we are a little different this year:
some contributions are exclusive stories, others are excerpts
from the authors' novels,
but all have our traditional format of...
Read the Story - Guess the Song
Here's a clue to the song title
by Paul Marriner
We had a large family – not physically (haha), numerically. Mum had four siblings and Dad was one of six. Only one of their generation hadn’t survived childhood and so I had eight uncles/aunts and six aunts/uncles ‘in law’ – one pair had divorced and one of the non-blood aunts had died from extreme food poisoning (my dad joked it was his brother’s attempt at spaghetti bolognese but it was never funny, no matter how many times he tried. I wonder now if he wasn’t trying to be amusing; perhaps he thought it was true. Perhaps it was). I didn’t know all the aunts’ and uncles’ names and even fewer of my many cousins, let alone which aunt or uncle they belonged to. The cousins’ age range differed wildly from me and my two younger sisters; the three of us ranged over less than five years, but when I was thirteen my oldest cousin was at least thirty and the youngest six at most.
Family occasions were raucous, unpredictable and I was mostly a spectator; until that wedding.
In August 1973, I was thirteen, going on twenty-five in my mind but regressing to ten according to my father. That was harsh and I think he was a touch envious; I was already as tall as him, had more hair and, as my mother frequently reminded him, had inherited the good looks from her side of the family. To be fair, he agreed with her. They’d met at Hammersmith Palais. Dad had fallen for her perfectly symmetrical face, deep blue eyes and alluring (his word) figure on first sight and had been falling further ever since. My mother was smart enough to play on that - her main asset was her sharp mind. I like to think I inherited that too. Fortunately, my dad brought other good stuff – he was naturally and instantly likeable. That he wasn’t quite as funny as he thought was charming, and that most of his attempts to be charming didn’t quite work was endearing. In short (pun intended), he was a decent man who worked hard and even when chastising me and my sisters was usually sorry soon afterwards. There was never any doubt he would sacrifice any and everything for us. There was never any doubt my mum loved him as much as he loved her – often to my embarrassment.
So, between them I was dealt a lucky hand. Of course, I didn’t appreciate much of this when I was just thirteen and the mass of uncles and aunts at the wedding were teasing Dad about my height.
The wedding reception was in a local sports club – in those days many of the factories and companies dotted around our suburb had popular social clubs with good pitches (better maintained than the council’s) and cheap bar prices. I’d found a couple of cousins three or four years older than me to hang around with, having persuaded my sisters to stop following me. It was a warm June evening and we sat on the grass, Phil and Andy smoking with one eye on the open fire escape back into the hall in case an adult came looking. It was getting on for half nine and I watched flashes from the disco lights escape the darkness of the hall and disappear in the sunset. The soundtrack was provided by Bowie, Bolan, Bad Company, Badfinger and some earlier stuff from The Beatles and The Beach Boys and I made a joke about the next track being by the Bee Gees. Phil just looked at me but Andy thought for a moment before nodding, ‘All the Bs. I get it.’ He was smart and dressed from Mandate, an upmarket local menswear shop, not C&A. I liked Andy. Then the DJ said something about time to, ‘Find a lady, make a friend,’ (the sound outside wasn’t clear).
‘Time for a smooch,’ said Andy, stamping his cigarette out on the newly cut outfield of the cricket pitch. Phil copied and they made for the hall, me behind, of course. They, and by default me, stood just inside the door for half a minute, waiting for our eyes to adjust to the dark. I recognised the intro to Michael Jackson’s Ben as they quickly and (it seemed to me) expertly, scanned the hall. By some criteria I didn’t appreciate, they made decisions and eased into action. I watched Andy glide over to a group of girls and slink back on to the dance floor with a young woman in tow. As Michael Jackson began the first verse, Andy and the girl melded into one as the yellows, reds and greens of the disco lights burst, blurring the couple into a solitary silhouette.
