[Simon and Julie is intended to be a long short story (perhaps a novella), involving various characters from the two as yet unpublished novels The Ethical Hitman and Raven of Dispersion. The story (and those novels) are set in and around the long, hot summer of 1976. The protagonists and antagonists are at that happy stage between A-levels and Uni (or A-levels and work ) – technically young adults, but these are not YA stories. As I work on this story, I will throw odd fragments here in the blog.]
Simon walked along Goldfinch Drive towards home. The sun was hot, the sky cloudless, a pale hazy blue, pearly towards the sun. The road was inclined slightly, and at the brow there was a shimmer above the asphalt. On both sides of the shimmering road were neat, semi-detached houses with well-tended front gardens. He had left Nick and Mark at The White Lion, sitting in the beer garden. Simon couldn’t afford another drink, and found sitting in the hot sun stifling. He had wanted to move, to stretch his limbs, so decided to walk home, where he would read a book, perhaps, in the shade.
At the top of Goldfinch Drive, just before he would turn into Magpie Road where he lived, Simon found Chris and Gray leaning against the front wing of a mustard-yellow, 1968 Triumph Vitesse. The car was Gray’s, and was in the drive of his parent’s large detached house. Chris saluted as Simon approached.
Simon slowed. “Hey guys. What’s happening?”
“Nothing,” Chris said.
“Nothing yet,” Gray added.
“Yet? You have a plan then?”
“Could be, could be,” Gray said. “We’re thinking of going for a drive.”
“Anywhere,” Chris said.
“So why are you still standing here?”
“Petrol,” Gray said. “We only have enough petrol to get us to Southleigh and back. And we don’t want to go there.”
“Put some petrol in then.”
“Ah, well, now there’s the crux of the matter, the very rub if you will. We have no money.”
“Well, I do have about fifty pence in my pocket,” Chris said.
“I want to move,” Gray said. “It’s hot, I’ve got a convertible, I want the wind in my hair and a breeze in my face.”
Chris nodded along the road. “It’s Julie,” he said. Simon and Gray turned to look. A young woman approached them along the road. Her hair was shoulder-length, blonde, straight, parted in the middle. She wore jeans, jesus boots and a tee-shirt.
“Can’t you borrow some money from your mum and dad?” Simon said.
Gray shook his head. “The kiddies are gone away. On holiday. Torquay.”
“Oh great,” Simon said. “When’s the party?”
“No chance,” Gray said.
Julie drew level with them. “Hello there. There’s a party?”
“No,” Gray said.
“His parents never forgave him for the last one,” Chris said. “They told him they’d sell the car if he did it again.”
“I love my car.”
Julie looked at Simon. Her eyes were very blue. They sparkled in the sun. “I thought I saw you down town with Mark and Nick.”
“You did. But they wanted to drink some more. I was too hot. I met these two on the way home. They were idling.”
“Do you have money, Jules?” Grey said.
Julie put her hand in her pocket and withdrew two ten pence pieces, a five pence piece, and a couple of coppers. “Not even enough for ten Number Six.”
“Here, have one of mine,” Chris said. He offered Julie the cigarette, and lit it with a match.
“So where’s Tim?” Gray said.
“We’ve fallen out,” Julie said. “I haven’t seen him for a while.”
“How long is this separation going to last?” Simon said.
Julie blew smoke into the blue, tilted her head back, smiled. “Don’t pretend to be interested. I’ll talk to Sarah about it later.”
“Thank god for that,” Chris said. “We have important matters to think about. So how much have we got between us? Si, you said you had about fifty pence. Julie, you want join us? Put your twenty-eight pence in the pot?”
“Sorry, I need my money,” Julie said.
“And I need mine for a class,” Simon said.
“Oh, come on,” Gray said. “Why go to a class in the summer when you don’t have to?”
“It’s kung fu.”
“Oh yes,” Gray said. “Forget I said anything. Ahem.”
“Haven’t you two got any money?”
“I’ll need another packet of fags,” Chris said.
Gray shrugged, pouted. “And I have some money, but I need to make it last for the week.”
“Have your parents taken their car?” Simon said.
“No,” Gray said. “It’s in the garage.”
“Has anybody thought,” Simon ventured, “to siphon some petrol from the Mini?”
Gray looked at Chris. “Well, you’re the mechanical brains of this outfit. Can we?”
“Well, yes, we can. Simon, that is brilliant. If you smoked, I’d give you a fag. Julie, give him a kiss.”
Julie dropped her cigarette on the floor and scraped it across the asphalt of the driveway beneath her sandal. She leaned over and kissed Simon on the cheek. She smelled of tobacco, scent, soap and sunshine.