Abi fights with Andy before going on a picnic with him and his friends in a beautifully romantic and picturesque location. Meanwhile Sarah has some new boots, Rhea teases Jez mercilessly and Andy receives a most unexpected guest.
“You seem in good spirits,” Rhea said as I danced around the kitchen to the tune on the radio while making breakfast. “Is it still Abi?”
“It’s ABBA” I replied in a deadpan voice and Rhea snarled at me. “No, it is not Abi. Well not completely Abi. Tea?” Rhea shook her head as I poured the steaming brown liquid from the teapot into individual cups.
Mum appeared the moment the last cup was full and I smiled. “Tea? Freshly made. I was going to bring it up with the newspaper.”
“You bloody weren’t, I’m reading it,” moaned Rhea.
“You are in your nightclothes, you need to get dressed” I reminded her and she pouted at me. “Or at least, I think that was once sold as a nightie instead of a T-Shirt”
Rhea looked down at her clothes and shrugged. “I like it, and it’s not as though I need to be staid or prudish in my own home.”
“Do we know why he is in such a good mood?” Mum asked Rhea, as she took the drink from me.
“No. But I think it has something to do with Abi …” Rhea teased.
“… or Sarah” Mum added and I thought back to our conversation the night before. Did I mention Sarah? I think I must have done or else how else could Mum have known.
“Who’s Sarah?” Rhea asked before I could respond.
“He went out with his school year so maybe someone from there.” Mum told her, ignoring me standing a few feet behind her.
“Do you mind. Private life,” I uttered but Rhea got down from the table, her ass clearly visible as she went and returned with a bound A4 document.
“It’s his yearbook,” she teased and leafed through it.
“That’s mine,” I protested but Rhea ignored my protest. “Shouldn’t have left it on the table then. Sarah or Sara?”
“Definitely Sarah,” Mum replied enjoying my discomfort.
“There is one, Sarah Bailey, page 28,” Rhea muttered as she leafed through it. A colour picture of a girl, smiling intently at the camera emerged, and Rhea grinned. “She’d put me in a good mood as well,” my little sister teased.
“I didn’t realise you were a lesbian,” I uttered without thinking and Mum shot me a disapproving look. I took a deep breath. “Just so you know. I went bowling with her. Sarah has a boyfriend in London. We bowled and she beat me at Scrabble. That is it.” I told her omitting the portions of my evening that would interest Rhea the most.
“He lies,” Rhea goaded me in a deep, trailing voice.
“Of course, we could talk about what happened when I returned home and went to use the phone at 10pm,” I added. I had not been home at 10pm, nor gone to use the phone, but I knew (because I knew Rhea) that she would have been talking to her boyfriend until late into the evening. Rhea went red and excused herself to get dressed. “I’m thinking of going up Wendover Woods for a picnic tomorrow with Ray and Abi and a couple of other people,” I said, deliberately leaving Donna and Sarah out of the equation by name for the moment, “if everyone is up for it. Could we, er, take a couple of bottles of wine?”
Mum looked at me. “Who are the couple of other people?” she asked, sensing my discomfort.
“People from school. Just ummm, you know,” I replied evasively.
“No I don’t know, who?”
“Donna and her friend” I admitted. “Donna is going out with Ray. I think anyhow.” Mum looked at me inquisitively, so I added. “OK, Donna and Sarah.”
“I should be a little worried by this. It’s either can you please take two girls to the woods with loads of alcohol or can Ray and you take three girls to the woods with loads of alcohol.”
“That’s not quite what I said …”
“… but it’s what you meant. What do Sarah’s parents think?”
“Sarah was very interested when I suggested it.”
“I’m sure she was. That’s not what I asked,” she replied, tapping the sides of her drink as I squirmed.
“It’s just I promised Abi I’d take her to Wendover Woods. You know how peaceful and tranquil it can be this time of year. Ray and I wouldn’t mind going back, we might take our cameras. Sarah is dating a guy in London and her best friend is Donna so it’ll be innocent, harmless relaxation after working very hard for our exams. It is not what you think.”
Mum stared at me, trying to read my mind. “Why is it I always get suspicious when someone uses the line ‘it’s not what you think’?”
“Bad choice, maybe. You’ve always said, if I want to be treated like an adult, I need to act like an adult and thought it would be a good way to pass a nice summer afternoon.” I reasoned. “And anyway if Abi comes, she is a responsible adult.”
“It is not Abi’s job to babysit a bunch of sixteen year olds,” Mum replied firmly and I nodded.
“OK. Well will you please think about it? As I said, it’ll be nice way to end a long walk I have planned”
“There are a lot of things you want me to think about at the moment,” she moaned but I ignored her objections and I thanked her as I left the room with the drink for Abi.
Abi was awake enough to thank me for the hot drink but not conscious enough to converse fully. She joined me on the couch sixty minutes later, showered and dressed. She was wearing shorts and T-shirts, which showed off her figure and legs wonderfully but left much to imagination.
I explained my plans for the following day and Abi, who was doing a shift that night, was happy to go but didn’t want to leave too early. I phoned Ray who said he’d come and then tentatively dialled Sarah’s number. Within two rings, Sarah answered excitedly.
I asked her to get Donna to meet us at the car park in Wendover Woods for 11am and then set out to go to the Supermarket.
I was lucky in that my father paid a generous stipend into my account every month and that I barely touched it. I never disclosed to my friends how much “pocket money” in essence I got, although I did use this to pay for my stationery at school and do odds and ends. When Paula lived next door I often used to help in the shop on Saturdays and still had a tidy sum left over from that. It’s not that I would intentionally not spend money but I often did not see value in what I was supposed to pay for stuff that interested me and rationalised that I would find a better way to spend the money at a later date.
With my Solo card in my wallet I headed for the local Sainsbury’s and bought twelve bread rolls, two big bottles of pop, two packs of ham, two giant bags of crisps, pork pies and a Victoria sponge. Back home, I made up the rolls and wrapped them in cellophane, and put the pies and the pop in the fridge to cool.
It was gone lunchtime and after grabbing a banana I asked Rhea, who was watching television where everybody was.
