September 12th, 1990
At home, England
Tonight’s overnight guest is Rachel, who stepped off the train today looking no different from the last time I saw her five years ago, on our last day at secondary school.
“Shall we go on a little tour first before we go to my house?”
“Oh, I’d love that.”
“I don’t think too much has changed except for more houses.”
“It looks much more built up,” she said, peering out the window as I reversed out of the parking spot.
Our trip down memory lane lasted much longer than I’d expected after we bumped into Sarah in what used to be my favourite place to go with Ben whenever we had a hankering for Indian food. Sarah and her friends from work accompanied us to Vaults, where it seemed half the people we went to school with, were at the bar.
“It’s as if they knew you were coming, Rachel!”
“It’s so lovely,” she chuckled. “I’ve really missed being here.”
Two things surprised tonight about Rachel; She smokes. And she’s still a virgin.
“You are?” I asked.
She nodded and took a sip of wine. “You look surprised.”
“I just figured now that we’re in our early twenties, we’ve all…”
“Well, we know you have,” she laughed. “You and Ben could barely keep your hands off each other, even at school.”
I felt my cheeks flush. “Were we really that bad?”
“Yes! You were both so in love. I always thought you’d stay together.”
“Me too,” I uttered. “Top up?”
“Yes please,” she smiled, holding out her glass as I refilled it.
“Thank you. Do you still miss him?”
“Not as much as I used to, I mean I still think about him more than I probably should but…”
“Makes me sad,” she sighed.
“Because as much as you two loved each other, it wasn’t enough.”
“I think we were too young. It was too intense for us to know what to do with it.”
“Perhaps if you met now for the first time, it’d be different, right?”
“Maybe, but listen, enough of that. Can I ask you something?”
“Of course you can, lovely wine by the way, is this our second bottle?”
“Yes, but I have plenty more!”
“Oh dear,” she said, with a mock expression of shock. “What did you want to ask?”
“Are you saving yourself for marriage?”
She laughed. “No! I’m saving myself for someone I’m in love with. It just hasn’t happened yet.”
She looked pensive. “I worry it won’t.”
“Are you kidding? Look at you! You’re so beautiful. Added to which, you’re intelligent, creative beyond belief, ridiculously cool and..”
“Oh please,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.
“I disagree. I think I’m awkward and shy and unsophisticated and…”
“You’re looking in the wrong mirror,” I said.
“Things I need to work on,” she said. “Come outside so we can keep talking while I have a ciggy.”
My reaction prompted her to ask, “What’s so funny?”
“I can’t get over you smoking!”