What?” Erin said. She could have said the word defiantly, Jessica supposed, but she had instead said it gently, almost as if she felt some sort of gratitude that her friend had broached the subject of the tension between them since the book.
Jessica bit her lip for a moment as she gathered her courage, and then she spoke softly and urgently, even though no one was around. “I need to know whether the stuff in the book makes you feel the way it makes me feel.”
Erin’s color had faded a bit as she waited for Jessica to speak, but now it returned full force. “H-how… how does it make you feel?”
Jessica let out her breath and dropped her chin to the side, looking again at the sidewalk. Somehow she hadn’t anticipated that question; somehow she had thought Erin would know exactly what she meant, but of course how could Erin know that? She felt her brow furrow as she chewed her upper lip instead of her lower one, as if that change could help.
How could she say it?
But to her astonishment and her joy, Erin helped her. “You can tell me, Jess,” she said gently. “I… I think I know what you mean, and I think…”
Jessica looked sharply back up at her friend. Erin’s lips had compressed into a tight line, and her forehead had a crease in it that Jessica felt sure matched the one in her own. She took a deep breath, and another, realizing she was probably close to hyperventilating. She suddenly felt like she had risen above herself to look down upon the scene that seemed to have so much promise and at the same time such danger.
“What if we tried… that stuff?” Jessica asked.
Erin reached out her left hand, and Jessica watched with wide eyes as her friend took her right inside its grasp. They had held hands all the time as little kids—at the playground, in line for ice cream, even watching princess movies on TV—but Jessica couldn’t remember when the last time had been, and now her best friend’s touch felt, no matter how cliché and even impossible her mind told her the impression was, electric.
“My parents won’t be home until six,” she said softly. She looked into Jessica’s eyes for two seconds more, as if searching for confirmation, and then—either finding it or becoming brave in her own right, to match her friend’s courage—she turned and drew Jessica down the street toward her house. They had planned to do homework together as usual, but, Jess thought somewhere in among the whirl of other ideas that spun through her mind, it seemed now like their problem sets might go unfinished.
Erin’s bedroom looked almost exactly like Jessica’s—they had actually at one point planned it that way, choosing the same flowered wallpaper and deciding exactly where they wanted their desks to go. The posters of boy bands on the walls were of different boy bands, but they had put them in the very same place, across from their twin beds, so that they could see the posters as they fell asleep. Plus, the two boy bands, the magazines said, had a great relationship with each other.
Jessica sat on Erin’s pink comforter, expecting her friend to sit beside her, the way she did even when they were getting ready to do their homework. But Erin put her backpack down on her desk and went to the closet.
She looked back at Jessica over her shoulder and said very hesitantly, “I need to show you something. Promise you won’t judge.”
Jessica felt her eyes go wide with alarm. “What is it?” she whispered, wondering about all the usual things—drugs and alcohol, especially, though she could hardly believe that the best friend with whom she had pledged to stay clean would have secretly gone back on the pledge.
“I found it in my great aunt’s house, after she died last year and we were helping to clean things out. It’s still in the package, so… you know, it’s never been used, and… well, you don’t have to worry it’s going to be gross, or anything… except, you know, because of what it is, I guess.”
Erin had started to babble a bit, the way she tended to when she got nervous.
“What is it?!” Jessica said.
“Do you promise?”
Jessica forgot for a moment, in the excitement of her curiosity, what Erin had asked her to promise about. She looked blankly at her friend, and Erin’s color mounted again to her cheeks and an almost defiant look appeared in her green eyes.
“Oh!” Jessica said, remembering. “I won’t judge. Promise.”
Erin smiled shyly, and the angry expression disappeared. She reached high up in her closet and came out with a shoebox.
“Shoes?” Jessica asked, frowning. Old aunts did sometimes have nice shoes, she supposed.
Erin giggled. “Oh, Jess,” she said, and Jessica could tell that the box didn’t have shoes in it. She took it from her friend’s hands, feeling something heavy shift inside the cardboard.
“Open it,” Erin said. “But remember you promised.”
Jessica put the box on her lap and took the cover off.
Inside, wrapped in clear packaging, lurked something very long and very purple.
For both your pleasure! read the manufacturer’s card whose cartoonish type practically shouted out from the box at her. Eighteen inches of double dong for you to enjoy with your best girlfriend!