Young Love by Alex Bardy
(approx 1310 words)
[prev appeared on the http://www.readwave.com website, 2013]
We were in the front garden when I saw the huge lorry pulling up in front of the house next door, the words Bootman’s Removals & Storage emblazoned proudly on the side, and painted in an Old English stylee of sorts – that old house had been on the market for several months and it didn’t take a genius to figure it had finally been sold.
Old Coal Lane was a quiet, secluded street: Mr Simpkins ensured the grass verges were kept trimmed, tidy, and litter-free; Miss Klassmeyer kept the area in front of the assorted gardens neat, flowered and well-bloomed; and Miss Williams, the widow, had her nose firmly buried in everybody’s business. It was a pleasant and peaceful street, joined at one end to the relatively busy City Road, while ending abruptly at the gate to Farmer McAvoy’s fields at the other; consequently, this prissy, pristine street saw very little traffic, and any vehicle that did appear would always catch the attention of the neighbours, especially Miss Williams… it was just that kind of place.
I remember the first time I saw her –they say you never forget your first– she was climbing out of a sleek silver car, and at that moment I think I knew. I was a young man in love. Entranced, captivated, enraptured… there were so many luvvy-duvvy words I could use… my eyes, mind and heart all imploded, aflutter with dreams and desire. Given I was a fussy but excitable little thing at the best of times, I held myself together rather well I thought. Looking up at Mum, I was trying hard to hide the fact I’d just seen the cutest, most gorgeous little girl in the whole world clamber out of a shiny new car and soar into my heart. It was disappointing to see Mum had no such composure or self-control as she glared open-mouthed at the two removal men climbing out of the lorry parked just ahead, both of them were neatly attired and looking very dapper in dark, smooth uniforms. We were like a pair of love-sick puppies, but any show of emotion other than mild indifference was definitely not acceptable among local folk… it was just that kind of place…
She of course, played her part to perfection. She remained completely oblivious to any of my woeful efforts at getting her attention, was always ready to look away or otherwise pretend I didn’t exist, and even when I’d contrived to throw my football into her garden as an excuse to try and meet her, she was quick to go running off. I’d seen this sort of behaviour on the telly, and knew that these things usually sorted themselves out, and everyone lived happily ever after, so I tried not to let it bother me too much.
It did grow annoying over the summer holidays, and I soon resigned myself to admiring her from afar, dreaming about her flowing golden blonde locks, gorgeously petite frame and how lovely she probably smelled too. Mum and Sis were completely useless – neither of them understood, and once Sis broke up from school she was constantly bothering me, hassling, play-fighting, and just non-stop mollycoddling. Given that we were all home for the summer, I was hopeful that Sis would make friends with her and thereby provide an opportunity for us to meet, but making friends didn’t exactly come naturally to Sis: our previous life on a farm meant she’d spent more time with animals than people, all of us had.
As the holidays neared an end and the run up to a new school term came closer, I became heavily distracted: I would be old enough to start going now, and the thought was ever present in my mind that I’d surely be able to meet and play with her there, she couldn’t avoid me every single day at school, could she? We could take long walks together: she’d be looking gorgeous, as usual, and I’d be jabbering away about anything and everything that popped into my head. Would I slip up though? If my usual bluster and lack of finesse wins out it’d be a very short walk: I always have too much to say and no-one to listen. Would I become annoying, or irritating, if I did so? School was a family-friendly, child-friendly, busy little place, a major part of the local community in fact… Maybe I’d make a fool of myself in front of everybody?
Patience wasn’t exactly top of my list of strong points, but I was learning fast. She was good, really good. I stole brief glimpses at every opportunity, and noticed she even returned my glance on a few occasions. Was she finally melting? Warming to my distant but obvious and poorly managed affections? My resolve to love and admire her from afar had never wavered, but on numerous occasions when I did feel emboldened to approach there was always something or someone in the way – usually Sis. I did find out her name is Poppy, and even called out to her a few times, but she often feigned ignorance, or chose to busy herself with other people… For my part, I was still forever hopeful, but maybe I’d just seen too much telly and this was what really happened, the way the world really worked, so to speak; a world in which happily ever after wasn’t always a given?
I remember the day things changed. We weren’t usually allowed to play out front, even though it was usually quiet, this was just how Mr Simpkins and Miss Klassmeyer preferred it; Mum could never be bothered with the potential for argument and happily restricted me and Sis to the back garden most of the time.
I was walking with Mum when Poppy ran out, and it was obvious that something was wrong: she was never allowed near the main road, and I’ve no idea how she’d managed to escape through the gate. I caught a fleeting glimpse of her gorgeous blonde hair as she stole across the road heading away towards McAvoy’s field gate, and also saw the huge black Jeep coming the other way.
The piercing shriek of the brakes came too late, and I could see a bloodied mess at the roadside. I ran like I’d never ran before, my frenzied outcry piercing the stillness that held the entire street. I vaguely heard a car door swing open and Farmer McAvoy’s pleading cry of innocence, but was already at her side and whimpering while I hugged and held her close. Poppy’s eyes were closed, her tongue was flopped lazily over one side of her jaw, and her back paws were thick with blood. I loved her to death but this wasn’t the way… she had to be still alive, she just had to be…
I lay calmly beside her, noticing as if for the first time her gentle undercoat: it was smooth and soft as silk, still unblemished, the downy hair perfectly groomed. And I was right, she did smell lovely, even now an intoxicating blend of honeysuckle and juniper berries wrapped itself around my broken heart. My own muzzle had come to rest on her bloodied flank, and I sniffed and licked at her lifeless body and thick, matted tail. It was only then that I felt the beat of her heart pounding hard against her ribcage, the abdomen and lower belly pulsing with an easy, gentle rhythm. I jumped up and barked at her, my tail suddenly sharp and pointing, frightening Farmer McAvoy in the process. He tried to shoo me away but not before she opened her eyes and caught a glimpse of my doleful pleading look – there was instant recognition and I knew then that things would be different from now on… it was just that kind of place…