"Most people need more love than they deserve."
THE TALE OF SIMON
by Roy Stead
Simon felt totally unprepared for the party. Gerald, his cousin
and - currently - his best friend, had invited him down for the
weekend. Then sprung a surprise on him - there was a party on
Saturday night round at a mate's house. Simon was taken aback -
he hadn't been to a party since his junior school years, he'd
never had the knack for making friends that his contemporaries
seemed to have acquired over the years. However, Simon had -
admittedly - spent far too much time on schoolwork. This made for
good grades at school, but precious few friends. If he was honest
with himself, Simon's only friends were Gerald, his cousin, and
Geoff, a single friend from school.
Saturday night arrived, and Gerald and Simon were ready. Telling
Gerald's parents that they were Spending The Night at a friend's
House, the two set off toward the party, attired in jeans and T-
shirt - or, in Simon's case, jeans and a short-sleeved shirt.
Simon detested T-shirts.
After their arrival, Simon was at a loss what to do. Gerald got
the two of them a drink then Simon sat on a sofa in the front
room with his coke and Gerald vanished, leaving him alone in a
room full of strangers. Time passed, and Simon was bored. Cursing
his shyness, his reluctance to talk to complete strangers, he
considered simply leaving - but wouldn't he have to let Gerald
know first? Simon wasn't sure about how to handle things like
this - the situation was totally unfamiliar to him.
A gentle pressure beside him settled the matter. Turning, he saw
a young woman - she couldn't have been more than 14 but, to
Simon's fifteen years, seemed a mature young lady. She smiled as
she turned to him and introduced herself as Rebecca. Simon
stammered a hesitant reply and turned to his drink, studying the
Coca-Cola glass intently, as though engrossed by the swirl of
brown liquid, and prayed.
Half of him prayed that Rebecca would stay and talk, half that
she would get up and leave him alone. Rebecca showed no signs of
moving away and, finally, Simon looked up to her brown eyes and,
noticing her lack of a drink, offered to get her a Coke from the
nearby table. As mentioned, he hadn't been to a teenage party
before, and was unsure what to do.
Still smiling ("She's laughing at me!" Simon's paranoic brain
maintained), Rebecca asked for an orange juice and settled back
on the sofa to await the drink. Stumbling across the room, Simon
collected a refill for himself and a cloudy orange juice for
Rebecca before, somehow, making it back to the sofa - surprised
to see her still there.
For the first time, he noticed her clothing. She was wearing
what seemed to be the uniform at this party: jeans and T-shirt.
The T- shirt was extremely tight, however, and her hardly-
developed young breasts pushed, bra-less, against the flimsy
material. Simon had never had any opportunities with girls, but
had read all the right books, re-reading that passage in James
Herbert's Lair enough times to assure himself that breasts were
meant to push against some sort of flimsy material, and a T-shirt
is as flimsy as any other.
The girl carefully placed her orange on the floor beside the
sofa, and motioned for Simon to do the same. Confused, he obeyed
as she sidled over the expanse of the sofa toward the bemused
fifteen year-old. Simon still had no idea what she was doing,
until her mouth closed on his, her lips parting and soft tongue
forcing its passage between his lips to caress his teeth.
"So this is what kissing is," thought Simon - surprising himself
as he responded in kind, tasting Rebecca's tongue hesitantly at
first, then with more force. When they at last parted, Rebecca
stood up. Simon felt a sense of loss. "She must have expected
something more. She probably knows I've never done this before.
Maybe I did something wrong. She's going to get up and leave me
here, alone, again. Maybe if I had..." Rebecca leaned over him.
She wore no perfume, but somehow her scent was nearly
overpowering. Her hand grasped Simon's and pulled him to his
feet, leading him to the stairway.
Simon followed blindly, still not understanding what was
happening even when Rebecca pulled him into the bedroom. Not the
one with the coats on the bed, but a bedroom with a single bed
pushed against one wall. A duvet and matching pillowcase on the
bed proclaimed the virtues of Snoopy. Rebecca urged Simon onto
the bed, and bade him lie down as she closed the bedroom door.
