The year was 1980 – looking back, it was a time of great change, but then perhaps all years are, really. No mobile phones, internet or social media; but a time when women knew their place, and that place was increasingly beside the men, not behind them. Some always took longer to realise these things.
Some, that is, like Dad. Mum had to go into hospital for an operation – I was fourteen so ‘women’s things’ was the explanation I got. I learned later that she could have died as they sought to apply radical treatment to stop the advance of the cancer that was eating her away. She would be in for a long time, five weeks, in fact; though initially no-one knew how long. Being the NHS in 1980, there was a wait for the most urgent of urgent treatments. A wait that finally resulted in a letter offering a bed on the third day of the summer school holidays. Mum nearly said no.
She could have died and I was treated like a child and not given an opportunity to say goodbye. I have resented that for many years since. I suppose it’s inevitable, we all end up resenting our parents in some ways. I think that is a justifiable resentment. Still, she didn’t die, she lived long enough for me to be able to resent her and Dad not telling me. If she had died, I wouldn’t have had that luxury.
My older brother had found his escape, he had started at the Imperial Apprenticeship School in January. He wasn’t academic, but he was ‘clever with his hands’; that’s what people used to call it then. Now there is probably some PC term like ‘mechanical intelligence’. Same condescending claptrap; trying to say ‘we know you can’t think but here’s a consolation’. Graham could strip an engine and rebuild it and have no parts left over at the end! That, as far as I was concerned, was sheer bloody genius. I mended my bicycle and had two bolts and a non-matching nut left. Still rode the bike of course. I idolised him, now I envy him for the same reason. Boiler needs fixing? He can do it. Electrics needs a service? Graham’s your man. Car on the blink? Call Graham. We all have our skills, and he didn’t and doesn’t need to have it made a pretend intellectual pursuit. My first father-in-law once said to him how he thought he could probably fix his car if he put his mind to it, but he didn’t feel the need. When his lawnmower broke down, Graham and I went down the pub. Serve the arrogant bastard right. He had a garage load of springs, washers, and gears when we came back. Next morning he woke to a perfectly rebuilt lawnmower. His daughter was the same – I’m well shot of her.
Anyway, Mum had to go into hospital, Graham was away (and not coming back in the summer to look after his little brother. Seeing as the apprentice school had been placed beside a nursing school, I couldn’t say I blamed him; I offered to go there, but that wouldn’t fly either). It was generally agreed by all – except me – that I was too young to be left to cope on my own and by all – including me – that Dad was not the right appropriate adult to look after me. He was useless in the kitchen. I pointed out that I would have all day to make delicious, wholesome dinners for us both in the evening, and Mum and Dad pointed out that that was what they were afraid of. Ungrateful pillocks! I only set fire to the grill that once! Well, only one time that they knew of.
First option: Gran. Me: “No, no, no. Never again, sorry Dad.” I only had the one Gran, my Dad’s mum. She was a bit strict (Dad didn’t disagree with that, he never seemed that keen to visit her). I had stayed with her at twelve and had a blazing row with her about whether to wear Sunday best (on a Sunday) to play on the beach. I’d have understood if she went to church, but she didn’t! Anyway, I gave in, because that’s what I do; and got into trouble when I got home for getting tar on my good trousers. No, never again.
Second option: Marigold. Aunt Marigold was a bit flakey. I mean away with the fairies. I mean her brain had been fried in 1974 and she basically stayed that way. Mum reckoned she was always like that. I agreed, she agreed, we all agreed. I was even looking forward to staying in her ‘hill farm’ - actually a ruined cottage which had a tarpaulin over part of the roof for the last five years, she was repairing the roof, but it was taking a long time as she was happier smoking reefers. All agreed then; be sure to pack warm clothes as the house was always freezing and damp. Then, two weeks before, we get a postcard from Morocco – from Aunt Marigold!
I came home from school to hear half the phone call. “Are you sure? Oh, that is soooo kind. No, he’s no bother, really. Yes, he’ll fit right in, I’m sure. Oh, that is good of you, Muriel! A real weight off my mind. Oh, yes, and love to P- I mean to Petra and Paula. Yes, we’ll be in touch once we know.”
