Autumn is a book about a young teenage boy, Sam, growing up in Dublin and having his first experiences of sex, alcohol, friendship and all the painfully excruciating events young pubescent boys go through in life. This is an early chapter in the book, chapter 5 of 30 so far.
"Antoinette, and not the Queen of England'
The DART was almost empty apart from Daniel and Sam, providing them with the luxury of room for their feet on the opposite seats, which they greedily indulged in. Quite often Sam had been admonished by older members of society for this slight against public transport, and quite often he had ignored their variations of pleas, irritated gestures and full blown tirades. Truth be told when this did happen he quite enjoyed it. Being at the wrong end of peer abuse, however minor, gave a youth a valid free license to react aggressively in relatively placid situations, which probably led to greater indiscretions later in life such as road rage, abuse or even assault. In some cases, but not all.
Daniel was regaling Sam with another of his faintly amusing overly lengthy anecdotes concerning Japanese manga and Bruce Lee, an unhealthy obsession that coupled with a growing regard for smoking hash every afternoon after school was beginning to strain their relationship. Sam smiled appropriately and gave up trying to understand the in-jokes and convoluted story lines that he was meant to have been following, until Daniel's monologue took a sharp beat and began to describe Catriona. Sam's attention levels immediately perked up, and he began listening avidly.
"she's a fucking fox seriously"
"yeah so you've been saying"
"yeah but i mean, seriously"
"as opposed to....'unseriously'?!"
"exactly that. she's definitely the coolest girl i've ever met, amazing tits on her"
Sam waited a moment for Daniel to stare glassy eyed up at the roof, lost amidst his own illicit teenage thoughts. Daniel was bringing Sam with him pretty much as a wingman so that he could assist him in getting into her knickers as it were. The deal was simple, Daniel would bring a friend for moral support and to have a crutch to brag to afterwards if it went well, and a back up plan in case it went pear shaped, which was quite likely in Sam's mind as Daniel wasn't the most athletic sort to put it politely. For Catriona's end, she brought a friend for two reasons, in case Daniel turned out be a wierdo and she needed some assistance, or in case he was just plain boring and she had a ready made escape plan, putting the blame on her friend. Sam didn't mind being used in the slightest, he didn't really get to meet girls very often so he couldn't complain. Daniel smiled almost patronisingly across at him and after a furtive check up and down the carriage he took a cigarette and lighter out of his jacket pocket.
"you can't smoke in here"
"fuck it who cares"
Sam shook his head and stared out the window watching Dalkey beach roll by gently. A couple strolled arm in arm ankle deep in the surf whilst holding their shoes in their hands. Sam hadn't had a girlfriend yet, he had in fact yet to kiss a girl properly if you discounted the 'spin the bottle' game he had been forced to play when he was still in primary school, and kissing his next door neighbour when he was 6 definitely didn't count. Smoke wafted into his eyes and his gentle brown eyes focused on the hyperactive face of Daniel. Daniel had a way with words, always ready to engage with a quick quip, a smart response or intelligent answer, and could talk actively on a variety of subjects, constantly aware of the latest up and coming musician or film, even able to hold a conversation on politics if it was requried. Sam both admired and was painfully jealous of him for this ability that he oft attempted but consistently failed to imitate.
"i'm sure her mate is hot"
Sam raised his eyebrows incredulously.
"no you don't"
"i do, i do, seriously, hot girls always have hot mates, it's part of the law i think"
Sam's cheeks cracked into a wide smile, stretching his skin across face tightly.
"gimme a break, 'the law'!, hot girls tend to bring ugly mates, you know that, it
makes them feel more confident and ensures that they get all the attention. it works
out for the ugly tag a longs too cos' then they get to hang out with boys which they
wouldn't get the opportunity otherwise"
Daniel's cigarette dropped out of his gaping mouth in a gesture of exaggerated mock shock, holding the pose with such distinction that a thin sliver of saliva found it's way past the sentry system on his dried lips and took pleasing aim at his welcoming crotch. Sam shook his head and giggled as Daniel maintained the statuesque grimace, frozen in time.
"i know that you agree with me"
Daniel managed to hold the pose with admirable stillness while manipulating his vocal chords much like a ventriloquist.
