Drift

Beginnings

            The small white picket fence had always separated our house, but the physical boundary had done nothing to keep us apart ever since the day I was born. Now, it was all that was keeping us together. We sat side by side on my front doorstep looking at the gravel, neither of us wanting to face what was going on. This day has been drawing closer like a black cloud looming, threatening rain, and now the icy cold downpour was upon us, and the loss of my lifetime best friend sent a chill through my cotton T-shirt, despite the August sun.

            I knew something was up.  Denny, Sam’s mum, had been upbeat since June, when her latest lover, Dave had proposed, telling her that this relationship was more important than all those preceding it.  That’s what she told mum, her eyes staring down into a mug of tea in our kitchen, slowly stirring her sugar spoon round in a spin of thought. 

            “Are you going to drink that or spit out what’s on your mind?”  Mum asked. 

            Denny sighed, “I was hoping you’d already know.”

            You should know that my mum isn’t like ordinary mums.  She isn’t just observant but psychic.  My mum is that woman at those spiritual fairs who tells your fortune.  With her long dark hair and loose flowing clothes, she looks the part too.

            “Don’t make me dig out my crystal ball...”

            Then Denny took a deep breath and shared her good news, “Dave and I want to live together, in a home of our own.”  But she looked sad and her blue eyes shone as if they might brim with tears, “I’ll miss you when I move away.” 

            “You can’t!”  I snapped like a typical fourteen year old.  Sam was my life!  I needed him close!  I needed him next door!

            Mum threw me a disapproving look, “Fern, can you get the washing off the line!”

            My mum is an artful dodger at getting rid of me and avoiding conversations she doesn’t want to have.  She doesn’t make rules for me, so I have never needed to lie or disobey her.  I’m the perfect daughter.  I dejectedly exited the kitchen through the back door of our small terrace house and began pulling the clothes from the line, without bothering to unclip the pegs, and dumped them into the, green plastic laundry basket. 

At first, all I could see was how selfish Denny was being.  I had no care or thought for her happiness.  Fourteen years she had waited for perfect man and all I saw was fourteen years of friendship being snatched away from Sam and me.

Sam is everything to me and now he will be living on the other side of town. Denny assures me, I am welcome to visit them anytime, and Sam can visit Mum and me, but we both know it won't be the same as simply popping next door. Sure we can stay in touch online or by phone but nothing beats hanging out together twenty four-seven. There was also the fact that after years of doing everything together, we would be starting the final two years of high school and for the first time we would have to make our own way there, coming in from different directions.

But right now the short picket fence was all that parted us from what was happening. It acted like a protective shield. For months I hadn't dared think about the move, as if, by not thinking, it wouldn’t happen.  But now I glanced over to Sam’s house and saw the removal men carrying a cardboard box into the lorry.  Scribbled on one side was “Sam's Room” in black marker pen. I shut my eyes tightly to push back the image of his things being taken away from me. 

Denny was annoyed that Sam wasn't helping to box up his things but his face had been a picture of misery for days now.  Today was no different, except his expression was thicker, more definite. Despite Denny's scowl, she didn’t challenge him for fear of it being the last straw that would finally break Sam down. He hadn't cried as far as I knew but even if he had he wouldn't tell anyone. Sam said only pansies cry. Still, it was no secret, he didn't want to move any more than I wanted him to go.  He said he could live anywhere in the world, so long as I was in the house next door.

I had made him a bracelet to remember me by and given it to him this morning. He was wearing it around his wrist.  Fourteen silver beads to represent each year of our friendship were alternating with little wooden blue beads – his favourite colour. When I gave him the gift, it  felt like a goodbye. 

 Since I had given it to him, we hadn't said a word. We sat side by side, our knees gently touching. We were quite content like that, we didn’t need to make small talk, but our silence had made the morning drag on. The injustice rang like a judge’s gavel on a silent court room.

I imagined this must be how a child might feel during its parents’ divorce. I felt powerless as the dreaded moment of separation drew nearer. Leading up to this point in time, I had tried to imagine how I would say good bye but now my throat was dry and I  couldn’t find the right words.

My thoughts were interrupted by the loud clang of the lorry door slamming shut.  The removal men were checking everything was secure. Desperately I flung my arms around Sam. I wasn't ready to let him go. I breathed in his smell, a mix of boy and the great outdoors.  It brought back memories of splashing in puddles in wellies, climbing up trees and scrapping our knees, bike rides along the seafront and camping in the backyard sharing spooky tales.  My life with Sam, up until this moment, flooded my mind.  All those memories that had made me blissfully happy now caused an aching hollowness in my heart.  It felt so final. I began to choke and the tears ran down my cheeks. I buried my face into Sam’s shoulder so no-one could see, but I couldn't mask the loud sobs as they shook my body. I had held them back for too long and now my tears crashed out in sharp, sudden rolls. Sam held me close and rubbed my back.

 “Don't cry, Freckles, you'll set me off!” he whispered into my ear.  As I calmed, Sam gently prised me away from his body and brushed the tears from my cheeks with his thumb. 

His eyes were red. “I'm sorry.” I croaked, knowing he would never want me to see him cry.

 Denny lent over the fence, “Come on you two, it’s not like you'll never see each other again.” In her hands was the basil plant and new broom that mum had given her as a house warming present. Some people might think them strange gifts, but not if you knew my mum.


***

So much for what Denny said!  We didn't see much of each other after that. It was now a really long walk between our houses and neither our mums could drive. We messaged each other but as we began to run out of things to say our messages became less and less frequent. I stayed indoors, listening to music instead of going out and enjoying the sun. I didn't feel like doing anything without Sam.

I actually felt relieved when the first day of high school came around. Always before,  I had dreaded this day but now I welcomed it. My mum had saved up to make sure she could buy me the school uniform required. I also had new shoes; they were little black flat shoes, with a small crystal apple embellishment by the toe. If the skirt wasn't so frumpy I would have quite liked the whole outfit, except for the new navy blazer that was a requirement for the top years instead of the more comfy casual sweatshirt of the lower year groups.  Today was hot so I chosen to leave the blazer at home.

It wasn't a long walk to the high school but my new shoes were already rubbing the backs of heels. I tried to walk flat footed. so the pain wasn't so frequent but I just looked awkward and clumsy. I felt tiny against the older kids; everyone seemed to have grown over the summer, except me.  I felt vulnerable. I headed into the school hall like we had been advised back in June during the final day of being in the lower half of high school.  

Only two years of school left.  Bring on the count down!

The room boomed with hundreds of voices all talking at once. There was a mass of kids all my age standing in groups or queuing to speak to someone behind the tables. I felt invisible. I searched the room looking for Sam. As his familiar face appeared in my vision, I felt the aching in my heart soothed, like aloe-vera on sunburnt skin.

Racing across the room, I gave him a huge hug. He looked older in his new uniform;  He wore the blazer jacket and it looked really smart.  He was taller too and smelt different, expensive and manly. A rich spicy smell mixed with something fruity and a sweet cinnamon scent.  It was new and delicious and felt comforting, like an apple crumble on winter’s day.

“Freckles!” He gasped and squeezed me back in a crushing bear hug. “I missed you so much!”

“I missed you too.” I grinned. Everything felt better now he was here and the room suddenly felt filled with sunlight.

“I think we have to join one of these queues.” He indicated to the nearest line of people with his head.

We both made our way over and instantly fell into a ramble of excited chat about everything and anything. I wanted to know all about the new house and living with Dave. He wanted to know how my mum was getting on and what I had been up to. We talked about the music we had been listening to and the programmes we had watched. I felt so alive to have him back to talk to. I felt whole again. We chatted without pause all the way to the front of the queue.

“Name?” said a young male teacher with short dark hair. He looked at me but I didn't answer. I always let Sam do the talking.

