PARABLE ONE: FIRST KISSES
“I have had a crush on Damien Nevermore for some time. He is Eduard’s dishy older brother. He appears to have a thing for Lena Lenore, but she won’t take any notice of him, only having eyes for his uptight little brother Eduard. There is something a bit offish about Eduard, he is just too tightly wound, but Damien, besides being darkly handsome, approaches life with a cool practicality and irresistible cynicism. I imagine he has had a few bad experiences along the way, even being thrown off the Agrarian Council when he was doing all he could to help the town, but I cannot resist him! Damien is not just any old bad boy, but a truly wounded brooding Byronic hero...“
(Bridget Etheridge’s Journal)
Wherever she went, her friends always seemed to call her “Didge”. It was not a cool nickname and Bridget Etheridge had no hand in choosing it. It seemed no matter how careful her parents were in naming her, as soon as a girl started school; someone found a way of turning a nice name into a major embarrassment she would be stuck with for the rest of her life. The kids gave Bridget this nickname back in Florida when Dad was stationed on the coast. And it sort-of stuck wherever they moved. Bridget expected to get it again at her new school, because even if her brother Fenton didn’t tell people her nick-name, someone would reinvent it for themselves.
The Etheridge family moved to the area known as ‘Mystic Evermore’ in Georgia because their father was in the army. He was doing some top secret thing in Mystic Evermore, although Bridget didn’t know exactly what. Their father was there at the request of Mrs. Woodgate, but he didn’t appear to see eye to eye with his employer on everything. In fact, it had been only been a short time, but Bridget believed he did not get on with Mrs. Woodgate at all well. This was unusual for her father as he was usually the popular fun loving one and their mother was the sensible one.
Whenever they moved, their mother had to make do in the new place. It was a quality Bridget most admired in an army wife. Mrs. Etheridge was currently working at the local twenty-four-hour service station although she was a fully qualified chef. She had been on duty there for a couple of weeks and Bridget believed she was doing very well. Of course, their mother always did very well. She was so energetic and organized. She told Bridget that on the long nights, she sometimes talked to a customer called Elisha Blackermore. Apparently, Elisha was very blonde and debonair and only came into the service station late at night. Too much work during the day or some such thing. Bridget thought her mother would fancy Elisha if she were not already so crazy about their father.
Bridget hadn’t started school for the term yet because the family had moved during the school holidays. Bridget had met one or two of the kids, however, and Eduard Nevermore had actually tried asking her out on a date. He was reportedly single, although there are rumors he used to go out with Lena Lenore. They were on a ‘break’, Bridget checked before she said “yes”, as she wasn’t the sort of girl to break anyone’s relationship up.
Anyway, as it turned out; Eduard and Bridget were ‘not very compatible’. (Bridget put it that way later to avoid offending people who really liked Eduard.) Bridget just felt he was a little bit up-tight and not enough fun for her. Bridget considered herself a bit alternative, although had been a long time since the swinging seventies.
Bridget and Eduard went down to Covington Centre shops and walked around before having a coffee closer to home in Mystic Evermore. At least, Bridget had coffee; Eduard had some sort of strawberry fruit smoothie instead. Bridget asked him what it was and he said she would not like it. The guy, Mike Davis, who was serving at the Snack Bar that evening was a friend of Eduard’s and he told her that Eduard was right. The smoothie was an acquired taste. Strawberry was not a favorite of hers, so Bridget didn’t bother trying to acquire the taste.
Eduard was in the graduating class at the Mystic Evermore High School, so Bridget guessed she would see him around at school. On their date, he explained to her that his family were amongst those who first settled Mystic Evermore.
“So you belong to the Agrarian Council then,” Bridget commented. Her father worked for the council, so Bridget knew a few things she maybe oughtn’t to have.
“No, actually,” Eduard said, his expression stiff. “Our family has been away for some time, so we dropped off the Agrarian Council.”
“That’s strange,” Bridget said.
“My brother Damien hopes to get back onto the council soon,” Eduard said, again very stiffly.
“Didn’t your uncle stay around here?” Bridget asked. Rumor had it that the Nevermore brother’s uncle Sebastian was too young and good-looking to be a guardian. He worked for the local hospital and was dating an ambulance officer called Melissa. Old Grandma Strahan in the general store combined pharmacy, who enjoyed filling a stranger in on all the local news, expected an engagement to be announced any day.
“Yes, but that doesn’t count,” Eduard again said stiffly.
