Cherry blossom bride
They flock to the cemetery, artfully clad in their black rags, gaunt with youth. For a few short hours the pastels and privileges of their parents’ homes are brushed briefly aside in a haze of cheap cider and perfume, unwashed hair and fag ash. Here they are misunderstood. They are artists.
She sits apart slightly under the laden branches of a cherry tree. It is spring and the tree is nauseous with blossoms that float and swirl around her like a shower of confetti. She is writing lyrics in her notebook and drinking mouthfuls of cider from the bottle when it passes her.
She looks up through lowered lashes to see that he is still watching her, shovel in hand, sleeves rolled up, a sheen of sweat on his brow.
His face is lined and smeared with greying stubble, but his arms and his back are strong and his dark eyes flash with a brightness that is catching. He is smiling at her and she is blushing.
When the others leave to go home for their TV teas with mum and dad and Rylan and David Jason she lingers. He sits. Soon the grey dusk gathers and settles like a blanket around their shoulders.
He asks distractedly about school. She tells him about her songs instead and he offers her a fag that she is too afraid not to take. She tells him about wanting to go away, to leave behind her childhood, to see America; Las Vegas, New York, the whole wide world. The cigarette tastes vile and forbidden and deliciously adult.
When he kisses her his mouth tastes of the cigarettes and stale food. His hands slip quickly beneath her top, batting away her feeble protests and groaning blurred promises to take her away - to show her a world he has no more understanding of than she does.
Her mouth is sticky with cider sweetness and bitter with smoke. Her head swims, and the world is a flurry of hands and hot, wet lips and heavy desperate breaths. His hands are dipping inside her knickers. It is not like the films. It is not romantic. This, she tells herself, is real. And she screws up her eyes and waits for it to be over.
He is turning her around, bending her over. Her knickers are around one ankle and the bark of the cherry tree digs into her palms. He is labouring behind her now, and she can smell him; the hotness of his breath, the stale sweat of his body. He is moving faster and before she knows it it is done. He is buckling his trousers and the moon is high in the sky. She pulls up her knickers with a shyness that feels absurd
He lights a cigarette, but this time he does not offer one to her. Instead he turns and walks away without a word and she is alone again, hidden behind the veil of cherry blossoms