Saturday, 23 October 2010

I Remember

I remember the first girl I ever fell for. Alison Coulthard. We were fifteen. I remember, ‘cause we’d not been back at school long after summer. One lunchtime she asked me if I’d go out with her. I wanted to look cool, so I said I’d think about it. Must have been a Friday, cause I remember dreaming about her all weekend.

Alison was gorgeous. Gorgeous. Flaxen haired and eyes of sapphire. She had this dimple at her cheek that would appear whenever she smiled. I remember, she’d do this thing where she’d lower her chin to her breast bone and flutter her eyelids back at me in a single movement. Made my heart melt. Melt.

Strange the things you notice at that age. Everything’s new and exhilarating. Experienced for the first time. Like her ears. I called her pixie ‘cause they were small and cute. She didn’t wear much make up. She didn’t need to. Just a little lipstick to accentuate those soft, thin lips.

We stood on this grass bank, next to a church, in the grounds of the hospital by school. I guess I wasn’t the first boy she’d taken there, ‘cause she knew to stand higher up the verge so we were level. We kissed and our tongues gently sparred. Our hands caressed each other’s backs. My hands slipped inside her shirt to her spine and made a break for her breasts. She headed me off at her armpits and told me not to rush things. She asked if it was possible to fall in love with someone after just one day. I forget my reply, but I probably said no, ‘cause this was the first time we’d been together since I’d said yes.

For a fortnight we went there lunchtimes to be alone and kiss and fondle. Some days we’d be chased off by hospital security. Other days my mates would follow us and take the piss. I didn’t care. On Sundays, I’d cycle the five or so miles to her house. Her adopted parents were very protective of her. The best I’d could hope for was ten minutes together in a back alley, while she went to the newsagent. A boy will travel almost any distance at that age for the promise of a quick grope.

I remember one day a mate of Alison’s caught up with me after school. She told me Alison was planning to dump me for her ex-boyfriend. I laughed her away, but a couple of days later it happened exactly as she’d said. I hated her at that moment. Hated her. My mates didn’t make it any easier either. They shunned me for spending all my time with her. The look of ‘I told you so’ from my informant was like one last slap in the face.

But you bounce back quickly at that age. My mates soon forgave me and I remained friends with Alison. We’d hang out after school. I asked her if she loved Him and she told me no, you can’t love two people at once. It didn’t last a week and we were soon back together. But I hardly saw her. She seemed to be deliberately avoiding me. That first Sunday I rode the six miles to her house, but after an hour I realised she wasn’t going to come. Actually, I guessed after about twenty, but I’ve never been short on optimism. I’m sure she sneaked out first thing.

Then I find out she’s spending lunchtimes at another guy’s house. Hanging out in his bedroom her best friend told me who obviously felt sorry for me. I remember how hurt and angry I felt. My overactive imagination went into overdrive and I felt sick. I paced my bedroom floor for hours, composing a grandiose dumping speech. Next day we almost collided with each other outside the Science Block. I’d hoped for an audience, but this would have to do. I blurted out the over rehearsed speech. You are a two faced, two timing, double crossing bitch. I think I forgot a lot of it, as I shook with emotion, choking back the tears of rage. She just stood there and took it, a mirthless smile of embarrassment on her lips.

Half term mercifully arrived. Our parents took us north to see relatives. We went to see the Blackpool Illuminations. A definite candidate for least interesting thing ever. We asked where we were going (there and back again to see how far it is our parents told us). We asked why we were going (because if we don’t go we can’t come back they replied). It was all very glib, but it did keep my mind occupied. And by the end of the week, my heart was well on the mend. Like I said, you bounce back at that age. Even the emotions have a skin like elasticity.

Alison’s best friend was in the same registration class as me. She’d been having a hard time. The local paper had reported that she’d been caught in bed with a sixty year old guy. I don’t know if it was true. To be honest, I never thought to ask. I didn't care. Anyway, that first day back she had a card for me. Well, you can guess who it was from. The message inside was full of apologies and protestations of love. She swore nothing had happened with the guy at his house, just a bunch of mates hanging out. Half term had been hell for her. Could I forgive her?  Would I give her one last chance?  I said I’d forgive her, but I wouldn’t go back out with her.

Still, we’d hang out together before and after school. We’d sit together in an empty classroom and look deep into each other’s eyes and talk and laugh. It was effortless the way we slid back into it. I remember both having an afternoon off during mock exams and going to the woods. We spent most of the time with our hands down each other’s pants, the first time we’d gone so far.

Our liaisons continued in secret. Alison’s best friend might have known. My mates were dead set against the idea. Kids can be cruel, but I think they were genuinely concerned she’d screw me over again. But one by one I slowly talked them ‘round with all the skill and guile of a politician. I didn’t dare tell them we’d decided we’d get married when we turned eighteen. They would have freaked big time. Big time.

I remember we decided to go all the way. I remember waiting outside the chemists while she bought the condoms. We led in our friends cabin bed, both stripped from the waist down, uniforms covering our torsos. I was so nervous, I had to concentrate hard to retain my erection. I slipped on one of the jet black jonnies, remembering to hold the teat at the end like I’d seen in the sex education videos. 'Now That’s What I Call Music' something or other played on the boom box. 'Theme from S-Express'.

I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. She insisted on keeping the field of play covered with the duvet. I was flying blind, kneeling in front of her gorgeous form, going for gold and hitting only thin air. For a moment I thought I was in, but it was only her thigh I was stabbing at. She starred at the ceiling, a look half of embarrassment, half of disappointment, and did little to assist. She said something about knowing this wasn’t going to work. I don’t think our hearts were really in it.

My mates had better luck however. Or worse, depending on your point of view. Two of them had shagged the same girl and she was now pregnant. I tried to explain to one that just ‘cause he’d come on the door step that was no guarantee. I think he was in denial.

I remember one January afternoon. I traipsed across the concrete path of the quadrangle, battling against a strong northerly wind. Voices drifted out of the classrooms. We’d just been shown a video on gonorrhoea. Another on syphilis was due to begin. I left before the start. Found my way to the reception hall, oak panelled, dusty and dank. Alison was waiting for me in the gloom. She’d been crying on and off for most of the day and her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. We embraced. I gently caressed the nape of her neck and told her everything would be ok.

The front door yawned open. A shaft of pale blue pierced the semi-darkness and a figure stood silhouetted against the grey. They had come for me. I kissed Alison passionately one last time. My fingertips trailed across her shoulders and down the back of her arms. I remember for the briefest of moments, that seemed to stretch into eternity, our hands cupped each others, like two climbers clinging to each for dear life. They look one last time into each other’s eyes, both knowing with absolute certainty that what is about to happen is inevitable. Then the hold is broken and one falls into oblivion. I turned and with a deluge of tears streaming down my face I stepped out into the harsh winter.

We were leaving. Our parents were going to manage a pub up north. I cried the entire three hour journey and for days afterwards. In the weeks and months that followed, I wrote long love letters to Alison. Ran up an astronomical phone bill. But we were little more than kids. It was hard to keep up that intensity from a distance.

I never saw Alison again. I remember, a few months after the move, I set off early one morning to catch a train south. But I got on the wrong one and slumped home after a few hours, dejected. Not that it would have mattered. My parents had phoned hers and she’d been taken home. I hope she had a good life. Alison Coulthard. Yes, how well I remember.

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