Authors: Catherine MacDonald
From The Moment I Saw Him ....
Copyright © 2015
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thereof in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded,
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This is a work of fiction. Names and characters
are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Remembering happy days at
OHS and onwards
If I had known anything at all about boys, I would
have realised that this one was trouble.
Slim, handsome, dark haired, his expressive brown
eyes met mine as we rose to leave, and when he smiled, I felt as though a
hurricane had hit me.
Thank goodness I was at the meeting - I almost
hadn’t made it. There was a dangerous moment as we were about to depart for
the uncharted territory of St Peter’s School for Boys.
“Eva? Eithne? Are you girls wearing
Miss Grimsby paused as she unlocked her little car,
and scrutinised my friend Eva and me through thick-lensed spectacles. She
sounded scandalised, and for a moment, I had visions of being returned to my
classroom in disgrace.
Luckily, Eva had her wits about her.
“No, of course not, Miss Grimsby,” she lied swiftly,
opening the back door of the car and shoving me inside. “We know it’s against
Beresford High School for Girls was bristling with
all sorts of regulations designed to make our lives less pleasant. In fact, we
had both applied mascara and a dusting of eyeshadow, plus a generous dab of
musky perfume, because there was no way we were going to appear before a group
of sixth-form boys without improving our schoolgirl looks as much as possible.
We had already hoisted our skirts as high as we
dared, regretting that our legs were clad in navy wool rather than something
more seductive. We planned to leave our horrible velour hats in the car, in
order to display our flowing tresses. Our friends were relying on us to make a
Miss Grimsby hesitated, but eventually climbed,
muttering, into the car, and we were on our way.
The instructions of Miss Hayman, our headmistress,
resounded in my head.
“I require two sensible,
attend the planning meeting for the sixth-form dance with St Peter’s. I have
selected you, Eva and Eithne, for this task......”
It was the fashion to be blasé and dismissive about
the annual Christmas dance. Chaperoned by gowned masters and mistresses,
pupils stumped round the hall in a clumsy attempt at ballroom dancing, and the
most exciting thing to drink was lemonade. It was rumoured that every year, a
few hardy students would slip out to snog in the bicycle sheds, although I
found this hard to believe, considering the freezing December weather.
However, it was an opportunity to meet and talk to
Our school was single sex, and very few of my
friends had brothers. As a result, we were unbelievably ignorant and silly
about young men, especially now that adolescence had us in its obdurate grip.
Occasionally, Eva would remind me that I had
actually kissed a boy. This was a prime - and as yet unfulfilled - objective
“Yes, but it was a horrible, sweaty fumble after the
Scouts Barbecue. I didn’t enjoy it. I really hope it’s going to be better
when I kiss a boy I like,” I replied.
The trouble with studying English Literature at
school was that my head was stuffed with dreams of Messrs Rochester and Darcy,
and great romances. My burning desire was for a passionate,
sweeping-off-the-feet kind of love, but I didn’t think I would get that with
any old boy from St Peter’s. Sitting in the panelled reception area of the
school, I wondered doubtfully whether any of its sixth-form pupils would be
capable of inspiring even a hint of romance.
I was trying to ignore the smell of sweat and
elderly gym shoes wafting in from the corridors, when a tall, fair boy appeared
and shook Miss Grimsby’s hand, before conducting us to the room where the
meeting was to be held. Eva’s eyes brightened at the sight of him.
“It’s Teddy Clifford,” she mouthed at me, giving my
arm a small, hard squeeze.
Teddy Clifford was the head boy of St Peter’s, the
subject of countless crushes - and not just amongst the girls, by all accounts.
The overhead light was harsh, and we stood there
blinking for a few seconds. Across the table, a nondescript master sat,
flanked by three other sixth-form boys. Teddy took his place, and there were
some brief introductions - I was too nervous to take in anyone else’s name -
and the meeting began.
It was monumentally dull. The teachers outlined the
schedule, and we were invited to fill in the details of how many would be in
attendance, and which dances we had practised, and then there was a discussion
about the desirability of including some disco dancing (there was a concern
that this might be too inflammatory for the assembled adolescents.) Eva’s
voice was wobbly when she spoke, and I felt myself blushing like an idiot when
it was my turn. The boys also seemed embarrassed when they had to make a
contribution. Why had we got ourselves so worked up for this?
After a while, the information was collated, and I
felt I could examine the opposition, so to speak, while the adults looked over
their paperwork. Teddy Clifford smiled frankly at us. He was rather like a
prize bull, curled and golden, I thought, and he seemed to be taken with Eva,
who was returning his grin with one of her own. There were two other prefects,
one plump and bespectacled, the other dappled with acne, and I could raise no
enthusiasm for either. At the end of the table, I saw a slim, dark boy with
long hair swept across his forehead, who seemed to be bored by the
proceedings. He had given us the most cursory of glances, and appeared to be
doodling on the paper before him.
Miss Grimsby refused the offer of tea, and I was
glad. I could not feel very excited about the dance, if this was what was on
Then it was time for us to leave. The boys and
master rose to their feet politely, and the master uttered a creaking
pleasantry about our next meeting and the delightful circumstances - he meant
well, but it sounded archaic.
It was at that moment the dark boy looked up, and
caught my attention. Our eyes met, and he smiled at me. I saw that he had
beautiful, white and even teeth, a dimple in one cheek, and deep brown eyes,
and the impact of his smile was devastating. I felt I would never forget it.
Eva seemed more delighted than the occasion
warranted on the drive back. I had recovered from that spellbinding moment,
and was thinking eagerly about the dark boy, and whether he would dance with me
Back in the school cloakroom, she thrust a screwed
up bit of paper at me.
“Eithne, look here - Teddy Clifford passed this
to me on the way out.”
