I had a plan – foolish me. It was the end of the Easter vacation, the new term would be very long – Easter was in March. Lots of time to prepare myself for the school-leaving exams.
My plan was to work hard for the exams, if I passed them with Bs and Cs I could transfer to the other school and take college-entry exams. And how? Firstly dump my useless boyfriend, secondly only go to the pub to meet my friends once a week on Saturdays and thirdly get help with maths – I was useless at maths.
I told him straight, “You're useless, Robbie. You know last time I was at your place I spent all my time talking to your mother and sister, then you slipped out of the house to watch your football team on the large screen at the pub. I said more to your sister on Wednesday than you say to me in a year. You're useless. The end.”
He wasn't useless, at least in bed. But I needed more than that. I had been toying with the idea of splitting up since Xmas. “That's it, Robbie.” He said nothing, typical. But his sister had a lot to say. She gave me two hours of why I needed her brother down the pub on the last Saturday before the summer term. She's clever, is Ruby. She told me how wonderful Robbie was, I almost believed her.
I learned two things, firstly that leaving Robbie was a very good idea and secondly that I liked girls. This was new, very new. Did I like Ruby? I didn't know – it certainly would not have been a good idea to actively find out. Very puzzling.
The clock showed all threes, I lay in bed thinking. Why was I suddenly interested in girls? I had tried a few boys, but none of them had all the stuff I expected from a partner. I certainly found Ruby interesting, did she know that? Hopefully not, but she had woken something inside me. I told myself forcefully “You don't need no boy, you don't need no girl, not until the summer vacation, remember your plan. Just turn over and go to sleep.”
“No, Robbie. Get lost!”
The new school term started on the Monday, no problems, and sports in the afternoon. Our beloved sports teacher was heavily into tennis, swimming, golf, lacrosse and field hockey – all suitable sports for young ladies. That meant mostly tennis – there were not enough girls to form lacrosse and hockey teams. However there were enough girls who wanted to play football.
The head teacher wanted football, she wanted school football teams, she wanted school football teams to play the other schools. We had four teams – upper and lower girls and upper and lower boys. I was the captain of the girls upper-school team.
So the weak and washy girls played tennis with Miss Upham and the real girls played football with me. Miss Upham ignored me. I ignored Miss Upham.
Monday afternoon was a training session, I was also the team coach. I may be not the best footballer, but I can lead and I can train. Maybe these skills will be useful for me one day. Part of being captain was knowing the team members – I had a good look at all the girls as they came out of the showers – part of being captain was knowing the team members.
The alarm clock displayed all fours. I knew the truth, I did like girls, I had seen all the girls, the tennis players too, I had seen all the girls unadorned, how they really were. Some were very pretty, I mean beautiful, some were plain, some were ugly, some were odd. Who did I like? That was strange, I liked some of the pretty, some of the plain, some of the ugly and at least one of the odd.
Chelly was odd, she was not pretty, she was not ugly, there was something very odd about her appearance. What? I was very attracted to her, as were most of the boys in the school, she got asked out more than any other girl, but no, she was not normally interested. Perhaps she had the right pheromones.
Josephine was small, shy and ugly, everybody ignored her, she played tennis, she got all As in class, straight alpha. However naked she was certainly small, certainly shy, but not the least bit ugly. Big question mark.
The coming day was Tuesday, more school and my first maths coaching session with Miss Candlefoot.
“No, Robbie. Don't ask me. Try your sister Ruby, she's got all the brains in your family.”
What did I know about trigonometry? Not much. “Let's start from the beginning.” Lots of triangles and wavy lines. “It's a sine curve.” I began to understand. “Remember sine, cosine and tangent.”
I did some exercises, yes, I was learning something, I said so, Miss Candlefoot was very helpful. She left the room to make tea. I looked around, Miss Candlefoot had a pretty, full-of-light bungalow. I returned to my work.
It was moist, it was warm, it was wonderful. I knew that it was wonderful, nothing like that had happened to me before. I said nothing. The lips wandered slowly across my cheek to my nose and stopped. The lips wandered slowly down to my lips and stopped.
“No, Robbie, don't be ridiculous, you won't do that, you ain't got the courage. I'll tell you something, if you top yerself, I won't go to your funeral.” That sat.
I found it, it was stuck in the back of the desk behind a drawer in a classroom. It had no date, no name at the start, no name at the end, it was a love letter.
You are so cruel to me, you don't judge the words you say, you are so careless, you hurt me so. But I love you, I can't help but love you. And do you love me, you never say, you hurt me so.
It was painful to read.
You spoke those words and I loved you, these words:
“Ay, while you live, draw your neck out o' the collar.”
It got worse.
We shall be found out, not that you will suffer, you are so careless, you use your mouth so carelessly, I will lose my job and you will laugh.
It was written in green ink, only the teachers used green ink, especially Miss Candlefoot. A teacher had written this love letter to a boy or girl at the school, that was something that could cost a teacher his or her job. So who was the boy or girl? I recognised the line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, spoken by Gregory, one of the Capulets.
So it was a boy, but no, who played the part of Gregory in the school play last year. It was Chelly, I remember it well.
Nights in white satin Never reaching the end Letters I've written Never meaning to send
It was Thursday, I was walking from the school and along the High Street. There was Josephine standing in front of a shop window, was she looking into the shop or was she looking at her own reflection in the shop window?
“Hello, Jo. I have something to ask of you.” I had worked out in my head who she was. She was either two years behind us, puberty hadn't hit her yet. Or she was really two years younger than us and had been pushed up into our class because she was so clever. But why was she ugly with her clothes on?
