"The Wolfendens' Garden"
School, of course, was Out For The Day.
And almost everyone in my city seemed to be 15.
Almost everyone was laughing, chattering, giggling, walking in lines, arms linked.
Almost everyone had long long legs ( boys and girls).
Almost everyone wore school uniform, customised to "suit" its wearer; baggy trousers, tight ones, floaty skirts, short miniscule ones.
Almost everyone had Life Before Them and Oh How It Showed.
And I was invisible; I really was.
I was part of the scenery: part of the sandstone church, the Rows of shops, the wide city street.
So I watched the boys.
So I watched the girls.
And their voices were loud and shrill
And their smiles stretched the length of Watergate
And their laughter rang through black and white buildings, sang into the medieval peace of quiet churches.
And my phone rang from the depths of my handbag.
My friend mumbled apologies. Coffee was Off.
So I went home and scribbled this.
It's a story called: “Wolfenden’s Garden”.
After school, they’d wander down Cuthbert Street, one big gang, past the newsagents, the chip shop, on into St Saviours Road where long gardens hid behind high walls.
Some girls (usually Kate and Allie) hitched up their skirts and clambered over the wall of one house in particular, the Wolfenden’s, and other girls squeezed through gaps in the wall into the garden, which stretched like a weary cat to the Wolfenden’s tall narrow house.
This was a house veiled from its garden by damp velvet leaves, by tangles of shrubs; veiled too by the preoccupations of the gang, high on each other’s glances, high on each other’s approval, their whisperings, their dreams of each other in the middle of last night.
Once there at the bottom of the garden, the girls lolled in the grass. They painted their eyes, ringed them with liner, and stared into tiny mirrors as if viewing their futures. They stretched their legs, giggled like golden flutes, and hid their secret faces behind floating silky hair.
And Lucy Baxter leaned against a pear tree, hands in pocket, observing them all, digging her nails deep into the palms of her hands.
Then the lads came; scrawny, villainous, scaling the wall or vaulting the wall or sheepishly following the girls as they puffed on cigs, drank from cans, slouched against trees. They smirked, they guffawed, and they sniggered together, eyes half closed.
And then the lads drew hard on their cigs, watched Kate snog Allie, Allie touch Kate, Kate move against Allie in the shelter of trees.
And the boys, blissful, scarcely able to stand it, held their breath while the girls felt strange new feelings and the Wolfenden’s garden grew wild around them; grass, high as their waists, chestnut trees, apple trees, hunched and dwarfed but shielding them with ease from the house.
And there were ginger cats with yellow eyes stalking in the grass.
Sometimes, when the Rasta guy had been hanging round school, Col and Will and Joe lit spliffs in the garden, sucked on them, giggled, and grew high on them.
Sometimes these lads stood close together, kept private their dealings and the others stared, thought of their mothers waiting for them, frying onions for supper in basement kitchens, and ironing shirts in their tower block bedrooms.
And the girls smoothed their hair, slunk beneath trees, watched as light faded across the garden.
Then Col yelled: “ Shift yerself, Simon, Bill Wolfenden’s coming with his gun!”
Then Allie yelled: “ Shift yerself, Lucy, Marge Wolfenden’s coming with her knife!"
Then Will grabbed Kate by her hand. And Allie grabbed Joe by his long greasy hair and those four beautiful ones, who knew their charm, played on their charm, they sank to the ground behind bushes while the rest, those plain sullen placid ones (girls with lumpy thighs, the shivering speechless lads) smirked and listened, tried to glimpse Kate’s small perfect breasts and Allie’s pale lovely limbs, to hear Will’s sighs, Joe’s grunts in the Wolfenden’s blackberry, gooseberry, raspberry bushes.
And Lucy cursed her freckles, her grey eyes, wiry brown hair that frizzed mercilessly to spindly shoulders; she wanted Kate’s darkness, Allie’s blondeness. She wanted hips, lips; she wanted to be the one the others watched, the one whose face they craved.
And then Will emerged, Joe emerged and Col chucked down the spliff, strolled into bushes and Col was alone with Kate and alone with Allie and other boys shivered and some trembled, scarcely able to stand it.
Kate, laughing in the grass, nudged Allie so that Lucy heard murmurings "No chance” and “ fat chance” and “ pain in the ass chance”
At home Mrs Baxter tossed chips in a pan. Mr Baxter scanned the paper and their lads fought over something on TV; the living room was warm with family, clammy with family, and Lucy Baxter settled at the table to write up her Science.
And Col’s leaf, gold and red and frilly, lay in the centre of her notes: “In the 1750’s, John Mitchell examined the gravitational attraction of stars”...