I stood by the grave, not even aware of the rain. Rain that was washing away the tears. Tears that I was equally unaware of. I was in a state of shock, unable to accept that it was MY mother in the casket; my mum, the only person in my world that I could talk to. Talk to about anything and everything. The only person who really cared about me.
I was angry, an extremely selfish anger. I didn't care how her death affected others, not my father, not even my fifteen year old younger brother. I could only think how I was affected. My anger was directed at the car driver and his inability to stay on the road. I ignored simple facts like the burst tyre, his slow speed and sobriety. I ignored the massive fact that Mum had only a few months to live anyway, before the cancer took her. I reacted with real venom to anyone who said that it saved her a great deal of pain and suffering. It was my suffering that concerned me; as I said, totally selfish.
I hated the large congregation that had gathered to say goodbye. My mother was extremely popular on our estate, and at work, which was more than could be said for me. Since I could walk, mischief was a close companion. I never got into serious trouble, though more than enough to annoy just about every neighbour around. My lack of respect for my elders; I believed respect should be earned by more than being born before me; ensured that the older generation I came into contact with disliked me. My peers generally hated me because I was different, I didn't join in with their games and I couldn't be bullied, although a few tried. The ferocity of my response ensured that none tried twice. I was a loner and unusual for a child, one through choice. I was happier in my own company, believing that I didn't need anyone else. That, of course, didn't include my mother, my rock.
I hated the vicar or priest or whatever he was, standing reading from the biggest book of fiction ever written. My mother hadn't believed in religion, though she had believed in a god. I, on the other hand, didn't believe in any deity and hated anything and anybody religious. The only time I'd ever been suspended from school was after a strong disagreement during R.I ... For every reason that the teacher said proved God's existence, i.e. nature, I came up with a disaster or something similar, i.e. nature. The teacher then made me laugh when he used the old favourite 'God moves in mysterious ways' which I said was just a cop out because he couldn't refute my argument. Apparently I said it far too strongly and it earned me an extra few days holiday.
In church, the man with a black frock spoke of my mother, as if they were best friends when, in fact he'd never even met her. I was angry with my father for allowing him to attend, never mind to officiate. He also felt my venom when he had the nerve to tell me that my mother was in a better place.
Gradually I became aware that I was the last person standing at the grave. Some indeterminable time later I too left to walk back to my empty home, empty at least of the only person that mattered. I had a vague recollection of telling my father to leave me alone and take all the hangers-on away and his angry response at my less than polite attitude to the vicar and the congregation.
The slow walk home, done mainly in a daze, took around ninety minutes by which time I hoped everyone would have left. No chance of that, there was free food and more importantly free booze. No one would be leaving until that well run dry.
Oblivious to my soaking wet clothes I opened the door as quietly as I could and tried to sneak in and go straight to my bedroom but my father spotted me and dragged me into the front room, not even accepting my plea to change. I think he was aware that I wouldn't have returned.
'Hi David, ' a sweet voice said almost immediately. 'I'm sorry about your mother but... '
I didn't need to look to see who spoke but I did anyway. Pamela Roberts had once been my closest friend, perhaps even my only friend, but that had been a good few years ago. I never gave her the chance to complete her inadequate comment. 'I don't care whether you're sorry or not. You haven't spoken to me, nor any other boy around here, since the day you got tits. We are not good enough for you now, with your peroxide hair and cosmetic looks, so I don't give a shit what you think, you're only here for the free booze anyway.'
As I spoke my father was trying to pull my snarling face away from his 'guest'.
'You will apologise to Pamela this instant, ' said my shocked father as an equally astonished crowd looked on.
'Or what?' I asked, not at all caring what the answer was.
I had never gotten along too well with my father, who was a true socialite, mixing with anybody and everybody. He was a good enough father, in that he worked hard to provide for his family and ensured that we never went without any essentials. He worked, and played, so hard that I hardly saw him for the first dozen or so years of my life. I knew that he was disappointed in me because I showed no inclination to play the team sports that he loved and absolutely no desire to spend my free time in the pub with him and his mates. He was lucky though as my younger brother seemed to be following in his footsteps. That and the five year age difference were just two of the reasons why Paul and I weren't that close.
Giving him time to think, didn't help much as I saw him struggling for a response and to maintain some calm.
'Or you can leave this house until you know how to behave.' He finally answered.
