They met in the Square. Weather warm and sun sticky. Hannah was in her short dress and sandals. Benedict in jeans and tee shirt and black plimsolls. It was Saturday and they'd decided to give the morning matinee a miss and go elsewhere. We can go and paddle on the side of the Thames, she said. Can we? He asked. Sure we can. He wasn't sure. Is it wise? He said, what with all the crap that's put in? She looked at him. We're not to drink the water, just paddle in it. It's water, not **** pool, she said. Won't we need towels? No, our feet'll dry in the sun. She eyed him. How old are you? Twelve, he said. Not a baby, then? She said. No, he replied. We're both twelve, she said, so let's go get our feet wet. What did your mum say when you told her where you were going? I didn't, Hannah said. Why not? He said. Because she'd have said:Ye cannae gang in th' Thames. So I didn't tell her. What did you say? He asked. Said I was going to see boats on the Thames. What did she say to that? Benedict asked. Dornt faa in th' water, she said. Benedict laughed at Hannah's mocking her mother's Scottish dialect. What did you say to her? Hannah pulled a straight face, stern features. I said, Ah willnae. He laughed again. Right let's be off, she said. They walked out of the Square and up Meadow Row. Did you tell your mum where you were going? Hannah asked. Just said I was going out with you, he said. What did your mum say? Hannah asked. She said ok and be careful, he replied. They walked to the bus stop and got a bus to South Bank. The bus was crowded. They sat at the back on side seats. A plump man next to Hannah wiggled up close to her; his thigh touched hers. She felt uncomfortable. He smelt of sweat and cigarette smoke. She was glad when they got off. She stared at him and mumbled, ye mingin prat. Benedict said, what? Not you, that prat on the bus, touching me, she said. Benedict watched the bus go. You should have said, he said, we could have got him thrown off the bus. Too much hassle, she said. They walked along by the Thames, looking down at the water. Looks too high, Benedict said. Maybe later, she said. So they lay side by side on the grass by the Thames and enjoyed the sun. Her fingers touched his. They were warm and dampish. He sensed her fingers against his. They turned and faced each other, finger still touching. Do you like me? She asked. Of course I do, he replied. She eyed him. I think of you a lot, she said. Do you? He said. She nodded. Yes, quite a bit, she said. O, right, he said, looking at her, taking in her darkish eyes and her hair in a ponytail. Have you ever kissed a girl before? She asked. He looked past her at the passing people. A man with a dog stared at them. I kissed my aunt once, he said, looking at her again. No, I meant a girl, not a relative, Hannah said. He thought, searching through his memory files. Don't think so, he said. Couldn't have been very good if you can't remember, she said. He never made a habit of kissing girls: other boys frowned on such behaviour. He had kissed a girl with one leg once at a nursing home when he was eleven. A year ago, yes, he said, I kissed a girl with one leg a year or so ago. Where did you kiss her? Hannah asked, her leg? He smiled. No,on her cheek, he replied, remembering. Why did you kiss her? Hannah asked. She said I could. She was twelve and big and had just the one leg. Hannah looked at him. Took in his quiff of hair, the hazel eyes and the Elvis smile-she'd seen a photo in a magazine of Elvis Presley and loved the smile- and the set of his jawline. Do you kiss any girl with one leg? She asked. No, he said, just that one time. She looked at him, her fingers beginning to squeeze his. Would you kiss me? She asked. He hadn't thought about it. Hadn't entered his mind. Did you want me to? He said. Do you want to, she replied. What would your mum say? She'd say: whit ur ye kissin' fur? . He laughed. It tickled him when she said spoke her mother's dialect. He looked at her face. Where? He said. Where what? She said. Kiss you? Where shall I kiss you? He said, feeling shy all of a sudden. Where did you want to kiss me? He looked away. Crowds were passing by on the South Bank. Don't know, he said, looking back at her. She sighed. Looked at him. Squeezed his fingers tighter. I'll kiss you, then, she said. She leaned close to him and kissed his cheek. It was a short kiss. He sensed it: warm and wet. Was that it? He mused. She lay there staring at him. Well? What do you think of that? She said. He wasn't sure. It felt all right. It was ok, he said. Just ok? She said, looking at him. He nodded. She drew him closer to her and kissed his lips and pressed long and hard. He panicked briefly as if he'd not breathe again, but he relaxed as her lips became glued to his, and he closed his eyes, and felt a mild opening in himself and he breathed through his nose. As she kissed him, her lips pressing on his, she felt a warm feeling rise through her body as she'd not felt before. It felt unreal. Felt as if she'd entered another body and was a spectator in a game. She pulled away from his lisp and stared at him. How was that? Sh asked. He lay there his eyes closed as if dazed. He opened his eyes. Gosh, he breathed rather than said. She blew out and lay back on the grass. He lay back, too. What would your mum say if she saw us kissing? She smiled and said, lae heem aloyn ye dornt ken whaur he's bin. Benedict laughed and closed his eyes trying to picture Mrs Scot saying it. What does it mean? He asked laughing. Leave him alone you don't know where he's been, she said smiling. She turned and looked at him again. He turned and gazed at her. The laughter died away. How do you feel? She asked. Feel about what? He said. No, how do you feel inside? She said. He didn't know. It was new to him this kissing. He sighed. Don't know. How about you? He said. Tingly, she said in reply. Inside me. My body tingled. Is that a good thing? He asked, uncertain of these matters. I don't know, she said, looking at him. Do you want to paddle in the Thames? He asked. No, not now, she said, I want to kiss again. They lay there gazing each other. Let's go elsewhere though, she suggested. Where? He asked. St James's Park, she suggested, we can get a bus there. Ok, he said. So they walked to the bus stop and got a bus to St. James's Park. It was crowded. People everywhere: walking, sitting, lying down, running. They both sat on then grass, then after a few minutes, they lay on the grass. Hannah stared at him. He looked at her eyes. She moved forward and kissed his lips. Pressed them, breathing through her nose, closed her eyes. He closed his eyes as she closed her eyes. His lips felt hers. Warming, pressing, wettish, her tongue touching his just on the tips. He felt as if suddenly as if he were falling and then he opened his eyes and she had moved away from him. Well? She said, how was that? He sensed his lips slightly bruised, but warm and he felt unusually alive. She gazed at him. She felt opened up as if someone had unzipped her and exposed her. It was good, he said, taking hold of her hand, holding it against his cheek. She sighed, it was good, but it felt surreal, as if it had been a dream, not real, not her kissing. It was, she said, still kissing him inside of her twelve her old head.
A BOY AND GIRL IN LONDON IN 1960 AND A KISS.