Since I last posted, I’ve been writing more poetry and working editing the poems posted in my last post, as well as a few others. I’ve had some feedback on some of my work, so I’m hoping to improve it and re-submit it, or post it back up here with improvements. Until then, have something I wrote for my Creative Writing: Prose class this week! I’m not usually a prose writer, so this was something of an experiment for me.
His birthday was the day before Christmas. He used to come round to my house after school, and play with my toys. I went to his once or twice, but I was scared of his dog, a puppy with huge ears and a bark that could be heard in every room of their maisonette. He came with me on trips to Legoland and tea parties in the hall of our little house, the only room with enough space to spread out a picnic blanket. He had a round, squishy face, with big red cheeks and appealing, love-me big eyes, although I’ve forgotten the colour. His hair stood up on its own. He showed me his penis once, in class, whilst the teacher was taking the register, but I was too prim to look.
There were two main games we played together; in one we both had horses, which we took to gymkhanas – he loved that word –and in the other he was my daughter, and always my daughter. We would take over a picnic bench under the stunted trees in the middle of the yard and turn it into our house, and for half an hour, I’d swap places with his real mother, always tired, who worked days and nights to keep the two of them in their house, and I’d look after him. His favourite thing was make-up. I had to sit cross-legged on the bench in front of him and pretend to apply make-up to my best friend’s face, whilst he fluttered his eyelashes and pouted at me, absorbed in his mirror reflection, the girl he was looking at. Sometimes I’d escape him for a few minutes to play kiss chase with the others, pursuing the beautiful Aaron, who had dark Jewish eyes, over to the bike shed where I’d remember that I was six, and far too bashful to kiss a boy. On these occasions he would follow me disconsolately around the playground, waiting for me to return my attention to him, his spaniel-face fixed firmly on me
Friendships like those attract attention. The day we learnt this, my fickle six-year old self had decided to give him my full attention. We were playing our second game, his favourite game, when a gaggle of older girls approached us. I had been looking for something on the ground – a leaf or stone to transform into some potion or other, or perhaps just pulling up one of my south-bound socks – when my shadow was obscured by theirs as they formed a circle around us, arms linked. My ‘daughter’ looked up in apprehension, so I glowered at them on his behalf, but I was scared. They were year twos almost old enough to go up to the Junior school, masters of the grand age of seven. But scariest of all was their leader. I never knew her name. She was about a foot taller than the others, copper-haired and freckled, and strong. She could skip further than anyone else, jump further on sports day, see over the fence into the nursery school next-door. She sat on the benches at the back of the hall instead of the floor. Some girls said she’d been kept back a year. I don’t know if this was true. What I do know is that she was cruel.
It started with a chant.
‘Joanna and Adam, sitting in a tree! K I S S I N G!’.
I stood riveted to the spot, and waited for him to save me, but he was a statue, stuck in the mud, waiting to be untagged.
‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!’. Joanna and Adam, sitting in a tree! K I S S I N G!’
This was unbearable. Surely they’d go away soon, if I stood still enough, if I crossed my arms and glared hard enough…
The red-headed girl had made her decision. She was bored now and she wanted to see us truly humiliated.
‘Kiss your girlfriend.’
I looked around desperately for a way to escape, but there was none. We were surrounded. I tried to step away, but the circle moved with me, pushing us together. I remember how he looked at me, like a little dog trapped in a corner, waiting for me to reassure him, and I tried to signal to him that we should run. We’d split up at the fence, head different ways along the edge. I’d run down by the year two classrooms, and head for the girl’s toilets – the agreed school safe zone – and he’d go round the perimeter, back towards to pre-fabs where the reception kids had their classes. We’d keep running until the bell went for the end of lunch, leave our tormentors far behind, even the ginger girl with her long legs, and we’d be okay – and Adam kissed me, full on the lips, slobbery, to hoots of satisfied laughter, at the exact moment when the deputy headteacher stepped out of the school to ring the bell and saw us, six years old, necking in the playground.
After that, they decided it might be better if I had a different friendship group, maybe some nice girl friends to play nice girl games with. When we moved up into year two a few months later, I was introduced to two nice, ordinary girls who were my best friends until I moved away, two years later. They stayed friendly for a while, until the year they discovered boys, and I got left behind, somewhere, still looking for a friend to sit with me on the hot tarmac, pick up cherry stones, play at putting on make-up.