Fiona Cummisky was a bit of a conundrum for me. I was at that stage in my young life – before puberty had been fully installed – but I still had an inkling that there was more to girls than them just being annoying creatures. She was an odd girl, neither tall nor short in my memory, but I think a little bigger than I was. She wasn’t thin nor heavy set, but she was more a solid sort of agricultural looking girl, as if she might be capable of holding up her father’s tractor while he replaced the wheel. We didn’t exactly have tractors in my neck of the woods but you know what I mean. Besides like I say puberty had still to take its toll on me, so in my head, she was more akin to Clarke Kent as a boy on the farm.
Nonetheless, I was curious about girls, just a little bit. Along with my inkling but pre any stirrings of that nature, I was particularly curious about kissing. It seemed such an odd pursuit, but there had to be something in it. Fiona’s friend was Sinéad O’Reilly and she was an altogether different kettle of fish. Sinéad made me nervous. Whereas Fiona looked at me with a stern look, often lingering a little too long for comfort, Sinéad was a gaggle of expressions, her attention a bagatelle that never lingered, but always seemed to return nonetheless, without ever fully nesting on me. I could sense her more than most girls. She was always pushing or pulling me hither and tither, a skinny, pinch-faced pale creature that alternated her smiles and her frowns, and interspersed them with punches to my arm. She freaked me out, just a little.
Fiona was very different to Sinéad and I got the distinct impression she would beat me up if I ever spoke to her, so I didn’t. We somehow managed to exist in the same space without any direct, verbal communication. Besides, both Sinéad and Fiona operated on the periphery of my life. They were my age and lived on my road, but they were girls. I played with the boys and we had our own games. Skipping and playing ‘plainey a package o’rinso’ with tennis balls against the wall, was all they ever did. Sometimes if either sex was desperate, we might intermingle and come up with some compromise game, but ultimately that usually descended into a row. Girls talked too much and bickered over the tiniest of things. We hit things with sticks and absorbed ourselves in the important stuff, like what you could find under a rock that was the grossest.
We did play chasing together though and that was fun. The girls screamed a lot and their skirts flowed and billowed like sails in the wind, while their hair danced as they ran. It often seemed like they wanted to be caught and I could never understand that. I was ultra-competitive. If someone caught me, it was only because I had let me guard down or maybe because I slipped or fell. It was a matter of great pride for me. It was because I slipped on a dry stretch of earth in the grass down on what we called the Californian hills, that Sinéad O’Reilly caught me one day as we played with the girls.
I landed flat on my back and she leapt on me like a cow-girl on a horse, straddling me and pinning me to the ground. She actually held my arms down and for a scrawny girl, she was quite strong. I was panting and I could hear her breathing loudly as she loomed above me. She had me in a vice like grip using her bare thighs and I could feel the soft skin of her legs, press into my exposed flanks where my shirt had pulled up in the fall.
“Gotcha.” She gave me a huge smile and leaned down quite close to my face. She smelt of toffee. It was a very odd moment because I thought of kissing in a way I hadn’t thought of it before. I thought I might actually kiss her, but stealing a kiss would have been wrong and besides everyone would see and I would be a laughing stock. Then I realised that she might have plans to kiss me. I went completely red and she let my hands go. Like the flibberty gibbet that she was, Sinéad jumped up and ran after the next, nearest victim. I lay there, panting, not knowing what had just happened. Was I being introduced to a world of something beyond my boyish expectancy, something that I could never hope to control? It certainly felt like that. I didn’t like it.
I brushed myself off and tried to compose myself as I stood up and watched Sinéad flounce away in the distance, chasing Barry O’ Connor and Stephen whose last name I didn’t know. My face finally calmed and I turned around to almost bump into Fiona Cummiskey who must have been just standing there, staring at the back of my head. Up close, I realised that she was quite a bit taller than I was. She wore a navy blue dress with polka dots that has flouncy bits on the edges of her short sleeves. I have no idea why I recall that, only I know it didn’t seem to suit her. I definitely still saw her more in the dungaree, farm-girl ensemble that she generally tended to wear, despite our urban environment. Maybe that’s why I saw her as Clarke Kent on the farm.
It struck me, that I didn’t recall ever seeing her in a dress before. I looked at her face. She had doll eyes, big bright blue circles with massive eyelashes and there was the tiniest smattering of freckles across her nose that I had never noticed. Then she did something that took me completely by surprise. She grabbed me with both hands by the scruff of my neck and pulled me to within a couple of inches from her face. She was going to kill me I felt sure, just like I predicted she would if we ever got this close. I had no idea why, there simply couldn’t be any other explanation…or could there…but that’d be telling…
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