She used to be fourteen. September 1999. Her grandmother made her a birthday cake. Green, royal icing turf and little fondant, red shirts, all the way around the edges. Her parents bought her a team scarf. Pride of the Treble year. In the picture, she is sitting at the dining room table, proudly holding it up, and smiling. Candles blown out. Little blue t-shirt with a daisy on the front: appliqué - “He loves me…he loves me not.” Hair drawn back in a ponytail, glossy waves in her combed-out curls – curls, at fourteen, were not cool.
School. She went to school when she was fourteen. Bright, they said. One of the fortunate ones, who excelled with what always seemed little effort; who took the higher exams without ever really noticing. She tied her tie with the yellow stripes far too short, on purpose. She pinned a shiny pig, and a treasured, team crest, to the pointy end of it. HER tie. Tuck your shirt in. No thanks. Fitted shirts don’t need tucking in, rather hanging out, to conceal skirts that are rolled up at the waist. Put your blazer on. If I must…playful smile…sleeves rolled up, long-embedded creases from the bottom of her backpack. Fourteen.
Rebellious? Not really. She affirmed friendships at fourteen that she would have forever. If forever is now? Lively, but loyal, wild moments, yet safely dependable…just an average year in an adventure of growing up. Growing up, and growing together.
She dropped a few trainers out of the third floor window, but nine times out of ten, her homework was in on time. She knew about the six week old, open tin of tuna under the science bench, but she wasn’t for telling who did it, and her investigations were always thoroughly researched. Her artwork and handwriting were called ‘beautiful’, but she guessed all the answers to her mental arithmetic. She had manners, but gave as much good-natured cheek as her grades allowed her to get away with. Ever the Artful Dodger. Ever as amusing, as she was infuriating. Survivor, by any means. Especially, a cheeky smile.
She wrote pages and pages of lines in good weather…lovely neat lines… I must not be late back from lunch, I must not be late back from lunch …And pages and pages of well-formed and well-argued essays. She had forbidden stickers on all of her books, graffiti in her planner, a middle finger up to 'the rules' in a lot of ways, but she always finished her work. Tomorrow was coming. Driven, ambitious…gonna fly. Gonna get away. Fourteen.
Life moved too fast, and was far too interesting, to waste a slip of sunshine on lunch. There would always be an ice cream van in the schoolyard (Yes mum…I had a salad…), and rays to feel warming her hair. Mischief, & freedom…were entirely different to malice.
She gave the rest of her lunch money away on the days she didn’t need it. Someone else always did. Half decent kid; half-grown. Big attitude, big fun…big, growing heart. Fourteen. No angel, no real trouble. Not a care in the world…it seemed.
Fourteen days after she left fourteen behind, she took a fourteen day holiday to a little, sunny island. Her parents took a day trip. A week out of school before half term, she stayed at the hotel, to read the English text she’d be missing in the lessons back home: Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.
Beach bag, book…bright orange bikini. Towel, sun-lounger…swimming pool. Hot day, pool side smiles… …Lone boy. Pool fountain…giggles… Discarded exam practice, mislaid text book. Boy…pool table… Chatter, laughter. Sweet shop…pool bar… Hotel room. Number 14.
Lesson: He loves me…? He loves me not.
All little girls will be fourteen someday. The good, the bad…and the mischievous. No angels, & no real trouble.
Most important lesson on which there will be an exam: No difference: all little Rapunzels in their towers... He loves me, he loves me not.
My response to the Leeds Savage Club Writers' Group Task - Fourteen.