For a while, the two just stood, watching each other: Simon with
no idea what he should be doing, and Rebecca expectantly waiting
for Simon to take over. After a short time, however, she must
have seen that he had no idea what was supposed to happen, and so
she sat beside him before removing her T-shirt to reveal her
small breasts to his innocent gaze.
Taking his hand in hers, Rebecca moved it to her left nipple,
using him like a shop window dummy to caress herself. All the
while, Simon was dumbfounded, unable to do anything of his own
volition. Eventually, however, when Rebecca removed her close-
fitting jeans, he saw that what he had previously only furtively
read about was going to happen, and revelled in the prospect.
Simon lay down, pulling Rebecca to him and guiding her hands to
the zipper of his jeans. Eagerly, she pulled at it, then reached
inside to grasp his aroused organ. A thrill of pleasure shot up
Simon's spine as she lowered her head to his exposed penis,
kissing it at first, licking and caressing with her tongue before
finally sucking gently as she coaxed the first drops of semen
from its tip.
The boy felt throughout that his penis was not a part of him.
Sure, he could feel it and see what was happening. To some,
little, extent, he could even control what was happening.
However, Simon seemed to be detached from what Rebecca was doing,
saw - without comprehending - her slip her tight jeans over her
still-developing hips and down her slim legs, before fully
removing his own jeans and Y-fronts for him, somehow aware that
he was incapable of doing it himself.
Straddling his thighs, Rebecca carefully, and manually,
penetrated herself with Simon then started to move. When Simon
awoke, she was gone. He collected his clothing and looked around
for Gerald - it was morning and the two of them walked back to
Gerald's home. It was a while before Simon spoke about that
night, when he lost his virginity to a girl of fourteen he didn't
know, but he cherished the memory as one cherishes an apendectomy
In Tents, Trust
Time flew by rapidly for Simon. In the months following the
party, he gained more confidence in himself and no longer
harboured doubts about his sexual ability. After all, hadn't
Rebecca chosen him, rather than the other way around? Two or
three weeks after the party, Simon met a girl a year older than
his fifteen years and the two started seeing a lot of each other,
initially in the company of Gerald - Simon's cousin - who had
introduced them one night at another party.
Gerald and Simon had been close for some time, drinking together
and often staying over at each others houses. However, as his
relationship with Jenny grew closer and more intense, Gerald had
seemed more distant. Perhaps he felt shut out, Simon didn't know.
However, Simon did all in his power to make Gerald feel
comfortable around him and Jenny, as well as spending time away
from Jenny to drink or talk to Gerald alone. Until, that is, a
time when Simon was staying over at Gerald's house.
Early in the morning - or late at night, depending on your
viewpoint - Gerald had got up from his bed, crossed the room and
climbed in beside the sleeping Simon. At first, Simon thought he
was dreaming about Jenny. Suddenly, however, he had snapped
totally awake - aware in an instant what was happening. Simon
kicked Gerald out - thankfully, before Gerald's hands had
descended down to groin level - and tried, unsuccessfully, to go
back to sleep.
The subject was never discussed between them - the topic simply
didn't come up. However, that was the last time Simon slept over
at Gerald's house, and Gerald never again stayed at Simon's. To
parents, it was merely a falling out - but Simon and Gerald
gradually lost touch, eventually seeing each other only at family
Simon's relationship with Jenny, on the other hand, blossomed
until she occupied most of his waking moments. Even so, Simon
insisted on keeping that relationship a secret from his parents
and schoolmates. Only a very few close friends were privy to
Jenny's existence - nights spent with her were, so far as Simon's
parents were concerned, spent at Gerald's house. Even long after
he and Gerald lost touch, he would still use this excuse
occasionally - in the hope, always realised, that nothing would
surface to ruin the deception.
