My First Love and My Me Too
All actions have consequences…
I liked Lynette. She was attractive in a blonde, Sharon O’Neil Asian Paradise, shark-tooth necklace way but more striking was that she was the first girlfriend I’d ever had who kept everything to herself, even secrets.
She had a cool boyfriend, Graham, who, to my 20-year old going on 14-year old self, was a man but in fact I now know he was just a young guy who had his shit together at a time when most guys don’t give one.
My 21 first birthday was coming up and back then that milestone would make me pub-legal. Being underage hadn’t stopped me before but being 5 feet one inch tall with a baby face made me easy pickings with bouncers and cops anywhere I went. Lucky I had a nice smile and knew how to use it.
For some reason everyone decided we should celebrate my upcoming coming-of-age the week before my birthday. We went straight to the Bond Street Inn after work but as it was a Friday night, we were all relaxed and ready for a great night. There was a large crowd of us sitting together in a big circle which we could do as it was early so the place was empty and as my birthday is in November, it was early summer, warm and light outside and the drinks went down easily.
Lynette and Graham were there which was unusual as they were a little on the outside of my social circle, but they were cool and I was pleased they had come. My friend, Margaret, also there, had a friend married to a cop called Jamie and I have this vague memory that there had been threats to line me up with one of Jamie’s police mates that night.
Even though I wasn’t really interested in a blind date and with a cop no less, I was kinda interested to see who they thought would be a match for me so I kept my eye on the door and before long I was rewarded when this gorgeous man with dark auburn hair came up the stairs and walked over to our circle.
For a moment I noticed everything about him but the thing that most set him apart immediately from other men — he was a real-life pirate; that is, he wore an eye-patch. But what I noticed that he was tall, and he was built and he walked like he belonged. He caught Graham’s eye and smiled and from that moment, all I could think of was that smile.
Thinking back now, it all sounds so tame but there is something about that moment when you first see someone and you know in a heartbeat that this will be someone who will be very important in your life.
And he was for too a short time but he still lives in sliding doors of my mind.
But I am going ahead with a story that is for another day so I will cut to the chase and say that Chris and I had something special but his life was complicated. He had married young to someone I had gone to school with, a gorgeous Scarlett O’Hara look-alike, and they had a beautiful little boy who was four years old. He and his wife were separated but is often the way, when she found out Chris was seeing me, she decided she wanted him back.
It’s terrible when women use children as a bargaining chip, and when she did, he told me there was no choice between me and his child so I walked away but walking away broke my heart.
While my heart was still in terrible shape, my friend Carolyn suggested I should come help her run a social at the Avalon Rugby Club where her boyfriend, Peter, played lock for the senior firsts.
So after some intense lobbying from Carolyn, I went and spent the first hour hiding behind the bar pulling pints and handles and then it was my turn to help bring out the food.
I was headed out of the kitchen with a plate of something hot and that is when I saw him. Poor Carolyn didn’t know that Chris had four brothers and a couple of them played for Avalon so there was Chris with his sandy-haired brother, Greg and Greg’s girlfriend. But they weren’t alone. Chris’ wife was also there.
She saw me first and looked across the two rows of tables and smiled this satisfied smile of pure pleasure that I can still remember. God she was gorgeous with all her beautiful white Irish skin, blue eyes and black hair; totally different from my strawberry blonde hair and green eyes.
And she was one of the cool kids at school who wore her skirts short, smoked but never got caught and always knew the names of the cute boys who hung around Sacred Heart like young wolves.
By comparison, I was in the top 2% of my class, my nose always stuck in books and thanks to my mother, I wore my skirts to mid-ankle which made me look much shorter than I am which is pretty tiny anyway.
No schoolboy looked at me twice as the urban legend was well known, that one teenage boy who had been silly enough to come looking for me late one dark night, had been driven off our lifestyle block by my protective Irish father wielding a sickle. The story goes that Dad made contact and although I believe Dad when he said he wished he had, stories like that are hard to live down.
As I backed into the kitchen, I remembered Carolyn hissing ‘don’t you dare show her or him you care. Get out there’. And so I did and served them up without making eye contact with him and despite the tight feeling in my chest, without crowning her with the plate of food. That was something that I actually considered as she sat there with the father of her child and the love of my young life.
On my second pass with another plate, I noticed a guy sitting at another table and he caught my eye and he smiled this long, slow smile that made my stomach flip and I remember thinking that when God creates men he can make some beautiful specimens and goodness me, he was beautiful; short blond hair, gorgeous tan and eyes so blue they were hypnotic.
I was standing there gawping, food on the platter getting cold and then the noises and smells of the room returned, and oh God he was laughing at me and beckoning me over but I couldn’t deal and fled back to the kitchen.
I asked Caro who he was and I learned his name but let’s call him Jim.
He had grown up in the area but had been working in South Africa, a bricklayer I think she said he was and I remember thinking, ‘yes, he’ll do’ and I have to be honest and say I was thinking more about Chris that night and wondering if he would care if he saw me with Jim.
When Jim asked me to sit down with him later after supper, I did and later when he asked for my number, I was happy to give it knowing that Chris was watching which told me that he still cared.
Little was I to know how this would play out. If I had, I doubt I would have given Jim anything more than a smile. It turned out that what he would deserve was a jail sentence.