Wednesday, July 14, 2010
In truth, it was His Golden Labrador that attracted me first, and, technically, it was she who made the first move.
We had been passing each other on a daily basis, me on my route home, him, out walking with his (it has to be said, rather flea-bitten) unleashed, and exuberant friend, and I would smile at her (not him, the owner, you understand, girlies my age were far too well dragged up than to ever go about grinning at passing, strange boys in that manner - well, not unless we had the back up of a good mate in tow).
This particular day I must have grinned a bit too wide, or maybe it was just the irresistible aroma of my left-over crusts of lunch (mashed-up boiled egg) which I’d thoughtfully saved, stuffed in my pocket, and forgotten over several days, who can tell? Either way, something spurred her beyond her usual waggly-tailed trot past me, and she unexpectedly leaped to bounce up, knocking me flat off my feet, sending me flying full-force-sideway’s, to land slap-bang up against the cold, hard cracks of the unforgiving pavement.
Before I could draw air, there she was, slobbering all over me.
“Down, Sheena, down, get away, ye’ bad dog!”
This was in the day when dogs had proper, un-original, solid dog-like names, such as Rover, Lassie, Fido or Spot, sometimes you might find the odd Meg or Jock, but even then, that was considered to be pushing it a bit. Even in my dazed state, I found myself asking, "Who calls their dog Sheena?"
“Here, let me give you a hand up..”
I take his hand, and allow him to clean my gritty wounds with his spit-dampened, snot-encrusted hankie. Right there and then, as my eyes met his, and my eight year old heart did a double-backward flip.
From there on out, he and Sheena met me from the school gates, and together they walked me home. Sometimes (if Ma was still working her shift over at McBrides) I’d take them in for the odd slice of bread and jam.
I assumed he went to another school, but it turned out he was being home-schooled. More exotic still, he was adopted! AND his adoptive parents were strict CATHOLIC’S!! It was all too much, I seriously considered pinching myself.
When the kids in class started taunting, singing chants of, “Now we know your boy-friend!” over and over, I happily raised my head up high and smiled back at them, retorting, “Aye, and what if you do?” and with nery a blush, either. They were only jealous. (Naturally - who wouldn’t be?)
One day, as a token of his love, he brought me a gorgeous, bright green and white, plastic, elasticated bracelet. Thrilled, I promised him I’d never take it off, other than to sleep with it under my pillow. Sadly, that proved short-lived, as on the following day his Ma sent him round to fetch it back home again (it belonged to his sister.)
Although I’d never met her, I found I wasn’t too keen on his Ma.
My Ma? Sure, she thought we made quite the couple, he was always welcome to watch the telly with us on a Sunday afternoon, once he returned back from the church. I wouldn’t have been adverse to forsaking morning Sunday School, to go join him at his St. Whatever-it-was where he went to, too, but when I offered, he said his Priest didn’t approve of Protestant’s. This puzzled me some, ‘cos I had always thought I was Scottish, but being awed by him as I was, I held my tongue.
One afternoon, we pooled our resources and bought a single tub of ice-cream from the passing Mr. Whippy van. Whilst sitting on the grass, sharing it out one spoon at a time, Bobby passed over the last of the tub for me to scrape, and turning, casually asked me to marry him.
I nearly swallowed the spoon, in my gallop to say (a studied, nonchalant) "Aye, okay."
Ah, such happy days..
I wasn’t too bothered about a ring (not wanting to land him in any more trouble with that horrible and evil sister of his), but as a symbol of our engagement, I graciously accepted his prize marble, and kept it hidden in the back of a drawer, slipped away beneath my pile of fleecy vests.
A couple of blissful, hand-holding weeks passed, and, just as most young couples do, we planned our future together. Bobby was going to build us a house. We saved every old lump of timber, and scrap of discarded wood we could find, storing it safely under a screen of piled brambles, over by the edge of the field that ran between our gardens.
It was during one of these long trawls for any handy building material, that Bobby tentatively raised the subject of us kissing. He claimed that we should, now that we were all properly engaged, and such. I wasn’t so sure, something told me you needed to be married first, for all that. But no, Bobby was quite certain it only took us being engaged, to make it allowed.
Well, of course, I loved him with all my heart, and the last thing I wanted was to let him down. (Oh, how many young girls fall foul of their heart? It’s that age old “If you loved me..” coercion, isn’t it? But being far too young and tender, I had no idea of that ploy, certainly not way back then.)
He wanted my lips, I compromised and offered my cheek. He snuggled up and placed a peck there, and no more was said. However, oddly enough, for some reason that’s about around the time when things started to go just a wee bit downhill between us. Our innocence had been muddied by curious concerns way beyond our understanding.
A few days passed before he asked for my lips again, and that’s when we had our first row.
Proper broken hearted I was. Oh sure, we made it up again, but things were never quite the same after that. He was a pretty persistent laddie for nine years of age (I wonder now, if maybe he wasn’t actually housed in a reform home? Or maybe I'm being unkind).
It came about as an almost welcome relief then, when Ma surprised me a few weeks later, with the news we were off to visit with her sister (and my six cousins), in England, for a bit. Up 'till this point, the farthest I’d ever been away from Aberdeen was only on a day trip out to Inverness – talk about big news. Two whole weeks of carefree fun, oh, wasn't I the lucky one?
Bobby promised he’d wait for me, and said he would miss me sorely with each and every passing day. I didn't doubt it. Ah, such the romantic, he was!
And so, with a happy heart, and clutching my engagement marble deep in my (still boiled-egg stained) pocket, I waved my Da, brother and sister a fond farewell off at the station, and climbed aboard the steam train set to speed me away on this, a new, bright and exciting adventure.
As it turned out, it proved to be a very different, and much longer adventure, than to the one of which I’d originally expected. And, unlikely as it is, should Bobby really have held true to his promise, then I guess by now I must owe him one very long and well overdue, sincere apology.
I was to never set foot in Aberdeen again.
(To be continued..)