Amanda Burton sighed happily as she pulled her sleek Jaguar XK convertible into her driveway. Nothing beat a drive with the top down after a long day showing potential buyers all around the west country to look at houses. Even the inevitable paperwork that followed was remedied by a sunset drive. Now all she needed was a glass of wine or two, a long soak in a hot tub, and she’d kick off the weekend with a few rounds of much-needed sex with her husband.
The air was heavy with a perfume of wildflowers and far to the west, the sun had slipped behind the rolling green horizon, turning from blue to a deep lavender before the oncoming wall of night. Killing the engine, she stepped out of the vehicle. Not bothering to put the XK’s roof back up or collect her briefcase from the boot, she walked up the path to her home whilst fishing in her pocket for her keys.
The door slid inwards as she brought her key up to the lock.
Strange. Stepping back, Amanda looked up. All the lights were off. A quick glance around confirmed hers was the only car in the drive. She shrugged it off. The girls must have forgotten to lock up on their way out. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time her daughter, Camila, or one of her friends had left the door ajar. Amanda was just glad they’d moved down to Ashcott when they did. God only knows what might have happened if they still lived at the old house in Hereford.
Say what you want about remote villages in the middle of nowhere. They certainly had a much lower crime rate than cities and towns. And the commute had its perks.
Shutting the door firmly and securely behind her, Amanda shrugged off her jacket.
She froze, ears pricked and searching. She could hear something, faint and indistinct like a voice lost in the wind.
Her curiosity peaked, Amanda looked around, trying to figure out its origin, half expecting to find Camila on the phone to one of her friends. Upstairs. It’s coming from upstairs.
Stealthily as a jackrabbit, Amanda ascended the wooden stairs and made her way along the landing, the sound growing louder with every step. She stopped outside her daughter’s room. Grabbing the handle to open the door she suddenly had an idea and instead sunk to her knees before placing one hand against the side of the door. She brushed a stray lock of her dishevelled hair away from her ear.
Not so very long ago, Amanda would probably have just barged right in all guns blazing, but recently Camila had been growing increasingly secretive and prickly where her room and personal space was concerned. She wouldn’t take kindly to someone, specifically her mother, bursting in unannounced. Amanda had a very good idea what was going on.
Barely a month ago, Camila had found herself her first real boyfriend.
She listened intently, her ear pressed against the wood, for any sound coming from within the room that might explain her daughter’s absence. From her own experiences as a hormone-driven teenager, she fully expected to hear the hurried whispers and scattered moans that always indicated a passionate nookie session. However, she couldn’t hear much of anything except for a very faint sobbing.
Finally, curiosity and parental concern got the better of her. Lightly pressing her palm against the wood, she silently forced the door open a crack.
Camila’s room was one of the smallest in the house and was lightly lit by the low glow of her bedside lamp, casting it in a comfortable light that revealed its surprisingly neat and tidy furnishings. Taking a second to let her eyes adapt to the low light, Amanda immediately looked to the large queen size that was situated at the back of the rectangular room. She was surprised to find, not her daughter, but Camila’s friend, Tracey, curled in a weeping ball.
Amanda threw open the door and hurried across the room to the sobbing girl and pulled her close. Without hesitation or a word of protest, the girl accepted the hug and cried into her blouse.
“Tracey… What’s wrong honey?” She asked gently, running her hand through her waves of golden hair, trying to sooth the distressed eighteen-year-old.
Tracey Fox never cried. In all the years Amanda had known her she’d watched her grow and flourish. For as long as she had been Camila’s BFF, she had never cried. Even as a girl, despite her wide eyes and deceptive, doll-like innocence, she had looked at life with the tenacity of a bulldog. What could have happened to turn her into such a wreck? And where was-
“C-Camila…” Amidst the sobs, the girl’s voice sounded choked and almost inaudible, but Amanda heard the name all the same. It was like a cold wash down her spine. She didn’t push her, however, but continued trying to soothe her with soft words.
When her sobs finally began to subside, Tracey looked up at her with a stranger’s face and a look in her eye that made the older woman want to cry out in horror. Gone was the rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed girl. Now, she was only a shadow, a ghost of her former self, pale with puffy eyes that still freely leaked tears. Amanda felt her throat tighten and a pain stab her chest. Without thinking, she put both arms around the girl and held her close.