'Fine!' I responded sharply before yanking my arm from his grip and storming upstairs. It took just a few minutes to throw some things into my duffel bag and walk out, pushing past a couple of guests trying to tell me to calm down. The rain had gradually gotten heavier and the wind was up too. I actually relished the discomfort, I didn't want to feel good.
Fortunately, the funeral had been in the morning and I had enough time and luck to find a furnished flat that I could move into immediately, though to enable that to happen, I'd had to cough up six month's rental in advance. Again I turned out lucky, in that the flat was a good one with quite reasonable quality fittings. I would have taken almost anything and repented at leisure.
I wasn't working again that week so I had chance to move my few belongings from my bedroom to the flat. I ensured that I chose a time when I knew my father wasn't around.
I was due back at work on Sunday evening at ten o'clock so had plenty of time to settle into my new home, though 'home' was probably not the correct term at that time. I went running a lot, clocking up at least ten miles a day, sometimes more and I visited Mum's grave every day. I talked to her, telling her what had happened and venting my anger. She never once answered.
I had calmed down somewhat when I arrived at work. One of the things that I loved about my job was that I hardly saw anyone. I worked as a placer in a local potbank, not like the job of earlier times when bottle kilns were the only kiln available. My job was more civilised and a damn sight easier too. The kiln I worked on was a Siti kiln, which was actually just a conveyor belt through a gas fired furnace. It had four rows of rollers, two in, two out and an operator at each end. Firing time was around six hours with another one for cooling before it arrived at the end for removal.
Ware was placed on bats (2'x1' ceramic trays) which were then placed on the relevant row, each row being four bats wide. The top two rows were for glazed ware, on was freshly glazed, off was finished ware. Below was clay on and biscuit off. The only skill, if it can be called that, was placing as much ware on the bat as possible and in the case of glazed ware, ensuring that the pieces weren't touching each other, as that resulted in the two pieces ending up fused together.
There were only three people who worked nights, one at each end of the kiln and a supervisor who also looked after a couple of standard kilns. As the latter only needed loading and unloading once during the night, the supervisors job was rather cushy and he regularly slept through half the shift. As my kiln was continuous, it was supposed to be the supervisors job to relieve us for a meal break and any calls of nature. We usually got the meal-break but anything else was a bonus.
I was on permanent nights and was supposed to work Monday through Friday with one Sunday every three weeks. Allowing for a little bit of bribery by my colleagues I usually did all Sunday nights.
That Sunday, the work was just about enough for me not to dwell on the week's events. Monday morning I was almost halfway to my former home before I remembered my new place. My routine after work was simple, straight to bed, usually around six thirty, and sleep for between five and eight hours. Breakfast as soon as I got up and then start my day, usually with a run. A new part of that routine was now a visit to Mum's grave.
That first Monday I couldn't help noticing a young girl kneeling by a grave not far from my mother's. When I'd left, I couldn't recall seeing her so I assumed that she'd left before me. Twice more that week I noticed her and guessed that, as she was always in school uniform, her visits were timed with school hours. These thoughts were only ever fleeting.
"It still hurts just as much doesn't it?" A voice asked some weeks later as I was standing in front of my mother's grave.
I whipped around, about to give this intruder a mouthful, but when I saw it was the young girl, I held back. Her face was expressionless, she was not offering sympathy, just stating facts. As I looked at her I wondered how I'd missed the thick mane of red hair. The freckles that covered her face were easily missed given the actual attention I'd given her, but that hair was as red as I'd ever seen on a person.
I nodded, but answered a subdued, 'Yes!' as well.
'Your mother?' She asked.
'Yes. What about you?' I nodded towards the grave I always saw her at.
'My Nan, although she was the only mother I ever knew. I killed my real one.'
That simple toneless statement shocked me. I was just about to ask when she added, equally without emotion. 'She died bringing me into the world.'
I didn't know what to say, how to react, but it soon became obvious that she expected me to do neither. We talked for a while, first about our lost ones then about our feelings about it. I expressed my anger, not at the young girl, but in front of her. She nodded dispassionately and I got the feeling it would have been the same reaction if I'd been angry with her.
She was almost the opposite to me, as if everything, including anger, had drained out of her. For the first time since my mother's death and possibly for the first time ever, I felt empathy. It was also the first time I realised the difference between that and sympathy. I asked her why she'd approached me and she muttered phrases that didn't explain it, before giving up and saying that she just did.
