We first met in 1981, on a cool day in mid-August.
I had just turned 18. I was good looking, with dark eyes and thick dark hair. At the time I was seeing a girl, but we were going nowhere. I knew that was largely down to me. I had a public face, a persona, which girls found very attractive. Outgoing, talkative, with an almost arrogant charm. That was how I appeared. I dated any girl, every girl, as and when I chose. But in private, once we were alone together, I was much less sure of myself. Quieter. More reserved. Shy really. And that, I knew – but couldn’t easily change – was less attractive. We were teenagers, and life was supposed to be fun.
Back then, I was still living in Birmingham, my home city. But on that day, a day I would never forget, I was in London, on a dreary work-related visit to the south east, travelling on a local train slowly making its way back into the city centre. Then at some anonymous suburban station, voices caught my attention and I looked up from my book to see a group of punks or something on the platform. They were just talking, laughing. Fooling around a little. Doing nothing in particular.
I watched them for a few seconds, focusing mainly on a slender girl with strikingly blonde hair and a short pink mohair jumper. She did a little dance and seemed to be making all the others laugh. For some reason I found it impossible to even look at her without smiling.
Then I went back to my reading: ‘There are moments in life that are given to us. Moments where we can make a choice. There is much more to the world than we realise, and those moments should be treated with special care when they do arrive. They are often crossroads or junctions. A clear choice between action and inaction. Sometimes mundane. Sometimes – and often, and we do not see it – one of them will be very precious. A chance to change a whole life. To act or not to act. If only we make the right decision, we might be able to change a whole story.’
Suddenly, just as the train was about to leave, someone jumped on board, opening the door right next to me and then dropping into the seat directly opposite. That felt a little odd. It was one of those open carriages with lots of woodwork and as many doors as there were windows. Strong smells of dust and warm moquette. But the train was almost empty too, so there was no need for them to sit so close. And as we moved off, I half looked up.
It was that same girl.
Other than the pink jumper, she was mostly wearing black. She had also scattered a half dozen glossy magazines on the seat next to her.
Then, once again, I returned to my book.
What happened next? A misunderstanding. That was all.
The train slowed down for the next station and I felt a strange sensation. I didn’t look up, because I could tell what it was.
And I was embarrassed by it. I even felt myself blushing. It was the girl opposite. She appeared to be periodically rubbing her shoe against mine, against my boot.
The train stopped. And then she did it again. Very lightly, but – to me at least it was quite definite – she pressed her shoe against mine. I tried to ignore it. Sure, it wasn’t much, but it wasn’t the kind of thing most strangers did on a train.
Then it happened once more.
Still I didn’t look up. At least, not fully. But I did glance over the top of my book, past the words I was no longer able to read or think about, and notice that she was wearing a longish, black, tight fitting skirt and leather high heels.
I guess because it was daytime and August, albeit a cool day, those clothes surprised me. And maybe that was why I looked at her legs for longer than I ought to have done, as she later assured me I had. In any case, from her, I went back to staring at the pages of my book, turning them slowly to make it look as if I was reading. Not sure what to think. I hoped that staying quiet would make her stop.
The train moved off. And then it happened again.
I didn’t know what to do now. Should I say something? I’d never had anyone sit opposite me and do that before, and it felt strange.
Why would she keep doing that?
As we approached the more urban parts of London, I glanced out of the window, first to my side and then across her to the other window, as people do, by way of an excuse so I could look at her without being too obvious. Not obvious? Well, that’s what we tell ourselves.
I don’t know why, but I hadn’t expected her to be so attractive. There was not only the startling bleached blonde hair, which I’d always loved, but above night-club-red lipstick, she had high, fine cheekbones which gave her an almost sculpted appearance, and narrow almond-shaped eyes, outlined heavily with eyeliner, the lashes darkened to black with mascara.
There was a coldness in that face too, yet at the same time, a vibrancy, a liveliness that bordered on the insolent. I could see all that immediately.
But there was also something else there that I couldn’t place. Not then. Nor could I study her for too long, because those almond eyes flashed a sudden glance at me and a bright smile passed across her face. I couldn’t tell what colour those narrowed eyes were, but I could see that they sparkled, that they shone.
I turned back to my book. The train stopped again. And we were stuck at another nondescript station for quite a long while.
I knew the girl was now watching me now. I could feel her gaze on me.
Then she lit a cigarette, took a few drags on it and seemed to blow the smoke straight at me. “Ooo, sorry, is that bothering you?”, she said immediately. The accent was a little strange, but where from exactly? I couldn’t place it at first. It was also, somehow, not an ordinary girl’s voice.
“Nah”, I said, making myself smile at her. “It’s fine. Really. I smoke myself sometimes.”
“Mmm”, she said quietly. “I thought it might be bothering you. Sorry.”
I didn’t reply. And she picked up one of her magazines and, very quietly, began humming to herself as she flicked through it. Maybe even singing a little. Then she tossed the magazine back down onto her seat.
“People can be rude like that, though, can’t they? With smoke.” She spoke quickly. The voice was nervous and I found myself watching her mouth, and those very red lips. “Sorry”, she said again. With a shy but wide smile. “I am. I’m sorry.”
That was it! There, in that final apology.
That was when I realised.
Those few extra words. They had given it away. The something about her. The something about her face. About her body language. About her movement. Everything. We made proper eye contact for the first time and I froze as we did so.
The girl opposite me wasn’t a girl. She was a boy!
“Humour, romance, society, gender, those are the sort of things I write about. I like true stories.”An established author, Geoff Bunn was born in Birmingham, England. He left school at the age of 16, without any qualifications, and began working in a factory. After four years of that… he left the factory and went back to college. And today, as both a writer and artist, he divides his time between homes and studios in rural France, the UK and southern Sweden.Geoff is always happy to hear from readers and can be contacted in person via his website or on social media.
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway