I was examining the globe-shaped paperweight sitting next to Jackie’s pencil pot. It was a sickly, translucent shade of fuchsia, covered with faded patches due to Jackie’s desk being next to the window. Who even used paperweights anymore? Above this was a calendar, which needed to be turned over. It was still on the ‘January’ page and displayed a sad looking basset hound wearing a scarf and hat. I wouldn’t have been caught dead with a calendar. I use my smart phone to organise myself- like the youngsters in the office do.
‘Lovely, isn’t it?’ said Jackie, pointing to the photo on her desk. Her foul breath smelled like a build-up of morning coffees. Didn’t she know that coffee was a diuretic? It dehydrates you and so makes you look old and tired. Jackie and I were both turning forty that year, but I definitely looked five years younger. I was perhaps the most gracefully ageing woman in the whole of Yorkshire- definitely in Halifax at least. It was probably all the blueberries I ate in the mornings- Mum used to say they were a super food, filled with antioxidants.
Three faces smiled at me from out of the twisted metal frame.
‘That’s Reece,’ Jackie said. ‘And sitting on his lap are my twins, Jimmy and Mia.’
Until this moment, I had never really believed in love at first sight. But, suddenly, my eyes turned into hearts and I’m sure I heard a harp playing in the distance. Reece was exactly my type and I knew I had to meet him.
‘My boyfriend, he left me last night,’ I told Jackie, turning my head away from her desk and covering my face.
‘Oh! You poor thing,’ Jackie cooed.
‘I just can’t stand the thought of going back to an empty flat,’ I murmured. I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist the chance to look like a do-gooder.
‘Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight?’
‘Really? That would be so kind of you,’ I said.
‘Reece, this is my friend, Caroline,’ Jackie said, gesturing towards me.
Reece stood with his back to me- hands plunged in the washing up. He glanced over his shoulder at us and nodded his head. His cheeks were slightly pink and his nose a little upturned. He had aged a little since the family photo on Jackie’s desk. I began to feel that tingle spread across the bottom of my back, just above where my jeans sat.
‘Are you alright?’ Jackie asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.
‘Yes, why?’ I said.
‘You don’t look alright. It’s probably the shock. Reece get her a chair will you?’
He flicked the water from his hands and grabbed a chair from the dining room next door. He carried it over and pushed the oak legs across the kitchen tiles behind me. I sat so quickly Reece did not have a chance to move his hands and I felt his fingers behind my shoulders.
He moved his hands and I assumed he had gone to finish the washing up, until he re-appeared by my side with a glass of water. ‘What a gentleman,’ I thought, as I clasped the cup, his hand underneath mine. I let it linger there for a second before letting go.
Jackie’s house was old fashioned- nothing like my flat. Where was the glitz, the style? She still had a tiny gas cooker. Didn’t she know they did big, electric hobs now, with plate warming strips down the side? Through the archway that led to the dining room, I could see the table had been laid with a lacy, polka dot cloth- making the whole room look frumpy. I didn’t have a dining table. Instead, I had one of those glossy, white breakfast bars, with the black marble countertop that was embedded with the specks of silver.
‘Oh, Caroline,’ Jackie started, ‘I know we are just colleagues but I am so glad you confided in me. I know exactly what you are going through. You must feel awful and I am here for you.’
Reece was in the living room watching television. ‘Bye bye, Jackie. Run along now’ I wanted to say- of course I didn’t dare.
‘He really didn’t give you a reason?’ Jackie continued. ‘Just packed up and left – without even saying goodbye?’
‘Just packed up and left,’ I repeated, staring past her boxy shoulders and into the living room, where Reece was lounging on the sofa.
I saw him sit back up. My chest jolted as if I were walking down a flight of stairs and missed a step. Jackie’s voice droned on and on. He strolled into the kitchen and over to the snack cupboard. He fished out a packet of cheese and onion crisps and I couldn’t help smiling- they were my favourite flavour too.
Jackie stopped mid ramble and barked ‘what do you think you are doing?’
I startled for a second- panicked that she had caught me thinking about Reece.
