Jane passed the church, walked past the gravestones of those long dead, smelt the scent of flowers, heard the songs of birds in nearby hedgerows and trees. Benedict said to meet her there the day before while leaving the school van, about midday he had said. She had cycled from the vicarage where she lived with her parents, down through the narrow lanes, passed the water tower by the farm, riding carefully past the cottage where Benedict lived with his parents and siblings, on through narrow lanes until she had reached the church. She was happy to be meeting him again, from the time she had awoken that morning she felt a sense of excitement at seeing him, being in his company. Her mother had asked where she was going and she said to meet Benedict at the church on the other side of the hamlet. Her mother smiled; she liked Benedict, he was trustworthy, unlike some of the boys round about whom she would have felt uneasy about Jane meeting...Benedict sat in the churchyard in the corner away from the nearest grave, where the name and date had worn away over the years until just a few words remained visible. He looked around him, studied the shapes and size of the gravestones, many had become dilapidated over the years, but it was peaceful and he liked it being amongst the dead sensing the feeling of being beyond the here and now. He waited for Jane to come. He had asked her to meet him there the day before. She said she would. He looked forward to seeing her, having her near him, seeing her eyes looking at him, her dark hair, brown eyes, that shy smile...Jane saw Benedict sitting on the grass in the corner, he was looking at the gravestones, his hands around his knees. He was in blue jeans and white shirt and black shoes. She passed a few graves when he looked up and saw her. A thrill of excitement went through her, her stomach churned, her heart beat fast...There she was, standing not far away, Benedict stood up from the grass and went to her and she smiled at him. Not late am I? she asked, putting a hand out to touch his. No, he said, just on time, looking at the watch on his wrist, feeling her hand touch his, buzzing his nerves with her touch...Jane sensed her tongue becoming stuck in her mouth; her eyes scanned him taking in his eyes, hazel bright, his brown hair with that quiff that she loved, that smile so warm and yet inviting. Her hand was in his, warm, soft, his thumb rubbing her skin...Benedict felt alive; felt so here and now that his heart beat so that it seemed it would crash through his chest. How are you? He asked, rubbing her hand, not wanting to let it go, but not wanting to hold it too long. I'm all right, she said shyly, wanting his hand to stay there, to feel him near her, listening to his every word...Jane looked around at the churchyard, saw the flowers on some of the graves, some dying of neglect, some fresh planted. Shall we look in the church? She said, see the interior? Yes, he said, why not, not seen inside for ages(although he had a few weeks before when the girl Lizbeth had taken him there and had tried to ****** him inside on one of the pews and he had left and declined)...Jane looked at him, seeking to see if he mentioned the girl Lizbeth whom Jane had heard had taken Benedict there a few weeks before. She trusted him, but needed him to tell her about the girl from their school, thirteen like them, but more forward, more dangerous. I heard you were here with Lizbeth a few weeks ago, Jane said, not wanting him to be unaware that she knew, but wanting him to be honest with her...Benedict blushed and looked at her, releasing her hand reluctantly. Yes, he said, she took me here, or rather we came here. He didn't know what to say, but he couldn't lie, not keep things back. She came to the cottage and asked me to bring her here because she said she was interested in the architectural aspects of the church, but she just wanted to do things, he said looking at the nearest gravestone, feeling unsettled. Do things? Jane asked, looking at him, seeing his blush still there, wondering what he had done. She wanted me to have *** with her on a pew in the church, he said, but that was after we were in the church and she tricked me...Jane caught her breath, brought her hands together in front of her, trying to make sense of what he was saying. *** with her on a pew? She said, the words soft almost choking her. You didn't did you? She asked, not believing she was asking him. No, of course not, I would never have come here with her had I known that was what she was after, he said, gazing at Jane, unsure of her reaction. She felt her heart beating fast in her breast, her mind was becoming out on a limb. How could she think you would? She asked, not sure what to say or asked any more...Benedict felt the world becoming almost too big for him. He wanted to take Jane and say it hadn't been for real that he had been tricked, that he wanted to be near her not Lizbeth. I