I knew it was about me. I could tell. Muriel? Muriel? Where was that name from? Oh, yes! She was my godmother, and I hadn’t seen her since I was seven. Muriel? I waited until Mum was off the phone, she looked pale, tired. I knew then that I would agree to whatever she said.
“Hi, look. What with Marigold going AWOL; I was just talking on the phone to Muriel, you remember her?” Mum and Muriel went way back to the dawn of time; they rang each other every month even though they rarely had a chance to meet up now. I nodded. “She just said you could go and stay with them for the summer. I know it isn’t the best choice, but ... oh, I don’t know, I...” she started to cry. What was I supposed to do? Be the bastard teenager from hell and throw a tantrum about being treated like a child and dropped on someone I didn’t know; or put my arm round Mum and tell her it would all be fine, and I would be fine, and she would be fine, and I’d expect a big present at the end (I put that at the end to lighten the mood – but it didn’t mean it wasn’t true). She laughed, kissed me and said I was a wonderful son. I crept away later with a face wet from her tears and a heart full of guilt for the anger I felt at being dumped like this.
So, at school people excitedly talked about going to Marbella, USA, even Margate for their holidays; and I had to say I was going to stay with ‘friends’ in Suffolk for most of the summer. My best friend, John, knew what it was all about. Actually, I think he suspected more about my mum’s illness than I did, looking back. I was naive.
We broke up and two days later I was on a train to Manningtree. Manningtree is not the centre of any universe that someone with a beating heart would wish to visit.
Let’s go back to Muriel for a second. She and Mum had worked together somewhere, I was always a bit vague on Mum’s work history. They had stayed in touch. We had visited once, they had visited once. Muriel had two daughters, Petra and Paula; Mum, of course, had two boys. Perhaps that’s why they stayed in touch; both wished they’d had one of each. Petra was about my brother’s age, I was Paula’s. I understood from Mum (reading between the lines) that Petra was a bit of a handful. She still lived at home, but tended to kick at the traces of ‘you’re in my house and will live by my rules’. Muriel, or Aunty Muriel as I was told to call her when I got there (that old-fashioned idea that a close friend became an adopted aunt or uncle), had lost her husband in a car crash. That’s what I was told. It was suggested that I avoid the subject. Later I got the complete story in dribs and drabs; like a dripping tap I collected little pieces of information to finally have the whole story.
Peter Mulligan was a serial philanderer; he wasn’t a good, safe, stable husband like my dad. He had gone off with a few women in his time, left Muriel and shacked up with some sexy bint for a few weeks; then come back with his tail between his legs. And she always took him back. She seemed to think that’s what wives did. She had two children to bring up and she needed a husband and they needed a father. Then he went off with some woman from the office, and ended up wrapping the car round a tree and both died instantly. The headstone read “a much loved husband and father” which was possibly true. Muriel did alright, they had life insurance, the employer paid 3 times his salary to her, the mortgage was paid off automatically. Then the crash investigator found a brake fault, and the garage that serviced the company car was found at fault. A seal had been wrongly fitted and the brake fluid leaked meaning that the brakes steadily lost their effect. It was just a mistake, these things happen. The garage’s liability insurance insurance paid out a fortune to Muriel, the employer (for losing two valuable employees – no-one ever asked why an office junior with lovely legs and good tits was travelling in Peter’s car so late at night – maybe it was obvious), and the girl’s family. Petra told me that they laid flowers at the tree: “But I wasn’t sure if it was in remembrance of Dad, or celebration, to be honest. He was a shit father.” I think Paula missed him more.
I left on the day Mum was due to go into hospital. They picked a train for me so I left before she checked in. At the station I had the standard talk “You know where to change? You sure you’ll be alright in London? Here’s a fiver to buy something on the way. Don’t talk to strangers...”
