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
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.