I was reading the local paper in the middle of town. Each page was displayed behind glass on the outside wall of the newspaper office. “Don't say a word! Don't look around! Keep reading!” It was Blackie.
I know why I don't read local papers. Poor syndicated national news and reports about the local volunteer fire brigade and wrestling and singing club. This one was no better. I learnt that you can sing and wrestle at the same time.
“Belinda and me have decided that we like you a lot, in fact, more than a lot; and that you like us too, very much so. That's why we visit you every day. We like you.”
“However there is a problem. Someone has started a rumour at school that the two of us are having an affair with a much older man. This could cause trouble with Belinda's mother and my home.”
“Belinda and me have decided that we will not visit you; sorry, not until after the exams at the end of term. I know, it's going to be hard, for all three of us; but we will write to you every day. We still like you.”
Blackie told me an email address and password. “Look in the unsent folder and write something for us. Just don't send anything, it'll land in the unsent folder too.” She disappeared.
I was sitting in the back of the car in the woods. It was raining hard and the windows were all white. The two girls got in the car.
Blackie threw herself at me and pushed her face into mine. Belinda knelt on the front seat. I had a thick and very wet raincoat of a girl wrapped around me.
“Hello Toby! Great to see you again. We've got an hour to be with you. Blackie gets the first half hour and I get the rest.”
Belinda told me that they still liked me, very much; that they wanted me; and that they had missed me, so much. They liked everything I wrote them.
“Leave me alone. You're pulling off all my clothes. You want to smear honey all over...”
My living room door flew open and a very surprised woman entered. I had to think quickly.
“Good morning, Mrs Blake! Welcome to the village reading circle.” I stood up. “Let me introduce you, though you probably know most of us. This is Mrs Leftlloyd who is an architect, one of our founding members. Here are the Smith-Browns and Jimmy Sailor. And I don't need to introduce you to your daughter Belinda and her friend Blackie.”
“Please take my seat and I will, as host for the day, get you a cup of tea.”
“She just sits there in the meetings and stares at me.”
“Mom's head over heels about you. She likes you.”
“And you've got to do something about it. She's had a hard time, the divorce was terrible, she suffered and so did Belinda. Her dad was just terrible. I know, I helped you, didn't I Belinda?”
“So, what do I do?”
“You'll think of something.”
“Nice place this, thanks for asking me here to lunch, Mrs Blake.”
“Call me Barbara. I'm glad you liked it. I wanted to talk to you, but the reading circle meetings are not the right place for that.”
“Call me Toby. And tell me anything you like.”
“Keep still! Stop moving about.”
“It's all over the place, what a mess.”
“I've looked it up, it's a perianal abscess.”
“Oh, I thought it was a boil on the bottom.”
“It was Blackie's idea. She said that I had to do something. I arranged that you would fall all over me in the High Street. You remember?”
“Oh yes, I was so embarrassed, I did not know what to do, I blurted out an invitation to lunch at new restaurant on the edge of town. I s'pose I had been daydreaming about you inviting me out. It wasn't very...”
“It was great that you did that, look where we are now.”
“You are so kind to me.”
We were happily chugging away, when “What's that up there, it looks like a hammock.”
“It's Orion, the hunter. Those three in the middle are his belt. The big blue one is Rigel, his left foot. And the big red one is his right shoulder, Betelgeuse.”
“Oh, come on!”
“You're black all over, every last part of you, you've lovely, Blackie.”
“Sorry about that book, that Blackie was reading out of, it certainly wasn't my choice. I know why you burst into the reading circle last month.”
“You certainly weren't interested in joining the reading circle, you thought that I was doing something nasty to your daughter. I had to think quickly and avoid any embarrassment. I welcomed you to the reading circle.”
“Kiss me, Toby.”
“It's very tight in here, no room to turn round.”
“You've gotta turn round, we want to wash your back.”
“How did I meet your daughter and Blackie? It was the first day of the summer term, they had to be on time, but Blackie's bike had a puncture. I had seen the two pretty girls riding past every weekday morning in the winter. Beautiful daughter you have, Barbara. I offered to mend the puncture.”
“No, they didn't have the time. I lent Blackie my bike and off they went.”
“I mended the puncture. Later that day they came back and I discovered all about them.”
“I'm going to tie two ribbons around mine and another ribbon around yours. What colour ribbon do you want, Toby?”
“Do you like pancakes? I'll make some for you and me. I like sugar and lemon juice on mine.”
“It's important, Toby. Next month Blackie is eighteen. Yes, you are invited to the party. You know what eighteen means?”
“It means something special to me, Toby. I have to leave the home, they're kicking me out. I don't mind too much, I've never liked the home, Belinda's mom has always been an ersatz mother for me. But what do I do?”
“Come and live with me.”
“It's nice up here, great view, I've never been to High Cliff before.”
“It's a special place for our picnic, let's drink some white wine.”
“Lovely hair you're got, long blond hair. I like to drag my outstretched fingers through it and wipe it across my face.”
“You're still wearing that ribbon. I'll tie a little bell onto it. The bell will tingle every time it twitches.”
“Why don't you marry Mom and then the four of us can be very happy together.”