On one such night, Simon was supposedly staying over at Geoff's
house - Geoff had met Jenny once or twice and, though he
disapproved of Simon's secrecy, allowed Simon to use him as an
excuse to meet Jenny. Jenny had borrowed a tent from her older
brother, Kevin. Simon - being totally unfamiliar with camping
gear - had watched her set it up, his early attempts at
assistance being more of a hindrance than a help and resulting in
his being told, in exasperation, to "just sit over there until
Night fell, and the two zipped the two singles into one double
sleeping bag and snuggled close together. For comfort, rather
than warmth: the tent was well-positioned - on Kevin's advice -
and sheltered from the wind. Besides, the night was mild. Simon
felt Jenny mould her lithe, seventeen year-old body against his
back and her arms embrace his shoulders as hands rested on his
chest. The touch was sheltering. Protective. And he enjoyed the
feeling, knowing that she would always be there for him,
regardless of what the world might throw at him. Whatever his O-
level results, which were due for release the next week, Jenny
would never scold him or cause him any hurt. Simon felt guilty as
his mind wandered back to that night - was it only last week...?
Simon had spent the evening with Jenny and Mary, a school friend
of hers, babysitting Mary's two year-old sister. When the hour
was getting late, Simon walked Jenny home and went to the nearby
shopping centre, where he intended to wait for the last bus back
home. And it was while he was standing there that Mary had come
up to him and started talking. Simon asked about the two year-
old, and mentioned to Mary that she really should get back to
look after her little sister.
"Oh, she's no baby now. Besides, she'll be alright for a couple
of minutes - it's not as if the house is going to burn down, or
anything just because I pop out for a minute."
"Even so, you really should get back, Mary. Sue's only a little
kid, you know."
Mary stood for a moment, watching the young man of sixteen
years, then suddenly walked up to Simon and placed her right arm
on his shoulder: "You needn't worry about Sue, Simon. She'll be
okay." Mary's left arm came up as she turned Simon towards her,
placing one hand behind his neck and the other in the middle of
his back. She looked into his eyes for a moment, then pulled him
forward to kiss him: Gently at first - then with more force.
Simon didn't resist, certainly not as much as he should have.
Mary led Simon, still unresisting, back to her house. Her
parents had not returned - and were not due back until late the
following day, having gone to stay the weekend with friends.
Still in control, she walked them up to her room, pulling the
slightly shell-shocked young man behind her as though on a lead.
When they reached her bed, Mary pushed Simon onto it then shed
her clothes before turning to, slowly, do the same for him.
The next morning, Simon was awakened by a ringing on the door
below. Mary murmured, incomprehensibly yet softly, in her sleep,
and Simon carefully lifted her arm from his chest - sighing
happily with post-coital content as he stood and moved to the
window. Below was Jenny. Shock, shame, surprise, annoyance and
guilt vied for prominence in his adulterous mind, but - thinking
quickly - Simon moved back to the bed to rouse the somnolent
"Uh...What?...Not now, Simon, I'm sleepy." Then, seeing his
worried expression, added more seriously, "What is it?"
"Jenny is outside, ringing the bell for you."
"She is? So?" Then, recognition: "Oh!" More awake now, Mary's
thoughts turned to her betrayed friend. "Jesus! What are we going
to do? Jenny will go mad if she finds you here."
"She won't - I'll get dressed and leave by the back way. You
just take your time answering the door, and keep her occupied
for a couple of minutes - as long as you can. Okay?"
"Okay, Simon." Then, dreamily, "Last night was good, wasn't it?"
Simon, pulling on his pants and trying to button his shirt at
the same time, nodded reluctant agreement. Then he added, "Yes.
But it mustn't happen again, okay? It was a mistake. There's
nothing we can do about it now, but Jenny must never find out
about this - it would hurt her too much. Let's just pretend it
didn't happen. Agreed?"
Mary looked hurt, "But..." then resigned, as Jenny's ringing of
the front door bell reminded her of her school friend - the
innocent party who would be so devestated if she were to discover
Mary and Simon's betrayal. "I suppose you're right. But you'd
better hurry up getting dressed. I'll go down to answer the door
now, and you'd better climb down onto the porch roof from here
after Jenny comes in."
Mary's plan went well, and Simon escaped. Jenny never found out
of his adultery with her best friend, and Simon vowed never again
to be unfaithful. He kept that vow.
Now, however, Simon was with Jenny in a tent on a warm, Summer
night. All seemed right with his world, as Simon was brought back
to the present by Jenny's moving hand and insistent tongue,
lapping at his left ear like a thirsty kitten at a bowl of milk.
