I began undressing. Slowly at first, my hands trembling in sync with my racing heart. Did I really want to do this? I began to pull down my off-shoulder playsuit until it was around my ankles revealing my petite frame. If it had not been for my sizeable breasts I would probably get away with having the figure of a 12-year-old boy, standing at 5'3 inches. My long black hair reaching the curve of my back just above my bum, which is small but perky enough that I don’t look completely underdeveloped. I guess I have both my parents to thank for my stunted growth. My mother is a small Cuban woman and my father, a small Filipino man. Aside from my delicate build and snub nose, I barely look like my mum at all. She has very fair olive skin and she doesn’t look like your typical Cuban woman (if there is even a typical look for us, we come in all different shades and features) her hair is honey blonde and she has piercing blue eyes. A feature I wish I had inherited, I take most of my facial features from my father. The dark black hair, the dark brown, upturned eyes, the bronze tanned complexion. My younger brother is taller than him so I had hoped that, by some miracle, I would at least grow a few more inches but I had finally accepted my fate when my 21st birthday came and went and I hadn’t grown any taller. Six years later and I have finally grown to be comfortable with my height and the fact that I may never really grow into my body at all.
It’s something Tiago had been teasing me about ever since I turned 21, although he was only 5"9 and not that much taller than me. I looked over at him. He was completely nude now, his dark curls falling over his forehead and the moonlight bounced off the grooves of his chiselled torso, his tan seemed to absorb the moonlight and reflect it to make it look as if he had a white aura shining from him. He almost looked, dare I say, godly. He always made sure to stay in great shape, “keeping the body buff to make up for the lack of height” I used to say, I never appreciated it until now. He smiled when he caught a glimpse of my bare breasts, accentuating his down-turned eyes and indents in his beard where his dimples were. I stared into his eyes and a feeling overtook my body like a wave of emotion. What is this feeling? I could feel my heart pounding against my chest and I tried to ignore it. I put it down to the fact that I had never actually seen him completely naked, the thought of it a few months ago would have irked me and it probably still does. This is a guy I had grown to love and care for like a brother, my best friend, the boy who fought Timothy Hughes on the playground for calling me ugly and then called me ugly himself a few seconds later. The only person that knows I spat in Stacey Donaldson’s hot chocolate during the winter school fete only to watch her drink it with pleasure and the only person that knows I used to stuff my bra. He was like a second brother, only that I felt closer to Tiago than my actual younger brother. He’s the only person that has heard all my dark thoughts and been through them with me. The same guy that befriended your boyfriend only to then betray you for him 2 months later — opposed the rival voice in my head. You hate him right now, remember? I tried to agree but the wave of emotion that overcame me when I saw his smile made me think differently. Have I forgiven him? There were multiple times Tiago and I had gone months without talking over an argument or disagreement but we’d always make up, just as a brother and sister would do. Just like my brother Pierre and I would do. However, 6 months was the longest we’d gone without speaking and I was sure that I would never speak to him again after what he did to me, the betrayal felt more than anything I’d ever care to endure.
If anyone were to tell me a few months ago that we would be in Mexico together, standing on the beach in the Caribbean Sea completely naked, I would have laughed in their face before mildly gagging at the thought of us doing anything remotely intimate. Aside from the fact that I had spent the last 6 months hating his guts and trying to decide whether or not I even wanted to go on our annual holiday — which was always planned a year in advance — I thought to myself; me and Tiago? Ew. Yet here we were, on a beach in the Caribbean sea standing under a blanket of stars, disrobed and staring at each other. The tropical climate and humidity welcomed our nakedness but I could now feel the wave of emotion settling and I was able to decipher it, I wondered whether what I was feeling was real or if it was the result of the atmosphere around us, the full moon above us and the serenity of the moment that led me to feel whatever I thought I was feeling. I looked away from his gaze realising I had been staring for longer than intended. His kind eyes seemed to soothe me without even touching me but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of uneasiness. We shouldn’t be here, we shouldn’t be doing this. I looked up once more at the full moon which was our only light, I basked in its ambience for a while before taking the hand he had reached out for me and we walked hand in hand into the sea.
The water was warm and still, wish I could say the same for my racing mind. I was still feeling anxious about us being there, skinny dipping in the middle of the night was illegal here. I could just picture it now, police officers spotting us with their torches and us walking out of the ocean red-faced, hands barely able to cover all the parts of me I didn’t want anyone to see. “Are you ok?” Tiago interjected my thoughts “yeah” I replied sheepishly. Although I half wasn’t and I knew he could sense my energy.
Aside from the fact that what we were doing was illegal, I didn’t even know if, in this moment, that he could even stand to be around me, or if I could stand to be around him. I chose to ignore this for the time being and immerse myself in the moment, I pulled down my knickers so I could be completely naked with him and we laughed at my awkwardness when they got stuck around my ankle and I stumbled slightly, almost falling head first into the water. “The moon looks so big tonight” I wanted to break the silence, I couldn’t stand the mind chatter. He looked up at the moon and then at me “who do you think can hold their breath the longest?” Typical, our friendship was full of little competitive moments like these.