“Mum, I’ll be fine. I’ve been to London before you know. And I’ll probably find the weirdest stranger on the train to talk to and he’ll kidnap me and take me to darkest Scotland.” It was an ongoing joke that Scotland was the land that time forgot, full of evil-doers and monsters. We had had one holiday in Scotland and it had rained for two weeks, non-stop. Mum, Dad and Graham had hated it. I’d come back from walking along the banks of Loch Lomond, tired and soaked and excited because I’d seen a Red Deer, or a fox, or a Scottish Wildcat (probably a local moggy, but a boy can dream). I loved it. I loved haggis, and neaps and tatties, and the halves of beer shandy I was allowed in the local pub. The other three variously offered to have toenails pulled out with pliers, have their head shaved or be fucked by the local scoutmaster rather than have to cross Hadrian’s Wall ever again. The last option was Graham to me on the last night, I’d just started scouts; he was winding me up. Actually Colin (the scoutmaster) was, indeed, gay as a pink butterfly; but he never ever made any move towards any of his charges, and was a fund of knowledge on wildlife, knots, and French cuisine. I enjoyed scouts.
I got onto the train, pushed the window down (the good old days when trains weren’t sealed units to stop idiots sticking their heads out at 100mph – always seemed like a way for nature to keep the IQ of the population up to me, but I suppose seeing a head bouncing along the track wasn’t too good for train drivers. It had happened recently on the Edinburgh express and a guard had had to collect up the headless torso and shove it into a toilet until they got to Berwick. Hence the parting piece of advice). As the train started to move, Dad brushed a tear away, I saw him; and Mum said “Take care, don’t lean out once the train is out of the station. Love you dear.” And then they were gone, or I was. I pulled up the window and sat and read The Monster of Planet Drack, an extremely bad science fiction story. I had three with me, one Poul Anderson, one Ursula Le Guin and this one by an author who I have thankfully forgotten. I also had Voyage of The Beagle and a smuggled copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
This last had been sent to me by my brother with a cover that announced “Scouting For Boys”. He knew it would be confiscated by the ‘parental police’ if found. A note was inside: ‘You may find this diverting if the fun in Suffolk gets too much for you. There is a shop near by that specialises in porn in innocent covers – this was one of the more acceptable ones. I’ll get you some of the others when you’re fifteen, if you like. Unless, of corse [sic] you prefer Colin’s company. Grah.’
He was quite a good brother really. Mum and Dad never found it, and I passed it on to a friend’s younger brother when I went to university. It’s probably a collectors item now that everything hangs out for free on the internet.
The slow train to London stops at every station between home and Waterloo. It takes for ever. I fell asleep; Waterloo is the terminus, the only thing that can go wrong is if you fall heavily asleep and wake up on the way back. I know people who have started from their home, heading to London, and ended up getting out further from London than where they started. I was fine though, I dozed rather than slept. Occasionally opening an eye to see the station names, and then staying apparently asleep and watching the two girls opposite. Both about eighteen, both in short skirts that just showed their crotch when they moved. It was mesmerising. When we got to Waterloo one of them said “Did you enjoy the show?” as they left. Well, yes; yes I did actually. If a girl wears a skirt that shows her knickers when she sits down, she’s got to expect a boy with the standard number of chromosomes to look. That’s what we do. I got out, got the Bakerloo underground, then the Circle. I could have got to Liverpool Street quicker, I suppose, but I had no need to hurry. From there I could get the train to Manningtree. I was trying to feel hard done by and put upon, but actually I was enjoying myself. Fourteen was quite young, then, for independent travel. You were allowed to the big city with a friend, but not on your own; or at least not without fear and trembling. I’d been up with John at Christmas, but now I was entirely reliant on myself to get across London and catch the right train. I have to admit, I barely gave my mother a thought as she checked into the hospital for treatment that would be unpleasant at best. I bought a magazine, a Twix and a Coke and made my way to platform 9 where the train was waiting. Then my mood started to drop, I was, after all, going to be staying somewhere out of the way, with people I didn’t know, for the whole summer. What’s not to like about that? Well, all of it, actually.
I fell asleep again, like any good, bored, teen. I woke when the town ‘Manningtree’ was announced as the next stop. I hadn’t opened the Coke, nor the Twix. And the Practical Photography – which had an interesting article about photographing nudes in the outdoors – had been unopened. I packed them into my luggage. The Twix might serve as emergency supplies if Muriel turned out to be one of those people who didn’t provide big portions.