He rolled over to face her...
The next morning, Simon was woken by Jenny, bearing a mug of
coffee. Her first words were, "How could you?" Simon gulped the
piping fluid, ignoring the pain in the back of his throught, as
his mind swam to fight for control of a flood of feelings. Had
Jenny discovered his adultery with Mary? If so, how? And why
didn't she mention it last night? He looked up, as she repeated,
"How could you? Falling asleep like that! And this was to be a
special night for us - making love under canvas by starlight. And
you fall asleep." Her words were angry, but there was a smile on
her lips as she spoke them.
Jenny moved closer as Simon, relieved at this reprieve, drained
the last of the coffee. "Sorry," he said,"I was tired, I suppose.
Yet, I'm sure we made love last night..."
"We did. But the second time, in the middle of everything, you
just sagged and fell asleep. I couldn't believe it - and you
wouldn't believe the trouble I had getting you off of me - and
out of me - while trying not to wake you up. Poor dear."
"Well," said Simon with a smile, "Perhaps we could try again..."
Two months later, Simon and Jenny split up.
Simon had applied to the company for a university sponsorship,
expecting no reply. After all, hadn't he similarly applied to
several other companies, only to receive a negative reply? This
one, however, was different. The invitation to interview arrived
within two weeks and, a fortnight later, he found himself on a
British Rail Intercity train out of Lime Street, headed for
Birmingham in second - sorry, 'Standard' - class splendour.
'Splendour' is, by any account, a relative term. In this
context, Intercity splendour means that there were no old women
intent on expounding, in great detail and at enormous length, on
My Daughter's Operation, nor were any screaming brats evident to
subject Simon to an aural assailation or insist upon a guided
tour of farm animals near the tracks. Instead, the journey was
quiet - marred only by an odd sixth sense which insisted to Simon
that the young guy in the suit who got on at Crewe was headed for
the same interview. Being English, however, Simon said nothing.
Eventually, the train pulled in to Birmingham New Street and
Simon looked around for a minibus which was to be sent to meet
him. The young guy in the suit, it turned out, was destined for
the same interview, and the two spotted the minibus
simultaneously. The young bloke and Simon each headed for it,
Simon pausing momentarily to take in the gorgeous sight beside
She was like something from a dream - totally unlike Jenny, his
previous girlfriend, in every way. The blond had slightly wavy,
shoulder-length hair, a bright smile and Simon, though he was too
far away to tell and had no idea where the knowledge came from,
somehow knew that she had brillant blue eyes, and was unattached.
Climbing aboard, bag in hand ready for the night's stayover at a
hotel paid for by the company, Simon smiled at the blond. She
smiled back, and introduced herself as Sarah. He reciprocated.
The troupe quickly arrived at the hotel, neither Sarah nor Simon
taking in the sights as pointed out by the company's
representative. It quickly became evident that both were here for
the interview, and - by some chance - both hailed from Lime
Street, though Sarah had taken an earlier train.
The hotel was okay. The floor was dirty, the carpets un-vacuumed
and the paint peeled from the window frames like pencil shavings,
but it seemed ideal to the two of them. Even the company's odd
policy of placing all the lads on one floor, and Sarah - the only
girl - on the floor below, did not mar their happiness.
After settling in - a process taking almost two minutes - Simon
heard a hesitant knock on his door. It was a couple of the other
interviewees, asking if he fancied a drink in the hotel bar.
Sarah was absent and, enquiring of the others, he heard that she
had turned them down, electing to bone up on company literature
in her room instead. Simon said he'd join them in a moment, and
watched the others slide down toward the hotel bar.
Once they had vanished from sight, he left his room and headed
down to Sarah's room and knocked, hesitantly, upon the battered
woodwork. She answered after a short pause.
"Fancy a drink in the hotel bar, Sarah?"
"Sure, just let me get my purse."