“Mum’s out walking and Abi went to mend her car,” she replied without looking up from the screen. I walked to the top of the stairs and opened the fire escape door to see Abi was bent over the wheel of her rusting vehicle.
“Let me give you a hand with that,” I shouted as I came down the fire escape and she shook her head.
“I can manage,” she told me as she stood on the wrench to loosen the nuts.
“Looks like it” I teased as I sat on the bottom stair of the fire escape, peeling the banana.
Abi shot me a dirty look and leaned forward on the wrench but it would not budge.
“Here, let me have a go,” I said as I finished the fruit. Abi was sweaty and frustrated at the car nut for not budging and her hair, normally so immaculate, was untidy and ruffled.
“I don’t need your help Andy,” she snapped aggressively. “I’ve been driving for three years, I can change a goddamn tyre.”
I backed off immediately as she spoke. “I’m only trying to help,” I muttered, the ferocity of her response taking me by surprise. Abi had always been so calm and relaxed in everything she did and I didn’t expect to see her be so vicious. I didn’t like it.
“You think because I’m a woman I can’t change a tyre. Is it a man’s job?” she asked patronisingly.
“No Abi, you are struggling. Let someone help you ‘cos you clearly can’t do it.”
Her eyes narrowed and she took a deep breath. “Go away,” she spat back. I was fortunate that Mr Asuni interrupted the stand-off with a crate of empty bottles that he put in a big bin. As he did it, he winced and squeezed his shoulder.
“Hurt yourself?” I asked and he nearly jumped out of his skin.
“Andy,” he greeted me in his deep accent. “Didn’t see you there. Yeah, I overstretched myself on the weights last night. Shoulder kills now.”
“You want any help?” I asked looking at Abi and he nodded.
“I’ve got a couple of crates that need to go if you wouldn’t mind. I’d get Hugo to do it but it’s his day off”
“No problem,” I gleefully said, my eyes not leaving Abi. “Not everyone is too proud to accept help”
The two crates were heavy but I managed to carry them from the bar area, down the corridor and into the yard where Ikenna and I tipped them into the large crate.
“You couldn’t give me a hand with a large bottle of whisky, could you?” he asked and we went back inside to one of the bars. The bottle was twice as big as the bottles I’d see in the supermarket and weighed so much more. It needed someone to hold it place while Ikenna clipped and screwed the support in, but when we’d finished, it hung nicely on the wall with the optic on the bottom.
I carried some glasses for him and reached up to put them on the ledge above the bar, and then moved the hoover to where it is stored as opposed to where it was left.
“What are you doing in here?” a familiar voice asked from behind me causing me to jump.
“Just helping Ikenna,” I started indignantly but Mum interrupted me.
“Oh, I forgot you hurt your shoulder. You done?” she asked.
I turned to the bar manager who nodded and thanked me.
Abi was still struggling with the wheel nut when I returned but she didn’t even look up at me. I went up to her car and tugged at her arms.
“I’ve told you to go away,” she warned but I tugged at her shoulder.
“Come on Abi, please. Stop being so awkward, let me have a go.”
She shook her head and gave the wrench a kick. I watched the wrench leave the immovable wheel nut and arc in the air before landing firmly against my shin. I cried out in sharp pain and stumbled back against the wall.
“Fucking hell Abi, What you do that for?” I shouted at her, when my Mum and Ikenna appeared from the doorway. Abi stood there motionless, in shock muttering.
“What happened?” Ikenna asked and I looked down at the large cut at the top of my shin.
“The wrench slipped and smacked me in the leg.” I lied and sat down on the bottom of the fire escape rubbing my painful shin.
“Are you OK?” Mum asked Abi; I spluttered in indignation. Was Abi OK? She was the one through her stubbornness and aggression that caused my anguish.
“I’m so sorry,” she cried and Mum looked at the wheel.
“They’re difficult to get off when the garage put them on aren’t they?”
Ikenna looked at me wiping the wound with a tissue and smirked.
“I’ll get the first aid kit,” Ikenna said and disappeared inside. He returned with the little green box but Mum as “the qualified first aider” applied the bandage. I tried to do it myself but she was insistent that she had to do it and I was to allow her to do what was required.
I looked up as Mum bandaged my wound to see Ikenna get a tool from his car, a wrench with a telescopic handle. He attached it to the wheel nut, extended it by three feet and then gave it to Abi. “Try that.”
Abi easily loosened all the nuts in seconds and she thanked him, her voice barely rising above a whisper. Ikenna and Mum went inside a few moments later and I watched in silence as Abi jacked up her car, and swapped the tyre, dropped the car back to the ground, tightened the nuts, and inflated her new tyre. She didn’t look at me, but kept wiping her eyes.
The pain in my shin subsided as she replaced her tyre and I rubbed it a couple of times, wincing as I did. I knew I would have a massive bruise there the following day but there was no lasting damage. “See, it’s not too difficult to accept help,” I told her icily when she returned from giving Ikenna his wrench back. She didn’t respond and locked her car.
“Andy, are you OK to go up there?” she asked as took my first step up the fire escape.
“I’ll be fine” I muttered, slightly annoyed at her sudden concern now and not earlier when blood was pouring out of my leg.
“Look, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you with the spanner,” a tearful Abi said when we reached our landing.
“I know you didn’t. We all get frustrated,” I found myself saying reasonably. I was annoyed with her, but for some reason I didn’t want to stay hostile with her for very long. “But I honestly just wanted to help you know.”
“I know. I just don’t like accepting help from …” Abi stopped mid-sentence and wiped her eyes. “I didn’t mean to …”
“I know you didn’t. Don’t worry about it. I hope it’s not too bad tomorrow or we will get asked questions.”
“Am I still allowed to go tomorrow?” Abi asked, her eyes widened.
I touched her hand and squeezed it gently looking into her eyes. “Don’t be silly, of course you’re coming,” I told her, my gaze not leaving her soft eyes. “You’re forgiven. This once,” I joked and she chuckled. “…and you’re still perfect even though stubbornness is a very unendearing quality,” I added, although I wondered later exactly what Abi did to make me so laid back about the whole affair.
If it had been anyone else there would have been hell to pay.
* * * * *
“Your girlfriend rang for you” Rhea called when I walked down the stairs.
