It was on her fifteenth birthday in the second term of her first year at school that Elizabeth first met Rhys Williams. He had dropped in at the school to bring Elizabeth a birthday present from her father.
"He wanted to come himself," Rhys explained, "but he couldn't get away." Elizabeth tried to conceal her disappointment but Rhys was quick to see it. There was something forlorn about the young girl, a naked vulnerability, that touched him. On an impulse he said, "Why don't you and I have dinner together?"
It was a terrible idea, Elizabeth thought. She could visualize the two of them walking into a restaurant together: him, incredibly good-looking and suave, and her, all braces and pudge. "Thank you, no," Elizabeth said stiffly. "I - I have some studying to do."
But Rhys Williams refused to accept no for an answer. He thought of the lonely birthdays he had spent by himself. He got permission from the headmistress to take Elizabeth out for dinner. They got into Rhys's car and started heading toward the airport.
"Neuchatel is the other way," Elizabeth said.
Rhys looked at her and asked innocently, "Who said we were going to Neuchatel?"
"Where are we going?"
"Maxim's. It's the only place to celebrate a fifteenth birthday."
They flew to Paris in a private jet, and had a superb dinner. It began with pate de foie gras with truffles, lobster bisque, crisp luck a l'orange and Maxim's special salad, and ended with champagne and a birthday cake. Rhys drove Elizabeth down the Champs-elysees afterward, and they returned to Switzerland late that night.
It was the loveliest evening of Elizabeth's life. Somehow Rhys managed to make her feel interesting, and beautiful, and it was a heady experience. When Rhys dropped Elizabeth off at school, she said, "I don't know how to thank you. I - it's the nicest time I've ever had."
"Thank your father." Rhys grinned. "It was all his idea."
But Elizabeth knew that that was not true.
She decided that Rhys Williams was the most wonderful man she had ever met And without doubt the most attractive. She got into her bed that night thinking about him. Then she rose and went to the small desk under the window. She took out a piece of paper and a pen, and wrote, "Mrs. Rhys Williams."
She stared at the words for a long time.
Rhys was twenty-four hours late for his date with a glamorous French actress, but he was not concerned. They wound up at Maxim's, and somehow Rhys could not help thinking that his evening there with Elizabeth had been more interesting.
She would be someone to reckon with, one day.
Elizabeth was never certain who was more responsible for the change that began in her - Samuel or Rhys Williams - but she began to take a new pride in herself. She lost the compulsion to eat constantly, and her body began to slim down. She began to enjoy sports and started to take an interest in school. She made an effort to socialize with the other girls. They could not believe it They had often invited Elizabeth to their pajama parties, and she had always declined. Unexpectedly, she appeared at a pajama party one night.
The party was being held in a room shared by four girls, and when Elizabeth arrived, the room was crammed with atleast two dozen students, all in pajamas or robes. One of the girls looked up in surprise and said, "Look who's here! We were betting you wouldn't come."
"I - I'm here."
The air was filled with the pungent sweet aroma of cigarette smoke. Elizabeth knew that many of the girls smoked marijuana, but she had never tried any. Her hostess, a French girl named Renee Tocar, walked up to Elizabeth, smoking a stubby brown cigarette. She took a deep puff, then held it out to Elizabeth. "You smoke?"
It was more of a statement than a question.
"Of course," Elizabeth lied. She took the cigarette, hesitated a moment, then put it between her lips and inhaled. She could feel her face going green, and her lungs rebelling, but she managed a smile and gasped, "Neat."
The moment Renee turned away, Elizabeth sank down onto a couch. She experienced a dizziness, but in a moment it passed Experimentally she took another puff. She began to feel curiously lightheaded Elizabeth had heard and read about the effects of marijuana. It was supposed to release inhibitions, take you out of yourself. She took another puff, deeper this time, and she began to feel a pleasant floating sensation, as if she were on another planet She could see the girls in the room and hear them talking, but somehow they were all blurred, and the sounds were muted and far away. The lights seemed very bright, and she closed her eyes. The moment she did, she was floating off into space It was a lovely feeling. She could watch herself drifting over the roof of the school, up and up, over the snowy Alps into a sea of fluffy white clouds. Someone was calling her name, calling her back to earth. Reluctantly, Elizabeth opened her eyes. Renee was leaning over her, a look of concern on her face.
