• Ruth Banister

Under the Moon of Love

My stomach was all jittery as Dad drove me to David Jenner’s, like I needed the loo.  I kept messing with the invitation, my nails purple against the cream card. The writing was black and embossed, that had impressed Mum, I saw her look at Dad when she read it. 

David's 15thBirthday Disco - RSVP.  What does that mean, I’d asked.

‘Rich, Swanky, Vain People,’ Mum had muttered under her breath.

‘Respondez s’il vous plait,’ my father had said with flourish, ‘that’s please reply to you and me.’ Dad winked and ruffled my hair.

They could besoirksome.

I checked the date and time on the invitation, again. It would be mortifying to turn up at the wrong time, like when Dad took me back to school a whole day early.

Dad’s lorry slowed to a rackety crawl on the long hill into town and a huge queue of traffic built up behind us.  I turned in my seat to look.

‘Careful,’ Dad shouted, making me jump, ‘there’s an oily patch, you don’t want to get that on your new trousers.’  I moved away from the sinister smear, nearer the door but the loose window let in a breeze that messed up my hair.  I felt a flash of pure anger, why hadn’t we come in the car for God’s sake?

‘Car’s kaput again,’ Dad said as if reading my mind.

I worried I was dressed all wrong, but Wendy had absolutelypromised me she would wear jeans too.  Then a new worry gripped me.

‘Dad, how are we going to get down the lane?’

‘I’ll have to drop you at the top if that’s okay,’ he said.

I weighed up being seen in the lorry with walking down the lane alone.  ‘Yeah, that’s fine,’ I said.

Up ahead we spotted some balloons in a tree.

‘X marks the spot,’ Dad said and he stopped the lorry right there in the road.  ‘Okay have fun, not too much canoodling to the slow songs.’ 

Cars started tooting from behind.

‘Dad, gross,’ I said, rolling my eyes. I jumped down from the cab and waved at him as he fought with the gears and pulled away. The long queue of cars followed. I pretended to look at something until they’d all gone by.

I crossed the road and ambled down the lane. It was about six, the sky was a pale grey and there was a chill that pimpled my skin. I hadn’t brought anything warm.

Then I saw the house and I got so nervous I couldn’t even imagine being able to knock on the door and go inside and I wondered how it would be to hide until it was all over. My mind filled with all the fantasies of what I could do instead, when a car stopped next to me and someone from school got out. It was Smelly Susan. She smelled like bacon, someone had said she smelled like Frazzles and someone else had said they’re the same thing stupid. Now I had to go in and it would look like I’d come with Smelly Susan. I smiled at her even though we didn’t ever talk at school. She smelled of cheap perfume, I guessed it was Impulse or something.

Mrs Jenner opened the door. Her lips were the brightest red and she had a cigarette in her hand. I sniffed the air as I went past. She was dressed like the dark haired one from ABBA or she might have looked like that anyway.  She spoke to us but I didn’t hear her because of the music which was very loud.  

David’s father was DJ'ing, he was dressed like Michael Jackson but looked more like Elvis Presley, he might have been Elvis. 

The music sucked me into the lounge. Wendy was in the darkness on the other side of the room. She was standing with Philippa.  When they saw me Philippa slipped her arm through Wendy’s and whispered something into Wendy’s ear which made her laugh. I felt sure it was something about me.  

I didn’t want to join them now but I had already started walking that way and I didn’t want to be next to Impulse Susan anymore. When I got closer I saw that Wendy and Philippa were wearing dresses with grown-up tights and they both had eye shadow on, mascara too.  I realised they had got ready together and the realisation stung me like a nettle. Wendy smiled at me and shouted that I looked great but Philippa didn’t even look my way. We stood in an awkward line and surveyed the room, like we were enjoying ourselves.

‘And this, folks, is for all you young lovers out there,’ said Michael/Elvis, ‘it’s Showaddywaddy’s Under the Moon of Love.’  

This was our signal and I looked for David. He broke free from a clump of boys and sauntered towards me. The notes we had passed to each other at school had become more daring of late, the things we said we might do, the things we said we wantedto do, were goingto do, Under the Moon of Love.

I thrilled to how handsome he looked, his dark hair obscuring his eyes, his smile slightly malevolent, his hands nonchalant in his pockets. How tall he was, how mean he looked, how he made me feel. I ran my fingers through my hair.

And then, movement from my left. Philippa sashayed forward, grasped David’s hands and planted them on her hips. Then she put her hands behind his neck and interlaced her fingers and rested her face on his chest. She started swaying her body this way and that, Under the Moon of Love. My moon.

And David let it happen and then he matched her movements, sway for sway. I looked away, but I wanted to pull her off, fight her. Things couldn't be any worse when Wendy suddenly shouted into my ear, ‘Hey, what’s that stuff on your trousers?’

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