“Where are your parents?” Bridget asked, feeling somewhat daringly for a first date with as little encouragement as this.
“They died in a fire many years ago,” Eduard replied. His face was no longer merely stiff, but downright dull.
“I’m so sorry,” Bridget gushed, knowing she had put her foot in it. “Luckily you are all right.”
“We were rescued,” Eduard’s face was stiff once again.
They were interrupted just then by Eduard’s older brother Damien and his date Christy Strahan. Eduard had light brown hair and combed it back into a smooth helmet like a lot of guys were doing that year. He also used a lot of gel which added to his appearance of stiffness. His brother Damien had dark brown hair, almost black, with a slight natural curl. He had fairer skin than Eduard and a touch of pink on his cheeks. Bridget would have needed to look closer to be absolutely sure what color his eyes were, but she thought they might be blue.
Damien had finished school, but he had not decided what to study yet, so he had not left Mystic Evermore to go to university. Bridget was busy crushing on Damien, and feeling a bit guilty about it, even though she didn’t think Eduard could really tell, when she realized that Christy seemed to prefer Eduard to Damien.
Christy Strahan was a bright girl, who tied her black hair into a knot on the back of her head. She dressed in very sporty attire and Bridget could tell she was immensely popular with the boys already. Bridget was just beginning to feel like a third wheel on her own date, when Damien saved her by talking to her.
“How long have you been in Mystic Evermore?” he asked.
“About two weeks, now,” Bridget replied. “The first week was all unpacking, and then my parents went straight to work.”
“Your mum works at the servo doesn’t she?” Damien asked.
Bridget was flattered he had noticed. “Yes,” she replied.
“She looks cool,” Damien said. “What does your dad do?”
“He is in the army,” Bridget said. “Some confidential service.”
“So he would be working for the Agrarian Council then,” Damien surmised.
Bridget remembered Eduard said Damien hoped to join the Agrarian Council and it was a fairly easy deduction. She figured it was safe to agree. “I expect so,” she said. “I don’t know a lot about his work really. Army kids never do. Confidential and all that.” Bridget decided to work the conversation around to her favorite topic – world peace. “If all the countries and people of all types could forget their anger and hatred, there would be no war or fighting,” Bridget said.
Damien’s hooded eyelids dropped, but Bridget could tell he agreed with her. “If only they could all forget the past“, he drawled.
“I believe they can,” Bridget said.
“It is a beautiful thought,” Damien said. “But I fear the tendency towards violence is embedded deep into some people’s natures.”
“Over time that could change,” Bridget declared.
“And yet, your father is in the army,“ Damien sounded amused.
“He works towards peace,” Bridget avowed.
“I’m sure he does his best,” Damien agreed. “And I’m sure he appreciates his beautiful daughter’s sentiments.” Bridget’s breath caught in her throat. It was the first time anyone had called her beautiful, and although Damien was a little older than the boys of her class, he appeared to mean it.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Eduard appeared to notice Bridget again at that, and also remembered she was meant to be on a date with him. “It was nice running into you Damien,” he said. “And I’ll give you a call another time, Christy. But Bridget and I have to be going now. I promised her parents I would have her home before eight as it was a week night.”
“A week night with no school,” Damien observed, but Eduard shrugged.
“Good habits are worth maintaining,” Eduard said with that rigid face of his.
“Goodbye, brother, goodbye Bridget,” Damien drawled. “It was good meeting you.”
Eduard said very little as he walked her home. Bridget searched around in her head for the right thing to say. “Christy seemed nice,” she ventured at last. “I don’t remember you promising my parents anything, perhaps we could have stayed a few more minutes?”
“I promised to take care of you,” Eduard declared. “And my brother, he is best taken in small doses.” It sounded like he wanted to warn her off Damien, but wasn’t being very clear, because, everyone knows what happens when you warn a teenager off of someone. The teenager just gets keener on them. Even other teenagers know that.
“Don’t you two get along?” Bridget enquired curiously.
“We have our arguments like all brothers,” Eduard said.
A homeless man suddenly arose out of the gutter and tottered towards Bridget. He seemed frail, but he moved very quickly. His face was sort of scrunched up into a lumpy frown and he had two pointy teeth either side of his mouth. Notwithstanding her fear, Bridget wondered if the man had some sort of disability.
The homeless man was fast, but Eduard seemed even faster. He stepped between Bridget and the homeless man and pulled some sort of stick out from his jacket pocket. Bridget couldn’t see properly, but Eduard and seemed to be poking the homeless man with the stick. The homeless man retreated and Eduard followed him. They disappeared into a shadowy area behind the fence in someone’s garden. The homeless man must have run away or something, because when Eduard returned, the homeless man was nowhere to be seen.
“I should have brought the car, or else got you home sooner,” Eduard muttered. “Are you alright Bridget?”
“I’m okay,” Bridget said. In truth she was shaking and could have done with a warm hug, but Eduard did not seem the type for innocent hugs. “You were very brave protecting me like that.”
The pair walked the few more streets towards her house. Eduard’s stance was hunched and protective, but he did not even offer to hold Bridget’s hand, which she would have welcomed for comfort’s sake, even if she was not romantically inclined towards Eduard. They arrived at the Etheridge house and Bridget opened the gate. Once they were safely inside the garden she felt better, despite the fence being a mere meter high.
Bridget turned to Eduard. “Goodbye,” she said. “Thank you for taking me out. And once again, thank you for protecting me from that drunk.”
“I’m sorry if this date hasn’t been all you dreamed of Bridget,” Eduard said. It was the warmest he had sounded all evening.
“We went out just as friends,” Bridget said. “I didn’t expect any more. I’m the new girl in town and you were showing me around.” Perhaps Eduard wasn’t really over Lena, Bridget thought, finding herself willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Although he had seemed very friendly towards Christy.
“Thank you for understanding,” Eduard said. They shook hands and Bridget went inside the house. She didn’t invite him inside, as there was no need, and besides, the house was full of post-moving chaos. Mum said she would have it sorted soon, but from past experience Bridget knew that even with mum’s phenomenal organizational skills, unpacking could take some months, even years. And some boxes did not ever get unpacked during her dad’s shorter placements.
Her brother Fenton was not home when Bridget arrived. Fenton was her twin and sometimes it felt like he was slightly older than her, but at others, he seemed much younger. He hadn’t been travelling too well since this latest move. Fenton had taken to hanging out around the market area, and sometimes did not come home until really late.
He had a bag full of home-made jewelry and trinkets he had been trading at the market. Many of the bracelets and broaches have some sort of dried plant in them. Bridget had been told it was called verbena. The herb was quite rare and only grown locally by Sebastian Nevermore in his greenhouse.
Fenton told her that Sebastian Nevermore had commissioned him to sell the verbena jewelry, as it was a form of good luck charm. Apparently verbena was harmless, even if taken as a tea; it merely nourished the spirit and strengthened the will power. Bridget would have been worried if her brother was into drugs; however, home-made jewelry seemed harmless. If it were only home-made jewelry! But he was out almost all night sometimes, and Bridget occasionally thought she glimpsed some real jewelry amongst the wood and leather and verbena jewelry.
Of course, Bridget knew she was not an expert; it could just be costume jewelry. She never got close enough to check for any hallmarks or maker’s symbols. However, some of it appeared to be Indian silver of good quality. Those pieces quickly fell to the bottom of Fenton’s bag if he had it open. He denied the existence of the better pieces and looked genuinely vague when Bridget asked him about them.
Fenton said he only had the homemade verbena jewelry given him by Mr. Nevermore to sell. Sebastian Nevermore worked at the hospital and he was soon to be engaged to a local girl by the name of Melissa Davis, so he must be alright, Bridget reflected. Besides, he was Eduard and Damien’s handsome young uncle.
Mum wasn’t home yet either. She was out working at the service station. Her shift would end later that evening and she would be home to make breakfast in the morning, no matter how tired she was. Bridget told Mum sometimes she could help make breakfast, but their mother said breakfast was her best chance to spend quality time with dad before he went out to his work.
Dad was watching television. He looked up when Bridget came in the front door. “How did it go Bridget?” He asked.
“Just great,” Bridget said. “I had coffee with my new friend and met his brother and another girl called Christy. Then we walked home.”
“As long as you had a good time and are home safely,” Dad said. “The right boy for you won’t necessarily be the very first you meet. Although I am pleased to see you are making friends around town.”
“Yes I am,” Bridget said. She adored Dad and always tried to make him feel okay about moving them all around so often for his work. “And school starts Monday, so I will make even more friends then.”
“Your brother has met a girl,” Dad said.
“He has?” Bridget exclaimed. Fenton was usually slow to ask the girls out. This girl must be especially charismatic to catch his interest so quickly.
“She is the daughter of one of the Agrarian Council members,” Dad said. “Carlice Favor. She will be in your class at school. Fenton met her at the market, when she was shopping for fresh produce.”
Dad didn’t say whether he was concerned Fenton spent so much time at the market. Bridget thought he merely assumed it was healthy Fenton had found something to do around town.
The next evening was Friday night and Carlice was invited to their place to tea. Mum had an ‘early’ on Thursdays and got home around mid-night, allowing her to get some sleep. She spent all Friday tidying the house and preparing a delicious meal for the evening. Mum complained a little that she had not been able to do any decorating, aside from hanging their generic curtains which had been to many places with them and did not necessarily suit the windows. One good thing about the place they were renting this time, though, was the swimming pool. Bridget could see they would be popular with school friends who could drop around for a dip.
The evening was designed to be a celebration of sorts, as Dad had satisfied all of his requirements for another promotion with the army. The top brass were especially impressed with Dad’s level of physical fitness (for his age of course) and discretion on these special missions. Bridget lost track of his exact rank, some sort of glorified captain as he had never been in overseas combat, but this promotion represented a substantial improvement in pay and another badge on his uniform. Being on assignment, Captain Etheridge didn’t have men specifically under his command, but he could call them in if he required assistance.
Carlice arrived at six pm. She was a bright-faced, even featured girl with a brilliant smile and long blonde hair that touched her shoulders. Bridget shook out her unruly curly red mop and half prepared to hate the girl. Carlice had a nice figure; and she was curvy in the way boys like, but not too fat or thin. Bridget could see why Fenton was interested in her, as she was also smart and sassy and reputed to be a great social club leader.
Carlice sat down at their kitchen table and began to talk to their mum about fashion. Mum always looked very neat, but rarely had a lot of time to bother with her wardrobe. Bridget was surprised her mother responded so well to Carlice’s conversation. Apparently Mum still harbored the desire to be a fashionista deep in her soul.
“I was a snappy dresser once too,” Mum told Carlice after surveying Carlice’s ensemble. “Before I got married and had children.”
Carlice nodded understandingly. “You have to dress for work now,” she mused. “Uniforms, sensible clothes and such are so limiting”
“That’s true,” Mum said. “However, when I was young, it was a different story.”
“I remember some of your outfits,” Dad chortled. “You were outrageous, even for the nineteen-nineties.”
“Yeah, quite a few very brief fashions featured at that time.” Mum reminisced.
“Brief, is right,” Dad chipped in with a leer. Bridget cringed, but Carlice listened with interest.
“There was the hot-pant revival,” Mum said. “And the super-short-mini and some grunge dressing. There was also a trend for wearing bustiers on the outside, inspired by the pop-singer Madonna. Leggings were on their way in, and of course they have stayed being so comfortable. Waists were still waists then too.”
“Oh we must have nineties themed social,” Carlice exclaimed. “You and the other mothers will be the advisers, so we can get the fashions just right.”
“I would like that,” Mum said wistfully. Because they moved so much, Mum rarely got invited onto women’s groups and parent committees. Bridget could tell Carlice had found the path to her mother’s heart.
The conversation moved onto other things, finally settling on travel. Carlice talked brightly about ski trips in winter and mountain climbing in summer. Dad took up the subject of skiing trips somewhat wistfully. The family moved frequently – which was different from travelling. Travel you did for pleasure and enlightenment. Moving was a necessity for some families.
“You certainly had some nice holidays,” Captain Etheridge observed.
Carlice’s bright mask softened a little. “It was mostly Dad trying to make up for having divorced my mum and me,” she admitted. Fenton patted her hand. Bridget saw her brother had fallen in love, not just lust, as he expressed his sympathy and understanding towards the beautiful girl.
She also noted the existence of two living parents was almost unusual in the Mystic Evermore region. A catastrophic spate of fires, road accidents and other disasters seemed to have robbed so many families of at least one parent.
“You must miss your father,” Mum said softly. “Has he moved very far away?”
“Yes,” Carlice said. “To a large city where his lifestyle is socially acceptable.” None of them chose to press her for details. In a small suburb like Mystic Evermore, everyone (who was a local resident) appeared to know everyone else’s business and there was no room for privacy or fresh starts.
Carlice recovered her poise. She flicked her bright hair and declared that she expected to stay young and healthy forever. Fenton and Bridget laughed. They shared something of her sentiment, as healthy teenagers cannot imagine death or age touching them in the future. And twenty years seems like a lifetime of fun and pleasure away.
“That’s the right attitude,” Dad observed. He was very proud of being fit on the wrong side of forty. It was required for his work, but also had become second nature for him. Mum maintained her fitness too as much as she could to keep up with him. The family obsession with health and fitness was one reason for the choice of a house with a decent sized pool for them all.
The rest of Carlice’s visit passed uneventfully. The teenagers changed into their bathers and swam in the pool. The only thing Bridget noticed was that Carlice seemed to want to avoid touching Fenton’s back-pack with all the herbal jewelry inside. He had dropped it carelessly onto the pile of towels where it was right in their way when they wanted to dry off. Carlice reached out and then wrinkled her nose as if the back-pack smelled. Come to think of it, the backpack actually did smell as all the drying verbena had lost its nice lemon scent and become quite musty in the canvas bag.
Fenton, with a gentlemanly gesture which was sweet to see, reached out and removed his backpack so Carlice could reach her towel. He placed the pack close against the wall, where it would be in no one’s way. Bridget noticed he rarely let it completely out of his sight nowadays.
Carlice said goodbye and returned to her home around ten pm. Dad was concerned for her safety, and as she was a guest, he got the car out and drove her the short distance to her house.
Saturday Bridget slept in and then went down to the Farmer’s Market with Fenton. The market was a cool grassy area, surrounded by trees and edged with a hedge. The only permanent buildings were the toilets; which Bridget was relieved to find were permanent brick buildings. She hated makeshift public toilets, or ones that were old and dirty, for they featured in her nightmares regularly. However, these toilets were pretty cool, indeed from the outside they looked like cute little cottages. And inside, the Farmers’ Cooperative volunteers kept them clean and sweet.
One side of the market place was completely taken up with stalls that were set up every morning. Shoppers could buy fresh produce, arts and crafts, cakes and biscuits. They could even buy books and clothes. The other side of the market place was a picnic area. Several stands sold sausages and hot dogs and even hot donuts. Market-goers sat down at one of the outdoor tables to consume their purchases.
Beside the far gate, there was a chicken coop, where the vendor demonstrated the freshness of their eggs by displaying living hens and chicks. One hen was broody and had been allowed to sit. Bridget liked to look at her and wonder when the chicks would hatch. Another mother hen already had some chickens clustering around her feet.
Fenton did not have his own stall. Stalls cost to hire, even though they were just a trestle table in the middle of the paddock. Fenton set himself up on one of the picnic tables to display his wares, unless he was moved on by market staff. This happened whenever he got too comfortable, because he was operating around the edge of the market regulations by not hiring himself a stall. Mostly the farmers didn’t mind, but some said, “Move along there, kid”, when he fully occupied a table. Then Fenton would pack his wares into his backpack and walk around accosting likely looking ladies. The occasional male bought the home crafted jewelry too, sometimes a chunky piece for themselves, but more often as a gift for their sweetheart or daughter.
There was a dodgy looking fellow who approached Fenton at times. He appeared mildly foreign and wore a tight body-shirt barely buttoned past his chest hair over tight grey stovepipe slacks. He also wore gloves. Bridget found this guy a little creepy, but Fenton implied the fellow had been sent by Sebastian Nevermore. Fenton would give this man the takings at the end of the day, minus his ‘wage’. The man provided Fenton with more home-made jewelry to sell, all infused with verbena from Uncle Nevermore.
Bridget liked the market, but not enough to hang around all day the way Fenton did. She was actually keeping her eyes open in this place and other places around town, hoping to run into Damien Nevermore again. It was late afternoon and the farmers at the market were beginning to pack up before Bridget saw his distinctive dark curls and fine featured face. Bridget was at the opposite end of the market to Fenton, as she had already told her brother she was bored and going to walk home. Fenton hung around until there were absolutely no customers left.
Bridget sauntered towards Damien and he looked pleased and amused to see her. “Say kid,” he said. “What do you say we sneak out of here?”
“I would love to,” Bridget said.
Damien led her down several streets into the seedy area of town, which was on the market side anyway. Bridget thought briefly about the homeless man she had encountered while out with Eduard, but she felt much safer with Damien at her side, and moreover, the sun had not set yet.
Mystic Evermore wasn’t large enough to have too many clubs and pubs, but the one Damien led her into wasn’t the main one that families went for meals and workmen relaxed in after their shift. Nor was it the Snack Bar, Eduard had taken her to that served coffee as well as food to the casual shopper. The club Damien led her into looked like a run-down building on the outside, but was steamy and cozy on the inside. He ordered hot chicken soup for both of them and crunchy bread rolls with butter on the side. Bridget was busy spreading butter on her bun, breaking it and dipping into her soup when he asked her a question.