“She's Fern Turner.” He said, “I am Samuel Walker.”

“I can only do one at a time.” The teacher said irritated as he clicked on his laptop. There was then a whirring noise and I realised the box next to him was a printer. “Walker!” He announced pulling out the piece of paper. “You're one of mine. Welcome to form six.” Sam took the piece of paper handed to him. I peeped over his shoulder. It was his timetable. The printer made another whirring noise. “Turner!” the man announced and handed me my timetable.

Sam pulled me out of the way of the people waiting for their turn and then we began to compare our sheets. I was in form three and had a lady form teacher  “I wanted us to be in the same form!” I complained as I continued to look at our timetables. Fear made me shudder as I realised we were starting to have less and less in common. I searched hopefully for lessons that matched but we weren't even taking the same subjects on the same days. I looked at him in horror. We would never see each other!

“Just 'cause we have no classes together, doesn't mean we can't be friends.” Sam reassured me, registering my look of panic.

“I am going to hate it.” I said miserably.  “This sucks!”

We looked glumly at our sheets as the bell rang loudly overhead.

“I guess that’s the signal that we have to go find our rooms.” Sam said awkwardly.

I nodded. There was nothing more to say. We hugged quickly but I found no joy in that hug. He headed towards the double doors as if he already knew where he was going. His head was held high and he looked sure and confident. As the students swarmed in the same direction he disappeared into them and became one of many.  I followed, pulled along into a  dimly lit corridor. The school had suddenly become a dark place, I didn't want to be.

The house was always quiet when Sam was out and my new home was no different.  Sadly, my new neighbours weren’t as welcoming as the Turners had been.  Whenever I had been home alone, I knew I could just pop round Gwyneth’s for a cuppa and a chat.  She was like a best friend and mother all rolled into one neat package. 

I picked at the sticky tape of another cardboard box to free the flaps and the contents inside.  We had been living here for two weeks now and there were still boxes that needed to be unpacked.  Packing up had seemed difficult but still easier than this. 

As the contents were revealed, I realised that this box would be no quick task.  There at the top was a photo album.  It had a soft powder blue cover and in white writing ‘My Baby’.  I can’t resist the urge to look at pictures of my son but what mother can’t.  I clutched the album to my chest in the same manner I had him when he had been small enough to do so. 

Heading into my new spacious kitchen with cream cupboards and granite worktops, I switched on the silver kettle, placed my album in front of the window at the breakfast bar and pulled out a chrome stool to sit on.

Aww, I smiled.  There he is only hours old.  Gwyneth had been my only visitor at the hospital and she had taken the photo for me.  Gosh, I look so young.  Too young to be a mother!

The photo showed me fourteen years ago when I was only sweet sixteen.  My family had come here the previous summer for a vacation and I had had a holiday romance with Dean.  It had been Easter break and the fair had been in town.  Mum had given my brother Greg and I some money to go ‘treat ourselves’.

“What ride do you want to go on first?”  Greg asked as we walked along the road that was no longer accessible to traffic due to fair being located there.  

It was dark and the rides were lit up by brightly coloured bulbs and painted with images of seductive looking women with large breasts and big lips. It made me feel ordinary with my plain black jackets, jeans and trainers.  My hair was long and brown, with a light wave as I hadn’t bothered to straighten it at the caravan. 

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.  “They all look pretty lame to me.”

There was the familiar crashing of bumper cars and the rotation of horses on the carousel.  Then there were the more dangerous rides for the older kids like Rock City where a row of chains rotated up and down getting faster and faster, Metropolis where everyone put their faith in gravity as they stood in a large cage like wheel that spun around until you stuck the wall before turning on its side.  There was also a ride called Niagara Falls that I had been on before and was two carpeted tubes that spun in different direction and had given me carpet burn.  All of them looked like they would either make me sick or cover me in bruises.

“I’m gonna get some candy floss.”  My brother said irritated.  He had been bored at the caravan and the trip to the fair had been what had kept him going. 

I begrudgingly followed him whilst he flirted with two young girls standing at the front.  Allowing them to steal a bit of the blue fluffy cloudy of sweetness that he had just purchased.  My brother was terrible with his ‘are all the girls around here as gorgeous as you?’

One of the girls who had slicked her hair back into a pony tail with two stands pulled down at the front suddenly acknowledged me.  She eyed me with her dark lined eyes, “Your girlfriend?”

“Sister.”  My brother quickly corrected her but his grin clearly read ‘I’m in there!’

The girl rubbed her arms to brush off the cold.  I wasn’t surprised she was chilly as neither of them were wearing very much.  “Wanna game of pool?”

Obviously my brother said yes.  He had lost all interest in the rides and his sole attention was on this girl, who to me looked like a slapper.  Her friend was chewing gum and seemed to be eyeing everyone up for a fight.  Even when she smiled at my brother her eyes were half closed and she almost looked as if she was snarling.  I didn’t have anyone else to hang out with so with a sigh I followed them into the peir and warmth for a game of pool.

“You want to play?”  the slapper asked me.

I shook my head.  “I’ll just watch.”

She gave me this smile that literally said ‘thank you so much’ and I decided that under the make-up she could possibly be a sweet girl.  I still wasn’t shining towards her friend who thankfully decided to go on a ‘wander’ once the balls had been set up.  I felt a little like a gooseberry standing on the sidelines watching my brother tickle this girl every time she tried to take a shot.  She giggled and blushed, “Stop cheating!”

I saw a pinball machine and decided to give it a go.  The popular theme tune to the Adams Family started up.  I pulled back the lever and let it go.  The spring pulled it back, smacking into the round silver ball and spinning it into the table.  The ball bounced off some bells and was heading down towards the bottom.  My hands leaned over the edge of the table ready to hit the buttons to cause the flaps to stop the ball from being lost.

“You’ll never beat my score.” 

I jumped and hit the button too late.  As I turned to see this gorgeous guy standing next to me, everything felt as if it was moving in slow motion.  The ball bounced and then rolled down the middle brining the game to a halt. 

“Dean”  he said confidently.

All I could see was his mischievous grin and cool blue eyes.  He had long blond hair that swept across his face in rebellious waves.  He looked like he had stepped off the set of some Californian beach surfer movie.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

“You got another ball.”  He said with a thick Suffolk accent that killed my Mr Muscle Beach fantasy.

My hands shook rapidly to the beat of my heart and it was more difficult to pull the bar back the second time.  I let it go and I tried again but I was all flustered.  I managed to hit it back into the game twice more before it disappeared out of game.

“It’s your last ball.  Do you want me to help you?” 

My throat was tied up in knots, pretty much like my stomach and I couldn’t speak.  I gave a nod.  The next thing I knew, he was standing behind me.  His hand clasped over mine and we drew back the lever together.  “Never take it back all the way.”  His hot breath tickled my neck.  “Otherwise the ball will be too fast to keep up with.  You need it to be just enough to put it on the board and get stuck behind the bells.  Then you will get the maximum points.”  He let go of my hand and I released it.  I let it go and as my hands reached for the buttons, I felt his finger resting gently over the top of mine.  That was how my romance for ‘Hugo Boss’ had begun. 

The scent surrounded me in the same way his arms were.  It was intoxicating the way it gripped my senses and spun my world like the little silver ball.  From that day forward, it became the smell that I associated with summer, replacing the uplifting fresh salty sea breeze and lashings of sun lotion.  I no longer hungered for the tantalising sweetness of a ninety-nine vanilla ice-cream and chocolate flake.

The faraway look in my eye returned to the photo album and I remembered that I hadn’t thrown away all the pictures of Dean.  I pulled the rigid board of the front cover free from the slip and found the photo I had hidden there.

It had been taken with a disposable camera and was a black and white image as Dean said pictures looked better like that.  Now, it was disappointing as the picture didn’t show how bright and thousands of shades that had shined like gold in the sunlight in the same was the sea had twinkled its kaleidoscope of blues that hot June. 

