This piece was submitted by Sharon Leach as part of the 2014 PEN World Voices Online Anthology.

Sharon Leach’s event: A Literary Safari 

You never thought it could happen to you. No, bredren, not you. But it did. You know it’s not cool for a man to talk about something that pussified. But you can’t help it. The four-letter word and you.
She is older, actually. She’s sexier than any girl your own age. She laughed the first time you tried to guess her age and said thirty. She threw back her head and laughed showing the fillings in her teeth. You were both in bed, after lovemaking—that’s what she called it—you wouldn’t have known what word to use. Lovemaking. Shit, that word! You’d skipped school to spend the entire day with her. ‘Oh, sweetiepie,’ she said, still laughing, flexing her painted-red toes against the gold-and-white sheets. ‘Thirty! Haha! That’s sweet.’ She laughed again and touched your cheek before ducking her head and licking the head of your cock. You got a wicked stiffie remembering how earlier she’d rolled off you, and, rubbing her breasts against your chest, reached into the nightstand drawer and brought out a worn leather belt that she’d wrapped elegantly around your neck. It had frightened you at first, but then you’d come violently, seeing peenie wallies as your eyes rolled back in your head.
She leaned back against the carved wood bed head. You sat up so you could look at her, to make sure this was all real. Side by side, your skin like night and day. ‘Poor baby,’ she said. ‘You really are that young, aren’t you?’ 

For a moment, that pissed you off. You didn’t like her tone; it made you feel like a fuck-up. She’d thought you were older when she first met you, she told you. That was understandable. You are big for fifteen-and-a-half, already almost 6-foot, which comes in handy for your jump shots. You weren’t a virgin (thank God) although you might as well have been for all the things she’d have to teach you, all the ways you never dreamed you could do it. It. She calls you her champion lover even though you don’t feel like too much of a champion when she’s grinding on top of you. Still. You’re so eager to learn, so eager to please, and when you try your hardest and don’t come too quick she digs her nails into your back and curls her toes. 

But you can’t tell your boys—you can’t brag and boast about her. If it ever got back to your people, she’s warned you, you’d both get in trouble. But how you wish you could tell somebody, though! When the guys get to beating their chests, you know you could tell them stories about what you’ve done to her that would make them respect you. Especially loudmouth Robbo, who loves to brag and boast during gym about the amount of girls he’s taken to his room, but who you know for a fact couldn’t get front unless he paid for it.
She calls you her man. You wonder if she tells her friends about you. Probably not. She doesn’t really have many, that’s what she says. But even if she did, you know how paranoid she is about anybody finding out about the two of you.
You can’t complain, though. Everything cool, no problem. You’re not thinking about anything too tough. Just going with the flow. You’re not thinking about anything except that every day is another day to look forward to, and how you wake up in the mornings and she’s in your head, and it’s like being on summer vacation. 
Evenings, she helps you with your homework. It’s a strange arrangement, her helping you, like a teacher, and then switching back to being your lover, when you’re through. She wants you to pass all your CXCs, she tells you one evening when she slammed you onto the kitchen floor and screwed you on top of your Modern Biology textbook. She really does want you to make something of yourself, she whispers against your neck. She gets mad if you show her B-minuses and Cs, when you tell her you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up. After, she held your head in her lap, the bangles on her hand jingling like bells in a holiday parade, and you feel the heat coming from between her legs and you can’t concentrate on what you’re reading, all you want is to do it again, but she says no. ‘I’m serious, sweetiepie,’ she says. ‘I can’t have a dunce as my man.’
You love when homework is finished and she puts on jazz. That’s a whole different type of learning there. She teaches you about Sarah Vaughan and Miles Davis and Billie Holiday and Herbie Hancock and Norah Jones, because you need to have an appreciation for other kinds of music other than dancehall and rap and hip-hop, which you loved before you met her. ‘That music is shit,’ she says dismissively. ‘For hooligans.’
Then she orders pizza, or Chinese; she never, ever cooks. But it’s cool; she lets you drink wine with your food. She buys you books, lots of them, fiction and non-fiction. Magazines, too, Time and Newsweek, and tries to get you involved in debates on various subjects that up until now you didn’t give a damn about. You watch the nightly news so you won’t sound lame to her. ‘Those damn Americans,’ she says, refreshing your wine glass while glaring at CNN. Although she’s suspicious of modern technology (she doesn’t ‘do’ DVDs, preferring her old-timey video recorder machine), she does have a cable subscription, but she’ll only watch CNN, or now and again, FOX, which, she claims is the devil. She tells you that you must renounce the war in Iraq and say it is immoral, even though you don’t fully understand what ‘renounce’ means and why it is important for you to do it. 
She’s an artist who’s lived and exhibited abroad. She’s lived a lot. You could tell from the first time you saw her. You met her in a lingerie shop uptown waiting self-consciously beside a half-naked mannequin near the door for your old lady to hurry up and get the nightgown she hoped your old man would notice her in and maybe fall in love with her again. She’d come up to you holding up a trashy pair of crotchless red panties you know your old lady would never be caught dead wearing, even if it meant your old man staying home more, and asked you what you thought about them. You could tell a woman like that had lived, you thought even as you tried to will away the embarrassing cock-stand you prayed she didn’t notice. She’s been married, like three times. One of them died. (‘They were really farts,’ she tells you with a laugh.) Before them, she was engaged-to-be-married three times—to two different men. 