Over the next few weeks I saw the little redhead often, especially after I started planning my visits to suit the times she was usually there. We always acknowledged each other, though we didn't always talk. When we did it was always the same; how did we feel; how were we coping; what options did we have?
The day I'd been dreading finally arrived. My mother's birthday. I'd booked the day off work, well the night before to be accurate, because I knew I'd be a wreck, though in hindsight that wasn't a good idea as it gave me far too much time for contemplation. I decided to visit the grave earlier than usual as I didn't want company, even my new friend's.
I had no idea how long I'd been standing staring at the black headstone that cut my mother's life down to a dozen or so words, when I felt a pair of arms wrap around me. Instinctively, I seemed to know that they were the young girls and gripped them tightly to me. We stayed like that for many minutes, neither of us speaking until eventually I turned around.
For the first time I saw tears in her eyes and pulled her to me and we just hugged each other for a very long time. When she finally started to pull away, I looked down at her.
'Thank you!' I said, 'you don't know how much I needed that.'
A glimpse of a smile, another first. 'I think I do, about as much as I did.'
'It is her birthday today.' I said as we stepped back creating that safe distance between us that we seem to crave. I was more than a bit taken back by her change of expression and the gasp she let out.
'It's my birthday today too!' She explained.
I asked how old she was and when she answered fourteen, I was glad I hadn't guessed as I would have said at least two years younger. Finally we got round to introducing ourselves and from then on I could think about Holly instead of the red-headed girl.
We chatted for about ten minutes before I felt the first drop of rain. 'We'd better be getting back before it starts to chuck it down.' I said looking up at the fast approaching heavy clouds.
'Doesn't matter much, ' Holly replied sadly.
'Why not, surely you don't want to get soaked?'
'Can't do much about it. Granddad doesn't get in 'til seven at the earliest, although since Nan dies it's been getting later and later.'
'Don't you have a key?' I asked surprised at her comments.
'No, never needed one. Granddad keeps promising to have one cut, but never seems to have the desire to do it. He doesn't have the desire for anything these days. He just goes to work, then the pub and finally bed. I think he only goes drinking to help him forget and to fill the time between work and sleep. Nan's dying has hit him really hard, he's still in a state of shock I think.'
Her admissions shocked me. Her manner seemed older than her years but what got to me most was the monotone voice and expressionless face. I was hurting from my mother's death, but I wasn't anywhere near as down as Holly. Maybe it was the anger coursing through me that was the difference.
'Holly!' I said softly, looking at her. 'I can't bring your Nan back, like you can't bring my mother back, but we can help each other.' I didn't feel that she could actually help me but thought it might sound better to the young girl. I continued when I saw a slight nod. 'For a start you can come home with me, so you don't get drenched.' The rain was already getting heavier and we both needed to get a move on to avoid that soaking.
'Okay!' She said without hesitation or feeling.
I held my hand out. 'I'm not a child!' she exclaimed showing at least some emotion.
I led the way to my car and made it with only minutes to spare. By the time I got out of the car-park I needed my windscreen wipers on high speed and even needed headlights it became that dark.
'Do you want to call anyone to let them no where you are?'
'Nobody to call, Granddad will still be at work and I don't know the number. Besides, isn't it a little late now that I'm already in your car?' She asked with just a hint of a smile.
I tried to reassure her. 'Don't worry I'm not going to hurt you.'
Her response shocked me to the core. 'Doesn't make that much difference, it's inevitable anyway.' Again her voice lacked all emotion.
'What is inevitable and why?'
'I know Granddad won't last much longer before he dies too or gets to the state where Social take me away from him.'
I knew that she meant Social Services, and considering how he already neglected her I had to agree. I waited for her to continue but it seemed that that was her answer.
'So what's inevitable?' I asked again.
'I know two other girls that were taken into care, both were raped within twenty-four hours, I don't expect it to be any different for me.' She had spoken all this time looking straight out of the window. She now turned to look at me before adding, 'so if you do rape me then it's only bringing it forward and I don't think you're the type to hurt me too much.'
It was Holly's acceptance of it as much as anything that I found almost impossible to understand. I had the sudden insight that my upbringing, for all its lack of materialistic wealth, had been privileged in comparison to some.
'Holly. I promise that you are safe with me.' It was all I could say, my head was too mixed up for anything else.
