from The Essential Paradise
The story appears within the compilation volume of the same name, being Volume 2 of the series
The episode was composed by the author in February 2012. The story takes place on 26 February 2001, just after the start of Janine’s second term as a second-former at North Eden High School.
Episode plot Edit
The theme of the episode hearkens back to a comment Charlie Richardson makes during his first date with Janine a few weeks earlier. Impressed with her angelic sort of beauty, he remarks that she is a ‘terrible beauty’, borrowing a the term from the last line of Yeats’ poem, ‘Easter 1916’. At first a little offended, Janine later comes to regard the comment as a rich compliment, realising that it suggests she is becoming more of a woman and less of a child.
In Dr St Kay’s Commonwealth Literature class, a survey course required of all second-formers, the teacher begins a discussion of Yeats’ ‘Swans at Coule’ by citing some examples of Yeats’ almost paradoxical wordplay, including ‘a terrible beauty’.
Upon recognising the expression, Janine utters it aloud with him, causing him to look up in surprise. At the end of class St Kay questions her about her extracurricular reading and Janine shyly admits that she knows not the poem, only that her boyfriend called her that, which actually impresses St Kay more. That evening Janine and Charlie visit Dorset beach and, in the midst of snogging upon a towel on the sand, she consents to let down her knickers for him, if he will only touch her without looking. Charlie agrees, fingering her to an orgasm, her first. Afterwards Janine weeps in either guilt or confusion, wondering what this means to her self-worth. Gently Charlie apologises for causing her distress, assuring her that he meant only to make her enjoy a pleasant sensation. Though very embarrassed at her body’s physical reaction, Janine realises that this is only one new sacrament of their love that they can now share, and she goes home feeling better at herself.
The story closes with Janine mulling over the events of the day, as she often does, considering that she has crossed a threshold over which there is no return. Realising that she has now become much more of a woman because she is now aware of physical pleasure, she concludes that ‘terrible beauty had been born’.
As with Initiation, none of Janine’s friends, the Devon girls, appears here. ‘Sweet’ Clarice Howe makes her first appearance here, as Janine’s classmate in St Kay’s class, showing off her new yellow shoes. Several boys of the class make amusing remarks about wanting a day off; one provides information about a classmate’s absence being due to his mother’s hospitalisation.
Dr St Kay makes his first appearance here as well. Janine describes his second-floor classroom, noting the cosy, library-like decor of the bookshelves, furniture and draperies, unique at NEHS. The 50-something teacher is described as being warm, being fond of amusing banter with his students, and tending towards frumpiness with mussed, greying hair, an ample middle, wrinkled shirts and baggy chino trousers. In detaining Janine for a few moments his interest in her is clearly intellectual and professional, commending her for her keen writing skills and encouraging her to contribute to class discussion.
Charlie appears less pushy and more sensitive to Janine’s feelings, making the episode a threshold for him as well. He realises that if young, innocent Janine will trust him with his hand under her skirts, he must accept the responsibility for how she feels both physically and emotionally; and so the episode becomes sacramental in nature for them both. Janine is growing quickly out of the shyness of the start of The Initiation of Janine and growing comfortable with being an adolescent in an intensive romantic relationship with an older boy. Though still innately cautious, she will venture forwards into new experiences, paving the way for eventually making love with Charlie, the possibility of which they discuss here.
The episode is noteworthy for providing a very gentle, even chaste relation of a girl’s sensations, both physical and emotion, upon experiencing her first orgasm at the hand of her more-experienced boyfriend. No impolite terms are used; no detailed descriptions of body parts appear. As narrator Janine appears to presume that her audience are girls aware of what bits are involved in the experience and she has no need to describe them, or what Charlie actually does to facilitate the event for her; the event is described purely on her impressions, concerns and feelings. The result is one of the most profound and touching episodes in the early part of the series, the more from having been so important in Janine’s maturation process and having been told so honestly, yet delicately.
The story is grounded in the trope of the eager ingenue.
Fan-service elements include Janine’s description of her sensations, and also Janine and Charlie enjoying a stroll along the water’s edge whilst the skirts of her frock bat her bare bottom in the breeze, another all-new sensation for her, and her hurrying round behind some rocks to pull up her knickers for the ride home.
‘Janine, The Terrible Beauty’ was published as a Kindle e-text in 2013. It appears as the closing episode in the paperback compilation of the same name.
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Doc. 0.32.05 b. 2015.0928. Original content ©Jonnie Comet Productions. All rights reserved