One thing I was surprised to discover was how similar he looked to Sam.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all Dean was his dad.  I just hadn’t thought of Dean in such a long time.  The last time he had come to mind had been when I met Dave, my fiancé, as the first thing that caught my attention was the heart capturing scent of Hugo. 

Now Sam was wearing it, thanks to Dave trying to bond with him “Wear this, the women love it.”  Never told Dave why this woman loved it or that I didn’t really want my son smelling like his dad. 

Still, I was pleased they were getting along, especially after how reluctant Sam had been about the move.  Finally, Sam had some sort of a father figure in his life.  Not that Dave was anything like Dean – other than the cologne.  Dave was reliable and stable, he wasn’t about to run off and join the army at the first sign of commitment.


***

Like a magnolia painted wall, I disappeared into the background and sat in class as an observer, not a participant. I brooded over the loss of my friend. I saw him a few times but always from a distance. He seemed to have made friends quickly and I often sighted him with a group of lads. They were always laughing and looked as if they were having a good time. He danced in the sunlight whilst I sculled in the shadows.

My miserable disposition didn't make me very approachable. Weeks passed glumly and soon I realised the time to make friends had passed. Everyone was in their groups and had their place. The popular kids had been identified and Sam was one of them. For the first time ever, he wasn't associated with me anymore.

I was that strange girl who didn't say much and spent far too much time in the library buried in books. My homework was always completed on time, which put me in the ‘nerdy’ category, which was never an attribute for being liked. Sadly, the only reason I was up-to-date was because I had nothing better to do with my time.   Too shy to change the way things were, I just accepted it. I avoided speaking to anyone unless I really had to.

After a month of this I was absolutely miserable. It wasn’t getting any easier. I went home determined to find a resolution.

In the dining room, I pulled open the bottom draw. There was mums best paper. I selected a sheet and borrowed a beautiful fountain pen that had a long peacock feather protruding out the top. I hunted for mum's sewing box and pulled out as shimmering pale green ribbon.  Moving to the dining room table, I placed my items out in front of me.

'It hurts to never spend time with Sam' I wrote on the piece of paper. As I wrote, the words swam on the paper and a tear rolled down my cheek. I had never felt so alone with no-one to talk to and writing down those few words gave me some form of relief.  It acted as an outlet for my loneliness.

I tore out the little note and quickly bound it with the ribbon. I didn't want mum to see it. I knew if I tried to talk about it I would cry and it always made her sad. Once bound, I placed it under my pillow. I felt better already.

As a creature of habit, I obediently recorded it in my book of shadows along with details of previous spells I had cast. It was a beautiful book.  The cover was made of black velvet and had a hard metal star pressed into it and edges of the pages had silver gilt.

None of my spells ever worked but mum told me with practice I would get better. When I was younger I had believed her, but now I knew better.  Magic like any subject is something some people are just naturally gifted at whereas others can try and try and never get anywhere with it.

Although, there was something therapeutic about magic and despite my spells never working, I always got a sense of achievement. I had done something about the problem and there was hope that something would come of it.  That alone made it worthwhile, for hope. 



2.  Full of Surprises



I woke that morning to the sound of laughter. Groggily, I put on my dressing gown and slippers and made my way downstairs, to find out what all the noise was about. As I passed the mirror I ran my fingers through my hair and tried to pat it down so the curly red strands didn't stick out all over the place. My slippers had little cat heads on the ends and as I made my way down the narrow staircase they bobbed up and down as if giving me an enthusiastic positive yes.  I paused at the bottom to see if I could figure out who my mum's visitors were.

“I don't know.” I heard Denny's voice laugh. “Is it your magical basil plant or just plain luck?”

“My basil plant.” My mum said proudly. “Never doubt me.”

“I am a sceptic, turned believer by you.” I had heard this sort of conversation before. “I followed your instructions exactly and I just wanted to say thank you so much.”

“You're family.” My mum told her for the hundredth time. “No need to thank me.”

Just like me, Denny is sceptical about magic.  Although she will play along with casting, her spells never work because she doesn’t believe in it enough.  Mum always says the caster has to see and believe in what they are doing otherwise it’s just going through the motions.  The step creaked under my foot.

“Sounds like someone might be awake.” I heard that voice I had longed to hear and I bounced down the last step.

“Sam!” I cheered as I threw myself into the kitchen for a big hug.

“It's such a shame they split you two up.” sighed mum. I frowned at Denny. They could both blame the school all they wanted but I had never felt as divided as the day that removal van took off with Sam and all his belongings in it.

“Guess you two have a lot of catching up to do.” Denny said as she wriggled knowingly under my glare.

I couldn't help but admit, Denny looked gorgeous, even more gorgeous than I remembered. She was still slim and had the same dark hair and brown eyes that Sam had. She sparkled with happiness and I couldn't stay mad at her. It was lovely to see her like that. She was so infused with happiness you couldn't help but let a little rub off on yourself.

I grabbed Sam by the hand and led him up to my room, leaving our mums gossiping in the kitchen. Somehow we managed to race up the thin gap of a stairwell together, side by side. We crashed into my room and fell onto the bed.

Sam rolled over and grinned at me, “Still miss you.”

“Miss you more.” I said and stuck my tongue out. It was so true that the statement weighed heavy on my chest. I had to laugh otherwise I might cry and I just wanted to enjoy being together for a bit.

“You need to get dressed so we can go out.” Sam said.

I got up and quickly pulled out my denim shorts, a vest top and underwear. “Two seconds,” I giggled and headed off to the bathroom.

I wanted to be quick. I didn't want Sam to find the bound piece of paper under my pillow. That would be so embarrassing. I washed my face and threw on my clothes. I quickly yanked a wide toothed comb through my rebellious red locks. My hair stood out crazy and wild. The only way to tame it was to pull it back into a hair band. Even tied back, little strands managed to escape and curled down my face. I had never liked my hair. There was nothing good about it.

“Ready.” I announced as I opened my bedroom door.

There was no need for a ‘ready, steady, go’.  Everything felt familiar and comforting.  With just a grin at Sam, he got up and we both started racing down the stairs.

“Careful!” I heard my mum yell. She had told us not to race on the stairs loads of times but we never listened. It was too much fun. We headed out the front door and I found myself skipping next to him down the road.

“Are you alright?” He asked.

“I am just so happy to see you.” I answered.

“I am happy to see you too.” He laughed and started skipping next to me in mockery but it was him who looked stupid.  Realising he was making me laugh, he carried on and we ended up skipping all the way to the park like a pair of goons.  By the time we got there we were both out of breath.

“Who would have thought skipping could be so exhausting?” He gasped as he bent over and leaned on his knees. His eyes still were twinkling from merriment.

I followed suit, hunching over trying to get my breath back, “Perhaps we’re really unfit.”

“You maybe but not me!” he teased, jabbing me in the waist. He began heading towards the tree we usually hung out by. He walked towards it and then sat down. “What’s new with you?” he asked looking up at me with his soft brown eyes.

I shrugged my shoulders and slumped down beside him. I really didn't have anything to tell, so I didn't answer his question. “You seem to be making lots of friends.”

“Yeah,” he grinned. “I joined the footie team and most the lads are in my form so we practice most breaks.”

“That's cool...” I concentrated on how happy I was for him but deep down I was just a bit jealous. Jealous of his new friends, who now got to spend so much more time with him than me and jealous that he found making friends so damn easy.

Why was it so difficult for me? Why was I so useless at everything?

“How about you?”

“What about me?”

“Are you making friends?”

I felt my cheeks turning red. I was annoyed at my inability to speak to anyone. “It's different for girls!” I snapped. “We don't have a football team!”