A moment later, the two, Simon and Sarah, joined the rest in the
entertainments room on the ground floor. Taking adjacent seats at
the end of the table, and sipping Lager and Vodka & Orange
respectively, they joined in the conversation. The talk was
mainly about computers and the company, and the two scousers
quickly got bored and settled into as private a chat as was
The others variously left to go to bed, eventually leaving just
Simon, Sarah and one other interviewee in the bar at closing
time. After some pointed glances, the gooseberry departed and
Simon walked Sarah to her room. A chaste goodnight kiss sealed
the evening and Simon left for his own room, where he whiled away
the hours 'til dawn with thoughts of Sarah.
The next day was filled with aptitude and psychological tests,
and rounded off with a tour of the company's facilities during
which Sarah and Simon were noticeably separate from the main
group, quietly singing songs from the Wizard of Oz as the group
traipsed through the multitudinous buildings on the site.
The journey home followed, with the two sharing a train back to
Lime Street and talking inconsequentialy about which of the dorks
were likely to obtain the desired sponsorship. Each accepted that
the two of them had no chance, given their singular lack of
interest in anything except each other for the whole two days.
Simon had no idea how, but he and Sarah became, in American
terms, an 'item.' Neither asked the other, it just seemed to
happen. Neither complained, and each was happy with the
situation. When their respective letters of rejection from the
company arrived, both were unsurprised.
Truth and Lieing
Simon had been seeing Sarah for nearly two months, and the
strain was beginning to show. While he had met Sarah's parents,
she had yet to see his for the simple reason that he had yet to
tell his parents about her. Simon always had this problem - he
had gone out with Jenny for almost two years and, when that
relationship had finished, over eighteen months previously, his
mother and father still had not known of her existence. Perhaps,
thought Simon, I am too secretive. However, he was - by nature -
an intensely private person, preferring to say nothing rather
than lie. And lie he would have to do, when presented with
inevitable questions about his sex life.
Lieing did not come easily to this young man. While he could
easily 'fib' - an obvious euphemism, but necessarily on a smaller
scale than an outright lie - Simon found deception difficult on
the grand scale perpetrated with seeming ease by his friends. His
mind cast its net back to when his relationship with Jenny had
begun to produce unforeseen problems...
None but Simon's closest friends, Geoff and Gerald, had known of
his long-standing relationship with Jenny, and neither seemed
able to assist him at the time. And so, one morning on the
journey into school - Simon was sixteen at the time, he had been
thinking about asking some school mates. Just as Simon
distinguished between a 'fib' and a 'lie,' so he drew a sharp
line between friends and mates - mates being people he got on
well with, but would never ordinarily share his intensely
personal life with. He was desperate and his options seemed few
Then, as he was thinking, 'their song' came on the radio. At
that instant, his mind was made up. He would confide in one or
two mates - people he knew were experienced with women, or said
they were. Certainly, they had more experience than the naive
Simon, whose sexual life had extended thus far to only one
serious girlfriend and two, mainly unsatisfactory, one-night
Probably, Simon's best move would have been to get one or two
mates alone, to explain things and ask their advice in
confidence. Always an impulsive person, however, his actions
belied his previous secrecy and he immediately started to talk
with those mates around him about Jenny. That, on reflection, was
an unwise move.
The story spread rapidly around the school year about Simon and
Jenny, leaving him the subject of much gossip and the object of
multitudinous embarrassing questions about his private life.
Just, in fact, what he had sought to avoid when he had, two years
previously, initiated his unconscious campaign of secrecy.
Eventually, when even his religion teacher began making remarks,
Simon had clammed up on the subject and refused to even discuss
the matter of girlfriends with anybody outside his small circle
of close friends.
The relationship with Jenny came to an end shortly afterwards,
with him having to explain to her, without the benefit of sage
advice from his peers, what he had sought to say earlier: that he
felt that he was too young for such an intense relationship as
they had, and didn't want to tie himself down so soon in life.
Without the benefit of his peers's experiences, however, Simon
had made a mess of things, and the result was that Jenny and he
were hurt far more that he had hoped. At that time, Simon had
swore never to get involved with women again.
Until, that is, he had met Sarah. Which brings me to the problem
Simon had been seeing Sarah for nearly two months now, and the
two had finally decided to sleep together. However, Simon's
parents's ignorance of Sarah's existence presented some
difficulties. Sarah knew that she was unknown to Simon's mother
and father, and he had explained to her the reasons behind this.
