So tell me, Augustus, what are your

pleasures in life? Mrs Smallwood chirped.

She was an amenable soul, the sort of

person who put you at your ease. Mr

Smallwood sat silent and awkward in

his lazy-boy, a mute, hen-pecked man.

I was tempted to say that Laura was my

main life pleasure, but this would have

been misjudged, inappropriate. Instead

I told her I wrote. Mrs Smallwood was

taken aback. I’d curdled the conversation.

I was hastily offered more reviving tea,

another chocolate digestive biscuit. I



When the sun fell behind big buildings

and the blaze went out of the day, we

went in search of dinner. I didn’t care if

I never got home. Because it was just

perfect now. I wondered briefly if Laura

and I might get a hotel, but I knew my

funds wouldn’t stretch to that. We found

a quaint pizzeria, and giggled our way

through a large Margherita. Everything

was amusing. The stringy cheese sticking

to our mouths was hysterical. The Italian

waiters were out-and-out clowns. Nobody

else in the world existed. It was fabulous.

I was sure Laura felt the same way.


Augustus, my parents wish to meet you,

Laura bubbled. For a casual luncheon.

My experience in the adult realm was

totally jaded, but I said I’d be delighted

anyway. There was no other choice.

From my memory of Laura’s Father, he

seemed relatively innocuous. Even under

his daughter’s thumb. Mothers, however,

always alarmed me. I imagined she’d be

ballsy and beautiful, just like Laura. There

would be probing questions. Awkward

hiatuses. We went to get ice lollies.

Laura giggled delightedly. The forth-

coming appointment was forgotten.

The sun shone, melting our pleasure.

But we didn’t care.


Uncle lent me thirty pounds. Treat Laura

to a slap-up meal. Don’t hold back, he

said. We’d agreed to meet in Green Park.

I didn’t know the place well, but it had

this air of glamour. It was a tortuous train

journey up to town. I gazed out of the

grimy carriage windows, at sooty brown

buildings. We crossed the river, and

rattled into a brick-roofed terminus. I

sought out the Underground. It made me

nervous. I was gulped under the earth,

then vomited up, just on time.


Vivienne embraced me, Laura kissed me

passionately, and we said our poignant

farewells. Uncle thanked Vivienne from

the bottom of his heart. We tumbled into

the car, beeped the horn, and crept out

into the lanes. Uncle raced the engine.

The windy country roads sped by. Soon

we were on the motorway, heading south.

An episode in my life had closed. Laura

and I would change, adapt. From now on,

we’d play out our burgeoning love in the

big city.


Laura spoke frankly. Augustus, nothing

shall divide us. When this holiday is over,

I will see you, in London. We shall be

inseparable. Always. And then she kissed

me, ecstatically. It was like a thousand

volts had shot through me. Afterwards,

we embraced. I held her very close.

Vivienne blundered into the room.

Laura delicately unhooked herself from

my arms. There was no embarrassment.

It was understood. We were one.


A magical rain had begun to fall.

We floated home like two blessed

spirits. Vivienne smirked broadly when

she greeted us. Our intimacy was written

in bold italics. Look, you’re all wet, you

two. I’ll put on some tea, whilst you both

dry yourselves, Vivienne fussed. Laura

glowed. She went to the cupboard to

fetch towels. She dried her auburn hair

vigorously. My heart thumped wildly

in its cage. The tea was sweet, reviving.

This had been a momentous day. I felt

like being reckless, inappropriate. I

swigged my hot beverage, and smiled.


Laura and I had this amazing chemistry.

We walked the shingle shoreline like the

eldest of friends. When she stumbled, I

caught her hand. She didn’t retract it.

Laura asked the oddest questions. She

wondered if I believed in reincarnation.

I chortled. It was preposterous. Laura

dwelt lovingly on macabre things. She

was fascinated with death. Strange

ideas tumbled from her mouth. I was

spellbound. Augustus, we have this

awesome connection, Laura suddenly

stated. I nodded. I felt it too. It was a

beautiful, natural intimacy. I placed my

arm around Laura’s waist. We were



A slick, spanking-new, four-wheel drive

pulled up. Out stepped a tall teenage girl.

I gasped. She was the spitting image of

Alice. She pranced around in the same

self-adoring manner. A brow-beaten man,

presumably her Father, went to retrieve

the bags. Vivienne came out to greet her.

Laura squealed with delight. The two

hugged theatrically. Vivienne introduced

me to her gorgeous granddaughter. I

couldn’t control my pounding heart. My

palms poured with sweat. I prayed I

wasn’t blushing like a loser.


I had a glorious restful night. Vivienne

was preparing a cooked breakfast

when I came down. Augustus, it had

slipped my mind, but my granddaughter

Laura is coming to stay. I don’t like to

say no, at such short notice, as we’ve

had this planned this for quite some

time. I said I didn’t wish to interfere,

it was cool by me. Laura lived in London.

She was making her regular holiday

excursion to her grandmother’s. She

loved canoeing on the lake and hiking

in the fells. I spluttered when I heard this.

She was sixteen. Despite my atrocious

experience with girls, despite everything,

I was curious.