It was a note inviting us to meet him and some mates
at Presto’s, a local coffee shop, on Saturday afternoon. “Bring some of your
friends,” it said.
“Fancy Teddy Clifford asking to meet us. Who else
shall we take?” she demanded.
“No one very pretty. We could mention it to Charlie
or Belinda, I suppose.”
My heart beat painfully. I wondered whether the boy
with the smile would be there. If so, I didn’t want competition.
“Who was that dark haired boy at the end? I didn’t catch
anyone’s name,” I said, in what I hoped was a nonchalant tone.
“What - at the very end? He’s called Nick Delilah
or something. Don’t tell me you fancy him. He’s supposed to be a very bad boy
“Bad? Why, what’s he done?”
I was intrigued, and alarmed.
“Didn’t he sleep with Shona McQueen last summer? I
think I remember someone saying it was him. And my cousin said he’s gone
through loads of girlfriends from St. Faith’s.”
Although we were keen to have some physical contact
with boys, sleeping with one was a big taboo. Every year, some ashen faced and
unfortunate girl would leave mysteriously - abortion was very hard to obtain,
and the pill only just becoming available on prescription - and it was only the
brave or desperate who went all the way. Shona, a girl in the year above us
who had now left school, had a certain reputation, and we didn’t approve of
It seemed an interminable wait until Saturday, but
it was pleasurable all the same as we planned and plotted and dreamed about our
first meaningful encounter with the opposite sex. We had decided only to take
one other girl along, a friend of ours called Belinda, who was a lot of fun,
but plainer than we were, so we would have more of a chance to impress.
The longed-for afternoon arrived. My bus into town
had been early, and I had plenty of time to go into the Ladies at the bus
station, where we girls were due to meet, to check my make-up and arrange my
I hadn’t been sure how much make-up to wear. All
the teen magazines cautioned us not to overdo it, but then they displayed
models who were bedecked with spidery false eyelashes, thick eye liner, and
dramatic cheekbones sculpted with blusher, something a seventeen-year-old like
myself couldn’t begin to emulate. I wasn’t even sure I had cheekbones. In the
end, I put on eyeshadow and mascara, and hoped for the best. Luckily, my skin
was very good, I never got spots, and it barely needed a brushing of powder.
There was a clacking of heels on the tiled floor,
and I turned to see my friends. We gazed at each other in admiration - it was
funny to see them all dressed up, eyes bright with anticipation.
“Eithne, you look fab!” Eva exclaimed. “That mac
really shows off your hair.”
I was wearing my Dollyrockers dress under a shiny
black mac, together with knee-high boots, and I felt grown up and trendy. My
golden brown hair was long, thick, and very wavy, and I was proud of it.
As a finishing touch, I had added a pair of my
mother’s dangly op art earrings. The clips were agony, but I was not allowed
to get my ears pierced until I was eighteen, so I had no other choice.
Eva and Belinda were both wearing miniskirts.
Belinda really didn’t have the legs for a mini, but we couldn’t tell her that,
and in any case, her jokey personality was her strong point. I noticed that
Eva was flaunting a new push-up bra.
“God, that bra’s amazing, Eva, your bust looks
enormous,” I said, with a pang of jealousy, making a mental note to get one for
myself as soon as I could.
We stood there, admiring our reflections in the
mirror, hoping that we would pass muster as embryo adults. Did we know what we
were doing? Suddenly, I felt like a small girl dressed up in her mother’s
clothes, and was tempted to turn tail and run home again, but I knew that Eva
wouldn’t let me.
“Come on, let’s go and knock them out,” said
confident Eva. “And remember - hands off Teddy, he’s mine.”
Giggling, we minced down the street. Eva had
decreed that we should be fashionably late, and Teddy and two other boys were
already sitting there at the big table in the window.
“I hope the whole school sees us,” whispered Belinda
However, when we went in, disappointment flooded
over me. There was no sign of Nick Delilah, just the boy with acne I
recognised from the meeting, and another sporty looking type, who was evidently
a good mate of Teddy’s.
I sank into a chair, smiling automatically as
introductions were made. The sporty type - Peter - went to get us some coffee,
and I tried not to think about the waste of hope and energy I had put in to
appearing pretty for a boy who wasn’t there.
We had built up boys into such a big thing, but now
we were faced with them, it wasn’t what we had expected. They didn’t appear to
be quite so godlike at close quarters, and seemed as nervous and unsure as we
were - forced laughter, clumsy fumbling with cigarettes, coughing as they
inhaled the smoke like adults did. It was a bit of a let-down, and I wondered
whether boys constructed misleading fantasies about girls in the same way, and
whether we might be a disappointment to them. It was a sobering thought.
Teddy certainly had his eye on Eva. She squeezed in
next to him, and was telling him something confidential and funny, because he
laughed, and casually draped an arm around the back of her chair.
Which of the other two was meant for me? I realised
with dread that I was supposed to flirt and possibly get off with one of them,
but the idea appalled me. Belinda seemed quite happy with things, but I wanted
to get out of there.
Mumbling something, I slipped off to the Ladies. I
stared into the cracked glass above the basin - I did look nice, it was such a
waste. But I would make up some tale about how I was feeling unwell......then,
as I threaded my way back through the tables, I saw a dark head where I had
“Nick’s always late for everything,” explained Teddy
as I stood there, wondering where to sit now. Nick looked up at me and nodded,
but made no attempt to move. Peter, however, produced another chair, and I sat
down primly. I began to think that Nick Delilah was rather rude.
I could feel him staring at me, and this made my
cheeks grow hot, which was the last thing I wanted. I turned to say something
- anything - to Peter, but Nick demanded,
did you say your name was?”
“Eithne - it’s Irish”.