It turned out that I lived less than half a mile away from my guest, so she was quite familiar with the neighbourhood. The first thing I did when we got to my place was tell Holly to check the place out whilst I made us some food. My first thought had been to show her around myself but decided that taking her into the bedroom might frighten her or at least give her the wrong impression. I knew that I had absolutely no sexual feelings for the fourteen year old, but Holly didn't.
Bacon, sausage, black pudding, egg and beans was my speciality and seemed to go down well with the slender teenager. We spent the next two hours sat at the kitchen table talking. I learned about her life, brought up by her grandparents but always made aware, especially by her grandfather, that she had cost them a daughter. She never once mentioned her father and I never enquired. Her fabulous hair had caused a lot of name calling and subsequent fights but, unlike me, she had a reasonable group of school friends. It was only after her grandmother's passing that she had started to drift away from them. Most of her tale was told as if she was in a trance, just repeating things monotone.
I told her of my own childhood, endeavouring to make little incidents sound amusing, even though they hadn't been, in order to cheer her up a little. It was only partially successful.
When it was time to go, I extracted a promise that she would return if her grandfather was not back and also that she would come here whenever she was locked out of the house.
The following morning, just gone nine o'clock I was woken by a knock on my door. It turned out to be a young office lad from work who told me that I had to attend a meeting scheduled for ten o'clock that morning. He stressed that he had been told to make it clear that this would be during my own time and therefore unpaid. I told the messenger, in rather a rude manner, that I would not be there. He just shrugged his shoulders as if to say he'd delivered the message and didn't really care about anything else. I shut the door and returned to bed. Briefly, I wondered whether it would be better if I had a phone before deciding that that would make it too easy for them to contact me.
I awoke about the same time as usual, but in rather a foul mood, partly because of my sleep being interrupted but more the reason for it. That it was a shopping day was something else that didn't help. Feeling more miserable and angry than ever, I trudged to my car before driving to the nearest supermarket and began that day's chore. I had just started to empty my shopping trolley on the conveyor belt when the cashier spoke to me.
'This till has closed now, it's my break.' She said with total indifference, before returning her attention to her till.
My anger flared up once more. 'Well you know what you can do with your shop!' I said loudly as I walked past her.
'Oye! You can't just leave your shopping there!' She complained.
'It's not mine until I've paid for it and it seems my money isn't good enough.'
By now my raised and irate voice ensured that we had the attention of everyone around and as I walked towards the exit I saw a man in the usual dark suit striding towards me.
'Excuse me sir, what is the problem?' He asked in a rather condescending manner.
'Ask your cashier ... when she gets back from her break that is.'
I really wanted to let rip at this symbol of management but deep down, other than his tone of voice, I knew that he hadn't done anything wrong. I knew myself well enough that if I did stay to tell him what had happened then I would more than likely give in to that temptation, so I just walked past him and out to my car.
I sat in my car fuming, at the cashier, the supermarket, my own boss and company but also at myself. I would only have to go and spend another hour in another supermarket that was no better than this one. I didn't even find any real pleasure in telling them to stick their groceries up their proverbial. I did decide though that shopping would have to wait for a few days and I would just have to make do with whatever I already had in.
I left the supermarket and some time later found myself at the cemetery where I sat down on the damp grass and started talking to my mother.
'Are you alright? You sound angry, ' asked a tentative young voice.
Without turning I said, 'I'm fine Holly and I am a bit angry.'
'Why? Can I help at all?' She asked with real caring.
I smiled for the first time that day. This young girl seemed to reach out to me when no one else could. 'Let's just say that I'm not having a very good day. As for helping me, you already have, just by being here.'
I was looking at her by then and could see that she didn't really understand but she still nodded as if she did. I asked her about what her grandfather had said when she got back.
'Nothing at all. I don't think he'd even noticed I wasn't there.' She responded with obvious sadness.
We talked for a few moments before she returned to her mother's grave. When I stood up to leave some time later, Holly was still there. Although she made no sound, I could easily see the tears streaming down the young girl's face.
'Holly!' I whispered.
She turned slowly before moving into my open arms. It felt so strange to be holding anyone so close, yet so right. There was nothing remotely sexual, or even sensual for that matter, it was just two people in desperate need of comfort, clinging to each other. I don't know about Holly, but for me it worked, I felt my mood lifting as we stood close to the graves of our loved ones. I also realised that Holly, with the sole exception of my mother, was the the only person who I'd met in many years who didn't anger or annoy me.