don't know, Benedict said, I never encouraged her, thought she was interested in the church, but inside she changed and said we could have *** on one of those pews. Jane sensed an unease enter. And what happened then? She asked, looking at him shyly. Nothing, I left the church and she followed and I cycled back home and she followed me, but them rode off, he said, feeling undone, feeling as if the ground was about to swallow him up...Tears were rising to her eyes, she could sense them. Did you kiss her? She asked, wanting to know, yet not wanting to know. No, nothing at all, he said shaking his head, I wanted none of that. She bit her lower lip, tried to hold back the tears in her eyes. She sensed he hadn't, but she needed to be sure. She had heard about the girl at school, but had he fallen for her charms such as they may have been? Why did she want to have *** with you? She asked, blushing at the word *** in her own mouth. No idea, he said, seems to have this fixation with me and ***. She sensed the tears falling from her eyes and on her cheeks. She wiped them off with the back of her hand. Can I trust you? She asked, the tears making her throat feel sore. Yes, he said, I’d never betray you, never. Not with her or anyone, he added, feeling his world emptying like a fish thrown on dry land. She put a hand on his arm, squeezed it, drew him to her and he embraced her uncertain if it was for real or just a gesture. I trust you, she said, wanting him to hold her close to him, sensing her tears rub on his shoulder, dampening his shirt...Benedict held her tight, not wanting her to go from him, not wanting to lose even this one moment in her closeness. He smelt that naturalness about her, an apple scent, fresh air, purity like new snow, blossoms...She kissed his cheek; lips to skin, not pressured, but there wanting to express how she felt, how her heart felt, not lust like the Lizbeth girl, but love, yes, love for him...Benedict sensed her lips kiss his cheek, warm, soft. He held her tight, feeling her body close to his, sensing her soft ******* against his chest as he held her...Jane put a hand behind his head, drew him closer, her lips kissing his ear, his lobe, his cheek again, then she pulled away a little to look at him. I should not have doubted you or your what you would do or not do, she said softly, her eyes watery, her cheeks damp. I heard about her and her visit to you, but I wasn't sure if it was true or not, but it doesn't matter now, because I trust you, she said...Benedict held her as near as he dare, not wanting her to go from his hold. I would never hurt you. I didn't know what she was after. Jane put a finger on his lips. Hush, she said softly. Let us not give her the benefit of thinking she has undone us. He felt his heart pounding in his chest as if someone was punching him from the inside...Jane turned his head towards her and kissed him on the lips. He kissed her, too, his lips pressing against hers. She put her arms around his waist and hugged him as she had never hugged anyone before, her lips sealing him from breath, from leaving her, from going away...Benedict sensed her body so close now that his heart seemed to beat with hers in a duet of thumping inside. His lips felt as if welded to hers, wet and warm and soft and he sensed himself filling with tears, tears he'd not shown or felt before to this degree...Jane took his hand and they walked past the gravestones into the church and sat in a side pew next to each other. His hand was in hers; he rubbed his thumb against her skin, rubbed it gently. She squeezed his hand, turned and kissed him, then sat back and stared ahead. God's house, she said, she should never had thought you would do anything like that here, not in here...Benedict said, not anywhere with her, certainly not here. He recalled that day here with Lizbeth, how she had suggested they have *** on a pew and he taken aback by such a thing and how she thought it quite possible...Us, Jane said, us and not her, not anything she thought possible. He nodded and looked at the altar where a brass cross stood alone. Do you love me? She asked. He turned and gazed at her, his eyes searching each aspect of her features. Yes, I do, he said, as much as its possible to love. She smiled shyly, wiping tears from her damp cheeks. I love you, too, she said... Benedict closed his eyes. He wanted to capture her and her words and that moment for ever in his mind. He wanted being here with her now to over brush the image of Lizbeth here with him those weeks before, to have that image and words of Jane captured in his mind like a camera snapping it all and holding it in frame and picture for evermore... Jane breathed in and out slowly. He had closed his eyes. His hand was still in hers. His pulse pulsed with hers, a gentle beat, a soft thump, a mixture of one becoming two, an uncertainty going, a truth and love becoming true.
A MEETING AT A CHURCH ONE MIDDAY IN 1961.