‘Wolfie fancies you,’ Manboy said.
He said it during English, with Rigby, the lower school head. Rigby was reading us Rogue Male. He stopped reading when he heard Manboy talking. Rigby didn’t say anything, he just stopped reading and looked at me and Manboy. Then he started again.
In the story, some guy on the run was hiding in the woods. He dug a hole beneath a hedge and shut himself in there. It was no bigger than my airing cupboard. I knew exactly where, in the Glory Wood, I would dig a hole to hide in. It would be big enough for me and Wolfie to squeeze in there together.
‘How do you know?’ I said. I said it quietly, so Rigby wouldn’t hear.
‘She told me to tell you.’
‘She told you?’
‘Her friend did.’
‘The one with the teeth.’
‘Not the one with the ankles?’
‘The one with the teeth.’
‘But not Wolfie?’
‘No. But she still fancies you.’
Wolfie was the best looking girl at the Ashcombe School. No one else came close. She looked like Princess Di. She had the Princess Di nose and the Lady Di hair, before she married Charles. She was shorter than Princess Di, and had shoulders like a swimmer more than a princess. She didn’t blush like Princess Di. But she had bigger tits. From a distance.
‘I told you,’ Manboy said.
‘Girls would fancy you after what you did to Dutch. You’ve got a reputation. Girls go mad for that.’
’Shush boys,’ said Rigby.
Wolfie was in our English class. I watched the back of her hair as Rigby got the class to read Rogue Male instead of him. It came her turn. She read in a high voice and sounded nervous. She didn’t have enough breath for the words and kept having to stop. It was nice. It was just like Princess Di. My turn came. I hated reading. I was slow and clumsy. I fell over my own tongue and lips and teeth, as if my mouth was full of bees. I didn’t understand the words either. I hadn’t been listening enough. It was something about Lyme Regis and Beaminster but I couldn’t make head or tail of it.
The class laughed when I read. Not loudly, like at St Paul’s. But loud enough. Even if I did have a reputation. When I finished there was a note on my desk.
‘Come to Fintan’s—babysitting.’
Fintan Buckley was the brainiest Irishman we knew. Even Fanta said so, and he was Irish. He lived over the road with his two small boys, in the house that auntie Linda used to live in before they all moved to Leatherhead. Fintan was a single dad. It wasn’t long after he moved in with Maree and the boys that he came banging on our front door to tell us Maree had run off with her boss.
‘Come in and have a cup of tea,’ Mum said. ’Sorry, we don’t have Irish.’
Fintan sat crying on the couch while Mum made his tea. Dad was in his recliner.
‘Shit happens,’ Dad said.
Fintan shook his head and wiped his eyes with his palms.
‘I can’t believe it,’ he said. ‘I cannot believe it.’
‘It wasn’t because of the Citroen Familiale, was it?’ said Dad. When auntie Linda moved out, Dad started parking his Citroen Familiale in their backyard, next to the old boat. He still did it. He didn’t even ask. He just did it.
Fintan shook his head. Of course it wasn’t because of the Citroen Familiale.
‘I know why she’s done it,’ said Fintan. ‘I just can’t believe it.’
Fintan knew everything about anything. It got on Dad’s nerves.
‘He’s not short of a word, is he?’ Dad said, when Fintan had gone. ‘He didn’t see that one coming though.’
Fintan was head barman down at the King’s Arms. Wolfie babysat the boys during Fintan’s shifts. I went over there at eight o’clock that night when it was almost dark, and we stood in the kitchen as the boys slept upstairs.
‘It still stinks in here,’ I said.
’You mean the damp?’
‘Yeah, it stinks. I haven’t been in here for years and it smells exactly the same.’
‘Do you want a BJ?’ Wolfie said.
‘What’s the matter with it? The boys are asleep.’
‘I’ve eaten dumplings in here,’ I said.
Wolfie didn’t care about dumplings. She was down on her knees fumbling with my fly. She took ages. She moaned every time she couldn’t get it open.
‘What you doing?’ I said.
‘I can’t get it undone.’
