"But we can't tell you about that kind of stuff!"
"Why not, we're happy to talk about it all the time. And we do."
"But that's because you're boys. We have... we've got..."
"More dignity is that it?"
The girls laugh and he pushes them both into another chilly wave: one stands up to flick her hair over her head; the rip current lowers the water to waist level; yelping she dives back into the water; the teenager watches, shivering, and works pebbles between his toes. Sixteen in the summer holidays, he is ruler of the waves and king of all the eye can see. At least, until September anything is possible. His gaze drifts towards the shore where a little dog is inspecting the ruffled pile of clothes, boys' and girls'.
"But you do do it?"
"No! That's for us to know and you to find out. [Interjection, internal discussion followed by admission]. Well, yes."
"When? How? Oh come on!" Lots of questions: method, instruments, chronology, location, climate, more. "No!"
The russet terrier triumphantly holds a bra aloft and parades it around, followed adoringly by his victory procession, who are trying nervously to get a lead on him before the kids in the water notice that their clothes are being interfered with. Looking down, a finger drawing circles in the water: "Girl stuff."
* * *
"We've all got IDs haven't we?"
"I've got a fake driving licence."
"I've got my sister's old one."
They sit at an uneven wooden table in the corner and try to not to be too conspicuous. But there's not much point. The landlord knows their ages anyway, and yet is happy to leave them be on this lazy Sunday evening.
"You drink so quickly!"
"You can have my hoodie if you like."
"Thanks. Ah, Reading Festival, never been. Take the bottle someone, I hate this stuff. Do you mind if I have a cigarette? You're gonna have to teach me how to roll though. Sorry."
So he shows her, making a special effort to demonstrate that rolling is all in the thumbs. Never use your fingers for the flip. "Your fingers are for other things," he laughs, but immediately wishes he hadn't said it. The raised eyebrow he gets from one of the girls affirms his mistake. He must learn that there is always a time, and always a place. Lots to go and discover, lots to learn; there is fun to be had along the way. The lighting of cigarettes is perfect cover for the break in conversation, and the three smoke silently, one on her back, the other two looking at the sea.
"I'm sorry, I..."