"Are you all right, Roffe?"
Elizabeth gave her a slow, contented smile, and said fuzzily, "I'm just wonderful." And in her infinite, euphoric state, she confessed, "I've never smoked marijuana before."
Renee was staring at her, "Marijuana? That's a Gauloise."
On the other side of the village of Neuchatel was a boys' school, and Elizabeth's classmates sneaked away for trysts at every opportunity. The girls talked about the boys constantly. They talked about their bodies and the size of their penises and what they allowed the boys to do to them, and what they did to the boys in turn. At times it seemed to Elizabeth that she was trapped in a school full of raving nymphomaniacs. Sex was an obsession with them. One of the private games at school was frôlage. A girl would completely strip, and lie in bed on her back while another girl stroked her from her breasts to her thighs. The payment was a pastry bought in the village. Ten minutes of frôlage earned one pastry. By the end of ten minutes the girl usually reached orgasm, but if she had not, the one administering the frôlage would continue and earn an additional pastry.
Another favorite sexual divertissment was to be found in the bathroom. The school had large, old-fashioned bathtubs, with flexible hand showers that could be removed from the hook on the side of the wall. The girls would sit in a tub, turn on the shower, and then with the warm water gushing out, they would push the head of the shower between their legs and rub it gently back and forth.
Elizabeth indulged in neither frôlage nor the shower head, but her sexual urges were beginning to get stronger and stronger. It was at about this time that she made a shattering discovery.
One of Elizabeth's teachers was a small, slim woman named Chantal Harriot. She was in her late twenties, almost a schoolgirl herself. She was attractive-looking, and when she smiled she became beautiful. She was the most sympathetic teacher Elizabeth had, and Elizabeth felt a strong bond with her. Whenever Elizabeth was unhappy, she would go to Mlle. Harriot and tell her her problems. Mlle. Harriot was an understanding listener. She would take Elizabeth's hand and stroke it, and give her soothing advice and a cup of hot chocolate and cookies, and Elizabeth always felt better immediately.
Mlle. Harriot taught French and also taught a class in fashion, in which she emphasized style and harmony of colors, and the proper accessories.
"Remember, girls," she would say, "the smartest clothes in the world will look terrible if you wear the wrong accessories." "Accessories" was Mlle. Harriot's watchword.
Whenever Elizabeth lay in the warm tub, she found that she was thinking of Mlle. Harriot, of the look on her face when they talked together, and of the way Mlle. Harriot caressed her hand, softly and tenderly.
When Elizabeth was in other classes, she would find her mind drifting toward Mlle. Harriot, and she would remember the times that the teacher had put her arms around her, consoling her, and had touched her breasts. At first Elizabeth had believed that the touches were accidental, but they had happened more and more often, and each time Mlle. Harriot would give Elizabeth a soft, questioning look as though waiting for some response. In her mind Elizabeth could see Mlle. Harriot, with her gently swelling breasts, and her long legs, and she would wonder what she looked like naked, in bed. It was then that the full realization stunned Elizabeth.
She was a Lesbian.
She was not interested in boys, because she was interested in girls. Not the kind of silly little girls who were her classmates, but someone sensitive and understanding, like Mlle. Harriot. Elizabeth could visualize the two of them in bed together, holding and comforting each other.
Elizabeth had read and heard enough about Lesbians to know how difficult life was for them. Society did not approve. Lesbianism was considered a crime against nature. But what was wrong, Elizabeth wondered, in loving someone tenderly and deeply? Did it matter whether it was a man or a woman? Was it not the love itself that was the important thing? Was it better to have a loveless heterosexual marriage than a loving homosexual one?
Elizabeth thought about how horrified her father was going to be when he learned the truth about her. Well, she would just have to face up to it. She would have to readjust her thinking about the future. She could never have a so-called normal life like other girls, with a husband and children. Wherever she went, she would always be an outcast, a rebel, living outside the mainstream of society. She and Mlle. Harriot - Chantal - would find a little apartment somewhere, or perhaps a small house. Elizabeth would decorate it beautifully in soft pastels, with all the proper accessories. There would be graceful French furniture and lovely paintings on the walls. Her father could help - no, she must not expect any help from her father. In all probability he would never even speak to her again.