“What girlfriend?” I asked and Rhea smirked. “Oh very good,” I replied at my little sister and pulled out a crumpled up piece of paper from my pocket.
Sarah answered breathlessly within a few rings and squealed when she heard my voice. “Andy. Look, Mum and Dad are going shopping in Aylesbury for some garden furniture and I need to nip into town but don’t want to spend all afternoon with them. Do you want to meet up for a coffee? I’ve rung Donna and Zoe, and both of them are out. Lisa’s busy and Ingrid is still away, so please say you’ll meet,” she implored.
I hummed for a moment, more for dramatic effect than really considering her offer. “Nice to be the fourth best choice,” I mulled and she spluttered.
“Fifth actually. Well it’s just …”
I laughed and spoke over the top of her. “Yeah, of course. I’m at a loose end this afternoon anyway. What time?”
“We are leaving now. Can I meet you at the park in twenty minutes?” she asked and I agreed. I asked Abi if she wanted to join us but she declined as she needed to make some alterations or repairs to a small bundle of clothes she had under her arm.
Sarah took closer to thirty minutes when she bounded over and took my hand as I waited on the park gates. I noticed her mother eyeing us as Sarah held out her hand and we walked towards the town centre.
“Mum said she will meet me at the park at five, if that is OK?” she told me and I acknowledged her. “I just need to get some new boots.”
“So I’ve been dragged shoe shopping?” I moaned and Sarah grinned.
“Not quite,” she replied and turned into a sports store, going to the back of the shop. She looked through some boots on the display, turning over a black pair of football boots and then looking at a red pair with white stripes.
“What do you want those for?” I asked and she turned to face me grinning.
“To go swimming in, of course.” I tutted at her and sat down on the one of the chairs when a female attendant came over to assist. “I like the look of the new Predators” she told the shop assistant. “Do you have them in red in size seven”
The shop assistant disappeared for a minute and then returned with Sarah sat down. She had pulled out a pair of red football socks and put them on and then put on the boots. She couldn’t walk in them but waved her feet around and pointed her toes.
“They feel awesome. I’ll take them,” she said and took them off. “Lovely balance.”
“So how much are they?” I asked and Sarah grinned.
“Just over one hundred pounds,” she replied and I spluttered. “OK, but they are the best football boots on the market. Beckham and Zidane and … oh forget it!”
Sarah paid for her ludicrously expensive football boots and we returned to the June sunshine. “So, I presume they aren’t just for a kick in the park?” I asked and Sarah smiled. “Football or Rugby?”
“Or Hockey or Lacrosse or…” Sarah needled and I huffed at her. “Football. I am on the Under-17s at Aylesbury Vale.”
“Oh right. I didn’t know.”
“I know. I didn’t tell you.”
“What else, didn’t you tell me?” I asked and she smiled at me.
“A few things.”
“Are you sure you don’t own an airline?” She sighed and I looked at her. “Like how you can afford over one hundred notes for some boots for a kick about?”
“Do swimmers go swimming without a costume?” She asked and I nodded.
“Might make swimming more interesting if they did,” I quipped and she groaned at me.
“Well I need boots to play football and they are the best I can get.”
“For a hundred pounds they should score goals themselves,” I joked.
“You sound just like my father. And that’s scary,” Sarah teased and I laughed. “Can we do something for me please?” she pleaded and looked up at me with an expectant stare. “Can we go and feed the ducks?”
I gave a hollow small laugh and Sarah looked at me. “Please?”
“Sure. Haven’t you been before?”
She nodded. “But not since I was little.”
I did not want to beg for bread for two days on the trot from Ray’s mum and instead we stopped off a little corner shop and bought a couple of cheap loaves. Sarah giggled when I did, thinking it was quite comical paying for good bread to feed the ducks but I asked her if she wanted to go and feed them then what else would we feed them with?
Sarah and I sat on the same bench I was on with Abi and we threw the bread into the water for the ducks to fight over. They were not as hungry as when I was with Abi, as the park was fairly busy and I reckoned that they had been well fed in the previous few hours.
Sarah giggled with glee as the geese and then the swans came over to tussle over the crumbs and crusts of the loaves and then we walked up towards the café.
“You should get your boyfriend to take you to Hyde Park,” I said as we sat down in the window.
Sarah gave a snigger and gazed out over the park to the pond below. “Chance would be a fine thing,” she murmured and I looked at her in surprise. “Yeah, sorry to bring it up but doing this has made me realise that Donna is right.”
I looked at her in surprise. “I’m confused. Donna is right because we fed the ducks,” I asked her and she sucked in her lips in thought.
“Feeding the ducks. It seems silly, it is such as simple thing to do, a great way to spend time with someone and is relaxing. I wish we would do it.”
“We have done it,” I said and Sarah rolled her eyes.
“Me and Kev.”
“Ahhh,” I said, realising what she was talking about. “Well have you talked to him? It can’t be that hard to arrange,” I replied, not sure where Sarah was taking this conversation.
“No, not yet. I can’t bring myself to.” Sarah stopped and looked out of the window, focusing on a small child throwing bread at the ducks. “I spoke to Donna about it and she said I should dump him but I dunno. Maybe it’s a male thing.”
A male thing?” I asked perplexed and Sarah puffed a couple of times in thought.
“OK, umm, maybe you’ll understand. You told me ’bout Abi. I see Kev two or three times a month. He often books a hotel for the day so we only ever spend it in bed. I am in the room thirty seconds before he is feeling me up and all he is ever talking about is my body, what I am wearing or not wearing. He is obsessed and I feel cheap. It feels we are just so … one dimensional”
I nodded and let her continue.
“I do love him but I would enjoy being with him more if half the time we went to feed the ducks in Hyde Park or go shopping or even just a picnic by the river. I’ve been to London several times recently and barely seen anything other than his cock and the inside of a cheap hotel in the City. I mean there isn’t even the flirting or teasing and barely any foreplay. That can’t be right, can it?”
I shook my head. “No. I know it’s a bit different but Paula was way more important to me as a friend than as a girlfriend. You need to tell him what you are thinking.”
