The rain had dissipated to drizzle by the time we left the coffeehouse that night. When we arrived back at Agnes and Eddie’s flat, we said our good-byes in the front hallway. I took her in my arms and I kissed her as if I’d been planning it for months—or years. Momentarily, she kissed back, hard. And I held her close, feeling the full length of her body.
Then she pulled back. She put her hands on both of my shoulders, looked me directly in the eyes and half- whispered, “Byron, do you realize what you’re doing?”
I sort of gulped, grinned bravely and said, “Yes!”
She smiled, kissed me lightly on the end of my nose and quietly led me by the hand down the hallway to her bedroom at the back of the flat.
Seared into my memory is the picture of Emma by lamplight, as she wriggled out of her loosened dress, letting it fall softly to the floor.
Sometime later in the sweet aftermath, we were lying on her bed, locked in a barelegged embrace, when we heard the muted sound of the doorknob being turned. The door opened and there was Agnes, mouth agape, looking almost as shocked as we were, in our flagrante delicto. Agnes paused, suppressed a smile, and then backed out of the room, closing the door softly behind her without saying a word.
The next day, however, she did say a word. She told my mother, who exploded in disbelief. My mother was furious. She railed at Emma and at me and I think even at herself.
Eventually, dear Agnes, forever the personification of the positive, stepped back in and smoothed things over. My mother calmed down, although . I think her relationship with Emma remained strained from that point on. The following day, she sat me down and gave me a stern lecture on venereal diseases and other such matters, all of which I knew already.
Was the time that Emma and I spent together in her bedroom that night amoral? Perhaps. She was twenty- nine years old at the time, maybe thirty. I was three weeks away from my seventeenth birthday.
Yet this I know and I know •it well—I have always felt fortunate to have received such an open and loving introduction to the joy of sex.