Just in case
I pushed open the door of the common room and spotted the boys playing bloody knuckles by the Coke machine. Eggsy looked up, saw me and nudged Finchley.
“Oi oi” shouted Eggsy “you heard who this one’s asked out then?”
Finchley’s head snapped round to look at me. He’d taken me under his wing and he seemed to feel strangely proprietorial.
“He’s asked out Harriet Peters.” Eggsy hooted with laughter, spraying crisps over the table with tuna mayo breath.
I nodded “Yeah, why not? She’s fit.”
Finchley put a paternal arm around my shoulders and leaned in.
“Listen, you’re new here. There are some girls it’s ok to fancy - like Lisa. She’s fine. Or maybe Helen Cleaver at a push. But Harriet? You don’t wanna go near her - she’s fucking weird.”
“Andrew Jarvis says that he went out with her once and then tried to finger her - took her behind the thistles on the rugby pitch,” brayed Eggsy. “Said he nearly lost his hand, mate. Said she’s got fucking teeth down there.”
Finchley pushed Eggsy away impatiently.
“Shut up dickhead. Whatever you think, she’s weird and if you go out with her, people will think you’re weird too. That, my friend, is the last thing you want.”
I shrugged and stood up to get a can from the machine. This school was nothing like my last place. Even the sixth formers seemed like kids here, and they treated girls like they were some kind of alien species. But sitting with Finchley and them was better than having to sit alone.
When I called at Harriet’s that evening she slipped out without saying goodbye to her parents. She had dark eye make-up and long black hair. Her top had cormorants printed up the back and she looked pretty. We walked down to the rec and I bought us a bag of chips to share.
“You’re brave,” she said with a teasing smile “asking me out. Social suicide for the new kid.”
I shrugged and didn’t answer.
“It’s ok, I know what they say about me. And I know why. Andrew Jarvis is an arsehole. Wouldn’t take no for an answer and couldn’t admit he’d been overpowered by a girl when I broke three of his fingers.”
She giggled and I laughed too.
“This place is pretty different from my last place,” I told her. “Some of the lads are right arseholes.”
“Understatement of the century.”
We walked around until it got dark and then I kissed her under the streetlight outside her house.
“Do you want to come in and listen to music? My parents are out…”
Her eyes looked incredible in the streetlight. I noticed how closely the cormorant shirt followed the lines and curves of her body.
I followed her in and the place was dark, it seemed her parents really were out. I felt my heart hammering in my chest as she led me up the stairs to her room and pulled me inside with a mischievous grin. She didn’t switch on the lights and I felt the warm press of her body against mine.
But despite myself I felt my ears straining to catch the muffled gnashing of tiny teeth in the darkness, just in case.