“You bleedin’ little plonker. You ain’t supposed to smoke in ‘ere. The bloody fire brigade’ll be here in a minute. We’ll get fined.”
“I don’t know why it went off,” said Red. “Must be faulty wiring.”
“Don’t try it on. I can smell the cigarette smoke on you. You wait till I see your dad. You’re too young to smoke.”
“I’m sixteen. None of your business, any roads. My old man don’t mind.”
“Come on, let’s go.” Ollie wobbled Red’s arm.
“Yeah, you’re right,” said Chuffy. “You have to get out.”
“Well, if it was my ciggie that did it, we know there ain’t a fire, don’t we?” said Red.
“Your ciggie? So you admit you was smoking. Oh, and what’s this?” Chuffy picked up one of the beer cans.
“Come on let’s go,” whispered Archie.
“Yeah,” said Red, pushing the bar on the fire door. “Let’s do it properly.”
They could hear the siren of a fire engine already. Then Red’s dad’s black sports car pulled up at the curb.
“Oh bugger,” said Red. “Let’s leg it.”
At the corner of Garret Street and Clive Street Red stopped running. “I’ve had it,” he said. “Stitch.”
“You’m not fit,” said Ollie. It’s all them fags.”
Archie was dying for a pee. The beer had gone right through him. Maybe if he went over into the rough ground by the green nobody would see him. “I’ve gotto go,” he said and started jogging off.
“Well, I’m going home,” Ollie shouted after him. “I’ve had enough.”
“Fine pair of mates you are,” shouted Red. “Leaving me like this.”
Thank God it was getting dark. The bushes at the edge of Milton Street were hardly enough to hide him but it would have to do. He unzipped his trousers. God, what a relief as he peed into the bushes. Why did beer always do that to him? He hadn’t all that much this time.
Then he heard somebody walk past. Female, by the sound of the heels clip-clopping along the pavement. Come on, come on, he thought. The last drop dribbled out. God, this could get embarrassing.
He finished just in time and managed to zip himself back up before the person who was walking along turned to face him.
“Oh hello, Archie Raybald,” she said. “I didn’t know you still lived around here. I haven’t seen you about for ages. ”
Bloody Hell. Millie Davies. Of all people.
“I don’t anymore,” said Archie. “I live off Bratt Street.” They’d moved off the council estate when Grandma had given his parents the money for one of the new houses.
“Oh, where all the brats live.”
“That’s not a very nice thing to say.”
“My granddad’s joke. He used to go to the Bratt Street School. He once told the headmaster it was called that because only brats went there.”
“That wasn’t very nice, either.”
“No, it wasn’t. He got the cane.”
“Blimey.” Archie had suddenly noticed how short Millie’s skirt was. “My grandma would say you need to put sugar on it.”
“What, the cane? How would that help?”
“I meant your skirt.” Archie was glad it was dark and she couldn’t see him blushing.
“Oh, don’t you like it?” She looked down at her legs. Archie saw her pink cheeks in the lamplight. She looked so pretty like that.
“Oh yes, I do.” That was an understatement. God, she was gorgeous. But what was he thinking? What about Amanda? And Ollie for that matter.
She didn’t seem to know where to put herself. That made her all the more appealing, somehow. “So what are you doing down here?” she said.
“Meeting Ollie and Red. I’m going home now.”
“Well, why don’t you get a bus from Carters Green? I’m going to get some chips.”
“Okay.” Chips would be good. He’d be too late for his tea. And there’d probably be a row because Red’s dad would probably have phoned his dad.
“There’ll be plenty of buses later,” said Millie. “Finish your chips first.”
The chips were great. All warm and soggy. Archie couldn’t help wondering how often Millie had chips. Not too often, he supposed, if she kept so slim. She was so different from the funny-looking thing she’d been at Guns Village School. He hadn’t taken much notice of girls in those days. Girls were a bit useless back then. But you couldn’t help but notice Mille. She looked so funny and she was such a bossy boots. She was different now though. Very different.
“I’m cold,” said Millie.
“Why don’t you go home, then?”
“No. It’s all right. I’ll wait with you for your bus. Look we’ve got the bus stop all to ourselves.”
Ollie actually wished she would go home now. What if someone saw them together? What if they told Amanda or Ollie?
Once inside the shelter Millie sidled up to him. “My legs are so cold. Feel them.” She grabbed his hand and pushed it on to her thigh. It wasn’t cold. It was all smooth and warm and lovely.
“Oh, that feels nice,” said Millie. “Go, put your hand up higher, if you like.”
He did like. Oh, God, that felt so nice. But he shouldn’t really.
She pushed her face up to his and put her arms around his neck. She pressed her lips on his. That felt so good. So good. He couldn’t help but kiss her back. Maybe he should see Amanda every night after all. He missed this too much. Of course, Millie wasn’t quite the same as Amanda. But Mille was here now and Amanda wasn’t. And she seemed more as if she would go all the way. Would she? Not here at the bus stop, though. Surely not?
She pulled away from him. “Go on,” she whispered. “Put your fingers inside my knickers. I want you to.”
Oh God, Oh God. Oh God. He was trembling. If he didn’t concentrate he would come now. He didn’t think he could hold back.
She groaned. “Please,” she whispered. “Now.”
Suddenly there were bright lights and the sound of a bus arriving.
“I’d better go.” Archie’s voice was hoarse.
“Tara then,” said Millie. “Can we do this again sometime?” she shouted as he climbed on to the bus.
“No, I’m still with Amanda,” he shouted back.
Millie’s face fell.
“Excuse me,” said the driver, “will you get a move on and stop chatting to your girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” said Ollie.
“Well if that’s what you get up to with not-your-girlfriend, I dread to think what you might do with whoever is your girlfriend. In public as well.”
Archie blushed as he handed over his fare.
A couple of old women sitting on the first long seat on the driver’s seat were staring at him. Archie nodded to them and sat down.
The bus started to pull away from the stop.
Millie seemed to have recovered now and was smiling and waving at him. Now, she really was nice. It was almost a shame he was with Amanda. Millie was much more willing somehow. Naw! Best not even think it. He banged on the window. “Did you know Ollie fancies you?”
“What?” mouthed. Millie. She shook her head and said something he couldn’t hear. The bus was making too much noise and it was speeding up as well.
The old dears were whispering and shaking their heads.
“Ladies,” said Archie.
They frowned and looked away.
The bus chugged along the main road. Archie looked out of the window so that he didn’t have to get any more eye contact with the old ducks. His mobile bleeped, telling him he’d got a text message. Millie.
But I don’t fancy him. I’d rather have u. I’ll do anything u want.
Archie tutted to himself. As soon as he put his phone back in his pocket it beeped again. Ollie.
Any idea what I can do about Millie? You know her don’t u? Put in a word, mate?
It was his stop now. The weather hadn’t improved. Bloody freezing. He jogged along the High Street, turned the corner and dived into the cul-de-sac. As usual, the house looked out of place. A lone turn of the century modern building amongst all the older ones. But it was all right once you were inside.
His hands shook as he tried to put the key in the lock. Come on you silly bastard. At last he managed it.
It was nice and warm inside. He could smell the remains of their tea. Maybe they had left him some after all. That would be good.
“You come in her, milad,” his mother bellowed from the kitchen.
Darn. Red’s dad must have been on to them. He supposed he’d better go and face them. He slipped his jacket off and hung it on the coat rack in the hall.
“Take your shoes off if they’re wet. I’ve just cleaned the kitchen floor.”
Yes, she was definitely angry. Dad wasn’t saying much, though. Archie slipped his shoes off and tentatively opened the kitchen door.
“Well young man, you’ve got some explaining to do.”
Grandma? What was she doing here? His mum and his grandma were both staring and frowning at him.
Grandma leant forward. “I saw young Amanda up the precinct. She said she thought I was ill. And that you were supposed to be visiting me. Quite upset, she was. What have you been doing?” She leant back and folded her arms across her chest.
“Have you been bleeding fibbin’ again, Archie?” said Mum