‘Shoes off in the house!’ she said, pointing at Reece’s trainers- the laces of which were dragging on the floor. ‘I don’t know how I didn’t notice them earlier,’ she said, turning to me and rolling her eyes.
Shrugging carelessly, he kicked them off- leaving them where they landed. He stood with a hole in his right sock, leaning against the cupboards and eating his crisps. As his jaw moved up and down, I stared at the tiny bit of stubble under his chin, thinking about how I would love to reach out and stroke it.
‘Shit! Is that the time? Listen, Caroline, I need to go and pick the twins up from school. Stay here, I’m cooking you dinner tonight. Reece, keep her company will you?’
I hated the idea of having kids. All that trauma of giving birth making your body age overnight? No thanks. Jackie grabbed her bag from the counter and dashed out of the door, leaving Reece and me alone.
‘She treats you like a kid, huh?’ I said.
‘Yea, she does- she’s always been that way,’ said Reece, throwing his crisp packet in the bin.
‘Can I watch the television with you?’ I asked.
‘I guess,’ said Reece. ‘You probably won’t like what I’m watching. It’s Top Gear.’
I followed him into the living room and sat down next to him. He watched the television and I watched him. I still had my office clothes on and my pencil skirt was riding up slightly. Every few seconds I moved my legs a tiny bit closer to his. All the while my heart pumped nervously- Jackie would kill me.
Eventually my knee was touching the top of his thigh- my tights against his gym shorts. He didn’t seem to notice. Instead, he carried on watching the screen, running his hands through his blonde hair every couple of minutes. It flopped sideways as the gel began to lose its hold.
The remote slid off of the cushion and I leant towards the floor to pick it up. It had fallen underneath the sofa and so I had to fish around for it. My cleavage hung slightly out of my blouse and when Reece turned to see if I had found it, I noticed his eyes float downwards. I didn’t judge him for this- breasts are magnets to the eyes of any male past a certain age.
Reece’s eyes were brown. Deep brown like Jackie’s. His eye lashes grew thick and he had a boyish smile. This smile emerged when he looked up and realised I had caught him staring. His cheeks flushed even more red.
‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I won’t tell.’
A tense, but not awkward, pause occurred. I had never felt so much chemistry, between two people on a first meeting, as I did between Reece and me. He didn’t shy away from it like most perhaps would- he didn’t act cautiously, he just embraced it.
The key sounded in the lock. Jackie had returned.
‘We’re home!’ she called, huffing and puffing from the cold air outside.
The twins ran into the living room -a stampede of little feet- and Reece scooped them up into his arms, kissing their cheeks, which were freckled like his.
‘How was school, Mia?’ he asked.
‘I did a painting for you,’ the little girl’s head moved from side to side as she spoke, making her pigtails bounce. ‘It’s of me, you, Mummy and Jimmy, but Mrs Maguire said I had to leave it on the rack to dry.’
‘Thanks!’ said Reece. ‘I’ll be expecting it tomorrow when you come home!’
He tickled Mia and she screamed delightedly.
‘Who is that?’ said the other twin, sticking his finger in my direction.
‘That is my friend, Caroline, from the office. You mustn’t point at people like that, Jimmy,’ said Jackie.
Jackie beckoned me to follow her into the kitchen, making her bingo wings wobble disgustingly. I followed, smiling to hide my reluctance as I left Reece and the twins on the sofa.
I stood and listened to her prattle on about how men are useless. She kicked Reece’s trainers out the way, as she strode back and forth between the cooker and the fridge, preparing the lasagne. The woman’s voice was so insufferable that it could have turned the loneliest person into a misanthropist.
I could have left at any point. Told her the cat needed feeding and I had completely forgotten. Although, I would have tolerated her for hours if it meant being closer to Reece.
‘For example, Reece. He’s so lazy, so moody!’
‘He did the washing up earlier,’ I said.
‘That’s about all he does and it takes some real nagging.’ She put the lasagne in the oven.