Sam ignored my outburst and traced patterns in the soil with a twig. “Sorry to hear that.” he said quietly. “I am sure you will make friends soon.”

He sounded sincere but we both knew it was too late for me. I was doomed to be a friendless loner. Even the outcasts and weirdoes were in groups. I glanced down at the pattern he was drawing and saw the outline of a love heart. He was drawing something in the middle. I glared at it. He had definitely drawn a J. Then he drew another line. It was just straight up and down. He then stabbed a dot between the two letters. The way he stabbed at the soil had a physical affect on me, piercing a hole in my heart. I read his doodle.

“Who is J L?” I demanded.

He quickly scratched out his sketch with his stick. “J L?” he asked innocently.

“Sam, I just saw you draw her initials in the soil. Assuming it's a her?” I spat out nastily to force a confession.

“Of course it’s a girl!”

I knew he wouldn't be able to resist confirming that. Now there was no denying there was a girl. “Who is she then?”

“Jen?  Just some girl in my form...”

“Does she like you too?”

“Everyone else seems to think so. She always watches me play.”

I wondered if Sam would have noticed me, if I had watched him play. Maybe, he would be carving my name in the soil. I shook the stupid thought out of my head. Sam and I were just friends. 

How come it felt so hard to hear him talk about another girl?  It had never bothered me before.  The difference was that usually I was the one pointing it out to him, encouraging him.  This felt like an unknown threat and I didn’t like not knowing who Jen was or how much influence she had on him. 

“Are you going to ask her out?”

Sam met my eyes. His eyes sparkled and he nodded. I smiled back and I knew my eyes glistened too but mine were pricked with tears. I was surprised at how much it hurt to see him do that. I laughed to throw him off the strange sensation I was feeling. Inside I was slowly dying. I had never felt like this before. I didn't want him to be with anyone else. It was supposed to be us forever. I felt my mouth fall open at the revelation of my own feelings for Sam.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

I felt a chill of a tear slowly trickling down my cheek. Think fast, I told myself. “I am just so happy to spend time with you again. I’ve missed you so much.”

“Come here you silly girl.” He grabbed me and pulled me into his arms. I realised then that more had changed than he would ever know. The distance had certainly made my heart grow fonder. I didn't want to ever let him go again and suddenly the afternoon felt too short. 

In that moment our relationship changed forever. He was not yet aware of what had happened but the gentlest touch from him felt like electric. My whole body tingled with excitement as he spoke. I found myself gigglier than usual and just wanted to touch him all the time.

As we walked back to my house to get lunch, I clung to his arm and leaned against his chest. “Mmm, cheese sandwiches.” I grinned up at him.

“With cherry tomatoes.”

It wasn't even funny but I found myself giggling, “and Branston sauce”

“Or piccalilli”

I giggled and a careless hand ran its way across his chest, “and pickled onions.”

Sam shook his head. “I don't know what has gotten into you. Maybe I should stay away more often?”

“No.” I gasped in horror and then pouted.

We passed his old house and pushed open my little white gate. The door was unlocked so we let ourselves in. Sure enough across the large oak table were the jars of pickles and spread and a cheese board. We both loved ‘Saturday Sarnies’ and it seemed like forever since we had shared one together.

As I sat at the table, I didn't feel that hungry. My stomach felt all over the place, yet I had this stupid goofy grin across my face. I tried to force a sandwich down but found myself picking at cheese chunks and popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth to feel them burst and explode.

The time came too quickly for Sam to go. “Can't you stay?” I begged.

“I promised Brian I would go round his to practice today. He has a really big garden.” Sam beamed.

“You never were that into football?” I complained.

“Things change.” He said with a shrug, then gave me a hug goodbye.

As he hugged me I had an urge to kiss his cheek. The impulse made my heart race. It was such a simple act but the rush it gave me was almost scary. My lips tingled where they had brushed his skin. I was terrified of how he might react. My body was in turmoil with my mind. I wanted to run but I didn't want to let him go. It was all too much. I felt dizzy. Then I felt his lips gently brush against my cheek, reciprocating my kiss. It was the most amazing thing ever. I felt accepted. I wondered if he could feel the way he made my heart race.  Things certainly had changed.

“I'll see you again soon.” Sam promised as he went out the door.

“He was definitely what you needed.” chirped my mum happily behind me. “I haven't seen you that happy in ages.”

I watched as the front door was slowly closed behind them. I turned around and threw myself into my mum's cosy cuddliness. My mum was the opposite of Denny. She was short, round and plump and wore strange hippie like clothing that hung off her and made her look even bigger. One thing my mum was better than anyone else at, was cuddles – except maybe Sam. I felt the tears running down my face. “Whatever is the matter?” my mum cooed in my ear.

“I don't feel well.” I grumbled between sobs.

She put a hand to my head. “You don't have a temperature. What sort of not well do you feel?”

“I have a funny tummy and I feel dizzy.”

My mum instantly looked worried as she guided me up the stairs to bed. She pulled back the covers and tucked me in. She pulled the top sheet around me and kissed my forehead. She pulled me in a tight cuddle and muttered, “Wrap her in cotton, bind her with love. Protection from pain, surrounds like a glove.” she has always said this when she tucks me in and I am poorly. She stood up and drew the curtains, “May the brightest of blessing, surround her this night. For you are cared for, healing thoughts sent in flight.” She walked towards the door. “I will make you a lemon peel tea. That’s always good to stop dizziness.”

I rolled over and stared at the wall as I gripped my tummy. It felt empty but I didn't want to eat.  Shutting my eyes, all I could see was Sam grinning at me with his sparkling eyes talking about Jen. I imagined he was talking about me and I pictured us kissing. Not on the cheek, but on the lips. I imagined his lips would be gentle and warm. My lips would tingle, just as they had when they had touched his cheek. The thought made me feel warm and comforted. I felt better as I drifted off into my blissful world.

My thoughts were interrupted by my bedroom door opening. I opened my eyes and saw my mum standing there. She looked concerned and was holding the promised cup of lemon peel tea. A twinge of guilt hit me as I realised I wasn't ill but I accepted her offering. It was easier to pretend than explain. “Try and sleep, you will feel better soon.”

I sipped my tea and nodded.






3.  STARTING OUT

It had been good seeing Gwyneth and I’d have to make arrangements to see her again soon.  After that visit, I realised how much I had missed her.   Dave had taken Sam round to Brian’s and had gone to visit his parents. 

I sat on the stool clutching a mug of tea, looking out the window into the garden.  My new home was almost perfect.  All it lacked was my perfect neighbour and best friend Gwyneth.  I owed her so much and without her I probably wouldn’t have coped.  I would have had to have gone home to my parents.

The reason, I had moved to Stowe instead of staying near my friends and family had nothing to do with Gwyneth – in fact I didn’t even know her then.  The council rang me in response to my application form, “Did you mean to put Stowe down as your first choice of location?”  They asked, expecting some sort of error.  “As we do have a house going there.. but it is probably too big for you on your own.”

“No, a house will be fine.  The dad lives there and I want to be close enough that he can have a relationship with our baby.”

Bastard!  He never appreciated how much I gave up for him!

When I moved to Stowe on my own, I was already six months pregnant.  It was going to be my first Christmas without my family, not that they had been very supportive when they discovered I was pregnant.  The shock and disappointment was an instant reaction but the way my mother looked at me every day after as if I was permanently doomed made me want to get away from her.  Oddly, she was genuinely upset when I said I was getting out of her hair and moving to Stowe.  I thought she would be pleased that I would no longer be her problem!

I wasn’t really fussed where I lived at that point in time, I was soul bent on getting away from my mum.  It was a lovely house and despite my situation, I fell in love with it instantly.  It wasn’t far from the sea front, so, I buttoned up and set off towards the promenade. 

