Even with her bra on, even after the Dutch courage instilled in her by the Sancerre, Charlotte couldn’t help feeling a little vulnerable as she stripped off her dress and sandals by the lakeshore. She folded the dress and weighed it down with a stone in order to prevent it being blown away by the wind, and did the same with her hat.

‘Last one in’s a lingam,’ shouted Finn, racing down the shore and wading into the water. Charlotte followed him, looking over her shoulder to where Alex brought up the rear.

She stuck her tongue out at him. ‘Looks like you’re the lingam, loser,’ she said, and the next thing she said was ‘Aaaaaiiieeee!’ as the water made contact with her foot.

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‘Oh, yeah?’ said Alex, curling his lip at her as he strolled past. Once the water had reached his hips, he dove straight in, leaving Charlotte standing up to her ankles in the water.

She dithered and dithered. Finn was halfway to the island now, and Alex was drawing level with him. She couldn’t wimp out – she just couldn’t. Alex would sneer at her and call her a girl, and she wanted to prove her mettle. She took a deep breath and started to move forward until she’d reached a depth where she could dive.

Sweet Jehovah! The initial shock took her breath away, and once she’d got it back she started to gibber to herself like somebody suffering from Tourette’s syndrome. The water felt like silk that had been left in the fridge. Charlotte knew that when she got to the island her skin would be so pimply with goosebumps that even her Aveda scrub might not be able to shift them – if she’d had the nous to bring it with her.

It wasn’t that far a distance to swim – just about 100 yards – but it took her quite a long time to get there because the chill factor cramped her style – quite literally. Charlotte prided herself on being a strong, elegant swimmer – she had been on the team at school – but today she was reduced to a clumsy dog paddle in an effort to keep as much of her upper body out of the water as she feasibly could.

Alex and Finn had made the shore, and were standing on an embankment with their hands shading their eyes from the sun, watching her progress.

‘Shit,’ gasped Charlotte as she finally stumbled onto dry land. ‘That was an act of lunacy.’

‘Welcome to shore, little mermaid,’ said Finn, as he reached out a hand to help haul her onto the grassy bank.

‘Welcome to shore, little lingam,’ said Alex, doing likewise.



Charlotte stood there with one leg wound around the other, dripping all over the grass, hugging herself for warmth and shivering. ‘What is a lingam, anyway?’ she asked. 

‘A lingam,’ said Finn, ‘is a phallus symbolizing the male principle of the universe.’

‘I’d be interested to know how polar bears procreate,’ said Alex. ‘My own personal lingam could best be described as a shrunken head after that dip in melted ice.’ But when Charlotte found herself looking, she decided that that couldn’t possibly be true. 

 ‘My advice to you is to run around the island two or three times, sweetie-pie,’ Finn advised her. ‘It’s the best way of getting the circulation kick-started.’

‘OK,’ said Charlotte. She knew she was going to look like a tool, but she was so cold at this stage that she didn’t care. 

‘I wish I’d been able to bring my phone,’ Alex called after her as she jiggled off. ‘I could blackmail you forever if I got a shot of you trotting round an island in your scanties like Rebecca Loos.’ 

‘Ha ha, Alex. Apply for a job as Cholyngham court jester, why don’t you,’ she returned. 

It took her two minutes to circum-jog the island. When she reached the spot where she’d left the boys, the pair of them were doubled up with laughter. 

‘It’s not that fucking funny,’ said Charlotte. 

‘That’s what you think,’ managed Alex, when he’d finally stopped laughing. ‘Take a look over there.’





‘There,’ said Finn, pointing towards the shore, still weak with laughter. 

Charlotte looked in the direction Finn was pointing. On the other side of the lake the Gruff gang had assembled like the Jets in West Side Story. They were dancing and capering on the foreshore, urging on two of their number who were engaged in a game of tug of war. But the tug of war wasn’t over a rope. It was over Charlotte’s cheesecloth dress. 

‘Oh! Oh! Oh!’ squealed Charlotte, somehow managing to jump up and down with rage and stamp her bare foot at the same time. ‘Oh, you – you beastly goats. Oh, no - no! Not my shoes as well! Not my hat!’ 

Two of the billy goats were chewing Charlotte’s silver sandals, while another had lit with glee upon her rose-trimmed sunhat.  He impaled it at once with one of his horns, and proceeded to strut up and down the foreshore like Naomi Campbell modeling Philip Treacy. 

‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,’ said Alex. And he and Finn doubled up with renewed mirth. 

Charlotte turned on them. ‘You bastards!’ she said with feeling, and then she ran down to the water’s edge and dived straight in. She barely felt the cold at all this time, so intent was she on getting her clothes back. She swam as fast as she ever had at a school gala, and her exertion was such that she could feel her panties – which had not been designed with such strenuous activity in mind - begin to slip down her legs. She emerged staggering from the water, clutching her knicks and trying to pull them up as she made her way over the stones to where the goats were still partying


  They literally toppled over themselves to welcome her to their crib. One of them butted her ass - causing Charlotte to fall to her knees - another took the lacy trim of her bra strap between rubber lips and proceeded to chew it, another tried to mount her with alarming enthusiasm. One of them breathed goat-breath in her face, and another stuck his nose in her cleavage. A big bearded bruiser had dragged the picnic rug from a rucksack and was lolling on it, inviting her to join him with lascivious yellow eyes. Charlotte quickly decided it was preferable to hot-foot it back to the lake than join in the Gruff Gang’s orgy. She hurled herself into the icy embrace of the water once more, praying that none of the goats was into synchronised swimming.

She trod water, watching helplessly as hoots of laughter floated over the water from the island and Naomi Campbell flounced around on the foreshore. The winner of the tug of war was calming enjoying the spoils, chewing implacably on the remains of Charlotte’s frock. Once he’d swallowed the last mouthful he licked his lips the way a gourmet might, having sampled the Cholyngham chef’s special. Then he got to his feet and helped himself to the picnic rug. It dragged after him like a chieftain’s cloak as he moved majestically away, followed by his henchmen, all yodeling goat rap and break-dancing and exchanging high-hooves.

Finn and Alex had swum up behind her. They were still spluttering with laughter.

‘It’s just as well that there was nobody around with a videocam,’ said Alex. ‘That footage on the internet could have earned some lucky sod more money than Paris Hilton ever made.’

They made their way back to shore, and Charlotte bent down to pick up one of the little pink rosebuds that had fallen off her hat. She was still holding on to her panties with her other hand.

‘The one thing I really, really want to know,’ she said, tucking the rosebud into her wet hair, ‘is this. How on earth did they suss I was a Capricorn?’

© Pixie Pirelli, 2006

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