Yes there had been a couple of girls whose physical attractions had temporarily suppressed that irritation but nobody who I'd ever actually felt comfortable with.
I felt the teenage girl lean back as she looked up at me. 'Can I go back with you again please?'
'Of course. Holly, I said any time and I meant it.' The smile on her tear stained face surprised me; not because it was there but because of my own response to it. It made me feel really good, something that I hadn't felt in a long, long time.
Back home we both seemed to relax a little more and we carried on talking about ourselves. When it was time to eat I asked my guest if there was anything she didn't like.
'Celery and fish.' She responded quickly.
'Okay, I'll start something off. Do you want to help or watch telly or maybe play on the computer?'
'Can I help, I need to learn how to cook better. Nan was showing me but... '
I could see her reaction as she realised her Nan would not be doing it again. The tears reappeared and once more held my arms out to comfort her. After a while I managed to pull away and start tea.
'Sweet Chilli alright?'
She nodded and we set about making my version of a Thai Sweet Chilli. Holly had never tried any spicy food before so I went easy on the chilli. It still turned out a bit hot for her but she enjoyed it enough to persevere.
After we'd finished eating and Holly had done the dishes, she asked if I minded her using the computer. Doing the dishes was something that she really wanted to do, not because she like doing dishes but more so that she felt to be contributing in some small way. It was why I let her, after only a minor protestation. I told her that she was welcome to use the computer and internet whenever she wanted, providing of course that I wasn't. Her grin was becoming a highlight of my day.
Heading for work that evening, the goodwill that Holly had created in me, gradually wore off as I anticipated some comeback from the meeting I'd declined to attend. Sure enough, the night supervisor, his boss the production manager and another youngish man were waiting for me and I was summoned to the production manager's office.
I was surprised when it was the young man that took control.
'Don't ever do that again!' He started angrily.
'What?' I asked though I had a fair idea.
'If I tell you to attend a meeting then you drop everything and attend, understood?'
'If I'm at work then of course, ' I responded, 'but if I'm at home then probably not.'
This didn't go down to well. 'I don't give a shit whether you're at your mother's funeral or fucking some little tart. When I say jump, you bloody well jump.'
I took the three short steps that separated us and hit him. My fist connected with his jaw with enough force to send him flying across the room. I didn't stay around to see how he was, I just stormed out of the office and headed home. It was only when I tried to grip my car's steering wheel that I realised that my hand hurt. It was quite swollen too but I managed to drive back.
I had no idea who the man was, but I was guessing that he was a member of the family that owned the company. The more I thought about it, I realised that he was probably just using idiotic examples rather than knowing that my mother had recently died. The owners certainly didn't care enough about their workers to know details like that. I knew that I had overreacted but still felt no real remorse.
I got home and switched the TV on and waited for the police to arrive. By midnight they hadn't come so I decided to try and get some sleep. I did, but it was fitful and uncomfortable as I kept rolling onto my hand, in fact it was so bad that I didn't end up crawling out of bed until an hour before I usually got up having worked all night.
My hand was still swollen and I briefly considered going to the hospital but decided to wait a few days. Around one o'clock I heard a knock at the door and it was with a slightly heavy heart that I opened it, expecting to find the police. Instead, it was Mr. Wilkinson, the Production Manager.
'Hello David, may I come in a moment?'
'Of course, ' I answered stepping out of his way. I was intrigued by this visit. Management just didn't go out to workers homes, they summoned them in to the offices.
'Well first off, let me apologise for Mr. Khan's comments. He wasn't aware that your mother was so recently deceased but he shouldn't have spoken like that in any circumstance.' He paused to look at me for a moment before continuing. 'He was trying to justify to his father that he warranted a senior management position. Needless to say his father and uncle were not impressed at all, and it wasn't just the way he handled you either. Anyway, I think it will be a few years before he's seen around the factory again. Initially he was all for having you arrested and prosecuted, but when the circumstances were explained even he realised that he wouldn't be viewed in too good a light unless me and Harry were prepared to lie for him. Needless to say we weren't.'
'So no police then?' I asked.
'No David, no police. That doesn't excuse your actions one little bit though and after a lot of careful consideration this is what we're going to do. You will not be dismissed, though that was discussed, instead you will have a written warning and a one week suspension, unpaid of course.'
I was just about to argue when I remembered my hand, it would be at least a couple of days before I could use it effectively enough for work. I also accepted that I had let my temper get the better of me. I nodded my acceptance.