I followed the tarmac path that ran along the shingled beach all the way towards the pier, like Dorothy on her yellow brick road – except, I wasn’t looking for a wizard and wishes.  I just wanted to do the right thing and I thought this was it.

Dean wasn’t hard to find, as if caught in time, he stood in front of the Adams Family pinball machine trying to beat his top score.  My stomach spun and I wasn’t sure if it was the baby or my reaction to seeing him after so long. 

Making my way over, I stood beside him not sure how to start.  Awkward was an understatement.  Finally with a deep breath, I settled for a simple ‘Hello’.

“Denny!”  he grinned up at me but his eyes quickly returned to his game.  He had to beat that score.  “Parents bring you back for the Christmas holidays?”

“No. I’m here on my own.”

He let the ball drop through the middle and eyed me suspiciously.  “Why?”

“I wanted to be close for you... for our baby.”  I blurted out the last part before I chickened out.

His eyes shifted down towards my stomach and although I wasn’t big yet he could see the raised lump and the way the zip of my coat was pulling where it wouldn’t have before. 

He shook his head, “Nah, nah, that’s nothing to do with me.”

I nodded at him and swallowed the lump in my throat.  This wasn’t going quite as I had planned.  I hadn’t expected him to get back with me but I had hoped he would at least want to be part of his child’s life.  “I don’t expect anything from you.”  I croaked.

“How can you be sure that thing is even mine?”  He looked disgusted.

My jaw tensed.  He had insulted me and our baby.  My baby now!  He didn’t deserve to be a dad.  Alone! I was all alone in this!  My mind swam with everyone swear word I knew and my hand raised and swiped across his perfect face that now looked tainted and warped. 

I had never slapped anyone in my life.  My palm stung.  I shook with fear.  Fear he might strike me back.  Fear of what I might do next.

 “You’re a fucking psycho!”  He growled.  “I barely know you and now you’re trying to baby trap me. That could be anyone’s.  We only had sex a few times and you were an easy lay.  Who knows how many other guys you’re fucking back home?”

He knew I had been a virgin!  I couldn’t believe he was saying these things and had to get away.  The new house didn’t feel like home yet but I had nowhere else to go.  I had to get away from him – fast! 

I ran home, clutching my belly.  Panting and out of breath my home felt just a bit too far away.  I leaned against the wicker fence of my neighbour’s house, trying to get my breath back, I felt dizzy and tears broke to the surface as if to further humiliate myself.

Then Gwyneth stepped out her front door.  I didn’t really see her.  She was more of a blur of warmth and comfort as she wrapped me in a hug.  “There there.”  She said soothingly.  “I think you should come inside and have one of my famous brews before going back to yours in this state.”

I nodded.  She was right.  I couldn’t bear the thought of being alone.  Her house was the mirror image of mine but it was decorated with throws and candles and had a strange feel to it.  There was the scent of incense sticks burning but I couldn’t see where. 

I sat on her sofa, rocking back and forth until I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  The same doomed expression was on my face, that my mum had worn since the day I had told her my news.   

It wasn’t until Gwyneth came back into the room with my cup of tea that I noticed she was pregnant too.  She smiled, following my eyes, “six months.  Should be a Valentine’s baby.”

From that moment we both connected, despite the huge age gap.  “Ironically, mine should be a Valentines too?”  I pointed to my belly as if it wasn’t obvious.

“Ironic why?”  she sat next to me.

“No man.  Just saw the dad and he was...”I choked, “he’s not what I thought.”

Gwyneth rubbed my back.  “No man either.”  She smiled.  “I’ll tell you what.  Why don’t we look out for each other?  We can go to antenatal together?  Share a cab?”

I looked at this woman with warm dark eyes and long wavy hair and wondered if she could possibly be an angel sent to take care of me.  I smiled.  “That would be nice.”

Gwyneth and I started seeing each other more and more, until it became a daily occurrence.  A few weeks later, Gwyneth and I were walking along the beach, when we bumped into Dean. 

It was only a brief encounter.  Just long enough to tell me he still didn’t believe he had got me pregnant and that he was joining the army so I could move back to my parent.  He said it as if he was doing me a favour and was giving me permission. 

A drawback of being pregnant, I found was that being hurt emotionally could literally steal my breath away.  I could feel my baby kicking angrily inside my belly, fighting to be acknowledged by its dad.  We found a bench to sit down on.

“You need to let him go.”  Gwyneth said.  “He’s an idiot.  He won’t ever be part of your son’s life.”

“Son?”  I gasped.  “You think it’s a boy?”

“Or a ‘her’?”  Gwyneth corrected.

She had told me that all the candles were because she sometimes cast spells, and I was desperate for something to heal a pain in my chest that I knew wasn’t heartburn.

“Do you have any spells to heal a broken heart?”  The pain was bleeding into my voice.

Gwyneth felt it.  I saw that look, almost motherly, that shared my pain.  Then her eyes lit up mischievously and she nodded. “Let’s give it a go.”  She beamed.

The next thing I knew, we were in fits of giggles with buckets and spades bought from the souvenir shop.  The shop assistant had looked at us strangely when we had asked for them – they were out the back with the out of season stock.  It was January after all.

Gwyneth had instructed that we needed one bucket full of sand and stones to represent the earth and the other full of sea water.  Neither was an easy task.  The shingles didn’t scoop up well with the spade and leaning down over the sea walls, now seven months pregnant, and trying not to get soaked was absolutely ridiculous.   Gwyneth insisted she did it, whilst I watched her struggle from the beach.  Finally, Gwyneth carried the two full buckets. 

Gwyneth was good pregnant, never tired, never aching, never sick.  Not like me.  By the time we got back I was exhausted but the fun and games had put a permanent smile on my face.

We went inside Gwyneth’s house.  She sat me at the small fold out dining room table which was at the back of her front room.  Out came a dark blue cloth, embellished with gold thread around the edge were ribbons of swirls and stars and in the centre of each an image depicting a different phases of the moon.

Gwyneth passed me a large pink crystal.  “Rose Quartz!” I held it in my open hands.   

She took out an incense burner, “Incense to represent Air and this vanilla one should help take you back to a time when everything was simpler.”

“I wish.”  And realised just how much my life had changed since that first meeting with Dean back in June.

Gwyneth placed the two messy buckets on her beautiful cloth, incanting, “Earth and Water” and the large white candle from her mantelpiece was placed almost in the centre on a large ceramic plate, “Fire”.  Gwyneth lit the candle and incense.

“Now, it’s important you only think positive thoughts. If you don’t think you can, then we can’t carry on as it could come back three-times-three and you don’t want to hex yourself.”

I giggled.  She was so deadly seriously I couldn’t help but laugh.  I had never seen anything like this before. 

“Magic is fun but it’s not silly Denny!”

I bit my lip.  “Sorry.”

Gwyneth just winked at me in way of accepting my apology, “Okay copy me,” She pressed her thumbs and forefingers together, creating a diamond like shape with her hand.  “Element of earth, I ask you to join me.”  She spied the bucket of sand and pebbles through her makeshift window of fingers and I copied, reciting the same.  Her attention turned to the incense, “Element of air, I ask you to join me.”  My voice echoed hers.  “Element of fire, I ask you to join me.”  She said to the candle, then turned to the bucket of sea water, “Element of water, I ask you to join me.”

I looked at her expectantly.  Was that it? 

She then passed me a saucepan and wooden spoon.  “We need to bang these to channel the magic.  When we stop, you need to embrace the silence as our scared space.”

Then Gwyneth started banging the saucepan and humming.  I followed suit except when I hummed, little giggles kept escaping.  This was fun but I still felt a bit silly. 

Gwyneth stopped and wrote on a piece of paper with a beautiful feathered quill pen.  She then passed the piece of paper over to me.  On one side it said ‘write his name here’ and on the other side she had written ‘writer your name here’.  I added our names.