A struggle broke out in the living room. Jimmy and Mia dragged a plastic aeroplane back and forth between them. Jackie craned her neck to see what was going on, but when Jimmy thumped Mia she went dashing into the living room, frantically waving the tea-towel in her hand.
‘Jimmy! Don’t do that to your sister!’ she yelled.
She separated the pair and sent them for a time-out.
‘You didn’t think to intervene?’ she said to Reece.
He glanced up from the television and said ‘I’m not their dad. Stop expecting me to discipline them.’
Jackie huffed and marched back into the kitchen. This was clearly an argument they had had many times before. She looked at me and shook her head.
Once dinner was ready, Reece helped the twins wash their hands and I laid out the cutlery. Since it was winter my lips were chapped. The cerise lipstick I wore to cover the dryness often began to flake throughout the day. I carried on wearing it because Elle Magazine said the colour was all the rage at the moment. I began to worry that it might flake off while I was eating.
Reece sat slouched across the table from me and began to saw at his food with his knife and fork in the wrong hands. Jackie sighed, ‘Reece, please!’ she said.
‘I don’t mind at all,’ I replied- I thought the way he ate was quite endearing.
‘See,’ Reece said. ‘If Caroline doesn’t mind, why should you?’
The twins ate clumsily with their knives and forks, barely able to reach the top of the table. Jimmy chewed his garlic bread until it was a soggy lump and then picked it out of his mouth and put it on his sister’s plate.
‘Jimmy!’ screeched Jackie. ‘See Reece, no wonder they eat like animals when you’re their role model.’
‘They eat like that because they are four years old,’ said Reece.
I gave him a sympathetic smile and he pulled a silly face at Jackie’s expense when she wasn’t looking. Some might call him immature but I thought he was fun- a breath of fresh air, if you will.
My foot searched for his under the table. When I found it I touched the front of my toes against his. I was testing the waters. He kept his face turned towards his lasagne, but his eyes flicked upwards to meet mine. I crept my foot forward another inch, until it was resting slightly on top of his. He wiggled his toes under the ball of my foot.
‘Mummy,’ said Mia.
‘Yes, darling,’ said Jackie.
‘Are we still going to the swimming pool?’
‘Yes, but not until the weekend.’
‘Is she going to come with us?’ asked Jimmy, pointing at me again.
‘She has a name, Jimmy. Please be polite. What a great idea though! Caroline would you like to come with us to the pool on Saturday?’
I knew Jackie was asking mainly out of pity and because it would be rude not to now Jimmy had brought it up, but I didn’t care. My brain wandered off amidst thoughts of Reece and me slipping off to the Jacuzzi. The steam would act as a smoke screen- concealing us as I perhaps stole a kiss when Jackie wasn’t looking.
‘Of course! It will get me out of the flat and stop me thinking about him,’ I said, playing my role of the forsaken ex.
‘I’m coming,’ said Reece.
‘I thought you were playing football this weekend?’ asked Jackie.
‘Game got called off,’ said Reece quickly. He was coming to see me.
‘Lovely!’ exclaimed Jackie clapping her hands together. ‘Then it will be a whole family day out!’ She beamed around the table but Reece and I were too busy looking at each other.
I stood in the cubicle examining myself- tying up the back of my bikini tightly round my neck, to perk my boobs up as much as possible. I was hoping Reece would like what he saw, especially since I’d spent ages contorting myself in the bathroom that morning as I shaved. I had to make sure I got every patch of hair.
Reece’s body was a little on the skinny side, but it was hairless and I liked that. The big, sweaty men in the office had tufts of grey hair peeping out of the top of their shirts sometimes- often putting me off my lunch. He wore the cutest blue swimming trunks, with the Chelsea Football Club logo on the side.
I had decided that, if I had the chance, I would try and progress things that day. As my mum always told me ‘seize the opportunity when it presents itself.’ I know some people might think this to be wrong, but you can’t help who you find attractive, right? I wasn’t sure I’d get much of a chance though- given Reece and I had to be careful that Jackie didn’t seeing anything suspicious.