‘Just yank it.’
‘What do you think I’m doing?’
‘Give it here.’
‘I’ve got it. I’ve got it.’
Wolfie pulled me open and got me out and suddenly I was standing there in auntie Linda’s kitchen with my back against the cupboards and my knob waving about in Wolfie’s face like a length of four by two.
‘This thing has teeth,’ Wolfie said. She was grimacing.
‘Fuck off out of it,’ I said.
I snatched it back and stuffed it away and zipped it back up again, out of the glare of the kitchen fluoro.
‘I didn’t mean anything,’ she said. ‘It’ll still work.’
‘Forget it,’ I said.
‘What’s wrong with it anyway?’
‘There’s nothing wrong with it.’
My voice was shrill like Mum’s. My cheeks were burning. There was nothing wrong with it at all. Dr Goode had said so.
I avoided Wolfie the next day. It was easy because it was Rocky’s memorial day. The day I turned 14. On Rocky’s memorial day we bunked off from school and went down to the railway workers hut near the tunnel off Reigate Road, where we smoked and boiled American hotdog sausages in the tin on top of the old wood stove and played cards. No one said anything about Rocky. They never did. They didn’t need to.
‘I hated them older lot,’ Manboy said.
‘What, the Twinnies and them?’ said Fanta.
‘Yeah, them and Barry and Fraggle and that lot.’
‘They were all right,’ said Fanta.
‘To you they were.’
‘Where’d they all go anyway?’ said Bigun.
‘They’re still around,’ said Jerry. ‘The Twinnies are. They’re still in Wildwood. Mash is round there all the time.’
‘No I’m not,’ said Mash. No one had invited Mash, as usual, but he was there anyway.
‘I’m always seeing you up there,’ Jerry said.
‘You’re always there,’ Fanta said. ‘I seen you.’
‘I seen you too,’ said Mouse.
It was true. Mash was always hanging about the Twinnies’ house in Wildwood Road. I saw him going in and out of there all the time.
‘What do you do in there anyway?’ I said.
‘Course you do. The Twinnies are always up to something.’
’Thieving,’ Jerry said.
‘Fuck off, Jerry. What would you know?’
‘More than you.’
‘Remember Mo?’ Manboy said.
‘Where’d he disappear to?’
‘Justice reckons he went on holiday and never came back,’ Manboy said. He laughed and they all laughed with him.
‘Fuck off,’ I said. ‘I do not.’
‘They were all deported,’ Fanta said. ‘Back to Africa.’
‘I thought he was Pakistani,’ said Moonbase. Moonbase wasn’t a Wildwood boy. But he used to go to St Paul’s with the rest of us and was an Ashcombe boy now. One of the gang.
‘He was Moroccan,’ said Manboy.
We smoked about 30 Benson and Hedges between us. Mash had bought singles from the train station shop. He kept them to himself. Jerry had a pack of 10 and Fanta had a full pack of 20. We ate our sausages and played blackjack with real money. Then we headed back to the Ashcombe along Reigate Road to the roundabout and back up the A24. It was lunch when we got back and Razor and the rest of his gang of punk rockers were leaning against the railings in Mowbray Gardens, behind where I done Dutch.
‘You lot got any smokes?’ Razor said.
‘Nah,’ Mash said. It wasn’t true, he had tons left.
Fanta chucked him what he had left in the pack.
‘Hey, Justice, did you hear about Wolfie?’ Razor said.
I hadn’t heard about Wolfie. We’d bunked off all morning. If it had anything to do with the BJ she nearly gave me I didn’t want to hear anything.
’She fell through the library roof.’
‘What library roof?’
‘She was up there with the fourth years having a smoke.’
‘With Danny Parsons,’ the girl next to Razor said. She had black makeup around her eyes and her hair was the colour of ink. Her tights had ladders in both legs.
‘Yeah, Danny fucking Parsons.’
Danny Parsons was bigger than me. He was a fourth year, like Dutch. He was captain of the football team and an athlete, like Daley Thompson. He was black like Daley Thompson too. Half-caste.