While she did not agree with his methods, she understood why he
utilised them and - although she occasionally attempted to
convince him otherwise - went along with him, knowing all the
while that the longer the deception went on, the harder would be
the breaking of their silence.
They decided eventually that - to his parents - Simon would be
Staying Over At A Friend's, and the two stayed at Sarah's house.
Sarah's parents were understanding, surprisingly so since Sarah
was a virgin at the start of that night, and allowed the two to
stay in Sarah's bed while they went out for a meal.
Sex between Simon and Sarah was good. Far better than it had
been between him and Jenny. Though the first time was a trying
session for the inexperienced girl, Simon's guidance in the art
of the condom and gentle persuasion won out, and rapidly the two
got to know each other's bodies almost as well as, possibly
better than, their own.
After Sarah, Simon realised what a bad idea one night stands
are. Sex is for sharing between two people who care about and
know each other well. A casual fuck bears no comparison.
Despite the one-night adultery to Jenny, Simon was never
unfaithful to Sarah, and he believed - and still believes - that
she never was to him.
A Talk On The Field
Walking back, at a leisurely pace, from the playing fields,
Simon chatted aimlessly with Geoff about nondescript things -
carefully surrendering the conversation to everyday niceties
after the rather heavy discussion which had preceded this stroll.
The weather, current girlfriends and plans for Saturday night
coursed from the two young men's lips, each eager to dispel the
spectres of their previous chat. Then, without warning, Simon
felt a rough hand upon his shoulder.
"You, boy. Come with me. Now."
Stunned, Simon saw John Majors, his math teacher, confronting
him as a colossal dam in the river of his progression. Perhaps if
he bluffed, made up some convincing lie, even told the truth,
then this cyclopian creature would vanish as rapidly as his
obnoxious presence had appeared. One glance at those stern,
stubborn features told more than a thousand thoughts: no plea to
those ears would assist Simon's plight.
"I said Now, boy."
Geoff's quick mind sorted through the possibilities as dominoes
on heat, settling on the most likely explanation. Turning to
Simon, he saw that what he had feared was true: Simon had missed
a math class in order to make time for that talk on the field. A
friend in need, the saying went. Geoff turned to Mr. Majors to
expound the conversation he and Simon has shared. To try to help
out his friend, as his friend had helped him out. To explain.
A wave of Majors's arm said enough - words were hopeless here,
and Geoff was dismissed as abruptly as Simon was escorted through
the double doors, along the corridor - which, in assertion of
tradition and defiance of Simon's forthcoming fate, maintained
its repertoire of photographs of past school rugby teams - and
towards the statue which bestrode the waiting room without the
Simon had never got on well with the headmaster. Few people did.
Despite his ostensibly-religious background, Father Gilligan was
a devoutly irreligious man - preferring a ferrari to a crucifix
and perusing a balance book rather than a bible. Gilligan did,
however, like rules. The phrase 'purposeless rules' was an
oxymoron in his view - all rules had a purpose, and that purpose
was that they be obeyed. Without question. It was this single-
mindedness which had attracted the young Gilligan into the
priesthood, and his rise to headmaster merely served to allow him
to develop more and new commandments to be passed on, Moses-like,
to his charges. In short, Freud could have written several books
on Gilligan - with the word 'anal' ubiquitous.
Not bothering to pause for such a mundane task as knocking,
Majors thrust Simon into the headmaster's office, the words,
"This boy deliberately missed one of my lessons" intended to
placate the disturbed headmaster.
Removing a, more chewed than smoked, cigar from his lips,
Gilligan looked up, disinterested. The boredom transformed almost
miraculously - though that word steadfastly remained outside of
Gilligan's religion-bereft vocabulary - into acute awareness when
he saw just who the 'boy' was. Gilligan had wanted to see to
Simon for some time.
Simon was, Gilligan thought, Too Big For His Boots. The boy felt
that rules were meant more as guidelines, and that the spirit of
the law was more important than its letter. In short, the boy
needed to be Brought Down A Peg Or Two, and Gilligan felt that he
was just the man to de-chip this particular shoulder.