"where did all that come from, i'm 'SHOCKED'"
"yeah i can see that, keep that face for later, i'm sure Catriona would be bowled
over by it"
"seriously, that was just soo incredibly.......deeeep"
Daniel's voice slowed down like a old motor engine gradually heaving it's last breath despite it's best efforts to keep within the land of the living. The sliver of saliva made a giant push for freedom, aided by the stream of hot air emanating from Daniel's open throat as he exhaled heavily from the exertion of holding the unnatural contortion. Hanging on the precipice of his lips, the saliva formed a heavy bead, focusing all of it's weight at the tip of it's form, begging for gravity to sweep it downwards. Daniel suddenly jerked his head sideways loosening his jaw and the liquid flew out of his mouth and splattered on to the dirty window beside him with a wet slap, and dribbled down onto the wall beneath. Daniel grimaced at the indiscretion and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand with a wide smile.
"you are right, her mate's going to be dog ugly, probably fat"
"so you agree with my theory?"
"surprisingly, for the first time when it comes to girls, i will give you some credit for insight"
"well if i'm correct, then it begs the question why did you bring me with you"
"why, why wouldn't i?"
The implications of what Sam was suggesting caught Daniel unguarded and swept up behind him like a thief, slapping him dryly across the face.
"very funny, yeah yeah. the reason i brought you is cos you haven't a clue
what to do with girls so even if i left you and her alone in her bedroom in the middle of the night with no clothes on you'd still come out a virgin"
"i think that's a great theory, we should test that, i'll put it to her later will i?"
Daniel leapt to his feet and grabbed at Sam, who ducked under his loose hands and reached for his midriff. They grappled for a few moments, but Daniel was out of breath far too quickly and he begged for a halt to the proceedings. Sam fell back onto his seat, his features calm without a bead of sweat on his smooth skin. Daniel's cheeks were flushed, and his breathing was a little laboured in contrast. He fumbled with his hands in his pockets searching for the calming influence that would come from his illegally acquired nicotine.
"this is our stop"
Daniel nodded as he fished a lighter and a packet of Silk Cut Blue from the deep crevices of his jacket pockets and stuck one firmly into his fleshy mouth like a poor man's Clint Eastwood. The doors of the DART slid open with an easy going 'whoosh' and the two alighted on the platform of Bray station. The foot bridge brought them over the train tracks and onto the opposite side where Daniel halted suddenly, uncertainty gripping him. Sam looked at him quizzically as he stood there staring at his feet on the gum flecked platform.
"what are you doing?"
"you're kidding me? YOU, you're nervous??"
Daniel's head bobbed up and down slowly, the tension in his shoulder muscles giving the movement a surreal halting effect.
"but you've already kissed her, a few times i thought?"
"no, i never said that"
"yes you did, you said it loads of times"
"no no, you must have misheard me"
"oh, right then, that's a problem isn't it?"
Sam sighed and kicked out at an imaginary football in front of him, then mid kick a thought hit him and he almost collapsed with laughter, dropping to his knees as all his breath left his belly. Daniel lifted his sullen gaze up questioningly to his best friend.
"what the fuck's so funny?"
Sam put his hand out in Daniel's general direction indicating for him to give him a moment to catch his breath again before he gave an explanation, then, chest heaving from the exertion he stood up again, his hands gripping his hips for stability.
"we got into so much trouble, almost got kicked out of Mr. Cusack's class, i got sent to Fr Kelly's office, double detention, already today and tomorrow, we get an hour train ride to Bray, and now we finally get here and you tell me that you're embarrassed and haven't actually kissed this girl that you've been rambling on about for the last 2 weeks!!! Come on, you have to see the ridiculously funny side of that?!"
"well, no....i kinda feel like a nob"
"yes you are a bit of an idiot alright, but luckily for you i'm very easy going"
"ok, well, what if she hates me?"
"seriously, i don't really care. honestly. look if you're struggling, just send her over
to me and she'll see how much wittier you are and you'll be grand, i'm your sounding board to bounce off and make you look good"
Daniel visibly brightened and he stood up straight, taking a deep inhalation of the cigarette.
"you're right, cheers"
"hey, you weren't meant to agree with me"
"sorry, i kinda do"
Sam mocked pushed at Daniel as they strolled forward through the exit gates as nonchalantly as was physically possible in dull grey school uniforms. They didn't have to wait very long to find who they were looking for, it was painfully obvious that the two tall slim blondes in short skirts sitting on the bench across the road was their destination from their fixated looks. Catriona, the taller, slimmer and blonder of the two stood up, flicked her cigarette out onto the pavement where it smoldered fitfully and approached them. For the first time it occurred to Sam that perhaps they shouldn't have worn their school uniforms. A variety of different possible outfit choices flashes before his eyes as he mentally tried each on and gauged her reaction by judging the imagined movements of her eyebrows when she was suddenly standing in front of his nose piercing him with her sharp green eyes.