My blood was up. Boiling. The snakes in my belly were going mental.
‘Don’t know. Except she fell through and gashed her thigh. There was an ambulance and everything.’
‘Took her to hospital.’
Razor didn’t know anymore. Neither did his punk rockers. The boys followed me round the school to find out the rest. Danny pushed Wolfie. That’s what everyone said. They’d gone up into the roof space from the hatch in the library for a smoke. Danny pushed Wolfie because he’s a prized knob. Wolfie put her foot through the ceiling and was hanging in mid-air with a great fucking gash in her thigh, squirting blood everywhere. We went up to the library for a look.
‘Any blood?’ Fanta said.
‘Not up there, there’s not,’ said Muddy. Muddy was looking down at the carpet. That’s where all the blood was.
’Bloody hell,’ said Jerry. ‘That’s disgusting.’
‘Hey,’ I said. ‘That’s my girlfriend you’re talking about.’
‘Is it?’ said Jerry. ‘Oh fuck.’
It rained all afternoon. The sky was grey, then dark grey, then black, then purple. Purple-ish. There was thunder, and then there was wind. The heavy clouds passed over but the rain continued to fall in sheets, then drizzle. It rained so much the drain at the back gate of the Ashcombe got blocked and a small lake formed in the road near the underpass. It was still raining when the bell went. I ran down to the gate to wait for Danny Parsons and stood in the rain as a crowd cottoned on to what was happening and stood in the rain as well. All the Ashcombe boys were there. And Mash. They knew what was going on. Danny Parsons showed up with a flashy grin on his face and his mates looking cocky as fuck. I ran up and lamped him and he went down like a tree. I grabbed his head and shoved his face in the puddle and everyone went quiet. I wasn’t letting go of Danny Parsons’ head until the motherfucker stopped breathing.
‘Justice,’ Manboy shouted. ‘That’s enough.’
I lifted Danny Parsons’ head from the puddle. There was blood everywhere. His mouth. His nose. Even his fucking eyes. It was like a horror movie. No one made a noise. They were all watching me. I could feel their eyes. I could feel something else too. Fear. Or hate. Something like that. Everyone loved Danny Parsons. The Ashcombe had a good football team. And he was black. So now I was racist. Reputation.
Wolfie stayed off school for a whole week. Danny Parsons stayed home all the next week too. The fourth years spent the week staying well away from me. Wolfie’s friend, the one with the teeth, not the one with the ankles, told Manboy that Wolfie would never come near me again either.
‘Because of what you done to Danny Parsons,’ Manboy said.
‘He deserved it.’
‘It’s what she said.’
‘No, her friend. The one with the teeth.’
It wasn’t true though. Wolfie was back at school on the Friday. The friend with the teeth gave Manboy another note during English. Rigby was back reading Rogue Male.
‘Fintan’s tonight,’ the note said. There was a heart next to the words.
‘See,’ I said.
‘I never said anything,’ said Manboy.
After school, and after tea, I stood at the window of our front room and watched Fintan’s house until eight o’clock.
‘What you doing?’ Mum said.
‘What’s so interesting at Fintan’s house?’
‘It’s his new girlfriend,’ said Whoa. She’d been doing her makeup out the back. She was off out.
‘No it’s not.’
‘Yes it is. Everyone knows what you done to Danny Parsons.’
‘What did you do to Danny Parsons?’ Mum said. ‘Who’s Danny Parsons?’
‘A black kid at school.’
‘He’s not a black kid,’ I said.
‘He is so black.’
‘That’s not why I did it.’
‘Did what?’ said Mum.
‘Our Justice beat him up and made his eyes bleed.’
‘I did not.’
‘Justice,’ said Mum.
‘If your Dad was here.’
’Stop calling me Ma,’ Mum said. ‘You know I don’t like it.’
‘He thinks he’s Nick Cotton,’ said Whoa.
‘Who’s Nick Cotton?’
Whoa was right. It was because of Nick Cotton. He called his mum Ma. So I did too. But I was worse than Nick Cotton. He was a made up villain. I was the real thing.