“I know I do. I … I … I just don’t know how. We had a massive argument when I saw him last weekend as I didn’t want to spend all day in a hotel room and he said I didn’t love him. I mean, he was still going on about it on the phone just before I went bowling. I do love him, and I do like him. We have been dating for over two years and he really is my first love. So I don’t want to upset him. It started fine at first, I’d go down with Paul and his girlfriend so we would spend time in each others’ company without the sex. And then when we went down alone it was great. The sex was exciting and taboo almost. But it has just become all we do and the friendship isn’t there any more …”
“… and you feel empty?”
She took a long sip of her lemonade and looked back over the park.
“Well maybe that’s it. I have my friends for this and my boyfriend for my other needs. I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel right any more. I think Mum suspects anyway. She was asking me if I was having sex with him the other week.”
“And you denied it, of course,” I guessed.
“Of course I denied it. Not a conversation I want with her. I never want to talk to her about sex,” Sarah replied agitated and quickly, sinking into her chair. “Anyway, you and Abi. Any further?”
I rolled up my trouser leg to reveal the bandage that I peeled back. Sarah squealed and then asked how I came by such an injury. She barely believed me when I told her the story of Abi and the car tyre, and then looked at me forlornly. “I suppose that means you won’t be asking her out then,” she told me and I shrugged.
“One act of frustration doesn’t change what I think about her,” I admitted and her face contorted somewhat. “Just as your frustration with your boyfriend doesn’t alter what you think, surely?”
“But kicking a big metal wrench at your shins for trying to help her?”
I took a deep breath. “It’s irrational, I know. I was annoyed at her, but I wasn’t angry. I should have been, I know, but I wasn’t. I would have been with just about everyone else, but I wasn’t with her. I just don’t know.”
“Donna’s right, you’re smitten!” Sarah finished her drink and looked across at the counter. “Those scones look nice” she muttered and the cogs in her brain turned. “You share one with me?”
I dug in my pocket for some change and gave her a couple of coins that she tried to reject but I made her take. She came back with two halves of a scone, topped with jam and then clotted cream.
“I’m going to need to do so much exercise,” she moaned and then began to devour her half.
As we left the small café, I held the door open for a young girl with a pram and Sarah’s face lit up. “Hiya Anna,” she said and peered into the pram. “How are you?”
The girl, who looked as old as me, smiled and greeted Sarah. They exchanged small-talk and Sarah doted over the baby girl in the pram before leaving.
“Brothers ex-girlfriend,” Sarah explained and I hesitated for a moment before asking if the baby was related to him. “But they broke up three years ago,” Sarah added. “Pity, she is a nice girl. Year above us at College.”
We started walking around the park when she spotted Jez, Jodie and a couple of other people she knew with a football on one of the four five-a-side pitches. She gave me a sly and pleading look and I grinned.
“Let me guess, you want to try out your new boots?” I speculated and she nodded.
“Thanks, come on,” she said dragging me across the field towards our playing classmates without waiting for a response.
Jez welcomed us as we approached in his own inimitable and unique style. The ground was soft and springy as it had rained a couple of days previous but it was not muddy and was perfectly playable in my trainers. Sarah however, wasted little time in unboxing her new boots and replacing her white ankle socks with her thick red socks and brand-new footwear.
She took a moment to admire her new purchase, crooning over its smooth tongue that went back over the laces and colourful sides.
“Are we going to join them, or are you going to be vain all day?” I asked her and she smirked at me.
“But look at them, they are a work of art.”
I held out my hand and pulled her up from the ground. Jez commented on her new footwear as we went up to him and Sarah glowed and boasted as he immediately recognised the boots. As someone who had never got too much satisfaction from material possessions – a trait my mother had instilled in me from a relatively young age – I felt a little bit lost by her love of the hideously expensive boots and her enjoyment in others revelling in her possession of them. She was being self-loving and egocentric, and it was not a trait I felt particularly comfortable with or found attractive.
I ignored Sarah’s exultant demeanour and we finally settled down to kick the ball about. When Jez asked whether I played football, and I confessed I did not play very often, which they scoffed at and put me in goal. I did not mind too much as my shin was still a little sore and while I would happily spend hours passing and kicking the ball, I was not going to be as good as people who did play and train regularly and as a result of which had Jez and another boy who I did not recognise, but identified as Paul, as my “defenders.”
Sarah’s purred with her first touch, on the half-way line, and passed it immediately to Jodie, a few yards away. When Jodie returned it, Sarah drew her right foot back and connected with the ball, it striking the top of the boot by the laces and arcing towards my right viciously.
I stuck a hand out, more in hope than expectation, and the ball smacked against the crossbar with a thunderous smack. It bounced down onto the goal-line and I instinctively wrapped my foot around it and kicked it down the pitch.
Sarah grinned as I did and retrieved the ball from Jodie and dribbled past Jez on the right. Jodie called out for it, and she lofted the ball towards her but Jez’s friend kicked the ball up the pitch.
“Love me new boots,” Sarah called out and ran back to retrieve the ball.
I was beaten several times over the next 45 minutes, mostly by Sarah who revelled in her new football boots, taking swerving shots from twenty or thirty yards from the goal. When she did not do this, she would happily dribble with the ball and commit the defenders before sliding an inch-perfect pass to her team-mate.
Jez and his friends called time at quarter past four. Jez and Jodie needed to go to their respective homes and everyone but Sarah wanted to call it day. She looked forlornly at Jez, and after failing to coax him to stay for another half-an-hour begged to borrow the football.
Eventually she agreed with Jez to borrow it, as long as Jez could call by my house (without checking with me) the following morning to pick it up. I gave my consent to these arrangements when Sarah pleaded, and then reluctantly passed my address to Jez. Sarah began trying tricks and long-range passes across the pitch with the new boots, cooing and gasping dramatically with every touch.
She was a lot more accurate with her passing than I was, and I watched as she concentrated on every strike of the ball so that it arced perfectly in the air and landed within a few feet of me. By ten to five, she reluctantly put her trainers back on and boxed up her boots.
“I think you’re in love,” I teased and Sarah grinned.
“They are wonderful boots. Do you think I might need them when we go to the woods?” I rolled my eyes and she laughed. “OK, I’ll wear trainers.”
