This is the fourteenth part of a fiction serial, in 774 words.
The incident with Sophie made Toni even happier about our date. She loved how I stood up for her, and when we sat back down on the grass, she clung on to me like a limpet. After more serious kissing, she looked up at me, doe-eyed. “I love being your girlfriend, Danny”.
So now I had a girlfriend.
Not wanting to push my luck with Maria Malone, I walked Toni home early, getting to her door while it was still light. She gave me a more reserved kiss on the doorstep, then her mum opened the door. This time, her face was softer, and she was smiling. “You did well, boy. Got my girl home in good time. You can take her out at the weekend if you like”. Toni immediately looked at me, her eyes hopeful. I nodded, and said that would be great.
The next day at school, things were not going so well for Toni. I saw her walking around on her own, and it was obvious all of her former friends were giving her the cold shoulder. At break time, I found her sitting on one of the concrete planters near the school entrance, and she had been crying.
“Why can’t they just be happy for me, Danny? Sophie can go out with anyone she likes, but because you asked me out they have all turned on me. Someone tipped a can of drink into my school-bag, and everything is soaked. They are going to make my life a misery, I know it”. I put my arm around her, and told her I would sort it all out. Then I told her I would come to her house on Saturday afternoon and take her to the cinema.
That cheered her up.
Uncle Brian was in two minds about the situation. He liked being in the Malone’s good books, but he was worried what would happen if me and Toni didn’t work out. “As strange as it sounds, you could well be stuck with her for the rest of your life. I know that’s hard to imagine now, but you mark my words”. Then he said we should go upstairs for a while, and after he would take me to Pizza Express for my favourite pizza.
Being young and immature, staying with Toni forever sounded like a good idea to me at the time. I really liked her, and wanted to look after her. To my young mind that sounded like the perfect foundation for long-term love. But to make her happy, I was going to have to work out how to get rid of Sophie without Toni finding out.
An opportunity arose as I was walking to the town centre to get Uncle Brian a birthday card. Up ahead, a bus stopped, and three girls got off. One of them was Sophie, and she said something to the others before heading off on her own. I followed her from a distance, and watched her go into a large shoe shop. She looked through the racks, tried on a couple of pairs, then left without buying anything.
Following her around the shopping mall, it wasn’t long before she spotted me. Typical of Sophie, she turned, hands on hips. Always so supremely confident. “So what do you want? Come to slag me off about your Irish girlfriend? Or maybe you didn’t like second best and prefer someone who actually looks good?” I had to give her credit. For twelve years old, she was as sassy as someone twenty years older.
My story was already concoted. I told her that I went out with Toni because the Malones lived nearby, and my uncle was scared of them. I added that of course I preferred her, but would get aggravation if Toni and her mum found out. Her self-satisfied smile was the definition of smug.
“I knew that of course, so I will give you another chance. It might be more fun for Toni to carry on thinking you fancy her when you are actually going out with me. So what about Sunday? We could do something then”.
Smiling, I told her I was happy with Sunday, but that we needed to go somewhere quiet, and nobody else should know about it. Although it was an hour’s walk, I suggested Mendlesham Woods, which was about as remote as it got around the town. She laughed. “So you want to get me alone in the woods then? Okay, I will meet you at the back of the library at twelve on Sunday”. As she walked off, she called out without turning round.
“And don’t be late!”