After eight o’clock, Wolfie took us to the kitchen again.
‘What is it with you and this kitchen?’ I said.
‘What’s your problem with it?’
‘I told you. I’ve eaten steak and dumplings right there.’
‘Let’s go upstairs then,’ Wolfie said.
She looked just like Diana when she said that. A Madame Tussaud’s version of Diana anyway. It was all in the eyes.
‘No way,’ I said. ‘I’m not going up there.’
‘Fintan’s not back for ages.’
‘I don’t care,’ I said. ‘There are monsters up there.’
‘What sort of monsters?’
‘I said forget it.’
Wolfie took my word for it.
‘Let’s go out to the car then,’ she said.
‘Dad’s Citroen Familiale? I don’t think so.’
‘The old boat then.’
‘The old boat out the back?’
‘No fucking way.’
‘The car then.’
There was grass growing all around the old Citroen because Fintan never did the garden.
‘He’s too drunk to get the mower out,’ Dad always said. ‘Lazy fucker.’
It was true. Fintan never did the lawn. The grass was three feet high and dripping wet from the rain and it was like walking through a car wash.
‘This is stupid,’ I said.
Wolfie ignored me. She scrambled through the grass and reached the car, then climbed in the back because it was unlocked, and pushed the back seat down like she’d done it before.
‘You’ve done that before,’ I said.
‘No I haven’t.’
She was cold from the rain and the wet grass. Shivering. I lay down beside her, close enough to feel her quivering. I didn’t touch her though. I didn’t know where or how. It was all different than before.
‘Get on with it,’ she said.
‘How do you mean?’ I said.
She took off her wet jeans, no messing about, quick as you like. Just straight off. She flung them onto the driver’s seat. Dad’s seat.
‘Come on then.’
I took mine off too, but not my underpants. They weren’t coming off for nothing.
Wolfie shifted and slid and shuffled, and somehow, without me doing anything at all, I was on top, with her still on her back, and her legs apart. It was blurry inside the old Citroen, as if the fog had crept in from the backyard. The windows were wet with condensation and my eyes were cloudy, like just before sleep. But right there, staring up at me from the back of Dad’s car, was Wolfie, looking just like Princess Di.
‘What you waiting for?’ she said.
Wolfie’s hands were on my shoulders, either pushing me up or pulling me down. I couldn’t decide. Either way, I went at it, just like I knew how, even if it was all different. I went at it like I’d never gone at it before, and the more I went at it the more I wanted to go at it. Because apart from everything else, it all felt completely and utterly bonkers. Wet, for one thing, wet like the windows and the rain and the three foot grass. Wet and warm and noisy. And good. All those things, all at once. Like everything was where it was meant to be. Like my bedroom. Like Christmas. Like green plastic army men. Like iced fingers and pound notes. I shivered. I felt dizzy. My head was airy like a balloon. Where the snakes had been in my belly, it felt like Guy Fawkes night and Christmas carols and throwing snowballs in the Glory Wood. And then the biggest explosion of them all, this rush of God knows what up the back of my legs and out through the front that made me shake and quiver like Wolfie, who was suddenly laughing, and laughing so hard that I had to roll off and scramble around the inside of the Citroen Familiale looking for my jeans. I shivered again. Shuddered some more. My head was buzzing like a bee hive. My heart was banging on my ribs and against the sides of my neck. I was gasping for air. Not in a scary way, but like I’d just run 100 metres and fucking loved every second of it.
I tumbled from the Citroen Familiale into the wet grass. The first thing I saw in the glow of the streetlight was the old boat. I felt the same old panic — and the snakes in my belly came rushing back. But even that felt different.
‘You’ve never done it before,’ Wolfie said, climbing out after me. She laughed again. ‘You’ve never done it before.’
‘Course I have,’ I said. And it was true. I had done it before. All of it. Everything.
Just never like this. Never like how it was meant to be done. Never like real, actual fucking. With a real actual girl.
‘You never did,’ Wolfie said. ‘I can tell. You just lost your virginity.’
And that was true as well.