“Now draw a line down the middle.” I did and then she passed me a pair of scissors.  “You need to cut it in half slowly as I need you to repeat after me.”

I nodded to show I understood.  Scared that if I added my own words, I would somehow undo the magic that was supposedly happening.

“You need to say this three times, ‘I cut all ties and set you free, this relationship was not meant to be, so it is for you and me’

I did as instructed, echoing her words a further three times.

“Now place the piece of paper with your name on it, on the table.”   I nodded whilst she  moved the plate and candle carefully towards me.  “Now, in a minute I am going to tell you to burn the piece with his name on it.  When you do, you need to repeat an incantation, ‘I release thoughts that bind our love with grace, so we can move on to a happier place’.

I chanted the words over and over until there was only a small bit of paper left and the flame was almost touching my fingers.  I did want us both to move on.  Neither of us had planned this life.  It had been an accident.  I hoped he had joined the army for the right reasons and not just to escape me. 

“It’s okay.  That’s enough.  Just let it burn on the plate now.”

I stopped chanting and put the remains of the paper down.  The yellow flame gently went out and the red glow and black soot line drew a line where it had been burning.  It slowly dimmed and I felt my heartache burning out, turning to ash.  It had run its course; I was ready to move on.

“Okay here is the girlie hippie part.”  Gwyneth smiled drawing my attention from my thoughts.  She passed me a bottle, that didn’t look much different to a bottle of Olive Oil and the sticker had a picture of petals on it and the words ‘Rose Water’.  “Splash some of that on the piece with your name on, then on your wrists and forehead.”

Although I was pretty sure the seaside buckets had already ruined the material, I tried not to get any of the ointment on her cloth.  The rose water smelt light, sweet and florally.  It felt clean and cleansing. 

Gwyneth passed me the rose quartz to hold again.  “I’m going in the kitchen and you can join me when you are ready.  You should close your eyes and picture your heart being bathed in a pink light, healing you.  It helps if you, breathe in deeply and push your breath out sharply.”

I did as she said and with the rose water scent and the image of the large pink crystal I couldn’t help but visualise pink.  The breathing felt silly but I got into a rhythm and I fuzzy sensation ran over my head and tingled my lips where Dean had once kissed them.  I saw soft gentle petals surrounding me, lifting me, caressing me.  It was gentle and soothing.  I pictured the crystal in my hands glowing and radiating the room like a pink sunshine, penetrating my heart, healing me.  It was uplifting and it felt as if bubbles burst around my heart, pumping happiness back into my body.  A sharp kick from my baby, caused my eyes to jump open and I burst out giggling, gripped by a euphoria hadn’t felt in a long time.



 4. A first time for everything

 

School became something that filled up the days between now and when I would next see Sam. Mum had promised me, we would go see his new house at the weekend and I couldn't wait. Sunday seemed like forever away. I had seen pictures of the house on the estate agents website and it even had a floor plan, but this Sunday would be the first time I physically set foot inside.

I had seen Sam in the week, not that he had seen me. I’d stood in the stairwell, on the top floor, looking out the window watching him play football with the other popular lads. I had a good idea now who Jen was. A group of pretty girls had sat at the benches watching the boys play football. One had wavy blonde hair, she was the one who always jumped up and ran to him when it was time to go back inside.

They weren't ordinary girls. Even though they were wearing the same uniform as everyone else, they stood out. Jen’s hair was usually pulled back from her face by a colourful band. It caused the layers of her expensive hair cut to flick out and frame her cheekbones.  She wore heeled shoes that made her legs look longer even though they were against the rules, and she had a rich golden tan earned from several holidays to tropical destinations. Her beauty made me feel plain. I knew I would have to make an effort on Sunday and wondered what I could do to stand out like her.

Saturday night, I still had not decided what to wear. I ran myself a hot bath and decorated the bathroom with beautiful white vanilla candles. I scattered the bath with fresh rose petals from the garden. Mum said glamour spells didn't work but I was willing to give it a go; no-one would get hurt, so there was no harm in trying. I relaxed into the warm water and envisioned that twinkle Sam had in his eye when he spoke of Jen. I wanted him to see me like that. “Earth, Air, Fire, Sea, Let the Goddess' beauty, shine through me” I chanted and lay back, allowing the warmth of water to encompass my body and flow over my face.

When, I stepped out of my bath, I instantly felt more confident. Was it the spell or the bath? It didn't really matter.  

Wrapping a towel around myself, I headed for my wardrobe. What to wear?

I wanted something feminine to remind Sam I’m not one of the lads. I didn't have much in the way of ‘girlie’. I lived in jeans and shorts. Then there at the back of the wardrobe was a yellow crinkle summer dress that I’d forgotten about. Mum had bought it for me when we went to Spain saying I needed at least one dress to wear to the restaurant. It was the only holiday we had ever been on and the only time my passport had been used.  Mum always said I looked good in yellow.

Making a decision, I threw the dress on over my head to see what it looked like on.  Turning to face the mirror in my room, I scrunched my hair and studied my face. I still looked plain. Freckles speckled my face and my eyes looked small and almost invisible with the pale blonde lashes and eyebrows so pale that they may as well have not been there. I headed to my mum’s room to see if she had any make up I could borrow. I wasn't sure she even owned make-up as I’d never seen her wear any. Surely every grown woman has at least one lipstick?

Then I found it. A little golden coloured wash bag full of old make-up. She had foundation, powder and lipsticks, pencils, shadows and blush. Everything a girl could wish for. I sneaked back to my room with my stolen treasure.

Inside the bag I found a tiny mirror and I now sat crossed legged in the middle of my bedroom floor looking at my face. It was a bit mucky as the dust from the powers had gotten on it. I dusted it off with a bit of tissue paper.

First I would use the lipstick to add some life to my colourless lips. I pulled off the lid of the shiny black tube and was impressed by the rich red colour. I applied it to my face. It was bright. When I glanced at the mirror, all I could see were was my bright lips pouting back at me. The radiant red didn't look right; it looked out of place on its own.

I decided I needed more make-up.

The rest of my face still looked plain. I rummaged through my loot. Then I found a pot of blue eye shadow. There was no brush so I smudged it across my eye lids with my finger.

I looked.... different with make-up on.

Then I lifted the mascara brush and tried to apply it to my lashes. Ouch! I nearly screamed as I poked the brush in my eye. I blinked and when I looked in the mirror I saw little black dots all over my eyelids. I tried to rub them away with my finger but ended up with dark smudges which no matter how hard I rubbed, it would not come off.

I looked in the bag for something to remove it and to my relief, found the foundation. Phew. It was tan but I could use that to mask my mess. I used a sponge to apply it to my face. Blotting the creamy liquid over the black marks, I needed quite a bit. It looked better but I could still make out the marks and my cheek were now a different colour to the rest of my face. Deciding then that I needed to apply the foundation to the rest of my face, I began applying the gloop all over.

“What are you doing?” gasped my mum as she entered my room holding a pile of clean clothes. I didn't know what to say.  I felt guilty. Caught red handed - or red lipped in my case. Mum's face began to crack into a smile and then she was laughing. “You look like a cross between a tangerine and a clown!”

“Mum!” I snapped, jumping up and pushing past her in my race to the bathroom. What a horrible thing to say!  I locked the door. That would keep her out!  I started running the water and splashing the colour from my face but it was never ending! I was going to be stuck looking like this forever.  A joke!  I felt so stupid. My eyes prickled with tears.

“Fern, I'm sorry.” Mum apologised sincerely with a knock at the door, “I have some oil based remover if you want to borrow it. Some of that stuff is meant to last at least twenty four hours.”

Numbers flashed before my eyes.  In eighteen hours I would be at Sam's house and I couldn't let him see me like this. I began to panic, scrubbing at my cheeks. Frustrated, I realised I had no choice but to accept mums offer. Slowly, I unlocked the door and let mum lead me back to her room.

