Suppertime came and went, a few things thrown on the barbecue, and Tom sat out there with his parents while the sun began to wind its way down towards the horizon. It had been a fairly terrible day: the only times it had not been boring, he had been subjected to embarrassing scrutiny by young female eyes.
Across the way, Candice’s parents ate supper without her: it seemed as though they hardly ever actually came into contact with their daughter, as though the two generations were in different time zones. It was only after the parents had finished eating and had gone out for the evening that their young daughter arrived back at the tent.
She smiled at Tom and waved at him briefly before entering her tent. To Tom’s dismay, his parents noticed it, then went all parenty on him.
“Made some friends already, then, Tom?” his father grinned at him. Tom just wanted him to mind his own business, but that kind of sentiment wouldn’t have kept his parents in a good mood.
“A few,” he said.
“Seems like a nice girl,” his mother said. “Who is she?”
Tom sighed, “she’s French. Candice, I think her name is.”
“How long is she here for?”
“I don’t know…the whole summer, I assume.”
“She’s very pretty.”
He didn’t respond, kept quiet, desperately wanting them to lay off the subject. He sank his nose back into the novel he’d been reading and hoped sincerely that his parents were done. But his parents weren’t to be the real problem.
“Bonjour Tom,” he looked up and his eyes widened in surprise. Candice herself had wandered over towards them.
“Look, Tom, it’s your friend,” his mother said quietly and pointlessly. The redhead stepped towards them, doing nothing whatsoever to conceal herself. Tom gulped nervously.
“Uh…yeah,” he said to his mother, and then looked up at the sensational approaching. “Hi, Candice.” He noticed his parents congratulating themselves silently that their son had found such and attractive girl to get to know.
“You want to come down to the lake with me?” she smiled briefly at Tom’s parents and they flashed greeting smiles back at her.
“Uh…mum…dad….this is Candice,” he said.
“Hello Candice, very nice to meet you,” his parents said with broad, approving grins on their faces. Tom just wanted the ground to swallow him.
“Hello, it’s very nice to meet you, too,” she said back to them. “May I take your son with me down to the lake?” She laid a soft hand on Tom’s shoulder as she made her plea. Tom sighed. His parents would be full of questions later.
“Of course,” his mother said cheerfully.
“Well…” Tom said apologetically.
“Oh, go on Tom,” his father said, “don’t worry about us – we’ll get the washing-up done without you.”
“You go and have a good time, dear,” his mother added.
Tom took a deep breath. There was no way he could get out of this one. It was a choice between the embarrassment of being naked in front of multitudes of strangers, or be interrogated by his parents. He stood up. For once, the least complicated course of action was to go along with the nude French girl and head down to the lake.
“Bravo!” Candice clapped her hands together in joy as Tom grabbed his towel and murmured a quick goodbye to his parents, ignoring their self-congratulatory grins as he went. The divine redhead took his hand in hers and led him away from the tent.
“That wasn’t fair,” he said to her when they were out of his parents’ earshot. “That was as bad as blackmail.”
“I had to get you away from there somehow, Tom,” she grinned. “You’ll have a terrible time if you don’t stop being so shy.”
“I’m not shy,” he said, “it’s just…”
“Oh don’t worry,” she said, “I like that about you, Tom. It’s…what’s the word? Refreshing?” She squeezed his hand affectionately.
A lot of people were passing them by, heading back for their evening meals no doubt. Tom was quite thankful for that towel. But it still felt very odd just walking past all those naked people – and being in the company of such an extraordinarily attractive naked girl to boot.
“You know, the other men around here…they all love themselves,” she said, and Tom found that at least with her at his side he wasn’t forced to look at her and could keep some kind of self-control going. “They all walk around flaunting themselves, wanting all the girls to look at them…it sickens me sometimes.”
“Uh huh,” he said, not really knowing what to say in such a situation.
“But you…you are different,” she squeezed his hand again.
“Well…you know…” he said, shrugging, “I haven’t really done this sort of thing before.”
“You’ll get used to it,” she said, “then maybe you’ll stop being so shy, uh?” she giggled. “But you know what you have to do if you’re frightened of something?”
“What?” he said, feeling dread entering his veins. He had a feeling he knew what was coming.
“You have to face your fear!” quite suddenly, she grabbed his towel and fled. Horror filled his body all the way down to his toes: sheer unbridled terror. It was moment, that moment he’d had nightmares about all his life. But this time, it was real. He might not have been in a swimming pool, wasn’t anywhere near his school or college, but there was no mistaking it. He was in the middle of a fairly crowded place, completely an utterly naked, without a stitch to protect him. He felt more vulnerable than he had ever felt before. Oh come, friendly bombs, and fall on Tom.
A few people looked his way, amused that his companion had suddenly dashed away. HE returned a few glances with a slightly embarrassed smile and, with that strange light-headed feel of shock still in his system, he walked towards the lake. No sudden movements. It was like facing a dangerous creature – if he made any sudden movements, he would attract more attention and that would be fatal. Much better just to take a deep breath and calmly go on as usual. As though nothing had happened.
But there were so many people around now. He was at the centre of the entire place, where everything was – the bathrooms, toilets, the laundry, the restaurant, the shop, the swimming pool. Everything. Most people had gone home for supper, but there was still so much flesh out there.