This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 810 words.
I could see Toni waiting outside the fish and chip shop. Even out of school uniform, she still looked much the same. Black top, black bomber jacket, and a skirt that was a little too short for comfort.
There was someone with her. Small, skinny, and smoking a cigarette. As I got closer, Toni beamed one of her big smiles, and I suddenly saw that the person with her was older, with a very lined face, small eyes, and a rather hooked nose. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me it was her mother. But I soon found out it was.
Her Irish accent was thick, but I could make out what she was saying, along with the no-nonsense tone of her voice.
“So youse the boy? Well you’re good looking, so you are. Now listen here. You can buy my Antonia her dinner, then maybe walk around the park with her a bit. She tells me she really likes you, and I can see why. But no funny business, or you’ll have me to deal with, y’hear?” I nodded, and she flicked the cigarette butt into the kerb before continuing.
“Now snogging’s acceptable, so’s hand holding and cuddling. But nuttin’ else. She’s too young”. I nodded again, and she walked off. Turning to her daughter, she smiled and pointed at her. “Now you be home by dark girl, y’hear?”
Toni chose haddock and chips, and I went with chicken pie and chips, as I didn’t want to have fishy breath. I bought drinks too, two plastic bottles of Pepsi. We walked along to the middle of the small shopping precinct and sat on a bench to eat our food straight from the paper it was wrapped in. Neither of us had ever been on a date, and we didn’t really have a clue what to say. Between bites, Toni looked at me and smiled, and when she had finished eating, she suddenly said. “I really like you, Danny”.
She had called me Danny! I didn’t even have to ask her, she called me it straight off.
Naturally I told her I really liked her too, and made no mention of her scary mum, or her criminal father. When I suggested we walk to the park, she took my hand as we stood up, no prompting. With the lighter evenings, the park was still busy, and we walked around the other side of the lake to the quieter part away from the playground full of tired and noisy kids.
Away from the path, we sat under a big tree, finishing our Pepsis. She was still holding my hand, and after looking around to see if anyone was nearby, she leaned forward and said, “You can kiss me if you like. I want you to, it’s okay”.
Experience with Uncle Brian had taught me more than I really wanted to know about kissing, to be honest. But I was keen to try it with a girl. I started out slowly, building up to using my tongue, but it was clear she had no idea how to kiss, and was mainly just rubbing her lips over mine in a random fashion. I slowed her down, suggested she open her mouth a little, and ten minutes later we were having a full-on snogging session. My first ‘girl in the park snog’, not bad for twelve years old.
After that, her face was flushed, and she couldn’t stop smiling. I wanted to take my mind off the uncomfortable stirring in my loins, so asked if she wanted another drink. We had passed an ice-cream van on the way from the lake, and I knew it would sell drinks. She nodded, and released my hand so I could go off and buy them. When I turned back to look at her as I was walking away, she actually waved at me, calling out “Don’t be long”.
At this rate, we would be engaged to be married before it got dark.
When I got back with the two exhorbitantly priced cans of Coke, Toni was standing up, surrounded by a small gang of girls. One of them was Sophie, and one of the others who I didn’t recognise was pushing Toni. Pushing her hard. I ran up and put the cans on the grass, pulling the girl away from Toni so she couldn’t reach to push her. Sophie spoke up, her tone sounded spiteful.
“So I do you the favour of asking you out, and instead you choose this Irish slag over me”. She turned to Toni. “You’re finished, believe me”. I told them all to clear off and leave Toni alone, putting my arm round her to emphasise the fact she was under my protection. As they walked away, Sophie turned round and gave us the finger. I grinned.
Sophie was going to have to go.