I eyed up Jackie’s stretch marks on the tops of her legs. ‘Don’t run!’ she shouted as Mia and Jimmy charged towards the pool. The lifeguard blew his whistle in their direction.
Reece sat on the edge of the pool blowing up Mia’s armbands. She squirmed impatiently, standing at the water’s edge, desperate to get in. Jimmy could swim already and went flying into the water with a splash. The lifeguard blew his whistle again.
As we bounced around in the water, I threw Reece the occasional glance and slight leg stroke. My pulse stopped when Jackie turned to me and said ‘Caroline, can I have a word please.’
‘Sure,’ I said, but my heart started to beat in my chest like a woodpecker’s beak against a tree. She gestured for me to move away from everyone else.
‘I need to speak to you about Reece,’ she started.
‘Look, Jackie,’ I said- panicking about what she was going to say next.
‘I know, I know. Remember I’ve been there- I struggled to leave the house when my ex-husband left me- but hear me out before you say no,’ she said and I grew confused. ‘After Peter left, Reece supported me and was my rock. I want to throw him this surprise party for his birthday next weekend, to show him how much I appreciate him. You have to come. You get on with us all so well- plus I could use the help getting him out of the house for a few hours. It would do you good too.’
‘Sure,’ I heard myself saying, a wave of relief washing over me.
‘Great! I’m going to ask him if he will help you do a food shop- say you could need a man’s help carrying the bags home. While he’s out I’ll decorate the house and invite all his friends.’
‘Let’s go down the slide!’ shouted Jimmy, cutting our conversation short.
‘Yea!’ cried Mia- clambering up the edge of the pool to get out.
A tumble arms and legs shot out of the turquoise slide as Jimmy came out of the shoot. Jackie stood on the side filming him on her phone. Mia glanced down at us from the top of the slide- her face in a panic. She had got to the top and lost her nerve. Reece jumped out of the water and made his way up the stairs to her. They went down together and came out the other side giggling, as Jackie stood cheering with her phone. I could hardly watch this happy family moment.
Twisted, I know, but in that moment, my prayers were answered. The lifeguard blew his whistle and a horrendous scream followed. Jimmy had fallen over as he was running around the edge of the pool. Blood poured from the gash on his head. ‘Well, that’s going to need stitches’ I thought.
Jackie dashed over to where he lay and gasped in horror. ‘This is why you don’t run on wet floor, Jimmy!’ she said, scooping him up in her arms, her saggy stomach crimpling up as she did so, and making her way to the cubicle with him.
‘Mummy!’ Mia called after her.
Reece picked her up and followed Jackie out to the cubicles. I perhaps should have followed, but I just wanted to do a few more lengths. Minutes later they returned, Jimmy licking up the blood as it dripped down his sniffling face.
‘I am going to take him to A&E,’ said Jackie, her wet hair hanging in her eyes. ‘Mia wants to come with me, but you and Reece stay- there’s no need for us all to be dragged away from the fun.’
The three of them left- the lifeguard shaking his head after them. Reece joined me back in the pool. We splashed around for a bit and I jumped on his back. I could feel his hands gripping against the top of my thighs as he carried me through the water- I felt like a teenager again.
We frolicked to and throw. I danced over to the artificial rocks, round behind the waterslide and lured him towards me. He laughed and dived under the water. I saw his rippling silhouette reach for my legs and pull them out from underneath me. Gasping, I took in a mouthful of water as I went under. He pulled me up and panic flickered across his face while I spluttered. I paused and looked at him. He looked back. Then I splashed him and we laughed. I knew it would be wrong in everybody else’s eyes- but I could feel it, we were just so perfect together.
I stepped closer to him- our bare feet almost touching on the swimming pool floor.
‘Reece, you- you wouldn’t tell her would you,’ I started. I was referring to Jackie.
‘Tell her what?’
‘If- if something were to happen between us.’
‘No- why would I tell her? I wouldn’t want to get us in trouble. Why? Do you like me then? I’ve never had a proper woman like me like that before.’
‘I do like you Reece. Very much so. But- what would people think?’
