My scorching obsession

to meet Alice’s parents had

burnt itself out. I no longer

broached the subject with Alice,

because she flared up, and I didn’t

like to see her sad. So it was totally

unexpected when Alice invited me

to afternoon tea, to visit her folks.

To finally meet and speak with these

shadowy figures was something

remarkable. I itched to ask Alice

why she’d relented, but I kept silent.

I quietly relished this upcoming visit,

because I believed it would somehow

explain the beautiful conundrum

that was Alice.



I was among the deepest trees

when I heard following feet.

This didn’t alarm me at first,

because many folk used the wood.

I looked over my shoulder, and saw

a grubby man slouching behind.

I put on speed, my heart thumping

inside my chest like a frightened

rabbit. I could hear pounding

boots and hoarse wheezing perilously

close behind. I was near the stile,

and leapt over it, clearing the bar

by miles. My feet scrabbled on small

stones, then I sprinted away, leaving

the dirty oafish man far away.


I held out my hand to Aunt.

She gazed intently at my ring,

as if it were some fabulous

heirloom. I felt proud, a little

abashed too. So things are pretty

serious with Alice, Aunt quizzed.

I said yes, they were. She looked

hard into my eyes. You are very

young Augustus, take care you

don’t get hurt. She hugged me

warmly, back to her jovial self.

We both moved into the kitchen,

Aunt brewed some tea. The trees

outside had let fall their leaves. It

looked drab, wintry now, but

the blaze in my heart was fierce.


I’m happy to fund your little excursions,

but really, rings, at your age, my sister

ranted, annihilating my dreams. I knew

her answer was final, I wouldn’t argue.

But it was another nail in our deteriorating

relationship. Father had a big heart.

I would approach him. So I plucked up

my courage and asked him outright.

Once he heard me correctly, he let

out a startled gasp. But he recovered

quickly, and fished in his big wallet.

Here’s fifty pounds, he said, jamming

a crisp note in my hand. Buy your girl

something gorgeous. I blushed hugely

and thanked him repeatedly. Alice would

have her ring.


I marvelled at the arbitrary way

in which love had struck me.

I’d not sought it out, now it had

railroaded my life. I was smitten

so badly, it hurt. I wanted to spend

every minute with Alice. My lost

innocence was branded on my

forehead, in screaming red letters.

My limbs wouldn’t engage and walk

me to school. I was completely deaf

to the mumblings of my teachers,

who seemed like sorry cardboard

cut-outs. I saw Alice everywhere.

When she texted, I glowed. We

wrote intimacies. We arranged

our next tryst.


It was gloomy and cavernous,

until she flicked on a light.

We stood in a cramped hallway

with a manky, threadbare carpet.

She showed me into the lounge,

where a decrepit grandfather clock

ticked in a chilly corner. It felt soulless,

almost abandoned. Let me show you

my room, she piped brightly. Her bed-

room was boxy, but imaginatively

decorated. There were big gaudy art-

deco posters and many large soft

blue bears. She leapt onto her bed,

stretching out her long legs. My

hands felt clammy. I trembled.

She hugged my shoulders, planting

a wet kiss on my lips. A current thrilled

through my whole body. She giggled

coyly. We kissed again.


School was back on. The teachers

droned and burbled, nothing made

any sense, I found it all superfluous,

this wasn’t a real education. But

I dared not repeat my truant behaviour.

The idea of skipping school was wildly

exciting, but I knew I’d be reported,

and Uncle would have strong words

for me. So I sat at my desk, yawning

widely through classes, until the bell

liberated me. At once I texted Alice

to ask about her day. She found school

endlessly fascinating, always having

hilarious stories to relate, concerning

the absurd buffooneries of eccentric

teachers. It crossed my mind whether

Alice’s tales were pure invention.