“Well, obviously me” I scoffed. Three, two, one. The next 30 seconds felt more like minutes, fully immersed in the darkness of the ocean, I was fighting the incessant mind chatter as if there were angels on my shoulders telling me one thing and another. You’re here, enjoy it, enjoy him, why are you overthinking this? You want to hold him, you want to kiss him and have him kiss you back. Do it. Contested with no, you still hate him. Don’t let the ruse of the perfect surroundings alter your clarity. Let’s not forget that man is like your brother. Ew. I came back up out of the water expecting to see him still under, but he wasn’t. “Loser!” I taunted, wiping the sea from my eyes. I noticed he hadn’t said a word, he was just staring at me. Weirdo. He eventually came down to my level so that our eyes were parallel from each other. I stared back, losing myself in his deep brown eyes. He grabbed my waist and slowly pulled me closer towards him so that I was an inch away from him. I hesitated but only for a moment, I could smell his skin and almost feel his energy as if it was a forcefield surrounding us. What I could feel was anger, accompanied with deep-rooted passion and an intensity I could not pinpoint. I could feel my body emitting the same, the intensity so overbearing I could feel our auras intertwining with one another. I was sure you could see steam emitting from our bodies if you were watching from afar. None of us said a word. Our breathing mirroring when finally, we simultaneously moved in to close the gap between our mouths. My racing heart came to a halt as soon as our lips touched and then started up slow to a steady beat. This moment solidified what I was questioning back then as I was stood on the shore. It was a feeling similar to getting back after a long day and feeling completely comfortable in your surroundings, the familiarity, the release of the day’s stresses, the welcoming smell of… home. We continued kissing and he slipped in his tongue, at this point my mind was convulsing with contradictory thoughts, your best friend, Juana?. I pulled away for a second to contemplate but it didn’t matter anymore, for some reason my desire to carry on kissing him was stronger than my feeling of discomfort at the fact he was my best friend. In fact, the two were no longer mutually exclusive. I leaned in again and let the wanton of his lips meet mine, I wrapped my arms around his neck while he grabbed my hips to bring me closer to him and I knew what he wanted, bringing my legs up I wrapped them around his waist, every movement feeling so effortless in the water. I could feel the authority of his member in between my thighs and I let out a soft moan and sucked on his bottom lip, tasting the saltiness of the sea. I had never known what it was like to kiss this man and oh, what an experience it was. He sat further into the water, submerging us both under it and back up again in one fell swoop. I clung onto him tighter and we both laughed, he stroked my cheek and suddenly I was very aware of our nakedness and the fact that we were pressed against each other. “Tiago, what just happened” I planted my feet firmly on the sand.
“let’s head back and we can talk back in the room babe”
“Babe? Eurgh, Tiago don’t do that please” I retorted “since when are you and I…babe” and since when did you become sexually attractive, I thought. “I know,” he chuckled “it seemed right at the time but as soon as I said it I realised how cringe it was”.
You always watch movie cut scenes and if this was one of those, it would skip straight from the ocean scene straight to the bedroom scene. I wished it was one of those. We made it back to the shore where we left our clothes and I grabbed my playsuit and put it on in a, realising that I no longer had my knickers. They must’ve gone missing in the heat of that kiss — that kiss — my knickers weren’t the only thing that went missing, I’m pretty sure I lost my mind in that moment. Tiago walked off towards the direction of the town and I followed suit behind him in silence. The walk back to our bungalow lasted forever. Walking past the beach apartments I hoped that no one was out on their back porch in the middle of the night to spot us, it would save me the embarrassment of wondering whether or not they had clocked on to what we had just been doing. We finally got the sandhill we had to walk down from the back of our bungalow to get to the secret skinny dipping spot and I despised myself for not caring on the way there that we would have to walk back up the hill. It wasn’t a big one, but now that I could feel my anxiety sneaking back up on me, I was already out of breath. I looked back at the vast blanket of black that was the ocean shiny with the reflection of the moon, everything looked so serene, I was sure I could still see ripples in the sea where we had disturbed it. The silence allowed my mind to wander, my heart began racing and my breath quickened with each passing thought running loose in my head. Tiago took my hand to help me up the through the thick shrubbery that surrounded the back garden of our bungalow and he turned around to look at me. The second I felt the warmth of his touch and met the gaze of his eyes every thought that had been let loose had quietened, my heart began beating at a steady pace and everything was calm once again. You can’t keep calming my storm like this — I thought to myself as I let him lift me onto the landing — What is this feeling?.