We walked around the park for ten minutes and then I waved her goodbye and sauntered back home. I was suddenly intrigued by her admission that all was not well with her boyfriend but I wanted Abi. Sarah was enjoyable company certainly and there was a glow about her that just exuded playfulness, but Abi was mysterious and wonderful.
There was still something very inexplicable about Abi I could not explain and she captured my attention perfectly but then in a weird way so did Sarah. Was I really that sensitive to a bit of harmless flirting? Were my emotions so easy for a girl to snare? Was I really that cheap? I wondered; I had never really seen girls in that way too much before as I always had Paula, but something had been awoken inside of me.
Rhea was in one of her typical moods and taunted me before I had barely reached the lounge about running off to see Sarah. It was going to be a long night, if she was going to keep that up and I put the football next to the television.
* * * * *
Abi disappeared shortly afterwards and only reappeared to go to work with Mum. Mum returned home briefly at 10pm to send an indignant Rhea to bed and to ask me if I was OK. My wound was sore but I had had worse over the years falling off my bike, and I had never had a cuddle from a beautiful girl afterwards.
I woke up at 8:30am, got showered and dressed in blue shorts and a red T-Shirt. By the time I got downstairs Mum was reading the newspaper at the dining room table and Rhea was sprawled over the sofa watching MTV in just her dressing gown.
“No singing or dancing today?” Rhea enquired. “Did Sarah turn you down, or are you bored already?”
“Oi! Learn some respect for your elders and betters, little sister,” I teased and walked into the kitchen. Three bottles of wine stood on the kitchen table and Mum looked up at me.
“These are for you,” she said her voice oozing with disapproval.
“I thought you only wanted me to have one?” I replied and she shook her head.
“I did. But I asked Ikenna whether I should let you have any and he said he thought you would be fine as you had ‘sound head on your shoulders’ and went and bought you one to thank you for helping him yesterday. In the meantime I got you one from the cellar and Abi bought you one to apologise for hurting you with the wrench. So they are all for you.”
I looked at the three bottles and smiled; one was a big 1.5litre bottle and there was two much alcohol really. I did suggest taking three and it is what I wanted, but Abi would probably drive and wouldn’t want to drink much and neither Ray nor myself were big drinkers.
“I’ll take two, if that’s OK. On reflection, three probably is too many, and we’ll only drink it if it is there,” I reasoned, much to my mothers’ unhidden relief, and she left the room to go upstairs.
I packed the picnic bag with our food and added the two ice blocks from the freezer and two of the three bottles of wine.
While I was packing the last of the picnic bag, I didn’t hear the doorbell or Rhea answer it and Jez appeared in the doorway, dressed in a navy tracksuit.
“Dude. You live next to a strippers’ club,” he told me as I walked towards the lounge.
“Yeah, we know,” Rhea answered for me as she returned to the sofa.
“But that’s fookin’ mental. They take their keks off and everyfin’,” he continued and Rhea smirked.
“Strippers? Taking their clothes off? You sure?” she asked in a patronising voice. Jez didn’t quite understand and ran his dirty fingernails through his dirty blonde long hair.
“But,” he tried to reason and Rhea jumped up from the couch.
“You mean through this door here?” Rhea pointed at the interconnecting door and smiled. He looked at her and then at me.
“Dude, that’s … well … fookin’ crazy as fook. That bird with the big jugs, she from there,” he asked, pointing at the door and Rhea rolled her eyes.
“Abi? Yes, although she is sleeping next to Andy,” she told him before I could say anything. I shot her a look but she just shrugged. I could tell she had the bored, mischievous demeanour that so often preceded an act of wrongdoing that got her into trouble, but guessed that she would probably enjoy tormenting the chauvinistic Jez and knew how entertaining she could be.
“Your ball,” I said passing his football to him and he barely registered.
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those nancy boys who plays football?” Rhea asked in a dismissive tone.
Jez shrunk visibly and shrugged. “It’s not nancy love, it’s a man’s …”
“Bollocks! Rugby is a man’s game,” she started and lurched forward grabbing the ball. “If you think you can take it off me, you can have it.”
“Rhea!” I called but she had backed onto the sofa. Inwardly, I smirked at my baby sister, I was going to enjoy watching her torment my classmate but tried to reason with her.
Jez leapt onto the couch and with lightning reflexes, she sidestepped his move and then threw the ball across the room into the dining room. I went to retrieve it, and Rhea pounced on Jez, tickling him, who was surprisingly receptive to her fingers.
“Nancy boy, ticklish,” she shouted above his cries for assistance and squeals of discomfort.
“Rhea!” Mum called from the bottom of the stairs, her hair wrapped in a towel, and body barely concealed with another one. “What are you up to?”
“Just showing Andy’s friend why he’s a weakling,” she replied, her legs either side of his waist, who was sprawled across the couch, his head half hanging off the sofa.
“Well leave him alone,” she warned and Rhea stood up, and stepped over the flustered Jez. I saw his eyes widen immediately as she moved and instantly understood why. She was wearing a dressing gown, and nothing else. Not only in the struggle did her belt loosen, but Jez got a perfect view up her gown as she got down off the sofa. Knowing this, I am sure she deliberately hovered for a second or two as his eyes lingered on her unfettered genitals.
Jez got up and looked over at Mum, who was scarcely dressed any more dignified. He backed off towards the door. “Cheers, mate,” he mumbled and almost ran down the stairs.
“He’s too old for you,” I told Rhea the moment he had left the room.
“I don’t know what you mean,” my soubrette of a sister replied in mock indignation and I grinned. Just what would Jez tell people this time? Rhea really did know how to put her foot in it, but I sighed, retrieved my camera and went to wake Abi.
* * * * *
As expected Abi chose to have an extra hour in bed and drive rather than get up and take the train and then walk up the hill. She came down at 10.15am dressed in a beautiful dress. I had warned her the weather was due to get hot again – the heatwave of the last three days showed no signs of abating – and she must have searched for one of the shortest dresses she had. The greyish-blue dress was sleeveless, had a ruffled trim that plunged down low between her breasts, displaying plenty of cleavage and was several inches above the knee. Her long brown hair was as straight and flawless as ever, shimmering in the sunlight filtering in through the window as she titled her head towards me.