Standing there, interested but not concerned, Simon looked at
Gilligan. Then, head inclining toward the side slightly, he
examined closely the religious message framed behind the
headmaster's desk: "Fabricate Diem, Pvnc." Turning slowly,
measuring the amount of time such that it would stretch Majors's
already-strained patience almost, but not quite, to breaking
point, he looked now at Majors, now at the door and then smiled a
small, half-smile - as though he were privy to some information
neither Gilligan nor Majors could ever grasp.
Simon thought that he understood their psychology, knew which
and how many buttons to push before their mental barriers slid
aside to reveal the foul creatures within - the Gorgonic
creations which neither the priest nor the math teacher dared
look at too closely, lest the Medusa of authority below the
surface break through and ripples of bureaucratic stone enclose
their carefully-constructed facades of In-Controlness.
"Is this true?" smiled Father Gilligan, savouring each sweet
syllable, directed - of course - at the pupil. The answer was
slow in coming, as Simon turned over possible replies and
discarded the direct in favour of the defensive.
"I was talking to a friend." he said, going on to explain that
Geoff's grandfather had just died and that he, Simon, had merely
been attempting to assist his friend through a difficult patch.
As Simon's explanation reached its conclusion, he heard a snort.
"From anybody else, I would accept that," snarled Majors, "but
You?" His scepticism was evident, despite Geoff's earlier
attempts at explaining the same thing.
Simon paused. Turned. Looked Majors in the eye. Stared a moment.
Majors looked back in disbelief. Gilligan stood up, his cigar
falling unnoticed to the floor.
"I said, 'Apologise.' For that remark. Now," Simon repeated.
Oyster-like, answer came there none. Simon walked towards the
door. Turned back, to see the gargoyles that were his math
teacher and his headmaster.
Simon paused. He knew the reason for Major's insult, and felt
wounded by it. Despite being a pupil at a Catholic school, Simon
had - years earlier - renounced his Catholicism in favour of
agnosticism. Some people, like Majors, had problems dealing with
the concept of non-religious helpful people - people who assisted
other people simply because they wanted to, and not in order to
gather brownie points and earn themselves a place in some
Simon stared for a moment, then walked out and caught the bus
home. He never went back to that school.
An apology from John Majors, math teacher, never arrived.
Summertime was over for Simon and Sarah. Autumn had arrived, and
the couple were preparing for the parting that would come when
Simon went off for his first term at Brunel University. Simon's
birthday was a strange celebration, with Simon spending the
daytime with Sarah then going off for a Night On The Town with
some close friends from school: Graeme, Martin and Harry. Graeme
and Simon had been mates for a few years, and Simon was never
exactly sure when Graeme had crossed that dividing line and
become a Friend. He was certain of one thing, however - it had
been after Simon split up with Sarah, as Graeme had never met
Sarah. Hence the split celebrations for Simon's nineteenth
Sarah spent most of that birthday trying to convince Simon to
let her meet these schoolfriends of his, but he resisted and she
eventually relented. Reflecting, much later, Simon realised that
this 'policy of silence' was a bad idea. Maybe he and Sarah would
never have split up if...But all that belonged to the past.
The summer of nineteen sixty-seven was known popularly as the
'Summer of Love.' Nineteen eighty-eight was Simon and Sarah's
equivalent. The weather had been beautiful that Summer, and the
two had spent a lot of time together. Simon recalled later, with
particular fondness, a day they had spent at the Freshfields
nature reserve out by Southport. It had been just after their A-
levels, and a couple of weeks had passed since Simon had failed
his driving test.
He and Sarah had got the train up to Freshfields, then walked
along the sanddunes by that part of the beach which was not
slicked with petrol. They had raced up and down the dunes, chased
along the paths which led back to the pine woods before stopping,
panting against one of the trees. With the scent of pine needles
in their nostrils, they had then wandered into the wood itself
and made slow, knowledgeable love beneath the green canopy. The
pine needles had been hell afterwards, but at the time it was
Later, on his return from university for the Christmas vacation,
Simon was at home when the 'phone rang. It was Sarah. She was
just calling to explain that she felt their relationship couldn't
work, with Simon away at the other end of the country for most of
the year. No, she hadn't met somebody else. And, yes, she still
cared for him. But couldn't stand the long separations, and
instead felt that they would both be happier if they did find
someone else to care for. No. A last meeting would be a bad idea.