‘I’m not a child Caroline, I can make my own choice.’
I pushed his wet hair away from his forehead. Then a few minutes later, concealed behind the artificial rocks, I kissed him. The warm taste of his mouth, mixed with chlorine, danced around my tongue. I could feel through his swimming trunks that he was… easily aroused. I reached for his hand in the water and placed it just where my bikini bottoms stopped covering the back of me. He pulled away and gave me a goofy smile.
Reece and I had exchanged numbers after we got out of the pool. About a week later it snowed that thick, fluffy, February snow, which we often got in Halifax. He text me asking ‘Hi Caroline, should we go out and have a snowball fight LOL.’ I knew ‘LOL’ meant ‘laugh out loud,’ but it was only a few weeks before this that I was informed people aren’t actually laughing out loud when they message this. Text message slang still confused me, but I did my best to go with it.
We arranged to meet in the Halifax Commons that evening- down by the lake. The whole thing was frozen over with ice so thick it looked like a skating rink. While I waited for Reece I gazed out to the twinkling trees on the other side- their branches laced with white. I imagined Reece and me skating over to them, like a scene from Serendipity.
I saw him jogging towards me- his grey hoodie yanked up around his head.
‘It’s like Serendipity,’ I yelled to him, the winter winds carrying my voice through the commons.
‘Seren what?’ he asked when he reached me.
‘Serendipity,’ I repeated. His bemused face told me he had never heard of it.
‘I’ve got to be back by nine or she’ll start complaining,’ he said.
‘Where does she think you are?’ I asked.
‘At the gym.’
We began to wander down the path of the commons. At first, he walked next to me, his gloved hand tucked inside mine. Although, after a while, I found it difficult to talk to him seriously, as he seemed a more interested in playing in the snow than listening to what I had to say. I was trying to have a deep conversation with him about my mum- how her days were cut short at only forty-one, when she got diagnosed with leukaemia. Whilst in the middle of a sentence he scooped up a handful of snow, rolled it between his woolly gloves and shoved it in my face- practically in my mouth. He let out a guffaw which echoed around the trees. I began to complain and tell him his prank wasn’t funny, but then I realised I needed to lighten up a little.
It was dark but the snow lit up the whole commons. Reece charged towards the climbing frames, taking off his gloves as he ran. With a great leap he clung on to the monkey bars- doing the occasional pull up.
I stood gingerly underneath the bars. They were usually black and rusty, but that night they glittered like bars of silver from the ice.
‘Come on, don’t be a wuss,’ he teased.
‘No thanks,’ I said.
‘Bore,’ he smiled, letting go and landing with a soft pad in the snow.
Determined to show him I was not a boring woman who was past it, I ran at him and tackled him to the ground. As I did so, I let out a little scream- feeling like a school girl again and landing in between his legs.
The snow had begun to fall again. His freckled cheeks were wet from where the flakes were landing. I kissed them and he pulled my head towards him- smashing his mouth against mine. I could feel him thrusting in his traksuit bottoms underneath me. It was all a little rough but I liked his enthusiasm, his passion about us. To be honest, I’m surprised our bodies didn’t melt the surrounding snow.
I did my Dad’s shopping every Saturday afternoon. He didn’t have the strength to carry the bags anymore and besides, I didn’t want him going out in the cold, winter weather. After letting myself in with my key, I called out to him softly- knowing he would probably be asleep. I breathed in the comforting smell of his extra strong mints and cigarette ash- I was home. The living room radio was playing Frank Sinatra. As I unpacked the shopping bags I danced, stocking the fridge with Dad’s low cholesterol margarine and bottles of prune juice.
Rows of magnets littered the fridge door- each one from a different country that we had visited through the years. My eyes swept over the warm oak counter-tops and chestnut brown cupboards. Over time the house had become slightly dusty, but I did my best to clean it when I could. Hanging over the door of one of the cupboards was a tea towel. It was pink with white check and frayed slightly around the edges- bought by my mum all those years ago. I stroked it gently, thinking about the afternoons when she and I would sit, eating crisp sandwiches and watching the people scurry along the pavement. The heavy net curtains had yellowed along the bottom, but I could not bring myself to change them. I wanted the house to stay as Mum had left it.
