“So, what about you Terry?” The four friends were on a reunion weekend, back in the home town. Terry, Dave, John, and Kevin. ‘The four mustketeers’ they’d called themselves when they were 10. All had gone up to the same secondary school. All had gone to University (Dave to Oxford, John to Manchester, Kevin to Durham and Terry to Southampton), and stayed in vague touch over the years. Sometimes one or other would drop off the radar for a year or two, but they exchanged Christmas cards (or their respective spouses had, keeping up their husband’s links to the past). They hadn’t all met for decades. Retirement loomed and, even then, it had been Susan, wife to Kevin, who had said “why don’t you go?” when the reunion school invite came through.
There was a bit of schoolboy “I’ll go if you’ll go” – like it was the first party with girls, a memorable occasion that John had just reminded them of – but eventually they had all agreed to go, ‘sans wives’. Back to the hometown, the happy, sad, and other memories. Back to the school they had been at since 5 years old (except Kevin, he’d arrived at age 8), back to the town where they had kissed their first girl, failed their first chat-up, had their first heart-break.
Boys, men now, aren’t supposed to remember this kind of romantic rubbish, but they do; they just don’t get the opportunity to talk about it much. A girl can reminisce about having her heart broken at 11, but a boy is expected to tough it out and pretend that the devastating put-down he received at 10 didn’t affect the rest of his life, undermine his confidence for years and finally make him accept second best rather than risk that pain again. Tonight, though, they had done the school tour - “where are the outside toilets? Do you remember Mandy-Mandy-show-us-your-pants?” – they had done the walk around town – “I miss Woolworths. What have they done to the Library? What the fuck is that monstrosity in front of the War Memorial?” and walked down to the derelict canal - “It’s a fucking housing estate? Water Landings? Wharf Lane? My God! They’ve not taken the real history into account at all, the wharf was on the other side, near Old Man Godber’s pub – you remember the pub? Where the drugs were cheap and the girls were cheaper” – that was the story all the teenagers knew, and none had the courage to go in to find out.
Now they were in the Mansion House, the only un-improved pub in the town. Still the same smelly toilets, and still the same menu it seemed (Fish and Chips, Lasagne, Chicken and Chips or Fuck OFF!); On the plus side there were no wanky 20-somethings talking loudly about their latest Apple phone. “Who needs a phone that can show you a film in 3D? What a poncy, fucking pisstake”.
These were typical 60 year olds, remembering a past of coppers - who hit you, teachers – who hit you, and parents – who hit you, with rose tinted glasses and less patience than they used to have.
Kevin was the speaker; they were talking about firsts, first girlfriend, first sex, first child. First child had come first, they had grown slightly mawkish, remembering their delight and pride and overwhelming joy and hope. Kevin’s first was in prison for GBH, Terry’s was doing okay as a middle manager “no ambition, but at least he has a job – no offence Kevin.” (None was taken. It was as if they’d never been apart; they were just four friends, friends for life no matter what). John’s daughter had become a charity worker and been killed in Somalia – a tear appeared in his eye, he’d never get over it, one friend put a hand on his shoulder, ‘nuf said. Dave was on his third wife and had no idea what his first child was doing, she had sided with her mother and broken all contact with him; he would never get over that either.
Kevin had just given his story. The first night in Collingwood College in Durham he had met a beautiful blonde 2nd year, got hopelessly drunk and woken up naked in her bed the following day beside a similarly snoring girl. She had never finished her degree as she became an alcoholic and got kicked out. Did he wish it had been more romantic? Yes. Did he wish he could remember it? Yes. Still, it had given him a kick up the pants and he hadn’t gone down the road of hedonistic parties and random sex. The Reverend Kevin Jones had only told one other person – his wife; it wasn’t a story to be proud of, but it did make him more understanding of sinners.
“What about you Terry? Sarah by any chance?” Sarah had been Terry’s on-off girlfriend from 15 to 19. Then it had been off for good.
“Sarah? Oh no. No, way off there mate. Sit back, it’s a long story...
It all started when we were burgled. You remember that? I was nine. It absolutely petrified me –”
“- they never caught them did they?”