"howrya, i'm Antoinette, what's yer name?"
Her harsh accent shook him for a moment, so far removed from the delicate beauty of her features, and he had to swallow the nausea that threatened to crawl out of his belly.
He looked around confused, wasn't he meant to be hanging out with the ugly friend? Barely two steps to his left stood Daniel, his mouth firmly latched onto the other smaller blonde's lips, their tongues dancing hungrily around each other. Fuck. Sam had been expecting a nice simple relaxing afternoon entertaining Catriona's boring friend until Daniel had made all his plays and either succeeded or failed trying miserably, yet instead Daniel hadn't even had to lift a finger and he had already achieved his goal, and Sam was facing the most gorgeous and confidently cool girl he had ever seen in his life. In the split second that it took Sam to correct his senses and register what was going around him, it suddenly occurred to him that Antoinette was looking at him expectantly. Waiting for him to say something. His palms suddenly felt very heavy and sweaty, just like when he was in an exam and struggling badly, the wet wood of the pencil slipping from it's position between his trembling fingers, which Antoinette now lifted up, enclosed in hers and lead him away from their clearly occupied friends. Her skin felt so soft and delicate, but firm with a deep seeded confidence, a sexual maturity. He wished and prayed that she wouldn't be able to feel the sticky sweat that oozed from the pores across his skin. He found his voice again, as much a defensive reaction to give her something else to think about as anything else.
"didn't take them long did it?"
He smiled across at her, and to his pleasant surprise she smiled back at him without a hint of condescension. Her smile was radiant, easy, and he felt his own smile warping his mouth awkwardly as he became aware of it's gawkish nature.
"we should leave em alone fer a few minutes, let them get to know each otha. I told Cat that we'd meet her down at de pier and get an ice cream, that alrigh' wit ye?"
"yeah sure, i have no idea about Bray anyway"
"first time is it, where ya from?"
"howth, the other side of the city"
Antoinette looked at him, her lip curling upwards in amusement, and Sam felt his heart drop down through his chest and fix itself solidly inside his left foot giving him an instant and unexpected limp.
"howth? yer a bit posh are ya then?"
"no, why would that make me posh?"
"gimme a break, goin to a nice private school paid fer by daddy and living in the poshest part of Dublin"
"ah listen, where i'm from it isn't that posh trust me"
"yeah, why's dat?"
"ah well, just it's not all big houses and all that, there are lots of, well you know...."
He struggled to give a proper definition of the lads on the roads around him who would beat you up for a fiver without sounding really posh and describing them as having accents like hers. That would be much worse than just accepting that he was posh.
"righ' yeah, what's yer dad do den?"
"so what school do you go to?"
Sam changed the subject quickly, the conversation heading in a direction that he really didn't want it to.
Sam reeled back in mock amusement, the movement breaking the connection between their bodies as his hand came apart from hers. He immediately regretted it but didn't know how to just grab her hand again without appearing desperate for her affection or being too obvious about his desire for her - how could he do it like she did, so casually as if it was the most natural thing in the world. His fingers felt about as nimble as a bucket at this very moment and he knew he'd most likely end up scrabbling at her hands desperately, half hoping that something would just happen to put him out his self inflicted misery.
"wha's wrong wit going te Loretto den?"
"just as posh as Belvedere, probably even more so"
"'even more so'?? who de hell speaks like dat?"