She is probably older than your old lady, you realize. 

She’s lived in other parts of the Caribbean, and one time in Europe. She’s made millions with her art and lost it all before getting it back again. She’s never had kids and never regretted the decision. She’s dabbled in politics, religion, at one point, even the occult. She’s done it all. She smokes weed, which she shares with you on occasion, and cigarettes, which, go figure, she won’t. She’s owned a motorbike and has stocks and bonds. You end up saying Wow to every story she tells you because there’s nothing that you, not yet sixteen, have ever done that can compare. 

The need for just-want-to-be-inside-her sex with her every hour of every day takes over your life, it seems. You can’t believe how good she makes you feel. While you’re in classes you get erections just thinking about her. You don’t hear a thing your teachers say, and even though more and more they’ve started to complain about your absentmindedness, which they sure as hell will bring up at the next parent-teachers’ conference, you don’t care. You can’t wait for school to get let out, you get blue balls from wanting her so badly. On the way over to her house you are dazed—numb, really—at the fact that you’re with a woman like her. And that she’s yours. Although there were others before you. She’s told you about them, not to make you jealous, just to let you know. She’s had affairs with her dentist, her doctor, her lawyer, and, when she was your age, her high school history teacher. (‘Oh, we made history,’ she said when she told you, and although it was kind of corny, you laughed with her.) There’s even a public figure—she won’t say his name—whose marriage she admits to breaking up while she was married to her first husband and then, when the man left his wife, she moved in with him but left him after two months to return to her own marriage.
You don’t have any interesting stories, no colourful sex anecdotes so you tell her about your first time, so you kind of don’t seem like a pussy: how you’d done it one Saturday afternoon at a day fete at school. The truth is you weren’t even sure if you’d done it properly. You’d rubbed up against Melissa Gordon, your seventh grade crush, behind the school gymnasium and by the time you’d pulled down your zipper, well, it was over. And Melissa Gordon had wiped you up with tissue and tried not to let you see her disgust. But you don’t tell her that. You make up some parts of the story, making it sound, you hope, more intense than it really was. 
When you’re done, she sits staring at you, as if waiting for the punch line. Then she rubs your back and says, ‘Sweetiepie.’
Then, just when things are flying, there’s a change in her. She gets moody. She snaps at you when you speak in slang or patois — ‘Can you not sound like the uneducated masses, please!’ — or when you say something dumb. Like when you share with her the burden you have to bear as the son of a preacher man, or if you tell her about how your mother always, always puts your old man who is really your stepfather, ahead of you, how much of a hypocrite he is, how he’ll go to church on Sunday and put his fist through a wall on Monday if the old lady burns his toast. ‘Oh, Jesus-fucking-Christ,’ she’ll take the Lord’s name in vain, her high-brown face red with rage. ‘Why do young people complain so goddamn much?’
Your affair has dragged her down, she says: its intensity. She’s restless, blurred around the edges, like a faded Polaroid in a photo album. She tells you you’re missing too much school. You’re too clingy. She wants to stop having sex all the time. She wants her ‘space’. 

Maybe she wants it to be over, it occurs to you. 