“W-we were watching T.V. Jeremy …” Tracey seemed to be on the verge of fresh tears at the mention of Camila’s boyfriend and Amanda felt a sudden surge of wrath towards the boy who now dominated so much of her daughter’s life. “He came round. He’d been drinking and…”
“Go on, honey don’t worry, you can tell me. What happened?”
“He pulled Camila into his lap and started making remarks about us here all alone. She didn’t say anything. Then he said something, suggested we play together. I thought he was out of his mind, but she only laughed and said, said it could be fun.”
“She did what!”
“I said no, but Jeremy, he wouldn’t listen. He started grabbing his… himself through his jeans, stroking it so we could see… Camila, she was tugging on my arm, trying to get me to come closer. I-I told them I wasn’t interested, so they both got angry. They ca-called me a prude and started joking about how I was still a virgin. Finally, Jeremy… called me a frigid…cock teasing bitch!”
Tracey nodded, tears flowing freely once again. “He said I wasn’t worth the effort of getting hard for, then said they were leaving and Camila…she… she….”
“Shh- shh, it’s okay sweetheart, it’s okay”. The damn was well and truly broken now, so Amanda did what she could to sooth the girl once more through the babble of unintelligible sobs. Amanda couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Of course, she’d known that both Camila and Tracey, despite both being beautiful, curvy young women, had had trouble with boys growing up.
Neither she nor Mark liked Jeremy very much. There was an arrogance behind his movie-star good looks and smouldering eyes and a swagger that just didn’t sit right with Amanda.
Her husband, however, had a much more eloquent way of putting it. The boy’s a cock.
A threesome, really! How could he even suggest such a thing in her bloody house? To think her own daughter could turn on her friend for that little shit, of all people. Amanda made a note to personally cut his cock off and feed it to him if he ever came near Camila again.
“What’s wrong with me?” The question came out of the blue and at first Amanda wasn’t sure Tracey had said anything.
“It’s okay honey, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong- “
“Then why?” she snapped, her body rigid. “It’s just sex, everyone does it! So why, why did the thought of him touching me-”
“You’re not ready, that’s all it is.”
“But I am ready. I want to. But I just…can’t.” The word came out as a sigh and all the aggression and tension in her body seemed to leave her with her confession.
“Trust me, when you meet the right one, and you’re both ready, you will. And it’ll be worth the wait.”
Slowly, Tracey looked up to meet Amanda’s gaze. “Was that the way it was for you?”
“Was it Mr Burton?”
“Yes.” Amanda couldn’t help but smile, remembering how it had felt to be young and caught up in the spell of first love. And then, noticing the way Tracey appeared to be hanging on her every word, she had an idea. “Is there someone?”
“Well… yes- no, no, I shouldn’t be telling you- I- I have to go!” Cheeks tinged pink with embarrassment, Tracey wheeled, but Amanda seized her arm before she could make it off the bed.
“Hey! Wait a second. Come on, you can tell me…”
“No, it’s embarrassing.”
“Is he good looking?”
“Is he a boy at Strode?”
“Oh…Do I know him? Does he live nearby?”
“Very.” Tracey was looking at the floor and seemed to be studying the plain simple carpet with all the scrutiny of a master architect as her cheeks burned crimson and she twisted the bedspread with white knuckles.
Was she afraid? What did Tracey have to be afraid of? She’d gushed over boys with her before. One of the perks of being a cool parent was that your daughter’s friends came to you for advice. Tracey had been Camila’s best friend since they started secondary school, so she already knew the types of boys she was attracted to-
Then the penny dropped. “Ah. I see.”
Tracey stiffened, and she had to force herself to meet Amanda’s eyes. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “I’m so sorry, I never meant-”
“It’s fine sweetie. I understand.” She had caught Tracey sneaking peeks before, but she had always dismissed it. With his tall, broad build, thick waves of sandy blonde hair, cobalt eyes, and a biostructure that would make a stone mason weep with envy, it came as no surprise to Amanda that her husband caught considerable amounts of attention from the women around him. Why should this hormone-wracked teen be any different? He was a very good-looking man. What red-blooded woman wouldn’t enjoy the odd bit of voyeur pleasure. It was half the reason Amanda, though not prone to jealousy, enjoyed taking every opportunity to flaunt herself on his arm whenever they went out. Marking her territory, as he would put it. She forced a reassuring smile. “And you don’t have to worry about a thing…”
“What do you mean?”
Amanda put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Tell me honey, have you ever heard of The Lifestyle?”