“Wow. You look good,” I told her and she beamed.
Rhea looked up. “What will Sarah say?” she asked me, mischievously.
“Er, after your antics earlier, you are in no position to speak.”
Rhea turned up her nose at me and smiled. “We could probably ask her what she thinks Andy, what do you reckon?” Abi answered and passed me some sun lotion. “Will you do my back please?”
“Yeah, OK,” I said nervously and Rhea grinned.
“It’ll be massage lotion next,” she warned and after I had applied and rubbed in a generous amount of Factor 20 we left to go to the car with the picnic and my camera.
The roads were clear and we arrived in Wendover Woods car park fifteen minutes early. The car park was relatively empty and we were able to park under some shade as Abi reckoned that the car would be excruciatingly hot if we didn’t when we returned a few hours later, and she was probably right.
Donna and Ray arrived a few minutes later and climbed into Abi’s white hatchback. We had relocated her books to the boot but they did have to sit next to my camera and the picnic bag.
“You’re Abi?” Ray asked, his eyes on stalks. Donna was dressed in a pink sleeveless top and short brown shorts which made her look sexy but she was not going to turn heads, especially with the elder girl sat in the front with me. Donna didn’t seem to mind or notice though and shook Abi’s hand as she turned around.
“So Donna, Ray,” I said grabbing their attention once they had made their introductions. “What part of Jez was right and which part of Jez was wrong?” Donna looked at Ray who didn’t want to answer. “Come on Donna,” I goaded and Abi shot me a disapproving and embarrassed look.
“Does Abi know which bits you agreed with?” asked Donna and Abi shook her head.
“Now this I do want to know,” Abi teased and Donna continued.
“Amazing. Agreed with amazing, didn’t you?” Abi squeezed my knee and I smiled at her. “Big tits, that was one, wasn’t it?”
“No, I didn’t” I cried out and Abi turned to me.
“Are you saying I haven’t got big tits?” she asked in mock surprise and I shook my head.
“No … I just …” I stopped when I noticed the smile on Abi’s face that was reflected on Donna’s. “I just can’t win this one, can I?”
“No. You can’t,” Donna replied triumphantly.
Sarah saw us a few minutes later and we got out of the car; Ray had not seen fit to bring his camera so I carried mine while Ray carried the picnic bag. Sarah was scowling as she came across the car park carrying a small rucksack, but she looked wonderful. Her sleeveless white crop-top and incredibly short denim skirt accentuated her figure and tanned body wonderfully.
“Sorry I am late,” she said removing her sunglasses. “Mum threw a hissy fit over my dress”
“You do surprise me,” I said instinctively and Sarah’s scowl turned to a smile.
“She thinks I’m coming up to the woods to meet loads of guys with evil intentions, I know she does. It’s pathetic!” Sarah moaned, offloading her frustrations.
“I’ve not got evil intentions, mine are just nefarious. What about you, Andy?” Ray joked.
“Sinister, but not evil I think.”
Sarah pouted and then saw Abi. “I see what you why were tongue-tied,” she admitted, a little too loudly. “She’s just beautiful.”
Abi blushed and then asked me, “what have you been saying to them?”
“What I have I said to Donna and Ray, or to Sarah? Sarah was told things in … great confidence,” I said emphasising the last two words before continuing, “… as was I. Now shall we get going?”
“So what did you tell her?” Abi asked me in a hushed voice as we meandered towards the path going into the woods.
“Err … nothing,” I replied elusively and we set off deep into the wood.
“Where are we having lunch?” Ray called out and I looked at Sarah and Donna.
“I thought about near Boddington,” I said. “What do you reckon?”
Donna and Sarah shrugged in ignorance but Ray’s eyes flashed. “In the trees?”
“Yeah,” I replied knowingly and he nodded.
“Nice one. I think they’ll like it.”
Sarah and Donna scrutinised us for any clue of what we were up to but neither of them had the courage to ask.
The walk was mostly downhill from the car park and we took an indirect route. The trails around the woods were well signposted and well marked so we followed them and headed towards Boddington Fort on the south side of the woods.
The sun was hot and unforgiving and I was glad that Sarah had considered that we would want water on our walk and had packed several small plastic bottles that she distributed to four very grateful walkers!
Inevitably, Ray and Donna slipped back to be together and to talk privately while Sarah and Abi were happy to talk about things that did not include me. I tried to join in, but in the end settled on admiring the nature around me. I had always found Wendover Woods a very calming and enjoyable place to be and preferred it to talking about fashion, make-up or boy bands.
We met a few walkers going in the opposite direction and a couple of cyclists. A few gave Abi, and to a lesser extent Sarah and Donna, a second glance as they passed, which given their states of dress, this was to be expected. It was a hot day, and if they had worn much more they would have been baking.
The walk down towards the abandoned Fort was pleasant but the trees either side of the path excluded any view of the Chiltern Hills and there was little to photograph that I had not already taken in my previous visits. Film was too expensive to be snap-happy, particularly when I had to pay for it myself.
I enjoyed the walk in my own thoughts. I gazed at the two girls in front of me – Abi and Sarah. They were so alike in many ways but so different in many others. They were both teases – or at least they had been with me – and they were both sexy but whereas Abi was secretive and alluring, Sarah was impulsive and playful.
Abi, who had been quiet on the journey up had relaxed considerably and by the time we were nearly at the fort I called out to them to stop. “Close your eyes,” I told Abi and Sarah who shot each other furtive glances.
“Last time he said that to you, he felt you up,” Donna told Sarah and she smirked.
“You need to close your eyes too. Its only about 50 metres walk but it is nicer this way.”
Donna shook her head. “I’m not getting touched up by you,” she replied in mock indignation.
“I thought I’d leave that job to Ray,” I replied quickly and Ray went bright red.
“Come on. Trust me” I told them and guided Abi and Sarah through the break in the trees and along a dry river bed for around 20 metres and then helped them up to my right and through another break in the trees. I had to keep reminding them to keep their eyes closed, but within a couple of minutes, and no stumbles later, we arrived at our intended destination.