I climbed down with my luggage and rucksack, and looked up the empty, windswept platform. Then a woman appeared, she rushed towards me. I thought ‘Fuck! She’ll flatten me. She’ll squash me flat!” The woman weighed seventeen stone, at least. She was one of those flowery, floaty dressers. Lots of scarves and long coats and colourful woolly jumpers. She continued towards me, shouting, with a broad smile ... and continued straight past me to embrace a similarly huge, flowery, floaty dresser. I think that they were the first lesbians I was ever aware of. I’m sure I’d met or seen others, but these kind of gave off a sense that the embrace and kiss wasn’t just friendly. I watched them until a hand touched my shoulder. “David? It is David isn’t it?” and before I could even say yes (I suppose I was the only other person getting off the train at the station beside the marshlands that went on for ever – where was the town?), she hugged me and said something like “You’re very brave, I’m sure your mother will be fine.” – which was the first time I’d heard that she might not be.
“Hi, I mean, hello, Aunty Muriel. Thank you for having me to stay.” I’d been told to say this, so I got it out of the way.
“Right, can you manage the bag? Here, we’ll carry it together.” Which actually made it harder, because it swung into our legs as we walked. “Firstly, less of the Aunty Muriel, sounds like someone who does Listen With Mother. Secondly, drop the Aunty completely. And Thirdly, I’m Miriam now. I never, ever liked the name Muriel and when Peter fuc- I mean when he bugg- I mean when he left for good, I decided I’d change to something I liked. I liked Miriam, so that is what I am. I never told your Mum, so she still calls me Muriel. So does the bank and the insurance. Luckily they usually call me Mrs M. Mulligan, so Miriam works there too. How was the journey? Are you hungry? Course you are, a growing lad like you. Petra is going through a slimming phase, and Paula never did eat a lot. It’ll be nice to cook proper meals. The car is over there. I’ve put you in Paula’s room and she’s sharing with Petra but she doesn’t mind. Hope you don’t mind pink too much.” and so it went on, she never stopped! She asked questions, but never waited for answers. I think she was genuinely excited to see me; probably to see anybody. Another piece of information in the drip, drip later, was that Peter’s family had largely pulled away and kept clear. Embarrassment that he was such an out and out sod? Or just didn’t care? Anyway, birthday and Christmas cards and presents arrived, but that was about it. Some people didn’t know how to deal with her bereavement, so they’d kind of dropped her too. She liked having visitors, even me.
The car was a Rover P4, a venerable, robust and slow vehicle which I would regard as seriously cool in a couple of years time. Now I inwardly laughed that she didn’t have a Vauxhall Viva or a Ford Escort or something. That’s how stupid I was. We drove off into the wasteland that is the border between Essex and Suffolk, and finally arrived at the small town or large village on the coast. The light was just going, but I could see a small river joining the sea there, and a very small beach. “They tried making it a tourist attraction in 1870 or so, there was even a branch line from Manningtree. It was going to cross the river and carry on round to Ipswich; the bridge was never built; and there would be a big hotel and people would come to take the waters, and the world would beat a path to this place and everybody would be millionaires, and ... nothing. The building company went bust when the hotel was half built. It was finished by Sir Roderick Meyers as a private home; then a Zeppelin dropped a bomb on it and that was the end of that. That’s the history, in a nutshell.” There was an information board at the front, which said virtually the same thing.
We pulled up in front of a pretty, three bedroomed house. Three bedrooms upstairs, two receptions and a bathroom and kitchen downstairs. And a dog flew out of the house and leapt at the window. “I hope you like dogs. I should have asked. She’s quite friendly really.” The dog was barking ferociously; it was huge, and had lots of teeth; but when I opened the door slightly nervously, Timo ran off. Brilliant guard dog, bark, bark, run! By the evening I had got to know this great hairy thing. She would welcome the walks along the shore, and come back filthy and muddy; and I would have to clean her – quite right since I’d got her so dirty. We became firm friends.
I rang home to say I’d arrived. Dad assured me that Mum had checked in fine, and suggested I didn’t ring too often since it would cost Muriel money.