Seeing my nod, he continued. 'So! We will assume you start back on Monday night, in the mean time try not to hit any more of the management team. Now, just between me and you, thanks for bringing everything to a head so swiftly. If Mr. Khan junior had stayed around too long it would have done immense harm to the company.'
He was trying to lighten the mood with his middle statement and I acknowledged this with a mouth only smile before escorting him to the door. I went through the motions of thanking him before returning to my little two-seater sofa to ponder events.
Although I hadn't really been concerned about whether I'd lost my job or not, in fact I assumed that it was inevitable, I did like it. I enjoyed the hours as well as the solitude. I recalled an old film, "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner" or something like that. To be honest it was the title and just glimpses of the film that I remembered but it summed up what I liked about my job. It also reminded me that I hadn't been out running for a few days so decided to get a few miles in.
The run was shorter than normal because the jogging caused some discomfort and throbbing in my hand. As usual I ended up at the cemetery.
Once back I felt a little disorientated from my sudden change of hours so decided to do my shopping once more. This time it was concluded without incident and I was back home packing everything away when I heard someone at the door. I opened it to see a very nervous looking young girl.
'Er ... you said I could come whenever I wanted... ' Holly mumbled.
I gave her a genuine smile, the first of the day, and invited her in, reinforcing the sincerity of my offer.
Once she accepted, her nerves disappeared and we both became comfortable. She immediately asked if she could use the computer to do some homework.
'No.' I said firmly before quickly adding, 'or at least not until you've helped me put away the shopping.'
The frown that started swiftly disappeared, replaced by a big smile and a strong nod of her head. That only took a few minutes so she was soon in my spare bedroom, if a 8' x 6' space can be accurately described as a bedroom, where my computer stuff was kept, delving into the web, hopefully doing whatever her teacher or teachers wanted. I made a brew, took a cup to Holly before returning to my sofa to savour my own cuppa.
Some time later as my eyes were watching some inane afternoon TV show, Holly reappeared all smiles. She looked at her usual chair, saw that my washing was stacked on it, so sat down next to me. We were instantly drawn to each other as the old sofa's springs were not in the best condition and had a major sag in the middle. This meant that we were actually leaning towards each other. Holly giggled, the first time I had heard her sound like the young teenager that she actually was. As much for comfort as anything else, I put my arm around her and felt pretty good when she snuggled up against me.
'You seem quite happy, ' I stated.
'Yup! I managed to do some homework that I was worried about. We don't have a computer at home and I need some sort of authorisation from Granddad to stay behind and use the school's.'
I didn't realise it at the time but that afternoon was to be repeated with only slight variations for the next two years. Apart from when we were eating in the living room, Holly always sat cuddled up next to me. There was no sexual contact between us but I was soon honest enough to know that I loved my pretty young redhead. I didn't have a sister but was sure that if I had, that is how I would feel about her. Our visits to the cemetery eased as we found in each other the peace and security that our loved ones had previously provided.
I decided that I had no intention of ever living with my father again, we'd had no contact whatsoever since I'd stormed out, so rather than continue renting, I purchased a little two-up, two-down terraced house a few streets from where I'd rented. Holly loved it and helped enormously with getting it cleaned and decorated.
Outside my life changed very little. I was just that little bit calmer, that bit harder to rile and most surprisingly quite a bit more tolerant. My sex life was virtually non-existent and what there was was entirely with professionals. One interesting change did occur, exactly a year later when to celebrate her fifteenth birthday, I agreed to host a small party for her and her school friends. I knew that, as it was also my mother's birthday, I needed to be occupied as much as possible and this was a good as any.
The monotone, almost morose, teenager I'd first met was virtually gone, only reappearing approaching and during the anniversary of her Nan's death and over the Christmas holidays. The latter was a very emotional time for both of us and Holly, apart from sleeping, virtually lived at my house even when I was working. In fact, during school holidays, whenever I got up after a night shift, I always found a good fry-up waiting for me, along with a grinning teenager. She seemed to love doing anything for me and it was something that I could easily get used to.
Holly was now a popular pupil at her school. Because of the small size of my house Holly agreed to limit her guests to eight, which still proved too many. All were girls, so I felt quite happy to retreat to my bedroom and leave them to it.