Ray was some way behind and I looked round at the location I had chosen. It was as beautiful and tranquil as ever. For as far as the eye could see – which because of the trees was no more than 75 metres, there were bright blue bluebells covering the forest floor. Big Ash and Beech trees were growing out of the blue carpet and I could hear a woodpecker in one of the trees above.
“Can we open our eyes now?” Abi asked impatiently.
“Go on. You first Abi,” I said.
Abi took a deep breath. “It’s beautiful!”
“It brings back some memories,” I admitted and Sarah peeked.
“Wow!” she exclaimed and looked around. “You’d never guess it was here, would you?”
I shook my head. “Ray and I found it by accident when we went hiking up here in the Scouts. I like to come every Spring but the bluebells are normally here until the end of June.”
Sarah smiled. “It’s a lovely spot for a picnic”
We were interrupted by Donna’s whooping. She slipped climbing out of the riverbed and had seen the bluebells long before she reached us in the middle of them.
Ray smiled at me and I took the picnic bag from him. In the top of the bag I had packed the picnic blanket and I passed one side to Sarah and shook it.
“I don’t want to sit on them,” Sarah admitted and I sniggered at her. “I’m serious.”
“Well why not sit on the blanket instead,” I told her smiling. “Anyway, they’ll be gone within a week or two, and there is nowhere else to sit”
“Yeah, but, they are so pretty”
“Sssshhhh…straighten it out.” Sarah reluctantly helped spread the blanket near the base of one of the trees to avoid as many of the delicate plants as possible.
Donna and Ray sat as close together as possible while Sarah sat opposite me with her back to the tree. She pulled out a bottle of wine from her rucksack and I couldn’t help laughing.
“What?” she asked. “Well, Mum said I could take one.”
“Probably because she didn’t know about these two,” I replied and held up my two bottles of wine.”
“Nice one,” Donna added appreciatively.
“Sarah, we’ll open yours last” and her face fell slightly. “If we don’t get round to drinking it, it will do you no harm with your mother to take it back unopened.”
Sarah nodded and we started opening the food. I passed round the cups and the bottle of wine Abi had bought me which was empty by the time I had poured some for myself.
“To good friends” Ray called, raising his cup
“To getting away from parents,” Sarah called, raising hers above the blanket.
“To the bluebells; they are lovely,” Abi added smiling at me as she did.
I looked at Donna and she shrugged. “To finishing exams”
“To good times” I toasted and we swigged from our cups.
“So, what are your memories of the bluebells?” Abi asked and I looked at Ray.
“Oh, we found this on a Scout hike. We had to go to several points as quick as possible in the woods so we just went as the crow flew using a map and compass and stumbled across this”
“Two lads. In uniform. Alone a wood.” Donna started and I shook my head.
“What else?” Abi gently asked and Ray shrugged his shoulders.
“It was where I first kissed Paula,” I admitted looking around the trees and my mind flashed back. I looked away from my companions and stared into the distance, my voice going quieter. “It was, well, perfect and over there. We just smiled and … happy times.”
Abi smiled as I wiped a tear from my eye; I hadn’t thought about Paula that much but being in one of “our” places brought back more memories than I wanted to admit. “You’re quite romantic at heart, aren’t you?” I went bright red and Abi grinned. “My first kiss was behind the cycle sheds.”
“Mine was under the clock at Marylebone Station.” Sarah added.
“In my garden,” Ray told us. “Girl from next door.” We looked at Donna who took a big sip of her wine.
“Nowhere as interesting. It was at a school disco. I’d had too many E-numbers as he was gross.”
We laughed at her and finished the food; it was clear that we started to the feel the effects of the alcohol as we got louder and more giggly. I felt happy and liberated and rested back on my hands watching my companions.
Abi was happy to explain what happened in a lap-dancing club and Ray, Donna and Sarah were eager to listen. Sarah kept fidgeting in her seat, so much so that her short denim skirt had risen up. I could her underwear perfectly – a lacy pale pink G-String that was only just covering her labia.
Over her mons, the G-String ruffled and it was clear that she trimmed or shaved her pubic hair. I tore my eyes away, feeling guilty at looking but Sarah leant back revealing even more. I felt my dick stiffen and pulled my hand over my lap. Did she want me to look, and if so, why? I felt a little self-conscious and in an effort to do something other than look at Sarah’s barely covered pussy, I rummaged around for the second bottle of wine that I had opened for myself earlier, and poured the remainder into the empty cups.
“To Abi’s dancing,” Ray started. Abi blushed and added her own:
“To tolerant friends”
“To escaping from parents,” Sarah started, moving forwards in her seat.
“You’ve had that one,” Donna told her quickly.
“I want it again!”
“To loving relationships,” Donna toasted and looked at Ray. Sarah scoffed at her friend who stuck her tongue out in disdain at her mocking.
I held my glass out, “to being able to see Sarah’s sexy underwear as she is wearing a short skirt.”
Donna howled in laughter as Sarah quickly adjusted herself.
“You might have told me!” she squealed.
“I just did,” I wisecracked, laughing at her embarrassment.
“Were they the red lacy ones?” asked Donna. “She always wears them when she is meeting her fella”
Sarah’s eyes beseeched me not to embarrass her further and I took pity on her. “I-I-I couldn’t possibly say,” I responded tactfully.
“Oh come on!” Donna cried.
I turned to face and as calmly as I could, I replied “It was a most, uplifting, sight for those fortunate enough to see it.”
“I bet it was … uplifting,” Donna joked.
“I couldn’t possibly comment.”
“Can I just say I think it is pretty funny it is not the stripper showing her underwear,” Abi added.
“Ahh … well actually Abi,” Ray started and Abi gasped. “They are pretty nice blue ones.”
“Abi. You wearing underwear?” I teased and she smirked at me.
“That’s private,” she squealed and everyone looked at me.
“If you wanted it to be private, then why did you tell Jez?”
“Well, he was being mean to you and I thought it was the best way to shut him up.”
“You certainly didn’t do that. He barely stopped talking about you, although I think Rhea has topped you.” Abi looked at me expectantly and I explained about her “wrestling match” earlier.
“She used to do things like that to me as well,” Ray added. “The amount of times she’d come out of her room when I went to the toilet, naked and wink at me. Or come downstairs with her dressing gown open at the front. She kept trying to feel me up and tell me that I was the one for her and stuff. It was really embarrassing.”