You try staying away for a while but a day without seeing her is a pain you literally feel in your chest, like someone heavy sitting on it. You think about her, her brown skin, her breasts, the slippery wet feel of her when you slide inside her. She’s a drug; you can’t stay away. 
After a few days you go back. 
One evening she brings home a VHS of The Graduate. ‘Our relationship is reprehensible,’ she wails at the end and suggests that you find a girlfriend your own age. She stares at the credits rolling, the corners of her mouth turned downwards. ‘Can’t you see how execrable Mrs Robinson is? How morally bankrupt she is? Don’t you see? I am Mrs Robinson!’ 
* * *
One day you go to her house after school and find the front door unlocked. You go inside, walk slowly to the bedroom, the hairs on the back of your neck all standing up inside your collar. You can almost hear a movie soundtrack surging in your ears. You’re walking into hell. Your steps drag, echo loudly off the tiled floor. You know what you’re about to see. You hear the moans, muffled sounds like little animals dying, all the way up the hallway. Yet you can’t stop yourself. You keep going and going.
She’s in a harness, nipple clamps and all; you can’t see his face because his face is buried in her crotch, but you can hear him making those horrible animal sounds in his throat.
Your hand remains on the doorknob and time freezes with the intake of air in your chest that is about to collapse. You know this image will never come out of your head. 
She looks down at you and blinks slowly before you turn to run away. Everything inside you becomes liquid, and you realize that you’ve started to piss your pants. When you’re halfway down the street, you realize you don’t hear her coming after you. 
* * *
A week or so later she appears at your school, after the last bell, just as you and your boys are heading out the front gate for the bus stop. Your old lady could pick you up but you prefer to hang with your boys after school, gambling and playing pool at a gaming lounge in Half-Way-Tree for a couple hours before making your way home. They fist-bump now and make loud, embarrassing noises between shouts of ‘Rude Bwoy!’ ‘My yute!’ and ‘Dude!’ as you try to act cool. She’s driving her BMW. She slides over into the passenger seat and tells you to get in, even though she knows you don’t have your driver’s license. She cries a lot and says she’s sorry, her face shiny and crumbly. She’s afraid of what she’s feeling for you, she explains. She wanted to scare you off. The man in the harness meant nothing to her. She wants you. She needs you. She misses you.
It is a hot day; heat vapours rise up from the asphalt shimmering in the air, making the city look like you’re somewhere in a desert. ‘Sweetiepie,’ she says, laying her hand gently on your crotch. As if everything—the whole thing, you driving her car, the fool in the harness, everything—is cool. 
Near her house you pull off the main road onto a side road with a deserted, recently bulldozed vacant lot that you sometimes cut through on your way to see her. The lot is now surrounded by a chain link perimeter fence that has a sign with bold red-painted letters: 
Cut the engine. 
‘Here?’ She looks around, laughing her horny laugh. 
Start to kiss her. 
‘Sweetiepie,’ she says, giggling when you force her over onto the back seat. 
Just once you want her to call you by your name. 
You yank her legs apart, rip her panties off and, before she knows what’s happening, push her down onto the seat. When she tries to speak, grab her throat and squeeze. A metallic, salty smell is oozing from her. You’re hurting her, and it makes you harder than you’ve ever been in your life. 
After, you tell her to drive you home. You watch her from the back seat, her balled-up panties at your feet. She’s like week-old fruit as she looks at you in the rearview mirror, and you see her hands tremble when she grips the steering wheel. 
Lying in bed later that night, your Geography textbook open on your bare chest, you hear your pervert older brother and thirteen-year-old stepsister doing it in the next room. They stupidly think that because they have the stereo on you can’t hear the stifled grunting and groaning. Put in the ear bud of your iPod and listen to Norah Jones singing, all sad and sexy. Close your eyes and remember earlier that afternoon, how hard you came with your hand at her throat, and the feel of her body as it stopped struggling and yielded to your greater physical strength. Who a the big man now, Robbo? You suddenly understand how the old man feels—shit, the rush!—when he grabs a fistful of your old lady’s hair and shoves her into their bedroom.
The night is as hot as hell, over 90 degrees; there’s a hint of coming rain. Your room is suffocatingly close, the floral print sheets on your bed hot to the touch of your skin. Although there is an air-conditioning wall unit you can’t turn it on because your stepfather will be home any minute, and if it’s going when he comes in he’ll raise backside about the electricity bill. There’s a blue moon in the night sky. Through the open window you smell your mother’s roses in the garden, and hear a bullfrog diving in the grass. Further up the hill, in the town square, the drum and bass of a dancehall tune —vintage Vbyz Kartel—starts up, reverberating across the scorched hillside, scabby from the drought, and causing a framed picture on your desk, the one with you, your old lady and old man—your real pops—to vibrate.
You slam the textbook shut—you can’t study anyway—and drop it on the ground. Throw your iPod down beside it. Turn out the light as you picture her face all crumpled up and crying, and the bruises on her skin. Reach into the waistband of your Hanes and grab your semi-hard cock and remember that the next day is your sixteenth birthday. Tomorrow you’ll skip school and the stupid Geography test so you can see her, you think as you drift off to sleep. You’ll tell her to never piss you off again because you don’t want to make love to her that way again. But you will if you have to. If she hurts you, you’re a man, a Jamaican lover man: you will hurt her back. You’ll kiss her softly. You’ll make her understand.

This is the first appearance of “You’ll Kiss Her Softly”.