“Your daddy know what you’re up to?” Aaron’s shadow blocked the early morning sun. He’d slipped out of the woods and walked right on up to Clemmie as if he owned the lake, as if he was Mr. Important Man. As if Clemmie wasn’t naked as naked can be.
She didn’t care. She didn’t care one little flea’s be-hind that he was watching her, laughing at her, while she grabbed at her clothes. But Clemmie’s heart beat against her ribs so hard, she thought it’d come busting right on our and land on the ground. She hunched over a bit, to hide herself as she held her clothes to her. She didn’t know what to pull on first, so she put on her shirt first, to hide her teats; her momma told her to stop calling them that, but her grandma said that’s what they were. They’d been growing and growing and she didn’t know how to stop them. She felt jerkity as she stepped into her underwear and then her britches.
“Need some help?” Aaron asked.
“I done need no help from nobody. Just get yourself on down the road.” Clemmie snatched at her shoes, pulled them on with her still wet feet; she shoved her socks in her britches’ pocket. She’d get a blister on her feet for sure, wet against leather wasn’t good. Once dressed, she stood up, and looked right at Aaron, said, “I done got time for you. I got chores to do.” But she didn’t move. Stayed right where she was. She wondered what she’d looked like naked. She didn’t have a mirror that would hold her whole body. Sometimes she’d stand on her bed and try to see what she looked like in the little mirror over her dresser, but she couldn’t tell nothing. What could she tell anyway, even if she could see herself? Her grandma said a man don’t look at a woman like a woman looks at a woman. And grandma said Clemmie was turning into a woman, with her monthlies and her teats and her hair growing in strange places. She didn’t get what being a woman looked at by a man meant, but she sort of did right then, with Aaron standing there looking at her with that stupid grin. She felt her face go warm, then hot, and that made her mad.
Aaron said, “This here’s my spot. If you don’t want me seeing you, then find another spot to swim in. Don’t matter none to me.” Aaron began shucking off his shirt. “I’m swimming, like it or not. Stay or go.”
She watched as he unbuttoned his shirt and threw it on the ground. She stared at the browned skin, the muscles there, and the heat in her face pulsed, and then it started up in her chest, her stomach, her legs, and blew across every part of her body, even ones she never thought about at all, like her baby toes, and her fingernails, and her eyelashes, and the backs of her knees.
Aaron unzipped his britches, looked at her, grinned, then said, “You just going to stand there and watch me?”
Clemmie reached down and grabbed her hat from the ground. She didn’t want him to read what was in her eyes. She wasn’t even sure what was in them. They were probably red from all that blood rushing up and thumping hard. Maybe they were sparkling and pretty. Maybe he’d only see himself in her eyes. She told him, “I got chores to do. Can’t go round acting stupid with no boy.” She shoved the hat on her wet head and turned away.
Aaron said, “I ain’t no boy.”
Clemmie ignored him, but her back felt exposed, and her brain was filled with mush, and her legs were jerkity as she walked away from him. With all her might she made herself keep going, but with all her want she wished she could turn around and watch him. What would he look like? She’d only seen her daddy one time, accidentally, and that thing was some ugly, hanging there all nasty. She bet Aaron wouldn’t look like that, though. Clemmie didn’t like her thoughts, so she ran, and ran fast; she ran faster than her thoughts, all the way home, where her grandma was already out a the chicken yard, waiting for Clemmie to come help gather eggs.
All that day, Clemmie thought of Aaron, of the way he’d seen her naked. Of the way he’d laughed. Of the way he’d taken off his shirt and then dared her to look. All that day Clemmie’s blood burned. And that night, she had a naughty dream about Aaron, where he kissed her and hugged her against him, and a ripping through her privates woke her from a sleep. She lay there wide-awake, sweating in her bed, and filled with a wonder at what a woman’s body could do.