The other two residents came out. Petra and Paula. Anybody with eyes could see they were related. Muriel – Miriam, I mean – was five foot seven I would guess. About the same height as myself. Auburn hair and green eyes made for a striking appearance. That evening, I couldn’t tell if she had a bust as she was wearing loose clothing, later I saw her work shirt stretched over a bust of thirty six inches – I estimated thirty eight, but boys always exaggerate, I saw her bra and was able to check the exact size when nobody was looking (pervert or what?), 36C. She had hips to match, not like the normal English pear shape, she had a slim waist which made her hips look sexier. And she walked with a sway to those hips which made it fatal to follow her as her buttocks swung back and forth in a skirt or jeans. I had to admit, she looked better than my mum (who had put on a pound or two over the years). Petra was like her, only two inches taller. I checked her feet, yes, no heels. She was taller than me. I told myself she was older, which explained it. She was cultivating a look, so she had dyed her hair darker, and had one black eyebrow. The other was auburn, I figured that was her natural colour. She had those green, penetrating eyes as well. Petra had a bust, no doubt about that! I consciously looked away after saying hello. She smiled, she knew I’d checked her bust and flat stomach and shapely legs (another short skirt, I’d have to make sure not to sit facing her). Paula was a smaller version of her mum. Smaller in body shape, I mean. She was the same height, and had the same hair and eyes. She stood still and looked at me, so I looked back. From a distance I could take in her smaller bust beneath the cotton jumper, and the slighter hips. She wore black jeans which didn’t hide the hips that were not quite as boyish as many fourteen year old girls’ still are. She had her mother’s narrow waist; all in all, an attractive family to lodge with. The green eyes again, they summed me up.
The only female I’d stayed with was my mother, now I was in a house of three (four, if you count the dog). The first thing to learn was that that meant more female underwear. We went in, dumped my bags and proceeded to the kitchen where a clothes horse had girly panties and bras draped over it. It didn’t occur to any of the three that this was odd, or something to remark upon. They had always had female underwear lying around, of course, and didn’t understand about boys making the connection between a bra and the normal contents of the bra. I felt my loins twitch and prayed that nothing would happen. It didn’t. I never had uncontrollable erections. I don’t believe they exist really. We sat around the table in the kitchen and talked, it was pleasantly relaxed; initially about the last time we’d met, then about school and then about the summer. They weren’t having a summer holiday because they were saving to go skiing in the winter. I’d never heard of skiing holidays. Well, not for normal people like us. That was why I had been invited for the whole summer with no restrictions. Then Paula was told to show me where my bedroom was, and Miriam started making the tea – Pizza! We still had English food in our home: stew, shepherds pie, roast on Sundays, that kind of thing; though we had discovered curry. I’d only had pizza on my birthday when we went to Pizza Hut. I was starting to like these people. Paula carried my rucksack up and I took up my bag – which contained pretty well every pair of Y-fronts I owned, all my socks, jeans, teeshirts, and three jumpers. We turned right at the top of the stairs and I entered a fairy grotto.
“It’s a bit young. We keep discussing decorating, but haven’t got round to it.” The wallpaper was a mauve shade with flowers and birds. A large poster of a flying unicorn was on one wall, beside a poster of David Essex with bared chest. We talked about music and found some overlap, loud rock where the words were incomprehensible (and there was no internet to tell you if the singer had just sung ‘fuck my bird’ or ‘it’s absurd’). She told me she’d emptied a couple of her drawers for my things. I opened a drawer and saw layers of pink, white, yellow, and purple panties. “Not that drawer, this one.” My pants were sharing a chest of drawers with her panties. I knew I would have to take a tissue to bed with me later and think about that. Actually, it was even better than I thought.
The second drawer she had emptied still had two bras in it, I noticed. I quickly put my shirts in front of them. I knew I’d finger those bras later. I don’t think that’s perverted, I think that is normal male teenage hormones. Like young girls playing at being mothers – with all that implies about them having had sex to become mothers. She saw the books and reached in, snorting, to take Scouting for Boys before I could stop her. She opened it, realised immediately what it was, giggled and said “Can I borrow it? Is it as bad as they say?”