We laughed at him. The alcohol had gone straight to his head and he bit his lip as he realised how candid he had been. “Well, she’s like that. She has no shame.”
“She came in when I was in your shower once, blew me a kiss and left,” he replied indignantly.
“And did you object?” Sarah asked and he went bright red.
Donna pushed him playfully and he spilt some of his wine on her. The second bottle of wine was drunk as quickly as the first and we began to pack up.
“Where are we going now?” Sarah asked but Donna replied.
“Can Ray and I meet you at the car park in a couple of hours?”
“I kind of guessed you might,” I replied coyly and we agreed to meet at 3pm at Abi’s car as I packed the picnic bag away.
“I’d love to come here again,” Abi told us. “It’s one of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever been to.”
“It’s only like this for a few months really – April, May and June,” I told her and picked up two of the flowers, giving one to Sarah and another to Abi. “Mementos.”
“Andy,” Sarah called as I picked up the picnic bag. “Have you used your camera?”
Sarah sat down in the middle of the bluebells and flashed her seductive and gorgeous and playful smile, framed wonderfully by her cascading light brown hair.
I fished out my camera and took a couple of pictures of the energetic 16-year-old. Abi adopted a similar pose, and I knew if I got closer I could get an upskirt picture, but I wanted to get these developed in colour by sending them off to be developed, and that meant that they could not be explicit in any way.
Instead, I captured pure beauty. Two radiant and elegant girls smiling genuinely at the camera in a bewitching and stunning location. I had not taken a classier, and more appealing, picture for years.
The walk back to the car went via the Fort. From the viewpoint, the entire of the Chiltern Hills was mapped out in front of us and we could see for miles.
We reached the car by ten to three and Abi had insisted that we drop Sarah off in the town at least, given it was a good two or three miles from the car park to her house. The talk was good natured and light hearted; the alcohol being walked off stopped any sexual banter which suited me. The girls were amused by much of the local wildlife with squirrels causing the biggest reaction. You’d have thought they had never been to the woods for a gentle walk before!
Abi advised Sarah to stop fighting with her parents so much, just as I had done, but I could tell that she did not want to hear or believe what the more experienced girl was telling her. Sarah was just so stubborn, but did that just add to her appeal?
Not surprisingly Ray and Donna were not waiting for us, and for the first time I heard Abi moan about Wendover Woods – the toilets in the car park were “a bit disgusting” although Sarah and I had no complaints.
Ray and Donna reappeared fifteen minutes later and we said our goodbyes. They did not want a lift into Wendover, or Stoke Mandeville where they lived, preferring to walk down themselves and spend a little more time together.
“It’s sweet really, but bloody annoying. I can’t see her without Ray being there,” Sarah muttered. “He’s just attached to her.”
“I’m going to have the same problem with Donna,” I told her and she grinned.
We stopped at the end of the St James Way and Sarah and I got out. I gave her a hug and told her to ring me later in the week as I wanted to see her. She smiled at this, and promised she would, and then skipped off towards her house.
“How long until you ask her out?” Abi asked me as I sat back in the car.
“She has a boyfriend,” I replied instinctively.
“No, I like her a lot, but I very much fancy someone else,” I said too instinctively and Abi looked at me.
“Who?” She asked as she started the engine.
“Someone else,” I replied tersely and then set about changing the subject.
What I have to go and let my big mouth get me into trouble again for?
* * * * *
The flat was empty, when we got in, although Abi had been left a message by Mum to ring Angela. Abi came into the kitchen when she had called to tell me that she could move into her new flat on Tuesday.
“But that’s less than forty-eight hours away,” I grumbled but Abi didn’t notice the dejection in my voice and smiled.
“I know. Isn’t it cool!”
“Yeah, I’m happy for you,” I found myself saying but I knew I didn’t mean it. Abi had been a breath of fresh air for me. She had been good company, exceptionally seductive and was genuinely positive about all that she did. She, quite simply, made me happy – except when she was kicking tools at my shins – and I felt a sort of emptiness about the thought of her not being around the flat.
“You haven’t asked where I will be living,” Abi noticed and my mind snapped back to the present.
“Where?” I asked automatically.
“Chadwick Street, 81.”
I thought for a moment, trying to place that address. “Isn’t that near the Park?”
“On the other side of the park, near the College.”
“I’d be walking past the end of your road every day, won’t I?”
“So I could visit you, maybe.”
Abi’s eyes flashed. “I sort of hoped you would want to. I didn’t choose the location, Angela did. And it is close the club, but I’m very happy with it. And you are the only person I know in Aylesbury.”
My smile returned and I looked at Abi beaming. “You fancy a game of chess?”
* * * * *
Mum returned at 4.30pm and we had a quick tea. Rhea had still not given up on teasing me, especially after finding out that I had spent half the day cavorting in the woods with Sarah and Abi but Mum eventually put an end to it when she could see that I was getting irritated. From past experience she knew I was happy to be mocked and teased to a degree, but could also lash out and say things I should regret if baited too much; Rhea did not always know when to stop.
Julie was still at her boyfriend’s although Mum did mention she would probably come home that night or the night after as she was going on holiday and needed to pack. The amount of freedom that Julie got seemed disproportionate to mine, but whereas I would fight and negotiate for the liberties that I wanted, Julie used do what she wanted and cover her tracks. The few times she got caught doing something Mum disapproved of, they were seen as infrequent transgressions when they were anything but isolated.
Abi had been roped into working as one of the girls had called in sick for a private function; the club was almost always closed on a Sunday but occasionally opened for an exclusive private function if the entire club was hired out, so I was left alone with Rhea for the night. I was not too disappointed, as I had hoped to go for a twilight stroll along the canal with Abi but not long after we arrived home it got noticeably cooler and then the heavens opened: our walk could wait.
Rhea and I agreed a truce and I set about beating her at cards. She whined briefly about the game and then asked to play another game, only to begin the cycle of losing again. After I had beaten her for the sixth successive time (at the sixth different game) she was ready to quit when Mum appeared with a tearful and an unexpected visitor.
“Sarah!” I shouted and the dripping wet, crying girl ran towards me into my arms.