Quietly, I popped my head around the living room door to find Dad, dosing in his usual armchair. His mouth was slightly agape and his glasses hung round his sagging neck.
‘Dad,’ I said, nudging his shoulder slightly. ‘The shopping’s in the fridge, is there anything else you need?’
He looked up at me, slightly groggy and then asked, ‘how about a game of checkers?’
When I was little we played checkers every evening.
‘Sure,’ I said, going to the cupboard to get the board.
I cleared the ash tray from the coffee table and set up the game.
As we played, my phone buzzed. I picked it up, smirking a little to myself. The silly photos that Reece sent me always made me laugh.
‘What are you smiling at, eh?’ Dad asked.
‘I’ve met someone!’ I said. I had been waiting to tell him about Reece since I arrived.
‘Marvellous!’ he declared, rubbing his hands together as he beamed. ‘Make sure he treats you right!’
Red red wine.
As usual, UB40 played on repeat throughout the salon. George always loved the reggae band- he said it relaxed him while he worked. I’d been going to Revive Salon for nearly a decade now. Only George could cut my hair the way I liked it.
The stout man waddled over with his scissors. His belly drooped slightly over the belt of hairclips and brushes, which hung around his hips.
‘Much fresher, my darling,’ he exclaimed, pointing at my roots. There was something comforting about having my roots topped up with blonde again. It was uplifting- like having a full tank of petrol or a recently stocked fridge.
‘So, how have you been, my flower?’ he asked, beginning to snip at my hair.
‘I’ve met someone,’ I said, feeling the excitement start to spread down my arms and legs.
He gasped and put his hands to his face. ‘Tell me everything.’
‘His name is Reece and he’s so attentive and kind- I feel like he really cares for me. He’s a bit of a baby face, but I like that about him.’
‘It’s about time you found someone!’
‘Except, it’s not really… appropriate. It’s complicated. My friend, she would be furious,’ I said.
‘One of those ones, eh? Caroline, you dark horse, well if he chooses you, he chooses you, honey. There’s not much she, or anyone else can do about it. I say go for it,’ he said, putting his hands on his hips as he lectured my reflection.
The amount of scandal and gossip we tell to our hairstylists is absurd. For the couple of hours we are in their presence, they seem to become our greatest confidants. What is said in the hair salon, stays in the hair salon.
‘George!’ said a familiar voice. I saw Jackie in the mirror reflection. Apparently those that annoy us outside of the salon, don’t stay outside of the salon.
‘Jackie, my darling!’ said George, waving his scissors at her. I dug my nails into the leather arms of the salon chair.
‘What are you doing here?’ I asked.
‘Oh! Caroline! I didn’t know you came to Revive. My friend recommended George to me a few months ago and I’ve been coming here ever since. What a lovely surprise!’
It was not a lovely surprise.
‘So, you are here to have your hair cut?’ I said.
‘Of course, silly! Why else would I be here? Where do you want me, George?’ Jackie asked.
‘Take a seat by the sinks and I’ll be with you when I finish with Caroline,’ George said.
He continued to snip the split ends from my hair. Jackie sat in the chair across from me on her phone- I wondered if she was texting Reece.
‘So how do you two know each other?’ George shouted over the force of one of the other stylist’s hairdryers.
‘We work together at our accounting office. Caroline’s been going through a tough time lately- what with the split and all that,’ Jackie shouted back.
‘Split?’ said George.
‘Oh no!’ said Jackie. ‘Was it supposed to be a secret?’
‘I didn’t even know you were with anybody,’ said George.
‘Yes, well. I do try and keep my private life private,’ I said.
‘Lighten up, honey. Let’s hope your new man loosens you up a bit,’ George said to me, lowering his voice so Jackie couldn’t hear. Unfortunately, the hair dryer shut off as he said this.
‘New man! Is it someone from work?’ exclaimed Jackie.
‘George!’ I scowled.