“I ... don’t know, I haven’t read it yet. Graham sent it to me. Yes, you can borrow it after I’ve read it. I’ll read it next.” She looked at me and we shared a moment. Yes, we both remembered the last time; the time we’d played ‘I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours’. We both had more to show now, of course. I sensed we were thinking the same thing. “Do you mind sharing with Petra? I’m sorry to push you out of your room.”
“Doesn’t matter; though some of my clothes are still here. So I’ll need to come in sometimes. Hope that’s alright.”
Then we went down for pizza and chips; and no salad within a mile of the plates. Petra ate a third and announced herself full; Paula ate a third and four chips. Miriam ate a half and a few chips. I ate half and the other third and a load of chips with tomato ketchup. Miriam beamed at me like I’d done something really good. The two girls wondered out loud why I wasn’t the size of Bozo. Bozo was a boy in the village who was seriously overweight. He also had Downs, they said Mongoloidism, this was the eighties, and now we’d be shocked at them laughing about a disabled person having a weight problem. I actually think that they were simply talking about him like he was the same as everybody else. In some ways being careful not to talk about someone because of their ‘special needs’ is discrimination.
And so we started the ‘holiday’.
Next day was a Wednesday. When I woke, the house was quiet. I put my dressing gown on (Mum had insisted I take it because, after all the house was full of females – I think she meant they might swoon at the sight of my manly chest.) and went downstairs. “Oh, hello dear.” said Miriam – I was getting used to calling her that now, it felt nice calling an older woman by her first name rather than ‘Aunty’ or ‘Mrs’ - “I’m just off to work. There is tea in the pot if you want some. Feel free to get yourself some breakfast. Cereal is in there, and bread in the bread bin.” She waved and left. I was left to get my own breakfast; I was the guest and I was left to cope. I was sooooo happy! I’d expected them to be overly considerate. My Mum would have laid a table for breakfast, and made a big fuss and made everyone uncomfortable. I stroked the dog, got a bowl of sugar puffs, a cup of tea and some orange juice and sat at the kitchen table looking at the birds. I even washed up my things, and Miriam’s. I didn’t want to be thought of as a nuisance. Then I went back upstairs. In my bedroom, a girl in pink and white striped pyjamas was bending over, showing the pants she had on underneath. She was rooting through my shirts. I was glad I had put the handkerchief away, last night I had, as I predicted, had to think about the mixing of my shirts and those bras. I had resisted the temptation to take a pair of her panties to bed with me, it was very tempting, but I suspected she knew the order and number in that drawer.
“Oh, hello. I ... Ah yes, sorry I knew I had another bra here.” She saw me redden, and that made her realise that she was holding up a bra which I now knew she would soon be wearing, she reddened too. Then she left and went to have a shower. We didn’t have a shower in our house, just a bath with a rubber attachment for the two taps – so you could wash your hair. Here they had a shower over the bath and a shower curtain. I thought that the height of sophistication. There was only the one bathroom, so by the time she’d finished, I was desperate for a wee. I went in quickly and washed and dressed at the same time. When I came out, Petra was prancing up and down.
“‘Scuse me.” She pushed in and loudly shut the door. Seemed she was also desperate. I tried not to think about that.
By eleven, we were finished with breakfast, watched some TV and then Paula suggested she show me the town. “It won’t take long.” said Petra. I asked if we could walk along the sea shore too “Ooo, using up all the excitement in one day.” was her response. It seemed she wasn’t a fan of this sleepy hollow. There was a bus once an hour; so we could get out and go to Manningtree or Ipswich if we wanted to. Their school was reached by a school bus, which I thought I’d hate – I’m not famous for being ready for school on time. We saw the library, the Wimpy, the Royal Barge (pub), the Kings’ Head (same), the Queen’s Garter (same again) and the Club (a pub with membership). There were, I think, three churches, a small Woolworths, a small supermarket and a few other shops. The town wasn’t as small as I’d first thought, having a couple of estates built on the edges. If these had been here earlier, perhaps the branch line would have stayed.