I came out of the bathroom in my towel still feeling dazed and confused about what had just happened back at the beach. We had only arrived that morning after not having seen each other for 6 months, there was definitely a lot to we needed to talk through. Instead, we avoided each other all day, I stayed on one side of the beach soaking in the sun and sipping pina coladas while I could hear Tiago in the far distance playing volleyball with guys he must’ve only met that day. We ran into each other at the beach bar just before sunset only to end up somehow agreeing on going skinny dipping when it got dark. I’d like to blame the alcohol but I would’ve agreed either way. I had never felt such sexual tension with someone before, let alone someone I thought I hated or that was my best friend. My brother, Pierre would be arriving tomorrow so I wondered whether or not I should bring it up. I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to ourselves once Pierre arrived, he was like a limpet when it came to Tiago. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to know what the answer was. What if he was just doing it for fun or ‘for the sake of it’ because he felt caught up in the moment. Well no, so were you said the voice in my head — perhaps he felt your energy like he usually does and just acted off of that? I let out a gasp what if he planned this with Alex… A revenge plot? Although the idea seemed so outlandish, it wasn’t something I should disregard. I didn’t much feel like talking after all the monologues I had in my head of the possible reasons why, the thoughts I had planted ruined my mood and I knew talking to Tiago about it would only open pandora’s box, which I wasn’t ready for. I tucked myself in and closed my eyes so that he wouldn’t attempt to strike the conversation when he came out of the shower and I drifted off into a deep sleep.
* * *
Pierre jumped off the boat and alongside him was his very large suitcase. I’m sure both of us could fit in there if we tried. He was wearing a flower printed polo shirt with beige combat shorts and navy boat shoes. He looked as if he was ready for a night out in Ibiza with the lads. My brother, by some miracle, was 5’11 inches and gotten all my mother’s features. Apart from the dark hair and complexion, we didn’t much look alike. The blue eye gene favoured him and this gave him a way with all the ladies. By the time he was 20 he had already racked up a body count higher than mine and Tiago’s combined. It didn’t help that as he grew older, his facial hair made him even more irresistible to women.
“Yo sis!” he slapped my arm “Really P, that luggage is bigger than you and you know this isn’t one of our usual annual holidays. We’re trying to budget for one and two, we’re hiking to Machu Picchu remember” Tiago helped him load the suitcase onto the open-top jeep “mate, you can’t backpack with this, we’re not staying at the four fucking seasons”
“Listen, guys, I’m only here for the 7 days until you fly to Peru and then I’m out, nobody told you guys to miss all the other countries in between so when you fly to Peru, I’ll be flying somewhere else”
“Pierre, you know I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu so we thought it would be a good idea at the time to just do it while we were here, you booked the flight with us!”
“I don’t care sis, I don’t care about losing that money” he turned back to look at me from the passenger seat “I met this babe a few weeks ago from Colombia and I’m going to stay with her and her family for a few weeks after this and they ARE staying at the four seasons,” he winked at me.
“So, you’re bailing on the annual trip already for la cualquiera. We only started this annual trip tradition 3 years ago and you couldn’t even stick it out” la cualquiera was a term I’d use to refer to most of the girls my brother dated, mostly the ones that didn’t mean anything so technically all of them, in this context it loosely translates to someone of no importance. “My brother, ever the Don Lothario”
“No, sis. This one is it. She’s the one” he looked at Tiago, “tell her bro”. I glared at the back of Tiago’s head, did he know more about my brother’s life than I did? Tiago agreed with him “I think he might actually like this one Juan, he is travelling across the world to meet her family, that’s a lot.” That was the first thing he had said to me all day. We had gotten ready in complete silence, acting as if we weren’t in each other’s presence. I think he caught on to my lacklustre energy for conversation and let me do my own thing and I appreciated his withdrawal. He was always on point in deciphering my moods and energy but this time that appreciation I would usually have for the time spent apart wore thin. After hearing his voice my body reacted in a way that it never had before and I knew what happened under that full moon was not over. I had been naked with him, we shared a first kiss so intense it was the kind you read about in romance novels. There was a definite spark, an infinite connection. There was no way I felt all those things myself. What would usually be an appreciation of his withdrawal and withdrawing in return was replaced with me wanting him to pry, and I wanted him to tell me in his own terms that what I felt was reciprocated, I wanted that kiss all over again and I wanted it all over my body this time. I wanted to share that same space with him again. To go all the way, to feel every single inch of him. “Yeah JUAN! I’m serious this time” Pierre’s voice pulled me out of my daydream. Tiago only ever called me Juan when we were on good terms because it was his way of ‘lovingly insulting’ me he’d say. I realised that I would also have to keep up the façade of us being on good terms before my brother pried and forced us to be friends again. He’d been the mediator for a lot of our arguments before and we would always be able to get past whatever differences we’d be fighting over and we’d thank him for it somehow would bring us closer each time. Not this time, though. This time it was different, I was fighting between not wanting to reconcile and wanting to jump his bones. A feeling that was entirely alien for me and I needed time to process it without Pierre hounding. We both did. “Tsk” I scoffed, “alright if you say so beanheads.” I glance over at Tiago. We have unfinished business, Tiago I said in my head and I am going to find out exactly what it is.