Sam could feel this slipping away from him, washing over him like a frothing tidal wave proving that he was way out of his depth. He imagined what some of the other lads in his class would do in this situation....well they wouldn't have let go of her hand that was for sure, most likely they'd have pushed her up against the wall and kissed her eager lips with a suave energy that he had no idea how to acquire. He didn't know what to do so he just stared blankly back at her. And she laughed good naturedly. She had thought his blank look was a deadpan joke. Still giggling to herself she pushed her hips out towards him so that they bumped into him gently, the impact sending a frisson of excited energy leaping around his system screaming out for some internal implosion. He made a decision which he immediately regretted and then just as immediately was thankful for, and grabbed her hand firmly with his. It was maybe too firm he thought and was about to loosen the crushing grip on her slender digits when he caught a blush wink out at him from her smooth cheeks and her eyes flicked at him shyly on their way down to her feet. A wave of elation swept over him, followed swiftly by a crushing insecurity. She had blushed for him so by all the average laws of attraction, (of which he admittedly knew very little), then she must like him at least a little bit.......but what if she didn't and he made an ill advised pass at her only to be rejected out of hand. Or even worse was the thought that if she did in actuality like him, did she now have expectations of some sort of confidently subtle gesture to sweep her off her feet. How would he compare with all the previous guys that she had kissed, how had they acted with her, would he be looked down upon, would she laugh and tell Catriona who would in turn tell an amused Daniel in secret? He couldn't bear the thought of it when she suddenly tripped on the pavement, her foot stubbing a carefully hidden gap between two slabs of heavy concrete in the first remotely ungraceful movement that he had witnessed from her. He instinctively grabbed at her flailing body as she fell head first towards the ground, catching her by the waist and twisting her around into him. Her stomach pressed hard against his, her thin hips grating against his pelvis. She looked at him, a flicker of amusement dancing around her beautiful eyes. Her full lips regained their balance only centimeters away from his own, their breath mingling for the tiniest of heartbeats. He gasped inwardly and she giggled pushing herself back to her feet.
"i only tripped"
"i was just making sure you didn't hurt yourself....."
He suddenly found the perfect gap in conversation to flick a compliment in her direction, and in the split second that it took to cross his mind he knew that it was almost too late, it had to be spontaneous so he just said the first thing that entered his mind, it would be worse to dwell on it he reckoned....
"....you're much too pretty to allow any damage to you"
'DAMAGE'.....?!?!? What the fuck was that, who used that in a compliment, and 'PRETTY'?? He might as well have been talking about the blue finch in the back garden being chased by a rogue cat. If he could have done it without her noticing he would have punched himself in the gut. But she was staring at him with a funny look in her eyes.
"yer dead sweet ye know dat"
He swallowed in reflex at the intensity of her look, unable to hold her eyes for too long he scuffed his feet on the pavement, being careful not to trip himself up.
"yeah, do you want to go and get that ice cream?"
"not really, ye wanna come back to my gaff?"
There was that feeling in the pit of his stomach again, the deep heavy dread that weighed him down, physically forcing his body inwards upon itself that took all his strength to hold it at bay. He looked at her. Her mascara was perfectly weighted across her eyes, embellishing her best feature. She really was beautiful. Her nose was small and cute, positioned perfectly between her eyes, button like, the type of nose that when she was a child received an abnormal amount of playful tugs and rubs from proud family members.
He found himself nodding his head without even being aware that he had thought to do so. A voice screamed at him inside his head to turn back, go find Daniel, he'd know what to do, put it off, he had managed to get her to like him so he should back away, take a time out, gather his thoughts and figure out what to do next time, like wear normal clothes, gel his hair, fucking anything. But he didn't, instead allowing himself be dragged along behind her like an eager puppy bounding head first towards the wolves lair innocently unaware of the danger it was placing itself in.
Her apartment was nice, normal, and probably relatively small for her and both her parents, but they weren't here. It felt so exotic being in an apartment instead of a house which always felt like it belonged to somebody's parents. This place could just have easily belonged to her he imagined, and maybe it even did. He half hoped though that her parents would come home and they would be forced to watch television with them, or leave and get an ice cream, then he could act annoyed but equally be admirably indifferent so she would like him even more for wanting to spend time with her. She asked him did he want a glass of water and he found himself shaking his head and then opening his mouth to accommodate hers as she pushed him back against the fridge and slipped her velvety tongue inside his orifice and slid it against his teeth. He reacted barely in time and flipped his own tongue into action, bouncing against hers roughly. Something odd hit his molar and he struggled to figure out what it was, managing to push it against his cheek while maintaining his battle for supremacy with her increasingly violent tongue. It was chewing gum. But he wasn't chewing any. The sudden realisation that it was hers struck him at the same time as she pulled away from him.
"i just gotta go to de toilet'
"sure, i'll wait here"
"well yer not coming wit me"
There was a pause between them for a moment.
"ye don't wanna come wit me to de toilets do ye?"
