Charging through the branches, leaping over roots and bushes, sliding down muddy embankments. Frankie loved the woods behind the playing fields. Lost in a world of her own she had been many things: knights, outlaws, monsters, animals. Here she had space to let her imagination flourish.
As the sun began to set the woods took on a different character: dark, oppressive, shadowy. Sounds amplified around the treetops, each one a sinister echo. A broken twig became a giant’s footstep, a bird’s song became a warning call. Now Frankie crept stealthily, careful not to make a noise.
With a heavy heart she left the den she had built and walked to the edge of the woods. Across the threshold lay real life with all it’s rules and conventions and limitations: the small bedroom she had to share with her little brother, her parents downstairs having their nightly slanging match.
She heard the voices approaching and instinctively shrank back into the shelter of the foliage. A girl’s laughter, excited and happy. The boy seemed quiet and nervous. They came across the playing field holding hands. She recognised them both from school, they were a couple of years above her.
They entered the woods and stopped a short distance from her. Frankie crouched down. She knew she shouldn’t watch them. They thought they were alone.
The girl leaned with her back against a tree. The boy pressed against her, his mouth meeting hers, then exploring her neck. Frankie saw their hands fumble around and stifled a laugh as the boy’s trousers slipped down to reveal his naked behind. The girl’s legs wrapped around his waist. The pressing and kissing grew faster. They awkwardly rubbed their bodies up and down until both were breathing heavily. With a final suppressed cry they were still. Their panting was the only sound.
Frankie couldn’t take her eyes away. She knew what she had seen even though it was the first time she had seen it. Only when they began moving again, adjusting and fastening their clothing, did Frankie realise it had gone dark. She had to move fast to be home in time for dinner and avoid getting a row from her mother.
She took a step back and heard the twig snap. She looked back and saw the boy looking round. ‘Who’s there?’ he shouted.
Frankie panicked and ran, breaking cover and dashing out into the open, heading for home as fast as she could. Behind her she heard the boy shout: ‘You dirty little pervert. Did you enjoy the show?’
For the rest of the summer Frankie didn’t return to the woods. Her games seemed childish and unsatisfying now. She couldn’t stop seeing the two bodies entwined against the tree. The girl, head tilted back, mouth open.
Frankie wasn’t sure why, but she knew she wanted to feel that same way.