I sat on her bed whilst she pulled a blue bottle from her dresser drawer and a cotton pad.  She poured some of its contents onto the pad and began to wipe it across my face.   At first the cool pad was soothing against my hot flushed cheeks but as mum began to rub harder, to get the more resistant smudges off my cheek, it started to hurt. I sat with my eyes shut whilst she said soothing words throughout the process, “Almost done.” she would say, “I'll just get this bit here.” Finally she said, “That's it!”

I opened my eyes and glanced in the mirror.  My face was a little pinker than before but I was me again. “Thanks.”

“Why were you wearing make-up?” mum asked. “You’re pretty just the way you are.”

I wasn't sure how to explain, so I just kept quiet.

“Is it a boy?” she probed and her eyes searched my face. “Are the other girls saying you should wear make-up?”

“No!” I snapped. “I just wanted to try it.”

Mum wasn’t happy with my answer. She had seemed pleased when I started my period; 'my little girl is growing up,' she had said proudly, but the thought of me wearing her make-up really upset her. “Well these colours are not for you. They are for people with dark skin like me.”

It was true; I looked nothing like my mum. I had always wondered who my dad was and whether I looked like him. Mum had never told me anything about my dad and whenever I asked her about him, she would change the subject or respond with silence but I could not help but ask, “Where do I get my looks from?”

Mum didn't answer. “I want my make-up put away, back in my draw! Now!”

I returned to my room and gathered together the shiny pots and pretty colours and placed them back in the gold bag. I returned the bag to the draw where I found it and headed downstairs.

“Sorry mum.” I whispered bashfully.

“It's okay.” she sighed. “I am just not ready for you to be grown up. First your period and now this.” She held out her arms for a hug and I welcomed them. “I guess we are going to have to plan a shopping trip to get you sorted.”

“Really!” I gasped excitedly.

“Really.” she nodded. Then her face changed all serious, “We are going to buy nice natural colours, I don't want you looking like a clown again.”

“Me neither.” I grinned.


 ***

When Sunday came, I was quite happy to go as me. The only special thing I did was wear my summer dress. While on the shopping trip I had wondered if I might be able to persuade mum to treat me to some more new clothes but I didn't want to push it, I knew she didn't have much money.

I sat at the window watching out for the taxi. As the cab came into view I called mum and ran out the house, jumping into the back seat.

“Just you?” asked the taxi driver surprised.

“No, mum is coming too.” I smiled and sat back waiting impatiently for her to hurry up.

I’ve met Sam’s sort-of-stepdad, Dave, before and well, he seemed like a nice enough guy.  A bit boring but there’s nothing wrong in that.  He wanted to sell his house and choose somewhere with Denny.  A place that they had both chosen and decorated, somewhere that was both of theirs. The move had been his idea, which was the only thing I had against him. 

Denny and Dave had found a lovely place on the other side of town and decided to move during the summer holidays, so Sam could settle in before starting back at high school. Everyone seemed excited for them, everyone, except Sam and me.

Eventually mum got in the taxi and gave the driver the address and then we were off. I watched the neighbourhoods change as we headed over to the other side of town. The houses got wider and taller and had real front gardens with flowers and driveways. Sam had certainly moved up in the world. His new house looked really modern and big. It had that new yellow brick look and all the windows and doors were double glazed. There was a car in the drive that must belong to Dave. I was already knocking on the door before mum had even paid the driver.

Denny opened the door. Mum wanted a tour of the house and Denny proudly showed us around, room by room. Every room was immaculate and looked as if it had come out of a showroom catalogue or a home improvement magazine.  Finally we finished in the conservatory and that's where Sam was, playing on his console. “Hi Freckles,” he chirped as he continued to click buttons. “I'll be done in a minute.”

I sat on the cushions next to him.

“Fern, come and sit with me.” Denny tapped the seat next to her on a small wicker sofa. Politely I got up and joined her and my mum. Denny continued happily, “I have some news?”

My mum grinned knowing, “Ah, so you’re telling people now.”

“How did you know?” Denny gasped, and giggled. “I should of known! Nothing is a secret from you.”

Mum grinned and nodded at me, “I haven't told anyone.”

Denny twisted round and grabbed my hands, “Dave and I are having a baby.”

“Congratulations.” I said happily and checked to see what Sam's reaction was but he was too engrossed in his game to notice. I returned my attention to Denny and gave her a big hug.

“I hear you have some exciting news too?” she grinned back at me and held me at arm’s length.

“What?” I looked confused and quickly sat down.

Denny squeezed my hand, “Becoming a lady!”

“You told her?” I screamed at mum and got up.

“Sorry.” mum gasped. “It's nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Finished.” Sam announced and got up. He turned and winked at me and added sarcastically. “Yeah, gratz Freckles.”

I blushed. Oh no, he had heard everything.

“She wants to wear make-up now too.” mum told Denny.

“I am still here you know!”

“Come on,” Sam beckoned. “I wanna show you the local park. It's bigger than the old one. You're gonna love it!”

Gratefully, I followed Sam through the house and out the front door, glad to escape the mothers meeting where my puberty seemed to be the hot topic. As we started on our way to the bigger better park I realised that everything seemed bigger and better at Sam's new house. I felt deflated, I had nothing to offer. No-one had even noticed I was wearing a dress. I didn't feel like skipping this time. Always, up for some self torture I asked, “How are you and Jen?”

“Good.” he grinned. “First date tonight.”

I didn't know what to say. Deep down I knew I should be happy for him but it just hurt so bad. Selfishly, I didn't want things to be working out for him, I wanted him to miss me and want me the same way I felt about him. I realised I had to say something. “Where are you taking her?”

“Nothing fancy, just the cinema.”

We entered the park and he was right, it was much bigger. There were even sign posts to tell you which way to go. He took me left and we followed the path round past a wooded area. Eventually it cleared and there was a metal gate to stop dogs getting into the play area. He led me over to the swings. We took one each.

It was nice to have something to do. Concentrating on my arms and legs swinging back and forth taking me higher, took my mind off things.  I was relieved to face forward and not look at him and began to feel calmer. As I swung my legs back and forth my dress slid up my thighs. I noticed how pasty my legs were. So white, I was sure my legs illuminated the play area. In fact, they were such a bright white, they should have come with a sign, ‘Health warning: Do not look directly at Fern’s legs!  Sun glasses recommended!'

Suddenly to my horror I realised Sam was looking at my hideous bleached sticks. “You don't normally wear a dress.”

“No, I don't.” I answered and planned to avoid making this mistake again. I had to deter him from my legs but the only thing I could think of was Jen and her gorgeous tanned body.  My heart weighed heavily as I asked “Are you nervous?”

“About the date?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Yeah. I don't know if you would understand.” he signed. “How are you getting on with making friends?”

I threw him a look. “No progress.”

He laughed and leapt off his swing in the air. I followed suit. My dress floated up around my waist, before falling back to my knees.

“I saw your knickers.” Sam smirked.

I blushed and snapped angrily, “How old are you?”

“I just thought you were a lady now?” he teased. “Flashing your knickers isn't very lady like.”

I just stuck my tongue out at him, “At least I act my age and not my shoe size!”

Sam just laughed and grabbed my hand. All the anger washed away in a second and was replaced by a fast running bubbling brook that was turning a whirlpool inside me. “I want to show you the duck pond they've got here.”

Once out the gate, he dropped my hand and I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. The idea of us running though the trees, hand in hand, had conjured up beautiful romantic images in my mind.

On route we wandered through some landscaped gardens. Paved paths wound through different themes. We saw a herb garden, in which everything was supposedly edible. We saw a butterfly garden and all the plants were designed to attract wildlife. Finally we came out the other end and sure enough there was the duck pond. It had two benches but a family had taken them up, enjoying their lunch.