“Please give me your cardigan, Jo.”
“What do you want that for?” She took it off anyway.
“Look at it! It's grey, it's shapeless, it's dreary, it's ugly, it's just awful. Why do you wear it?”
“Mum says that it keeps me warm...”
“Keeps you warm? It's summer, you don't need it.” I pulled the hairpins out of the bun on the back of her head and let her hair fall down.
“Jo, turn to the shop window and what do you see? Take your glasses off.” Big surprise. “You have a round face, Jo, you look better with long hair, you look much better without that ugly cardigan and those silly glasses. You look nice enough to eat.”
Josephine said nothing, she stared at the window glass, I gave her the cardigan back. “Take my advice, throw that cardigan into the dog's basket, he'll like it. And get yerself a new pair of glasses – don't let your mother choose'em.”
“No, get away from me. I could lose my job over this. This has got to stop now. Leave me in peace. You only want to hurt me. Leave me alone with the pain...” She cried.
“Shut up, Miss Candlefoot. You will never leave me. I will not let you go.” I rushed over to her and grabbed her as gently as I could. I put one arm around her waist and with the other I pushed her head into my face. And I whispered softly into her ear and she sobbed.
“You are the best that has ever happened to me since I was born. It's no joke, it's true. I cannot let you go, I will never let you go. You cannot leave me. I cannot leave you. You are crying, I can hear that, but I do not know why you are crying. Are you afraid? Do you hate me? Are you in pain? Emotional overload?”
“I have hurt you. I did not want to hurt you. I never want to hurt you, ever. I shouted at you. I told you to shut up. That was wrong of me, I'm sorry. I grabbed you, that was wrong too. Please forgive me.” I chewed her earlobe gently.
“I will feel your lips on my lips. I love you so much. There, I've said it. How do I know that I love you? I just do. Do you love me, I think you do. I want you, I need you, I want all of you. I've said that too. Do I want too much? Yes, I want all of you. You feel so good in my arms. You are still sobbing.”
“I am too violent. I shoved my arm deep into you and grabbed your heart and squeezed it – I want all of your love. Please forgive me – I want so much of you, all of you. I can feel your love. Please give it to me, all of it. I hold you so very tight.”
We were all in the pub on Saturday night drinking beer and in she came. Her name was Cellina, everyone called her Chelly and behind her back Calamity Jane. She was a walking disaster, she was very sexy.
Things broke when she was around, just anything and everything, the furniture, anything made of glass or porcelain, anything electrical. She was careless, she was clumsy. She was careless with the words she used, she insulted people needlessly, she upset people. Everybody suffered when she was around, watch out for broken glass.
She never cared, she never noticed the chaos, it was normal in her life. She sat on my lap and knocked my glass of beer onto the boy and girl sitting behind me. “Oh, so sorry.” She grabbed the now empty glass and banged the side of my head with it. She did not say sorry, she had not noticed what she had done.
“Hey, everyone, look at my new girlfriend.” Who was that? Everyone was looking at me. She kissed me. “Oh, oh, oh. She's lovely, you know.” Just what I wanted? She grabbed me tight and kissed me again deeply and heavily. My body went limp, I liked what she was doing to me. What was happening?
“What were you doing on Monday afternoon? We all saw you. You were looking at us in the showers. You like us girls don't you. Marianne told me you explained it – you as captain had to know all about the team, every last bit of us. And we're s'posed to believe that? You...”
Did I go red in the face? Yes, big time. Big crash. But there was nothing I could do about it. There was no defence against Chelly. It would get worse.
Early Sunday morning found me on a bus to Petersfield. I had a bus pass to get to school and at the weekend I could go anywhere with it.
“Hello Miss Candlefoot, fancy meeting you here.”
We walked through the town and round the park and heath, we had much to talk about. One thing was certain, we belonged in each other's lives, something permanent, something to keep very secret.
We would meet every Tuesday and Thursday evening at her place for extra maths lessons and maybe at weekends at secret places like Petersfield. We would sink very slowly and very softly into a cauldron of love. I would always call her Miss Candlefoot and she would use my description “dragon who plays football”.
At the end of term we would have to plan again, she knew that I was sixteen and that I wanted to go to college, which meant studying for college-entry exams. Her lips are tremendous.
Chelly persuaded me to help her with her homework at her place. Her dad was down the pub as usual, he had never had a job in his life. Her mum was doing one of the three jobs she had to keep the family going.
No homework, she told me everything two girls could do with one another – I learnt a lot.
“Why are you staring at my plonkers? D'yer want to put one of them in your...”
“Perhaps, Chelly. But I want to tell you something about them first.” There was something strange about her breasts – she was not lopsided, they were both the same size, they just looked strange and they wobbled about a lot. One was round and the other was squarish – that was true.
“They wobble a lot, Chelly. Too much, especially when you're playing football, they get sore and damp and even sorer. I saw that on Monday. You need a bra, Chelly.”
“I like'em to wobble about. 'Freedom for the Titties' is what I say...”
“You'll look better with a bra, Chelly.”
“Yes, really. Go to the ladies' outfitters in the High Street and they will fit you with the right bra or rather bras, you need a sports bra too.”
“You mean that pervert of a woman...”
“What do you mean pervert? What have we been doing for the last two hours? She's very nice, very kind, she knows her stuff, you'll enjoy it anyway.”
I was in a triangle. It was clear who was the apex – Miss Candlefoot. The second vertex was Chelly. But where was I? The other vertex perhaps.