The coach is parked outside the gospel church along Rockingham Street. Brown with a yellow line along the side with the name of the coach company's name: RICKARD'S.
Janice stands next to her grandmother waiting to get on the coach; she's wearing a flowery dress and a white cardigan and brown sandals. Next to Janice's grandmother is Benedict and his mother and Benedict's younger sister Naomi. Members of the gospel church who have organized the day out to the seaside are ticking off names from a list.
Weather looks good- the grandmother says, eyeing the sky which is blue as a blackbird's egg.
Benedict's mother looks skyward. - It does, hope it stays that way. Benedict looks at Janice; she smiles shyly. She's wearing the red beret. Her hair looks nice and clean brushed. Sit next to her on the coach.
Wouldn't surprise me if it isn't a little cold by the coast- the grandmother says, looking at Benedict's mother, seeing how tired she looks, the little girl beside her sour faced.
Maybe, hopefully it won't be for their sakes- the mother says, looking at the coach and the tall gospeller with the one eye. - mind you behave, Benny, no mischief.
That goes for you, Janice, no mischief or you'll feel my hand- the grandmother says, her voice menacing, and don't forget to make sure to know where the loo is don't want you wetting yourself.
Janice blushes looks at the pavement- I always behave, Gran, and yes, I'll find the lavatory once we get there, she says.
One Eye ticks off Janice and Benedict's names; his one eye watching them as they board the coach,and sit by the window, and look out at the grandmother and Benedict's mother and sister. Kids voices; smell of an old coach stink; the window smeary. Janice waves; her grandmother waves back. Benedict waves; his mother waves and smiles, but his sister looks down at the pavement.
One Eye and two other gospellers stand at the front of the coach calling off names and the kids respond in return in a cacophony of voices, then they sit down at the front and the coach starts up. A last minute of hand waving and calling out of goodbyes and the coach pulls off and away along Rockingham Street.
Well, that's it, just us now- Benedict says, looking out of the window, looking past Janice.
No more bomb sites after this for a few hours- Janice says, no more being made embarrassed by Gran. I know she worries, but I am eight and a half years old, not a baby.
That's the elderly for you- Benedict says, always thinking us babies when we're almost in double figures.
Janice smiles. She looks at Benedict. He's wearing a white shirt and sleeveless jumper with zigzag pattern and blue jeans. He's left his cowboy hat at home; his six-shooter toy gun has been left behind, also. Glad he came; like it when he's near; I feel safe when he's about.
Have you any money?- Benedict asks.
I've two shillings- she says, Gran said I might need it.
I've got two and six pence- Benedict says, my old man gave me a shilling and my mother gave me one and sixpence.
The coach moves through areas of London Benedict doesn't know. He looks at the passing streets and traffic.
Billie, my canary, has learned new words- Janice says.
What words has he learned? - Benedict asks, looking at Janice's profile; at her well shaped ear, the hair fair and smooth.
Super, pretty and boy- Janice says.
Talking about me, is he?- Benedict says.
No, about himself- Janice says, but who taught him the words neither Gran or I know. Was it you? She asks.
Me? why would I teach him to say those words?- Benedict says. If I was going to teach him words they'd be naughty words.
You haven't have you?- Janice says, or I'll get the blame; Gran thinks I taught Billie those words when I didn't.
Well, I may have said certain words in his presence when I came round the other week- Benedict says.
Was it you who taught him to say Billie without a *****?- Janice says.
Benedict looks down at his hands in his lap. Did he actually say it?- Benedict says.
Janice nods. I got in trouble over that- she says, gran thought I taught him; came close to getting a good smacking, but she thought it over and said she didn't think I would.
So, who does she think taught him?- Benedict asks.
Janice raises her eyebrows. Who do you think?- she says.
So, please don't teach Billie words- Janice says, or I could be for it.
Sorry- he says, looking at her, thought it'd be a laugh.
Gran doesn't share your sense of humour- Janice says. Now she wonders if she ought to let you come around anymore, and I like you coming around. So please don't teach Billie words.
I won't- he says, not a word, not a single word.
She smiles and kisses his cheek. He blushes. What if the other boys on the coach saw that? How would he live it down? Girls and kisses. He's seen it in films at the cinema. Just when a cowboy gets down to the big gun fight some woman comes along and spoils it with that kissing stuff. He's seen Teddy Boys who seem quite tough, spoil that impression when a girl gets all gooey and kisses them.
Janice looks out the window, watches the passing scene. She like it when Benny's there. She doesn't like most boys; they seem rough and tough; seem loud and spotty and smell sweaty, but Benny is different, he's tough in a gentle way, has good manners and that brown quiff of hair and his hazel eyes that seem to look right through her, right into her very heart.
Benedict doesn't think other boys saw the kiss; he sits feeling the slight dampness on his cheek; he doesn't think having a kiss, makes him look weak.
A BOY AND ******* A TRIP TO THE SEASIDE IN 1957.