"Your hair would look better loose," he says. He smells of
cigarette smoke and Aramis aftershave. A little parenthesis appears on
one side of his mouth when he smiles. Must remember every detail for
"I always wear my hair like this," I reply. We're nearly at the top
of the hill and I know he lives in the fourth brick house on the
right, the one with the little iron gate. As I'm swinging my long
braid to the left, to the right, because he might think it's cute, my
beret flies off, and he swoops to pick it up and reads the name tag
inside. His ears stick out a bit. Short fingernails. Tight purple
shirt. A peep of chest hair.
"Kate Cadogan, LV2."
"Lower fifth, class two."
"You're only fourteen, then."
I won't be fourteen till October the seventh, actually, but he
doesn't have to know that.
"I was seventeen last week," he tells me.
Wow! A whole seventeen! Birth sign, Virgo.
"See you on Monday," he says, opening his gate.
See you on Monday. I do a who-cares shrug, take my beret
back, flatten it onto my head, and turn away without a second look. I
try to saunter off, but I can't because the girdle has slipped way
down now, so I end up walking like a goose instead. I hope to hell
he's not watching.
I turn the key in the latch of number 33 Cherry Blossom Road. No
sign of Biddy, but I do hear a rattle of cutlery in the kitchen, so
she is home.
The TV is on in the living room, and the Rolling Stones are on
Top of the Pops, singing about telephones.
Ha! And our phone rings. I join in with Mick Jagger and
sing down the receiver, because it just has to be Moira.
Breathe slowly, Kate. It's Barry. Don't pass out now.
"I found your number in the directory, Kate Cadogan."
"So you did, Barry Finch."
"How do you know my name?" he asks.
The whole of LV2 knows his name.
"Sheila Colby told me. You're friends with her brother, aren't
you?" And Sheila Colby fancies him like nothing else, but he phoned
me! And he's seventeen.
Hearing the soft pad of footsteps on the carpet, I swing around to
see Biddy walking toward me. Her arms are folded.
"Got to go," I tell Barry. I put the receiver down, praying he
won't think I hung up on him, praying Biddy won't ask who I was
Biddy says there'll be plenty of time for boys when I go to
college, when I'm eighteen. Girls grow up too soon these days, she
says, wearing short skirts and showing their knickers. No wonder they
end up in trouble.
My mother taps her foot. "Who were you speaking to, Kate?"
"Moira," I say, fidgeting with a strand of hair.
I see Biddy has new shoes, burgundy, with sharp stiletto heels.
They look kind of funny with her green hospital dress and starched
apron. She must have been trying them on. That's another pair to add
to the hundred and twenty-five she already has.
"Make sure you get your homework done tonight. Don't leave it till
last minute on Sunday," she says. "You were talking to a boy, weren't
British Parliament asks Amazon to clarify why it pays $9 million in income tax on $23 billion of UK sales.(May 20 2013) Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate...