KEEP ON LOVING

Can you really love someone forever?

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6. STOP THE TAPE AND REWIND

 

‘Stop the tape and rewind.’

(GOTTA BE YOU)

 

ONE DIRECTION

 

 

The next time Lucy saw him was at the base. He was home at last. She got up early in the morning. She concentrated on preparing herself. She wanted her mind to be off other things. The things she’d heard.

 

She told her mother she’d rather go alone. Her mother seemed relieved. She gave Lucy money for a taxi to the bus station. Then it was a long journey right out into the countryside. But it was spring and everything was looking beautiful. Wildflowers everywhere.

 

She remembered the last time she’d seen Haydn. The night before he left.

 

And how she’d felt when the truth had dawned. Because the next day he was gone. Swallowed up by the army.

 

***

 

She remembered the small hotel room. He was so good looking, and that’s how she wanted to remember him. Now that she was on her way to see him again. 

 

‘Just relax,’ she’d said to herself. ‘You’re trying to hard. Everything will be alwright.’

 

She wanted to stop the tape and rewind. Back to that night just before he went away.

 

He’d drunk too much beforehand. ‘Just one thing. To remember you by,’ he’d said, but it hadn’t really been a success. They’d both tried to make it work. They didn’t even stay the night.

When they went out past reception, she could see he was upset.

 

‘I don’t know what went wrong. It’s always been so good. Before tonight I mean.’

 

‘It’ll be fine next time,’ she told him. ‘You’ll see. When you get back, I mean.’

 

He kissed her outside her front gate. She felt that he was aroused.

 

‘Not much good now, is it? An hour too late, it is. What’s the use of that?’

 

She put her hand inside his trousers. ‘Let’s go to the park,’ she said. ‘That’s our favourite place.’

 

It was cumbersome and difficult. Sitting on a bench in the early morning light. And he was embarrassed by the amount of love he spilled into her hand. He gave her his handkerchief. She said she’d keep it as a memory of their last moments together. Before went off to war.

 

***

 

On the bus, Lucy remembered how startled she’d been the first time he’d shown her what to do. ‘Well, I was quite young, I suppose,’ she thought.

 

He’d taken her hand and placed it on his groin. Then he’d loosened his belt and pushed it down inside his underpants. She felt a pleasant mixture of soft, warm and firm flesh. After a while he’d moved her hand with his. And that’s how she learnt how much he enjoyed it. And so had she. The anticipation of the short, quick breaths, a tightening of the chest. Excitement. Intense feeling of pleasure. Involuntary spasms. Climax.

 

While she was doing it, Lucy felt her own rhythmic contractions running in tandem, and she felt a strong affinity with what Haydn was feeling. She knew they were in love.

 

‘In a strange way he sometimes seemed to prefer that to real lovemaking,’ she remembered thinking. ‘Perhaps because the real thing was just so difficult to organize.’

 

***

 

Just outside a small village, the bus driver said, ‘This is it love.’

 

The base was the usual nondescript affair. Flowerbeds were trying hard to add some luster to the entry point. Two young men in uniform stared at her. They could see she’d been crying. One was quite handsome. He other had a face covered in spots. ‘Just God playing his cynical trick,’ she thought. ‘Making one man’s life a social breeze, and the other’s a social nightmare.’

 

There was no problem getting in. They pointed out where she had to go. To see Hayden.

 

 

***

 

Lucy went to reception. They told her he was on the first floor.

 

As she went upstairs, she remembered the freckles across his nose. And the soft hair on his top lip that he shaved so often in the hope that it would get thicker. And the slight imperfection in one iris that made his eyes look slightly different colours. And the long pale hair that was always so unkempt. His perfect skin. The warmth of his pubic area. How it felt in her hand. And how it felt inside her on that one occasion. So long ago.

 

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