"no of course not"
"good, i was jus checkin', some weirdos out der ye know"
He nodded with an assurance that he hoped gave out the impression that he knew exactly what she was talking about while also dispelling any lingering doubt she might have that he could possibly be one of those weird people. He probably nodded for far too long because she gave him a long hard look, and this time it wasn't the soft quizzical gaze like earlier that had melted his insufficient defences, but held a certain condescension wrapped around it. Just like he had expected earlier, but not now. He was chewing her gum and he spat it out reactively, then quickly retrieved it from across the kitchen floor and opened the bin lid to flick it in when a thought occurred to him.....
Did he find it sexy that she had 'given' him her gum? No he definitely did not, but that wasn't important....did she find it sexy that she had given it to him? Had she done so in a giving gesture to symbolize some form of closeness between them, now he could chew her gum and they had bonded, so if he got rid of it was it then a slight that she wouldn't recover from? He heard her coming back through the sitting room and he stood up making an immediate instinctive decision, the type that has the minimum of thought running through it, proclaimed by sportsmen to be the best type of decision and which you should always follow without hesitation.
"are ye chewin me gum?"
She had applied an extra coating to her make up quite masterfully, giving it a glowing sheen that screamed out healthy sexy female at him in big bright letters.
"eh, yeah, i think so"
"uh dat's gross, just spit it out into de bin or sumtin i'm not kissin ye again if yer still
He lifted the bin lid again cursing any article he'd ever read about professional footballers, liars the whole lot of them. She welcomed him over to the couch and he followed her dutifully. If he had a tail it would have been wagging he pondered. She sat down on the couch and flicked on the television, turning over the channels a few times before settling for some cartoons in Irish for some very odd reason. He noticed that his hands were beginning to sweat again and he closed his eyes begging them to stop, reasoning with them that it wasn't warm enough inside the room to justify releasing excess water from his body so therefore they should just stop. His hands didn't listen. He was sitting beside her awkwardly, unsure of how to position his body in a comfortable position that was both accessible to her and cool looking at the same time. She looked so elegant by contrast, her legs crossed one over the other with such disdain that it had to have been practiced over time. Her neck arched upwards from the seat of the couch spiraling succulently to the flowing tides of her hair. Her eyes beckoned him expectantly and all fluid suddenly flew from his mouth leaving it as dry as timber. She gave him a rueful smile and leaned in to him, her left hand drifting downwards onto his crotch. It took all of his energy to not jerk away as she did so but his body stiffened with tension and she must have felt it because she pressed her lips against his and stared deeply into his eyes. He felt like he could melt into her at that moment if he wasn't so nervous about trying to do the right thing. He desired nothing more than to curl into her and have her wrapped around him like a soft consuming blanket, her skin caressing his body all over, her lips against his, but her eyes welcoming to his, allowing him to drift deeply into their pools of green magic. It occurred to him that he could fall in love with this girl if she allowed him to. The kiss was much softer this time, less needy having bypassed the initial barrier that states hot desire must be evident in pure passion when two people who kiss each other are mutually attracted. The second time can be more patient, less exploratory and much more enjoyable. Sam felt as if honey was being poured seductively into his mouth and his tongue was swimming through a crystalline pool of sugar. Her lips sucked him towards her, pulling him onto her, her hands lifting up his jumper and slipping inside his shirt to slide along his skin. She dragged her own top towards her chest and then pushed against him. Shock waves raced through his entire frame as the skin on their stomach's humbly touched. For the first time in his life he felt like he was being sucked downwards into a well of suffocatingly beautiful moments. Everything that he touched seemed to be sculpted from a bed of pure perfection, each touch a surprising exploration of harmony.
The front door rang with a jolt and she pushed him off quickly, a look of fear twisting her features into frozen rigor mortis.
"fuck that's me ma"
Sam fell off the couch, guilty despite having achieved nothing more than a brief drift of his fingers across the flesh of her neck and belly. This thought suddenly occurred to him and he was immediately rueful, and then elated at having gotten onto the couch with her in the first place. He knew that Daniel would be jealous as Antoinette was far prettier than Catriona, not that he would admit as much. He realised that he hadn't thought about anything else apart from this girl for the last two hours which was very unlike him. The sound of teenage laughter breezed into the room. He knew that voice. Daniel bounded into the room and gave him a massive slap across the back, then cupped his hand over Sam's ear for secrecy.
"my god she gave me a blowjob"
Delight was etched across his face like a wood carving to never be removed for eternity. Sam kept his composure, wanting for all the world to leap into the air and scream out the joy of kissing Antoinette that he had just had the privilege to experience while also simultaneously desiring nothing more than to thump him for interrupting them. But all he could do was smile.