“We can sit down here.” He led me round the pond and when we reached a willow tree he parted the long branches and we disappeared under its hood. The branches seemed to separate just in front of us, giving a private view across the pond.

“This is so cool.” I said impressed. “It's like our own secret den.”

“I hoped you would like it.” Sam was already sitting down, leaning back against the slope of the bank.

I sat next to him and leant back in the same manner. Some ducks swam over to see if we might have some bread for them. They quacked and padded up the bank but once they realised they weren't going to get anything they returned to their watery coolness. They seemed to bow their heads as if heavy with disappointment, waddling dejectedly. I felt guilty and made a mental note to bring food for them next time.

The pond was large, more like a lake and the water sparkled. I loved how the willow’s long leafy branches, trailed down to the grass like a waterfall of green keeping us hidden and safe. It felt like it was our own secret world. I turned to capture a glance of Sam so I could remember the whole picture later and realised he was watching me.

“What?” I asked as my cheeks flushed a rosy red.

He reached out and held my hand. “I wish we got to do this more often.”

“Me too...” my heart raced.

“Promise, you will come again?” he asked.

“Of course.” I agreed. He seemed relieved. I wondered why he would think I wouldn't. I loved his company, more than he would ever know.  Although, surely to some degree he must know how much I love him, even if he thought it was only as a friend.  The way he started at the grass, twisting the green blades with his fingers and bit his lip made him look troubled. “What's wrong?”

He shook his head, “It doesn't matter.”

I wanted to know more than ever now what was going on in his head. I wondered what he wasn't telling me. Then I remembered what he said at the swings. “Earlier you said I wouldn't understand why you were nervous, but I do.”

He shook his head again, “It's not that simple.”

“Everyone is nervous on first dates. It’s natural.” I stated.

He sat up and leant forward as if he was about to tell me a secret. His blue eyes looked deeply into mine. “I know we haven't seen each other much since the move but I need to know I can still trust you?”

“Always.” I whispered, “What is it?”

“No matter what, we we'll always be friends? Right?”

I didn't want to promise that. I frowned, “What is this about?”

“Promise?”

Reluctantly I promised, “Friends Forever.” I wanted to take it back as soon as it was out. I wanted more than friendship. I wondered if one day we would be more than just friends. Was it possible to keep that promise and still have more? Was it possible he even knew how I felt and that was the reason for the strange questions, to stop me from making a mistake.

“I need your help with something?”

“What?” I asked curiously.

He stared intently into my eyes as if he was looking for something. Then suddenly he leapt to his feet, “It's stupid. Forget I said anything.”

It looked as if he was about to run off and leave me so I got up and grabbed his arm. “Don't go!” It worked. He stopped and faced me. As I looked up at him, I realised suddenly how tall he had become.  He must have had a growth spurt over the holidays.  “Whatever it is, you can tell me. I’m sure it’s not as stupid as you think.”

“What if she...?” he seemed to be having troubled getting the words out. I didn't like how he wouldn't look at me. His eyes roamed around our leafy dome as if searching for a way out. He opened and closed his mouth several times as if he was about to say something but changed his mind. Eventually his eyes rested on me and he blurted out, “I've never kissed a girl! Not properly!”

“Oh.” I gasped and let him go.

“I know it’s wrong but I wondered...” he looked out across the pond. “Please don't hate me,” he then gripped hold of my arms as if he was worried now that I might runaway, “I want to practice with you! There is no-one in the world I trust as much as I trust you.”

I wasn't sure if I heard him right. My face dropped in surprise, “Are you saying you want to kiss me?”

“Sorry Freckles.” He looked down at the grass. “I know your first kiss should be special but I'm begging you.”

My heart began to race and I could feel my palms sweating. We were going to kiss. He was begging me to kiss him! “It's okay,” I said softly, almost trying to calm myself as much as I was Sam.

Now it was his turn to look all confused. His eyes searched my face as he tried to make sense of the words. He was looking for signs that I was being serious. “Do you mean okay;  as in, I can kiss you?” he asked.

I nodded. My whole body tingled in anticipation.

We both wore a show of red as we awkwardly looked at each other. “How do we do this?” he asked staring at my lips.

“You know I have never been kissed.” I giggled nervously and shrugged, “I think we just do it.” Then the urge to kiss him gripped me. I wasn't sure how long this burst of confidence would last so I closed my eyes and leant forward and kissed him on the lips. It was brief but if felt amazing. I opened my eyes.

He looked at me surprised as if I had caught him off guard. Then he grinned at me mischievously, “I think we need more than that.”

He then wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me up against his body, one hand slid up my back and my head rested in his palm. I felt his hot lips press against mine. The heat raced through my body to greet his kiss. I didn't know what to do with myself and my arms dangled awkward by my side. He held me to him, our lips locked in a heated bond. Eventually he pulled away.

He raised his eyebrows and looked at my dazed face, “Good?”

“Mmm,” was all I could muster.

“Let’s try with tongues?” he said eagerly and before I could say another word I felt his hot lips against my mouth gently teasing them open. Then I felt his tongue in my mouth. It felt more intimate. My arms reached up around his neck and I hung onto him for support. I found myself making more 'Mmm' sounds and I felt unsteady on my legs. Too soon, he let me go, “Any good?”

I gasped and nodded, feeling slightly embarrassed. I blushed and giggled and looked up at him through my eyelashes. Gently I slid my arms away. My legs still didn't feel right and my head was spinning.

“Thanks Freckles.” he said and wrapped an arm around my shoulder as he led me out of the green canopy back into the real world. I slid an arm round his waist. I needed him.








Comments:
 
Redfae   Redfae wrote
on 8/21/2011 3:47:05 AM
Thanks roadtripper523, that's just the motivational boost I needed. I've written the whole story but I'm editing it again. I hate editing (but its necessary) and much prefer story writing - doesn't take much to get my imaginative togs going off on some crazy tandem that most people can't follow :)

roadtripper523   roadtripper523 wrote
on 8/20/2011 7:45:54 PM
bouncing around all over this site today. and i found this. i liked it. and its not the kind of stuff i like to usually read. keep writing!

Redfae   Redfae wrote
on 5/8/2010 3:41:31 AM
Thanks for your help guys, I have now decided to give it a go and upload the first four chapters of my story "Drift"

Redfae   Redfae wrote
on 12/21/2009 9:56:53 AM
Thanks Zinzzaro. Thats really helpful :)

StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 12/21/2009 1:40:08 AM
Zinzzaro is right for I tied the same thing when I was first on here. But I figured it out. I encourage you to post a writing and let the readers find, read, and comment on it. And it helps if you did the same for others as well. Best Wishes!

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Redfae
Novel / Novella
Romance
writing Redfae
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Synopsis
Best friends forever they had vowed. Fern starts to want more than 'just friends' but her new feelings isn’t the only change in her ‘fishy tail’
A Word from the Writer
Fern couldn't imagine her life without her best friend Sam. They had been inseparable ever since birth. Now, his mum has a new boyfriend and a new house on the other side of town - not next door. When Sam starts the new upper high school he begins to make friends easily and takes a liking to a new girl. Jen is perfect, pretty and popular, everything that Fern is not. Now Fern wants more than just friends but there is no chance that Sam would ever want her. Not when he could have Jen who is perfect at everything. Fern can't even cast a spell, not like her mum who is regularly booked for her fortunetelling skills. Fern finally finds something she is good at… swimming. When Fern isn't at the pool, she finds herself drifting off with scenarios where she is Jen and Sam is hers. Fern realises that she doesn't want Sam and Jen to kiss, not ever! With an unusual offer from Murray the swim team superstar, Fern has the chance to ruin the blossoming romance but at what cost? And with all the bizarre things that keep happening, her complicated romantic life is just that start of her problems.
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