“- no, that was part of the problem I think. I was terrified they’d come back. For several weeks I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t like they’d been violent or anything. I hadn’t woken to find them in my room. I don’t know, it was just ‘something’. No idea what. –”
“- but you seemed so confident at school, like you were, well unaffected”
“- I know. I was desperate for people not to know, even you three. Mum and Dad were patient. For the first three months after I was regularly wetting the bed. I wouldn’t sleep in my room for several weeks, then they slowly weaned me off sleeping in their bed. They’d let me fall asleep there and then carry me into my room. Slowly I got used to it again, but it took, oh, maybe six months. Even then I hated the idea of them going out at night. That’s when Michelle came on the scene. Michelle was 16 and looking for some extra money; she lived two doors down. She was slim, shoulder length blonde hair. That was it! I can still remember the first time she came round ‘for tea’. That was my impression of her, slim, blonde. Nothing more. She came round a couple of times; I suspect she was paid even for those visits, but it got me used to her. Then she came round to sit in when Mum and Dad had to go out to one of Dad’s dinners. He had to do a lot of entertaining in his job. Looking back I think Mum was less supportive and more suspicious, but that’s a different story. What? Oh, well I know he had an affair with his boss’s secretary; no, no, different story for another time. So anyway Mum liked to go along with him, and I think she was good at it actually.
Michelle came round; we played cards. We watched TV, I watched TV and she did homework and then Mum and Dad came home and Michelle went home. That was it, I liked her; I wasn’t an obnoxious pain and so she was willing to come back. I’m sure Mum and Dad breathed a sigh of relief.
They started going out more, and Michelle came round more, did her ‘O’ Levels and started on ‘A’s. She earned a bit of money for make-up and clothes and stuff, but she told me she wasn’t interested in boys yet, she wanted to get to Cambridge; actually she went to London I believe, got a PhD and a good job and then threw it up to marry a deadbeat. People eh?
Well, she would come round and I would start to realise that she was very attractive. Not like your regular babysitter John. Don’t you remember? You pointed her out to me in the street when we were thirteen or fourteen. Looked like failed experiment from Dr Frankenstein. Yes, I know that’s cruel, but it’s what you said, ha ha!
Anyway, now I could describe her a bit better, she was slim, with a definite and pronounced bust. She’d turned seventeen now, and I was convinced I could see her bust getting bigger every time she came to visit. Her face was slightly longer than wide, so not a round face like a pixie, more elf-like. Small ears stuck out ever so slightly too much I think and grey eyes that looked at you as if weighing you up. I remember Dad saying he felt like he’d been tested and found wanting. I knew what he meant, it was like she had very high standards and no one met them and that saddened her. Her nose was straight and about the right size I guess. But her mouth! I suppose it was a subtle lipstick shade, but her lips always looked like inviting strawberries. When her mouth moved I would be mesmerised by the ripple of two red lines. None if this was overtly sexual, even seeing her breasts softly rise and fall as she worked; she was just pretty. I was only nine or ten after all. No wet dreams yet. Not yet. I don’t think she was anorexic or anything, just slim. She wasn’t sporty either, I think she just was blessed with a slim young body with a good bust up top. Kind of inverted pear. Not like Claire, she’s proper English pear shape” Claire was his wife “mind you... “ he patted his stomach “I can’t talk eh?
Anyway, she had a perfect arse. Honest, it really was a 10! Her bottom was small and rounded without looking like a couple of tennis balls. I would watch out for her bending over; but even then I don’t think it was sexual, may be it was, I was just fascinated by the perfection of her female bottom. There was no mound at the front like my mum had, she had no fat on her stomach and her legs were shapely and defined. Not two sticks, they had shape and a slight echo as she walked. You know what I mean? A slight ripple rather than bony legs or wobbly thighs.
So, yes, I suppose I was falling in love or a first crush. Entirely understandable. She would arrive in a mini-skirt and then, after homework, would curl up on the sofa and I would engineer to curl up with her as we watched a film. She had soft, tender places to lean against.
So, I was ten by now and back to normal, or so we all thought. Then the evening came when she was here and the phone rang. I answered it. It was Mum, wanting to speak to Michelle. I heard the half a conversation ‘Yes, no, no, that’s fine. Yes, I can ring if I need to. Honestly, it’s fine’. Then Michelle told me that Dad was over the limit by too much – I didn’t know there was leeway in those days – and they’d have to stay over. Michelle would stay with me for the night. It all seemed fine.