I looked back to the group of girls, aware that my heart rate was ticking up and I was breathing more quickly. It was a surprise. No, not a surprise. An epiphany. I wanted to dance. With a girl. More than wanted – needed. Especially when I saw her and desperately when a longer explosion of light showed her sweet pale face, even features framed by long black hair (though to be fair pretty much everyone’s hair looked black in the disco darkness) and long legs crossed as she sat watching the older girls around her. I guessed she was close to my age though, of course, she looked calmer, more mature, more sophisticated; they all did. I watched her for a while, going over the pros and cons of asking her to dance. What’s the worst that could happen? Humiliation. What’s the best? A smooch with the prettiest girl at the disco. No contest. As Michael Jackson faded I recognised the acoustic guitar intro to the next song, and made my decision as the piano joined in. My first step was jerky and forced but the second, with a deep breath, was easier and I weaved my way across the dance floor as more couples joined. Half-way there she looked up and, as the lights flared brightly, I swear our eyes met. I stopped walking as the floor dipped back into a brief blackness, waiting for the next flash of light, a second later; she was still looking my way. I walked on. As I neared, my stomach turning and legs weakening, she stood, and before I could mouth an invitation to dance, came toward me, taking my hand and leading me to the middle of the dance floor. We slipped through the couples to a space in the darkness that was ours; surrounded by couples but absolutely alone. As the lyrics began against the acoustic guitar and piano backing I put my arms around her and felt her arms around me – a light touch with the heaviest of meaning, surely. Our bodies brushed but were not pressed against each other and we revolved slowly, perhaps not in time to the music but beautifully in tune.
It was the greatest four and half minutes of my life so far. I thought we should kiss, but didn’t try, and that was probably best. I asked her name as the song ended. She whispered it close to my ear, her breath draping like silk on my neck, then eased free; I’d held tighter than I’d realised. She smiled easily, perhaps mischievously, pecked me on the cheek and was gone – her name still on my lips.
Over breakfast I described her to Mum, hoping she might know who she’d come with. She didn’t and asked Dad – I’d been hoping to avoid that; the mickey-taking lasted well over a week. I told him he was jealous so he laughed, took Mum’s hand in the kitchen and led her in a light-footed twirl round the kitchen. He would never need to be envious.
I saved pocket money and bought the single I had danced to with the dark-haired girl, playing it quietly in my room on the old Dansette mono deck, reliving that first dance. Surely it was no coincidence her name had been the same as that sung by Jagger?
by: The Rolling Stones
Paul grew up in a west London suburb loving sport, music and, especially, literature. He writes full time and has published three novels. His ambition is to write books that entertain, engage and challenge and believes in the power of great stories and passionate, honest writing.
|read our review|
selected as Book of the Year
images via: Pixabay unless otherwise stated
Note: it is illegal to copy lyrics but there is no © for ideas!
our stories or excerpts to enjoy
1st Deborah Swift - an excerpt from Pleasing Mr Pepys
2nd Graham Brack - The Clock Struck One
3rd Cindy Vallar - Rumble the Dragon
4th Barbara Gaskell Denvil - The Great Forest
5th Nicky Galliers - Two Stories
6th Annie Whitehead - excerpt from To Be A Queen
7th Judith Arnopp - an excerpt from The Winchester Goose
8th Paul Marriner - First Love
9th Loretta Livingstone - Labour of Love
10th Marian L. Thorpe - excerpt from Empire’s Heir
11th J G Harlond - excerpt from A Turning Wind
12th Amy Maroney - excerpt from Island of Gold
13th Richard Tearle - excerpt from the North Finchley Writer's Group
14th Inge H Borg - Excerpt from After the Cataclysm
15th Juhi Ray - the movie Jodha Akbar
16th Clare Flynn - Excerpt from The Green Ribbons
17th Anna Belfrage - A Light So Bright
18th Elizabeth St John - excerpt from Written in Their Stars
19th Nicky Galliers - Duty
20th Erica Lainé - La Belle Russe
21st Anna Belfrage - Excerpt from A Rip In The Veil
22nd Kathryn Gauci - Excerpt from The Poseidon Network
23rd Cryssa Bazos - Excerpt from Rebel's Knot
24th Debbie Young - The Secret Ministry Of Frost
* * *
you might also enjoy books by Helen Hollick
or direct to an Amazon near you
* King Arthur Trilogy
* the events that led to the Battle Of Hastings 1066
(includes US The Forever Queen USA Today Bestseller)
* the Sea Witch Nautical adventure series
* Cosy Mysteries