Timo patiently walked round the houses and shops, and then went crazy when let off the leash on the beach. She chased seagulls, she chased sticks, she played tug-of-war with seaweed, and when she won, she shook it and growled and shock it again until she was sure it was dead. Paula and I played piggy in the middle with Timo, throwing a ball back and forth. Eventually she got to Paula before she could throw it back, and leaped up, knocking her to the ground. Her tail would beat you to death, it wagged so hard, and we were laughing fit to burst. For a first day with a strange family, it was a good time.
Changing her name wasn’t the only thing that Miriam had altered in the time Mum hadn’t seen her. It turned out that on Thursdays she went to the club. It had originally been the working men’s club, but they were a dying breed now, so it had just become the club. The golfing set had joined in, and a small sailing set found it a nice place to meet up. Miriam found it a good place to go hunting. She discovered, after Peter made his departure permanent, that she liked male company. She would help behind the bar on Thrusdays, but really she went to pick up a male friend. Sometimes they came back to her house, sometimes to his, and sometimes they didn’t. Not all male friends resulted in (say it quietly, the revolution hadn’t reached all parts of Britain yet) sex. Some were a kiss, some a chat. She liked men, she also liked to choose. So, on the second day I was there, Miriam left at 7 for her evening job.
She didn’t need to work at all, but she had a part time job in an office (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), and this bar work on a Thursday. She liked getting out. Five minutes after she left for the club, a motorbike drew up outside. Petra’s boyfriend turned up. I never saw her ring him to say the coast was clear, I never worked out how he knew, but he did. I’d have liked to talk to him about his bike – a Norton Commando; but it was clear that Paula and myself were two too many people downstairs.
We were encouraged to leave the sitting room and Petra and Jake got down to serious snogging. I never knew the bases that were meant to indicate progress with a girl. I knew she didn’t have sex, I also knew that he got to apply love bites to her neck and breast – she had to hide one after that first week and wore dresses that showed less cleavage for a week. I have no idea if he got her bra off, or his hand up her skirt or down her pants. It wasn’t a spectator sport. She was sixteen and a half, she wasn’t ready to sleep with him, but he must have been eighteen to have a bike, I think. She liked him of course, and wanted to keep him interested. I wondered if she gave him hand jobs. I had no idea. Anyway, we had a choice, upstairs or the ‘good room’ as it was called in that house. We went upstairs to my/Paula’s room and played records.
Jake left at 10:30pm, Miriam came back at 11pm. We had a coffee, she talked about some guy she’d met who was “A complete tosser. Sorry, but he was.” He didn’t get the chance of walking her home or a good night kiss. Certainly no chance of a leg-over (which was the euphemism used in that house for sex).
The other day for Miriam for herself was Saturday. She volunteered on Saturday. She went to a charity shop and worked in it. Since she had no need of money, she could have done this during the week, but it seemed she had asked and they had said could she help on Saturdays because it was extra busy then and so she had.
So on Saturday, Miriam drove off for the day, half an hour later, Petra went off on the back of Jake’s bike. Petra was meant to be looking after her sister, but there was no way Paula would shop her sister, so she was often left alone in the house. This time, perhaps Miriam would have been more worried since Paula was left alone with a boy. I looked out of the bed to see her in her pyjamas, finding clean pants; she smiled at me and asked if I minded. I said no, of course. Then she suggested we went down stairs in our PJs to watch Saturday TV. No dressing gown! Only a dog to chaperone. The inevitable happened. That’s right, we watched TV curled up on the sofa with the dog. Now I won’t say I didn’t notice that teenage girls didn’t wear bras under their pyjamas, I did. I won’t say that I wasn’t aware of the tight pyjama trousers stretched over pale blue panties when she bent forward to get a piece of toast. And I won’t pretend that I didn’t notice some pale flesh through the gap in her pyjama buttons, some pale, protruding flesh that culminated in a little nodule that was plain under the stretched fabric of her top when she sat back. I enjoyed the cartoons with her. And then she said we should get dressed and take the dog for a walk. I went up and got some clothes, intending to have a quick shower, and walked in just as she was pulling down her pyjama bottom. I retreated as she looked round. The last time I had seen her pants was when we were seven or eight. She knew it was me, who else could it have been. She didn’t say anything, and neither did I.
That night I lay in bed rubbing my cock and thinking of her in her panties and wishing I’d been a minute later.
On Sunday we all went out for a drive. That was the standard agenda for each week really. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Miriam left for work, she had agreed on the extra day over the summer to cover for women who had children who needed looking after, she explained. She was alright because Petra was at home. Jake worked in a garage during the day, so he didn’t come round. Thursday Miriam would go to the club and Jake would be round, Friday she worked. Saturday, she volunteered and Petra and Jake went off somewhere. I didn’t know what they did or where. Sundays was a genuine family day.
Each week, I sent Mum a letter, telling her all the things we did, walks we had and so on. She told me that she really appreciated these as they made her content with something that she knew was not ideal. I probably made the letter as positive as possible. I did not mention things like Petra disappearing off with Jake, nor Paula keeping her pants in my room. I never questioned that last, why her bras were moved but her pants weren’t. On that cusp of adulthood, you still just accept some things as if they are meant to be. It was her room, I thought, and I was lucky to have even two drawers in her chest of drawers. Anyway, I liked the fact that her panties (and one remaining bra) were there.
The following week, Petra once again edged us upstairs and we played music. Somewhere along the line, we started messing around and tickling each other. We stopped, breathless, aware that we had each touched each other in places that were more personal. Paula had tickled me and her hand and swept across my groin a few times as we mock-fought. She must have felt the erection that caused. I had been sitting astride her and tickling her waist when she bucked and my hands were suddenly ‘tickling’ her breasts. I moved my hands away straight away, but it didn’t help my erection. Then she was on her front and I was tickling her waist and then her bottom. She didn’t complain. Is a bottom ticklish? I don’t think so, but she didn’t try and stop me.
We lay, gasping for breath and remembered the last time we’d stayed together. We’d shared a bedroom that time because we were too young to be sexualised. But that didn’t stop us knowing that we were girl and boy. One day, playing with her dolls, she’d pulled her doll’s pants down and said “Look.” I pulled down, was it Ken?, the male doll’s trousers and we giggled as they ‘made sex’ as we said. One thing led to another and, of course, I said “Show us your knickers,” and she said “I will if you will”. I had no idea why a boy’s pants might be exciting, she had no real idea why a girl’s pants might be exciting either. But we did, and giggled and pulled our trousers up quickly when we heard footsteps on the stairs. Later, in bed, we lay giggling again. Parents came up and said good night. Then the inevitable happened. “I will if you will.” “Well, promise you won’t tell.” And we both pulled down our pyjamas. It was as sexless as it was possible to be. A miniscule penis and a little slit in a smooth groin. We had no idea why this was naughty, but we revelled in the fact that it was. Then we jumped into bed and marvelled at our own daring.
Now, at fourteen, thinking back, neither of us could remember where our older siblings were, nor where our parents had all slept. There was even some vagueness as to whether this was at our house, that last visit, or their house, the visit before. It was all a misty dream of excited naughtiness. Now we were lying, breathing heavily, aware that downstairs Petra was probably being fingered by her Jake and we were alone upstairs.
“I will if you will.” I said. And there was a pregnant pause.
“Top or bottom?” she said.
“For me or you?”
“For me, your pillock. I know what a man’s chest looks like.”
“Well, come to that, I know what a girl’s bust and bottom look like. It isn’t the pictures we’re talking about. It’s the reality.”
“Stop messing about. You get to see my tits, I get to see how much your liddle widdle has grown, if at all.”
“I like to feel I’m quietly proud if it.” I said. I made up my mind. “Okay, I’ll go first.” This was deliberate. I knew that once I saw her naked top, I’d not be able to stop from having an erection. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to see; just not yet. I needed some negotiation room. I pulled down my jeans and Y-fronts. Sure enough, little johnny stayed nice and flaccid. Still, she wasn’t disappointed.
“Yes, it has grown. I remember it was a matchstick before. Its a bit floppy.” She reached out and I backed away.