NOVEL

Ramune recently completed the Humber College Graduate Creative Writing programme and is now half-way through her first novel. The plot: after a litany of disastrous attempts at relationships through her teens and twenties, Emma moves from England to a small town in Ontario to start over. She lives in a little farm house with her dog, becomes deputy principle of the Summer Art School and gradually, carefully, starts seeing an open, honest man. It looks like Emma’s done it … grown up and found happiness … until the most compelling character from her English past reappears.

EXTRACT

Emma thinks back to when she was 15.

On Saturday Kevin turned up wearing clean jeans and a black cotton polo neck. Emma was sitting at the bottom of the stairs but Mum came out of the living room and opened the door. She didn’t usually do that unless she knew it was one of her students arriving for a lesson. She looked teacherly in her straight black conducting dress, hair tied back in a tight knot. “Make sure she’s back by eleven.” Emma wanted to disappear. Being talked about like a parcel and waved off by Mum wasn’t in her script.

But as she followed Kevin down the path Emma felt better, until they rounded the corner and she saw the bike. “Mum will kill me if I go on a motorbike.”

Kevin shrugged. “So, she’s not here to see.”

Emma was paralysed. “I can’t, what if we have an accident?”

Something in Kev’s eyes tightened and then shifted. “OK, I’ll go on the bus this once. But next time you’ll have to get your act together.”

Emma was so grateful she had to stop herself from hugging him. And her heart bounced when she heard him say next time. They went to a pub by the bus terminal that turned a blind eye to underage drinking. The place was packed and Emma recognized a few people from the Dive. Kevin ordered beer, she had orange juice, which made him smile, and they managed to find a table near the bar.

“Saving for some Brit iron — a Bonnie or a Commando,” Kevin took a mouthful of his pint. “But on my wages it’s going to take a while yet.”

Emma wondered what she could say about bikes. “Do you know what colour you want?”

“Black, of course. I’ll need to get a spray job but I know a geezer down by the railway who’ll do me a good job.”

As they chatted she felt her belly getting warm. A strange heat spread down between her legs. She shuffled in her seat, pulling blue angora sleeves down over her hands and bunching the ends into little fists. She felt herself blush as she looked at Kevin, watching his lips move. I don’t care what they’re saying, I just want to feel them on mine. “Do you only work on bikes at the garage or fix cars as well?” I wish he’d just put his hand out and touch me. I want to know what it feels like to be touched by a boy.

Two couples came into the pub and stopped by their table, friends of Kevin. They looked a lot older than Emma. The man nearest Kev punched him on the shoulder. “Looks like you’ve got yourself a bit of posh.”

Emma shrivelled inside.

Kev smiled. “This is Emma. First date.”

Her heart bounced, he called me his date.

“Didn’t see your bike outside.”

She noticed that both girls were wearing leather jackets and wondered how she’d ever afford one.

“Came on the bus.” Kevin laughed.

Emma panicked, what if he tells them what I said about Mum?

But he didn’t. “Thought I might want a few drinks.”

Her body shifted toward his and she tried to catch his eye, straining not to say thank you out loud. Then she noticed the others dragging stools over to their table and disappointment replaced the joy; they wouldn’t be alone any more, Emma would have to think of things to say to these new people as well. And she found the girls intimidating, reminding her how little she knew of the world outside home and school.

“You work?” asked one of them, sitting down next to Emma.

She felt herself blush as she answered. “No. I’m still at school.”

“Which one?” The girl took a swig of beer and Emma was glad her juice glass was empty.

“St Verona’s.” Her cheeks coloured. The girls in leather looked at each other and smiled. Emma kept talking. “I don’t like it much. My sister went to Cosway, maybe you know her, Nicky Bryte?”

“Oh yeah? How old is she?”

“Four years… she’s 19. Long, seriously blonde hair, always dresses in purple.”

“Nicky. We know Nick. Bit of a bike. What’s she up to now?”

Emma’s face froze. Did they just call her sister a slut? “She’s working for an optician.” The girls gave each other a look which obviously meant something but Emma didn’t know what. Kevin was lost in an argument with their boyfriends about whether builder’s vans or taxi drivers were the worst hazard on the road. Emma tried not to glance at the clock above the bar, the girls keep chatting.

“Hear about the Galaxy getting held up last night? They had a gun.”
“Anyone hurt?”

“No, the fuzz got there just as they were leaving. My brother’s thinking of joining the force.” Emma fiddled with the rim of her glass and wished she had a brother, or any family other than her mum and sister. She wished she had something to say to these girls.

After what seemed like hours Kevin stood up and announced that it was “time to hit the road – or the bus stop”.

His friend grinned. “Be a nice boy now. Don’t do anything I would.” They all laughed and Kev took Emma’s hand as they left the pub. Finally her fingers intertwined with his. Her heart raced.

The bus came straight away and Kevin’s thumb traced Emma’s knuckles as they sat holding hands on the back seat. She was mesmerized by the sensation of this new, rougher skin. She inhaled the smell of beer and cigarettes coming from his leather jacket. He even smelt like a man. She allowed her thigh to press slightly into his as the bus turned a corner and her leg heated up. Her heart was pumping so hard that she was worried he might hear it. When she stood up to get off the bus she was so giddy she tripped over her own foot, grabbing the hand rail to stop herself from falling.

Emma hardly noticed the walk back to her place, until they arrived outside the gate. Kevin steered her away from the light of the street lamp so they stood in darkness. Emma shivered and studied his boots. He tilted her chin with one hand, drawing her closer as he spoke, “Great evening”.

Emma looked into his eyes. His hand slid under the belt of her skirt and pressed gently on her stomach. Tiny sparklers ignited around her groin, fizzing their way up her spine into the small of her back. She wanted to collapse and explode at the same time as her body moved toward his. She felt her stomach touch his, her boobs press his chest. She wanted him to keep touching her.

Mum’s voice pierced the night. “Time to come in, Emma. Come along now.”