After the call, Simon went to his room. In the bottom drawer of
his desk was a small parcel which held his Christmas present for
Sarah: a red, blown-glass devil holding a pitchfork and a heart.
For a while, he contemplated hurling it at the wall. Eventually,
he re-wrapped it to give to his grandmother. He wouldn't cry. She
was right, they were apart for too much of the year. It was for
the best. He didn't believe it for a second, but he said it out
loud anyway, as though reciting the words would somehow make them
Simon went out that night with Graeme. They had a few drinks,
and Simon considered ways of telling his friend what had
happened. He couldn't find any. How could you let a friend know
that you had lied to him, had kept a part of your life a secret
for so many years? Graeme must have known that something was
wrong - Simon's whole secrecy thing started because he was
hopeless as covering up his feelings - but could not know what.
When he got back home that night, Simon lay awake for hours.
Then, around two or three O'Clock in the morning, he 'phoned a
close friend from University: Matthew. Matthew and Simon had met
early on in the term, and had got on fairly well from the start.
As the weeks passed, however, Simon and Matthew had grown very
close - Simon felt it easy to talk and listen to him. After all,
they had no shared past and so Simon could be honest without
Matthew's voice was a great comfort in the night. He was a touch
pissed off initially at being woken up so early in the morning
(but not as annoyed as his dad, who answered the 'phone when
Simon called), but Matthew was helpful and sympathetic to his
friend's plight immediately. Simon, after replacing the receiver,
gave thanks that he at least had two such close and reliable
friends as Matthew and Graeme.
When they returned to university, Matthew was a great source of
comfort for Simon, helping him to quickly suppress the memory of
Sarah. Even though Simon could not bring himself to ask anybody
new out, he found himself coming to terms with his loss. Until,
that is, February 14th 1989.
Simon was expecting no Valentine's Day cards that year. Thus, he
was very surprised to find no less than two such cards arriving
for him that morning. Sharon, one of his flatmates, commented on
this - as surprised as he, as she knew only too well what Simon
had gone through, since he had turned down a date with a friend
of hers - explaining at the time his reasons for doing so. Even
so, her astonishment was no match for his.
The first card, while surprising, was reasonable. It was from
Simon's mother. She had not sent him a card on Valentine's day
before, but this was the first time he had been living away from
home, and so perhaps he should have expected something like this.
The second card, however, was a total shock. Sarah had sent him a
card, the message reading:
"I'm sorry, I was wrong.
"Can you forgive me? Please?
"Let's get back together,
"Lots of Love,
Simon was surprised. Touched. Astonished. Angry. Angry at Sarah
for leaving him. Even more angry at her for re-opening the wound,
which had finally started to heal. The afternoon was young, and
so Matthew would be at a lecture. Impatient, Simon ran - didn't
walk - to Matthew's room and left a note on his door, "Please
come over. Urgent. Simon."
That night, Matthew came over. Simon explained about the card,
and the two went into town to an off-license to obtain some
alcohol. They spent the night drinking and talking, the start of
a long, slippery slope which Simon was to descend over the
following year, eventually reaching the base of the greased slide
of self-pity despite all attempts by friends such as Matthew and
Graeme, who Simon eventually confided in.
At the base, losing the friendship of Matthew and acquiring new
close friends - Herbert, Colin and Pamela - and a nicotine habit
on the way to that bottom, Simon began the long haul back to the
Supported now by friends - his original circle of two now grown
to count Graeme, Herbert, Martin, Colin and Pamela as close
friends - Simon's way may prove easier than in the past. As he
reached bottom, he almost lost the friendship of Herbert through
sheer thoughtless action, but his experiences and the sheer
buoyancy of their support despite everything have proven to him
their loyalty, friendship and trust.
At some time in the future, Simon may meet a new girlfriend but,
until then, he will continue to rely upon friends until he can
once more rely upon himself.
(c) April 1990 Roy Stead
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