An unexpected and very pleasant surprise when I discovered the well-respected bloggers ‘Love Books Group’ had featured my interview from earlier in the year. It’s a little about me, and some background on my last novel ‘Story of a Country Boy. 😀 Thanks Kelly and Co. You can read all about it here:
Love Books Country Boy link
Now for the usual short story. I’m a great Elvis fan, and for my song title series thought it would be nice to have one of his more unusual recordings. This was released in 1969.
‘Hey, Mike. Don’t look now but I think your little friend is following you.’
‘Oh, not again. Come on guys. I’ll race you to the stream.’
Pedalling as fast as I could, she was soon left far behind as the others grabbed their bikes and pelted after me. She was a sweet kid really, but it was embarrassing the way she followed me about. Why couldn’t she find some girls of her own age to play with? She was a skinny little thing and the boys in our gang could be a bit rough. Several times I’d had to stick up for her, which gave them even more reason to tease me. I was big and strong for my age, so they didn’t push me too far, but she was always referred to as “My little friend.”
My family weren’t well off, but we lived in a decent house, were well fed and clothed, and Christmas and birthdays always meant a generous present. She lived with her Mum in a slum shack in the woods, had never known her father, and was usually dressed in clothes either miles too big or too small. We went to the same school, but as she was five years younger than me, I only saw her at breaks, standing alone and forlorn in a corner of the playground. The other girls her age seemed to ignore her, and although kids can be cruel, it wasn’t really my problem.
‘Dinner’s nearly ready, Mike. Get washed up then go and sit with your gran until I call you. It’s your favourite tonight, steak pie.’
‘OK, thanks Mum,’ I said as I wandered into the front room to talk to my grandmother. Although she was old, and had to use a stick to get around, Gran did talk a lot of sense, so I enjoyed chatting to her. She could be quite harsh at times, but she also spoilt me occasionally, slipping me some money when my parents weren’t looking, and winking to tell me to keep it a secret.
‘Hello, Mike. What have you been up to today? You look as if you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. It’s a good job those jeans are hard-wearing, but they could do with a good wash. I suppose you’ve been playing down by the stream.’
‘Hi, Gran. Yes, I slipped in the mud, but these are my old ones, so it doesn’t matter.’
‘I saw you rush off when your little friend turned up. Poor child. She idolises you, you know.’
‘It’s so embarrassing, Gran. She’s always trailing round after me. She’s not big enough to keep up with us, and anyway, she’s a girl.’
‘You might look on girls differently in a few years’ time, lad,’ Gran laughed, ‘but it’s always good to be kind. If you can stand up for someone weaker than you now, it’ll put you in good stead for when you’re a man.’
I never forgot her words, but soon after moved to a senior school so very rarely saw Sally. I only found out her name because the family mentioned her now and then, and sometimes Mum made me take some food to her house, pretending she’d made too much. Sally’s mother was an old witch, and although I wasn’t frightened of her, I hated going there. What with my little friend mooning around after me, and her mother stinking of booze, I escaped as quickly as I could. The years passed and eventually I went off to college, and learnt what Gran meant when she said about looking at girls in a different way. I dated, got drunk, went a bit wild, studied hard and returned as a man.
‘Hello, Mike. Welcome home, and congratulations on your degree. I always knew you had a decent brain somewhere inside that woolly head of yours,’ Gran said as she wrapped me into a hug. ‘Look who’s here. You won’t mind sleeping on the camp bed for a few days, will you? Sally’s staying for a little while, so we gave her your room as you were away.’
‘Hello, Mike. Good to see you again, but I don’t want to put you out. I’ll go home tonight, Mrs Perkins. It’ll be fine now, I’m sure.’
‘Nonsense, young lady,’ Gran replied. ‘You stay here until it’s sorted. Now sit down, Mike and tell us what you’ve been up to.’
Sally had grown up in the years I’d been away, but I noticed her eyes still followed me as they had when we were kids. After everyone had gone to bed, Gran came to sit next to me on the settee.
‘Thank you for giving up your bed, Michael. That house wasn’t safe for a young girl like that, even if she does know how to look after herself.’
‘What happened, Gran? I noticed the bruises on her face.’
‘It’s been going on for a while, but it all came to a head last week. Her Mother’s fancy man has been knocking her about, but it seems he noticed she was growing into a woman, and tried to take advantage.’
‘Poor kid. Is she alright? Did they catch him?’
‘Apparently, she kicked him in his crown jewels, and he took off after giving her those bruises. The police haven’t caught him yet, so she came to us for help. You don’t mind about giving up your room?’
‘Of course not. She can stay as long as she likes. Let’s hope the law catches up with him before I do.’
He was never caught, a few more years passed, I found a job and flat in the city, and only went home every couple of months. The family kept me up to date with news of my little friend, who had now grown into a beautiful woman. Her mother had died as an alcoholic, and with support from my parents she had managed to evict the latest boyfriend, and was now living in the hut on her own.
‘We’re a bit worried about her actually,’ Mum told me on one of my visits. ‘There’s rumours that bloke’s been around again, perhaps seeing if her mother left anything worth having.’
‘Do you want me to pop over?’ I asked.
‘Yes, I’m sure she’s fine but she’d be delighted to see you. It’s been a while since you were home.’
It was nearly dark as I set off across the woods, and I wondered how she felt as a woman on her own, stuck right out here. I hoped I wouldn’t frighten her knocking on the door so late at night. As I approached the shack I heard the sound of raised voices, and pushing through the trees could see the shadow of a man, trying to force his way through the open front door.
‘I’m not a little girl, anymore,’ I heard Sally scream. ‘Now get out of here before I give you another kick where it hurts the most.’
‘Not this time, lady,’ a drunken voice slurred. ‘This time I’m gonna finish what I started all those years ago.’
My rugby tackle sent him flying to the ground, and a couple of punches knocked him out cold.
‘Are you OK, Sally?’ I asked as she fell into my arms.
‘Do you realise that’s the first time you’ve called me by name, Mike?’ she sobbed. ‘Your parents said you were home so when I heard someone at the door, I assumed it was you. Sorry to drag you into this mess. I always cause you problems.’
‘Hey, it’s not your fault. I take it that was the scumbag who attacked you when your Mum was alive. You’d better call the police to come and get him before I forget myself.’
‘My hero. You’ve always been there for me since we were kids. Even when I drove you mad mooning around after you. Don’t try and deny it. I know I was a pest but things are different now.’
All this happened a year ago. Now I’m standing in the church porch, waiting for the bride to arrive. I feel nervous, but probably not as nervous as my best friend, Jake. It was me who introduced them, so I was delighted when Sally asked me to give her away. My little friend had found the man of her dreams, and will always have a special place in my heart, even if she was never the girl for me.
© Voinks May 2019
Thanks for dropping by. See you next week.