Holly was having none of it and virtually dragged me back to the party. Nine sexily clad nubile fourteen and fifteen year olds might be every man's fantasy, but I found it both arousing and embarrassing in equal measure. Of course all the girls noticed this and led by my so called friend, went out of their way to tease me. I think I saw more flashes of knickers and views down well displayed cleavage than I had seen in the rest of my life put together.
Tammy, a petite brunette, and clear leader of the group was the first to leave, and insisted on a kiss before she went. Holly and the rest of her friends were cheering and wouldn't let me back away. Determined to make it just a peck I leaned in slowly. Tammy grabbed the back of my head and gave me as good a kiss as I'd ever had, although admittedly I hadn't had too many. Of course all the rest of the girls wanted similar treatment.
In the next few minutes I just about tripled the women/girls I'd kissed. The last, about two hours later was Holly, who complained that she was not going to be the odd one out. It was a good job that she waited until she was at the door before she kissed me. Seeing the effect that she had on me it was an extremely happy young girl that headed back to her grandfather's.
I was in shock. This was the first romantic or sexual contact we'd ever had. Sure, we cuddled up much of the time when we talked or watched TV, but that was just as friends. I now had to re-evaluate my feelings for Holly. I knew, without doubt, that I loved her but until then I had always considered it the love of a brother to his sister. In many ways she had replaced my mother as my best friend and only confidant.
In the end, I decided that Holly's kiss had been in the same category as that of her friends, a mixture of showing off and safe experimenting with their burgeoning sexuality. When I saw Holly the next day I was certain that my thinking was correct. She was still in great mood but made no comment about the kiss, nor did she try to duplicate it.
A few months later when the second Christmas without Mum was approaching, I had a bit of a shock. Not a flash, bang, wallop type, more of a sudden insight. Holly and I were a lot closer than ever before. Many, if not most, of our talks included a lot of simple touching; they were totally non sexual, fingers on an arm or back of the hand or a hand on a thigh or knee. My shock was that I couldn't remember how we'd got to this stage. Even our greetings and goodbyes now carried a kiss, although not as passionate as the one we'd shared on her birthday.
That Christmas was the happiest I could recall. My seemingly innate anger had all but dissipated and I felt more comfortable with myself than ever before. Naturally this extended out into the real world and I interacted with other people better.
As Holly's next birthday approached I was surprised one afternoon when I answered a knock at my door to find an old and frail man there.
'Hi, I'm Bill Butterley, Holly's grandfather. I assume that you are David.' He said quietly.
I just managed to nod. We looked at each other for a few long seconds before I recovered and invited him in.
When we were sitting, each with a good shot of whisky in our hands he began to talk.
'First of all David, I'd like to thank you for what you've done for Holly. When Peggy died, I just about lost it. I turned to drink to hide the pain and virtually ignored my granddaughter. We have never been as close as we should have been. I wasn't much better at dealing with Hannah's death. Hannah was Holly's mother and my only child. I never actually blamed Holly for her death, more for surviving when Hannah didn't. Peggy was the opposite and cherished her granddaughter as all she had left of her daughter.' He paused and took a deep drink.
'Why are you telling me this and not Holly. She's the one who needs to hear it, not me.'
'That will come, but for now please bear with me. Anyway, by the time I surfaced from my depressive state I saw how happy and alive Holly had become. It didn't take much snooping around to find where she was spending all her time and no effort at all to conclude that you were the reason for her happiness.'
He looked me straight in the eye, took a breathe and continued. 'I can't say that approve of your relationship with my granddaughter but I can't deny that it has certainly been good for her. I assume that you use protection as she hasn't got pregnant... '
'Hold it there Mr. Butterley. Holly and I have a special relationship but it is not and has never been a physical one. I believe Holly is still a virgin and if she's not, then it has nothing to do with me.' I said vehemently.
I was surprised when he almost collapsed back into the chair but was totally unprepared for the look of disappointment that came across his face. I expected either an argument or at least relief.
'You look disappointed, ' I pointed out.
'I'm sorry but you're right. I had hoped that you loved her.' He answered, sadness filling his voice.
'I'm sorry, I don't understand. I would have thought that you'd be happy.'
'Under normal circumstances I would be, but as usual my plans are flawed.'
'I still don't understand, but if it helps I do love Holly.'
I saw his face light up. 'Enough to marry her?'
It was my turn to collapse into my chair. Gob-smacked is the nearest description to how I felt.
'I have never even considered it, ' I answered honestly.