This is a continuation of the part memoir, part short story that I started yesterday.
It would be fair to say that I have never known a slower 72 hours to pass.
I tried to distract myself with study – I had an English exam on Monday and Chaucer wasn’t the easiest of authors to get to grips with – but to no avail. All I could think about was Russell and Saturday, and Russell and the beach. And Saturday and the beach. With Russell. My imagination was running wild across giant wind-whipped sand hills with Russell. Cavorting naked in foamy waves with Russell. Being pressed up against the rocky beach by Russell, his salty, sandy lips on mine…
Even my mother wondered what was up. ‘You’re not yourself, Audrey,’ she said. ‘I hope you’re not catching that nasty cold thing that’s been going around. Half the office has come down with it…!’
‘I’m ok, Ma,’ I said. ‘Just a lot going on at school. That’s all.’
She sighed and fussed and tut-tutted before making me swallow a huge multi-vitamin capsule, followed by a dessertspoon of liquid malt, dark and thick with earthy promise. I wanted to tell her about Russell, but what would I say? That a beachy blonde boy, someone I’d liked for months, was picking me up to take me to the beach on Saturday and not to make a big fuss about it? I could be wrong, but Russell didn’t seem like the meet the parents type. And my parents weren’t exactly laid back about this sort of thing either. The last boy who met Ma and Dad barely survived a grilling akin to the Spanish Inquisition. I was so embarrassed, I vowed never to subject myself – and any future or potential boyfriend – to my parents again.
My plan for Saturday was simple. When Russell parked outside my house, and I knew the sound of his engine, low and rumbling like a passing thunderstorm, I would head my mother off at the pass – possibly even say I was going for a drive with Serena and her new boyfriend – and make my escape to his car. And that’s exactly what happened.
I ran out of the house, yelling over my shoulder: ‘I’m going for a drive with Serena and her new boyfriend, Ma. I shouldn’t be too late back.’
‘Ok,’ she yelled back.’Drive safe!’
I was right in thinking Russell wasn’t the meet the parents type. He sat in his car, engine idling in thunder gear, smoking a cigarette. He had had enough to do with parents over his seventeen or eighteen years to know they were trouble. Trouble for him. He avoided them, wisely, and waited for his dates to come out to him. When he saw me approach, all floppy hat and braids and Indian cotton cover-up, he grinned at me as he leaned over from his side of the car to open the door for me.
‘Hey,’ he said.
‘Hey,’ I said. I slid into the passenger seat, my bare legs tickled by the soft lambswool seat cover. I buckled up my seat belt and grinned back at him.
‘Glad you could make it.’
‘Yeah. Me too. My thing got cancelled.’
He slid a cassette into the deck – Billy Squier – stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray and foot easing off the clutch, shifted into first gear. I could smell him: a heady mix of Blue Stratos, cigarette and sweat. His hair was messy, like he had only just gotten out of bed and hadn’t combed it and his face was unshaven, not quite stubble, not quite a beard. His teeth, when he grinned at me, were clean and white, his gums pink and healthy. This surprised me, given his love for cigarettes and weed. He wore a white-ish singlet and blue camouflaged-print board-shorts. He was driving in bare feet, his rubber thongs on my side of the car.
‘We’ll head up towards the bluff,’ he said. ‘Good surf there today. And nice views of the port.’
He grinned at me again as he shifted effortlessly through the gears. Billy Squier was begging to be stroked, and I was in summer afternoon heaven.