‘Don’t turn me down.’ He speaks like a poet and brandishes splayed fingers, clear air between each tapering digit. ‘Or I don’t know what I’ll do…’
I laugh at his drama. ‘You’ll live.’
‘I won’t.’ Daniel arches his throat, caresses the pulse points on his neck. He’s slighter than I usually go for and slender boned, but tall. We go for a drink, his thick lashed blue eyes and soft wide mouth persuading me.
‘I don’t drink much,’ Daniel confesses.
I like his vulnerability, it’s refreshing. He’s good company, angles the conversation around me all evening. I try to remember the last man who was so attentive. Was it years ago, decades even? We walk towards the bus stop and he holds my hand. How sweet. He pulls me into an empty shop doorway. Daniel’s an eager kisser his eyelashes tickling my cheek and he’s a gentleman too, feeling me up over my clothes instead of under them. He takes my hand again and presses it against himself. I have a flashback from my youth, in another shop doorway, of giggles and fumbles, cider and blackcurrant breath.
I don’t mean to say it, it just comes out.
‘What are you, seventeen or something?’
Daniel draws away for a second, his blue eyes shocked.
Oh don’t tell me I think, and pull back, my mortified cheeks puce.
‘Are you alright?’ he seems genuinely worried about me, and kind. His eyelashes really are very thick.
‘Yes,’ I say, returning my hand to the warm. He trembles.
People don’t like us being together and we get comments punched at us everywhere so spend most of the time at my flat. That suits us both because he’s energetic and enthusiastic about everything we do, and I love it. I don’t love him though, I can’t; he’s only seventeen years old. Still, I try not to think about that.
‘Did you have a good time last night?’ he questions me in his narrow single bed the one and only time we stay at his.
‘Of course,’ I say.
His mum is ironing his clothes in the kitchen when we go downstairs. She does it on purpose and I don’t blame her, she was in the year below me in school. I’d be angry with me too but him and me, we carry on. He still asks if I’m having a good time every single time and I always say yes because mostly it’s true. Daniel’s eighteenth birthday is excruciating though. His dad comes with us for his son’s first legal pint, I ask Daniel if he’s enjoying it and he looks hurt like I’ve stolen something from him.
In the end it’s my suggestion we pack it in, us. I’ll miss the firmness and hardness of his body and his consideration, but we’re going nowhere.
‘Let’s be friends,’ he says, tearful.
‘I don’t think that’s the best idea.’
He walks me to the bus stop for the last time, presses my hand against his groin (he’s young after all) on the way there.
‘You had a nice time with me, didn’t you?’ he asks.
Weeks later, I see Daniel holding hands with a girl his own age and hear his question to her, the one he always asked me. The girl is happy, both she and Daniel are, and he looks genuinely interested in her reply to his query. It’s his line now, the one he’ll use forever, and so he should. It’s a good one.
Good Times was first published in Slim Volume 1 : No Love Lost (Pankhearst, 2014)