I went to bed, fell asleep ... and woke up screaming. I’d wet the bed and everything. I was so horrified! Michelle came in and was wonderful. She put me in the bathroom and told me to take off my pyjamas, have a wash, and found some pants for me to wear. When I came out, she had stripped the bed; she took the pyjamas and put them all in the washing machine; promising they would be dry by the morning. She put me in her bed – the spare bed that she was going to use. The thing was, she hadn’t intended to stay over obviously. She had no nightclothes. She asked if I’d mind sharing with her in her underclothes. I was too tired to say anything. When she came to bed I think she had waited until the washing had finished, then hung everything up with the heating on to dry them quickly. I was asleep when she got in with me. I woke to find my arm round her, resting lightly on her breast, and her looking bemused at me. I pulled my arm off like it had been on a hot poker, and mumbled an apology. She kissed my forehead and got out. It was about 6am and I watched her perfect bottom leave the bedroom. She was dressed in a young girl’s cotton pants and bra, mauve with a white pattern of butterflies on them. That image is imprinted on my brain. God help me! When I occasionally have trouble these days with the old crane – rising to full height – I think of that bottom in its entirely unsexy pants leaving the room and it always gets me hard, even now. She went downstairs in her bra and pants to check the sheets. I wonder if anybody walked past – a paper boy perhaps – and saw her in the hallway and went back with a story for his friends. But you see? She wasn’t thinking sexy then, not at all. She had them ironed and back on the bed long before Mum and Dad came home.
I guess Mum realised, or was told, what had happened but no-one ever spoke about it. Ironically the trauma of that first night made me realise that Michelle could cope; I was much less worried about overnighting after that. I tried to be subtle about it, but I let Mum know this; Dad was rarely around to talk to, that was normal then of course. And so stage two in my growing up began.
About every two weeks, maybe more, there would be a reason to be away overnight; a dinner or a visit to gran – who was dying of cancer at the time. It wasn’t thought a good idea to expose me to that trauma as I was ‘sensitive’. Actually it’s one of the biggest regrets of my life I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. Anyway it meant Michelle could stay over. I admit now that I was thinking less innocently about her. I had no idea about sex yet, but my little pego apparently did. What? Pego? Oh, it’s a Victorian nickname for penis, I rather like it.
Anyway it would occasionally get stiff at the thought of her. And here’s the thing. The next time I made it to her bed, it was her fault. We watched a scary movie one night. I didn’t understand all the allusions in it, I do now. There was rape and sodomy and all sorts. I really shouldn’t have been watching it; but like I say, I didn’t understand a lot of it. She did, she was genuinely scared at the end. She didn’t want to go up the stairs. She said that if I was scared I could sleep with her again; so naturally I said I was scared. Of course she had a nightdress on and I had pyjamas, but I was still cuddled up close to this beautiful woman – as I saw it. Of course, even then, I knew nothing would or could come of it. I was way too young, but I was enjoying each day as it came. In the middle of the night we both needed a wee. I was asleep when she got out to go, I was dozy and didn’t know what I was doing. I just wandered in to the bathroom half-asleep to see her sitting on the toilet having a piss. I didn’t see anything! Well, nothing except her knickers round her ankles. I wasn’t even sure then how girls did a wee. I apologised and retreated rapidly downstairs to the other toilet, and had to wait for my erection to drop. I didn’t understand that, but I was excited, I knew that.
She said sorry, she should have locked the door; and I said sorry I should have realised the light was on. And neither of us thought that I should return to my own bed, I got in with her and she spooned round me and we slept. After that I always shared her bed. Hard to say why, it was like it was a little treat for me and she liked the secrecy of doing something not actually wrong but perhaps not approved of.
Dave! I’m coming to it! Patience!
Well, the summer holidays came and Dad had to go to Sweden for three days. Mum was definitely going too! So I had Michelle for three days. For three days we did things. We went swimming, and I was allowed to look at her bikini-clad body. It wasn’t some ‘where’s the cloth’ bikini; it was the type girls wore then, full size pants and breasts completely covered by a pair of pleated cups that made sure no hint of a nipple could be imagined inside. Still, she was with me and I was pleased. We went cycling and had a picnic in the woods – Borten Woods, where that body was found a couple of years ago, yes, I know, makes you think eh? – and after a litre of pop each we both needed a pee and went behind bushes and she saw me spying on her, not that I saw anything, and chased me and ... well I enjoyed her sitting on me and tickling me. She realised suddenly that my shorts were standing out and made a comment, nothing derogatory. But she realised then that I was reaching pubescence.
That evening she shouted from the kitchen, was there anything I wanted. I said quietly ‘I want to see your bra and panties again’ then turned to see her standing beside me, she’d walked in without me hearing her. She looked at me, smiled and walked out. What did that mean? I wondered. Was that it? Would she say she couldn’t babysit anymore? I was scared all evening; but that night, she said it was time for bed, took off her clothes and went into the bathroom in her bra and pants. She came out in them too ‘you mustn’t tell anyone. I’d get into trouble’ was all she said, and got into bed with me. Then she said ‘but fair’s fair, you too’. Now I wasn’t wearing any pants, but I let her undo my pyjama top and pull it off, and then pull down my pyjama bottom. I was naked with a girl of seventeen. So yes, I was also stiff as a board, well as a ruler anyway.