Elizabeth thought about her wardrobe. She might be a Lesbian, but she was determined not to dress like one. No tweeds or slacks, or tailored suits or vulgar mannish hats. They were the lepers' bells of emotionally crippled women. She would try to look as feminine as possible.
Elizabeth decided that she would learn to be a great cook so that she could prepare Mlle. Harriot's - Chantal's - favorite dishes. She visualized the two of them sitting in their apartment, or small house, enjoying a candle-lit dinner that Elizabeth had prepared. First, there would be vichyssoise, followed by a lovely salad, then perhaps shrimp or lobster, or a Chateaubriand, with delicate ices for dessert. After dinner they would sit on the floor before a blazing fire in the hearth, watching the soft snowflakes fall outside. Snowflakes. So it would be winter. Elizabeth hastily revised the menu. Instead of a cold vichyssoise she would prepare a nice, hearty onion soup, and perhaps make a fondue. The dessert could be a souffle. She would have to learn to time it so that it would not fall. Then the two of them would sit on the floor before a warming fire, and read poetry to each other. T. S. Eliot, perhaps. Or V. J. Rajadhon.
Time is the enemy of love,
The thief that shortens
All our golden hours.
I have never understood then
Why lovers count their happiness
In days and nights and years,
While our love can only be measured
In our joys and sighs and tears.
Ah, yes, Elizabeth could see the long years stretching out before the two of them, and the passage of time would begin to melt into a golden, warm glow.
She would fall asleep.
Elizabeth had been expecting it, and yet when it happened it caught her by surprise. She was awakened one night by the sound of someone entering her room and softly closing the door. Elizabeth's eyes flew open. She could see a shadow moving across the moon-dappled room toward her bed, and a ray of moonlight fell across Mlle. Harriot's - Chantal's face. Elizabeth's heart began to beat wildly.
Chantal whispered, "Elizabeth," and, standing there, slipped off her robe. She was wearing nothing underneath. Elizabeth's mouth went dry. She had thought of this moment so often, and now that it was actually happening, she was in a panic. In truth she was not sure exactly what she was supposed to do, or how. She did not want to make a fool of herself in front of the woman she loved.
"Look at me," Chantal commanded hoarsely. Elizabeth did. She let her eyes roam over the naked body. In the flesh Chantal Harriot was not quite what Elizabeth had envisioned. Her breasts looked a little like puckered apples, and they sagged a bit. She had a tiny potbelly, and her derriere seemed - this was the only word Elizabeth could think of - underslung.
But none of that was important. What mattered was what lay underneath, the soul of the woman, the courage and the daring to be different from everyone else, to defy the whole world and to want to share the rest of her life with Elizabeth.
"Move over, mon petit ange," she was whispering.
Elizabeth did as she was told, and the teacher slipped into bed beside her. There was a strong, feral smell about her. She turned toward Elizabeth and put her arms around her, and said, "Oh, cherie, I have dreamed of this moment." And she kissed Elizabeth on the lips, forcing her tongue into Elizabeth's mouth, and making quick, groaning noises.
It was without doubt the most unpleasant sensationElizabeth had ever experienced. She lay there in shock. Chantal's - Mlle. Harriot's! - fingers were moving across Elizabeth's body, squeezing her breasts, slowly sliding down her stomach toward her thighs. And all the time her lips were on Elizabeth's, slobbering, like an animal.
This was it. This was the beautiful magic moment. If we were one, you and I, together we would make a universe to shake the stars and move the heavens.
Mlle. Harriot's hands were moving downward, caressing Elizabeth's thighs, starting to reach between her legs. Quickly, Elizabeth tried to conjure up the candle-lit dinners and the souffle and the evenings before the fireplace, and all the wonderful years the two of them would share together; but it was no use. Elizabeth's mind and flesh were repelled; she felt as though her body was being violated.
Mlle. Harriot moaned, "Oh, cherie, I want to fuck you."
And all Elizabeth could think of to say was, "There's a problem. One of us has the wrong accessories."
And she began to laugh and cry hysterically, weeping for the beautiful candlelit vision that had died, and laughing because she was a healthy, normal girl who had just learned that she was free.
The next day Elizabeth tried the shower nozzle.