‘Sorry!’ he said and then mimed zipping his mouth shut, but afterwards, I saw him giggle with Jackie in the mirror.
Instead of distracting Reece from his surprise party by having him help me with my shopping, as Jackie suggested, I distracted him in a much more exciting way. She had said to me ‘make sure you let Reece carry all the bags- keep him young and healthy.’ He didn’t have to carry any shopping bags, but when we were finished, he was definitely out of breath.
‘Was I OK?’ he asked sheepishly, still staring at me like he’d never seen a pair of boobs before.
‘Better than OK,’ I said kissing the freckles on his cheeks.
I climbed off him and grabbed the condom wrapper from the side, tossing it in the bin. I’d been the one to buy them- I didn’t know if he would.
I told Reece I was dressing up to go for dinner with some friends. After I’d showered, he lay on my bed playing on his phone, whilst I curled my hair at my dressing table. I ‘shooshed’ it up with a few sprays of dry shampoo- as suggested by some of the graduate scheme girls that I overheard talking in the office. One of them said it’s not just used to stop your hair looking greasy, but to give your hair volume.
I began to have a hot flush and Reece asked if I was feeling unwell. I told him it was the rush of getting ready. Although, looking at myself in the reflection, frantically fanning my face so my makeup did not run, I worried my menopause might be approaching earlier than expected. My pink, off-the shoulder dress was a size eight- most women my age wouldn’t even get that dress over their thighs.
Reece came over to where I sat and bent down to kiss my bare shoulder. He had gradually got a lot more comfortable around me, compared to when we had first met. His kisses were no longer hesitant and it all seemed natural now.
‘You look perfect,’ he said. I was thrilled at this comment since tonight was the night I was going to meet all of his friends- I needed to look my best.
‘We better get going, I’ve got to drop you home before I get to the restaurant and the table is booked for seven,’ I lied.
He made his way towards the door and I gave my reflection one last pout- like a girl on Instagram.
I wore slightly smaller heels than normal because Reece wasn’t overly tall. Even so, I struggled to drive in any size heels and so drove barefoot. My chic little Mini Cooper was the perfect size for the two of us. I had promised to let Reece test drive it one day.
We pulled up outside his house and I felt a little shaky as I sat on the edge of my car seat, slipping on my heels.
‘You don’t have to come in with me. I’m capable of walking to the front door on my own,’ he said.
‘No! I know!’ I said. ‘But I thought I’d better pop in and say hello quickly before heading out.’
Reece opened the front door and made his way into the living room.
‘Happy Birthday, Reece!’ his friends and family shouted- jumping out from behind the sofas and coffee table.
‘Fucking hell!’ he shouted in response.
‘You may be sixteen but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to swear in front of your mother!’ Jackie laughed emerging from the crowd. ‘Thank you so much for keeping him distracted, Caroline.’
Some sort of hip-hop song began to blast through the speakers. I didn’t know it but I tried to bop along. I wandered over to the boy controlling the speakers.
‘Cool cap, mate,’ I said to him.
‘It’s called a snap-back,’ he tutted.
I decided to walk away and poor myself a drink. The table was filled with alcopops that Jackie had carefully selected for their low-alcohol content. Obviously she didn’t want her son and his friends getting too drunk. I wanted something stronger and so poured myself a glass of wine from the fridge.
‘That’s the one,’ said a boy standing in the kitchen doorway. I turned and saw a group of boys, faces dotted with acne and teeth fixed with braces, staring at me. I hoped Reece had told his friends to keep our relationship on the ‘down-low’ as he called it.
‘What? The one Reece is getting with?’ said another, lowering his voice a little.
‘Yea!’ said the first boy.
‘Isn’t that kind of weird? Like isn’t she his mum’s age?’ one asked.
‘Na, he’s a legend mate. Look at her boobs. She’s a MILF.’
I made a mental note to look MILF up on Urban Dictionary when I got home. My mum always said ‘you’re only as young as you feel,’ so for now, I was going to enjoy myself. I downed my wine and topped up my lipstick- it was party time!