“So what do you think of the town?” Damien inquired.
“It’s different,” Bridget said, “Although I haven’t been here long enough to really say.”
“Different how?” Damien said. The waiter brought a soft drink for Bridget and a glass of thick looking red wine for Damien. Bridget was surprised, she knew Damien was Eduard’s older brother, but didn’t think he was old enough to drink alcohol. Of course, Damien’s age was very hard to pick.
“I’m not sure I should say,” Bridget squirmed uncomfortably. “I don’t want to offend you.”
Damien chortled. “I assure you I am not easily offended.”
“Well”, Bridget said, “It seems more kids here are missing parents than some places I’ve lived. I mean single parent families because of divorce are pretty common nowadays, but not so many because of death. Like you and your brother….”
“Kids go missing too,” Damien said. “This really is a place where you should be careful.”
“I know,” Bridget said. “I ran into a homeless man the other night, walking home with Eduard.”
Damien’s look was intense. “What happened?”
“Eduard chased him off, he was quite the hero,” Bridget said, but she didn’t want the conversation to get stuck on things related to Eduard. “Have you joined the Agrarian Council yet?” She asked curiously.
“Not exactly,” Damien said, “But I am friends with the Sheriff. I hear most of the gossip.”
“Do you have any idea what my dad is investigating for them?” Bridget asked, savoring the combination of chicken, butter and bun. “Someone said if it was a local felony, he ought to be cautious.”
“I don’t think the police would call the army in for mere law-breaking,” Damien mused and Bridget nodded.
“Exactly what I said,” Bridget agreed.
“I suspect it would be a sort of weapon or protection,” Damien said. “Like some people around here believe the verbena has wonderful protective properties.”
“I know,” Bridget said, “My brother is hawking verbena jewelry at the market.”
“Where is he getting the verbena?” Damien asked.
“Your uncle, he says,” Bridget replied.
Damien whistled. “I haven’t known Uncle Sebastian to be so enterprising before,” he said. “We do grow the Verbena in our greenhouse, but the only place he usually sends it is the Agrarian Council. Except what he keeps for personal use.”
“What do people believe the verbena protects against?” Bridget asked. “I think I’ve been told something, but it wasn’t very clear.”
“Um, a virus maybe, It does boost the immune system.” Damien said. “It also enhances will power.”
“I fail to see how will power is relevant,” Bridget said.
“It depends,” Damien said. “If you are dealing with some sort of mind control, hypnotic suggestion or interrogation, having stronger will power could be an advantage. And, that’s what the army could be interested in.”
“I see,” Bridget said. “It’s just an herb”.
“There are worse things too,” Damien said.
“Worse things?” Bridget queried.
“Weapons, not protection. I would prefer to think your father was working on protecting people than hurting them though. Wouldn’t you?” Damien asked quizzically.
“Of course”, Bridget said. “Let’s talk about something else. I want to get to know you better.”
“My life is a long story,” Damien said. “
“I like you Damien,” Bridget said, leaning forward with great daring. “You are honest with me.”
Damien blushed. “I haven’t told you all my secrets yet,” he said. “Remember that when the time comes.”
“When what time comes?” Bridget murmured, bemused by the corner of his mouth.
“The time when someone tries to dredge everything up and warn you against me,” Damien said.
“Eduard already tried that,” Bridget whispered, “The warning bit I mean. It didn’t work.”
“Have you finished your meal?” Damien said, “I’m feeling restless.”
“What would you like to do?” Bridget asked.
“This,” he pulled Bridget to her feet, crossed the floor to a fifties style juke box and inserted a coin. Dialing through the choices, he selected an old fashioned song “The Way You Look Tonight”. Bridget didn’t know anything about the formal sort of dancing, but she allowed Damien to take her in his arms and leant against him. Her head was a whirl. Bridget had told Damien she liked him, and he had not rejected her. He had not told her he liked her too, but that could come later. Bridget leaned her cheek against his upper arm. She couldn’t quite reach his shoulder.
The song finished, and Damien led Bridget by the hand out of the club. They turned around a corner and he went up to an old blue car. It was in good condition for its age, but was clearly what the collectors would call ‘vintage’. Damien fished in his pocket and pulled the key ring into his hand.
“Trust me,” he whispered, opening the car door for Bridget. Bridget trusted him. She climbed into the car. Damien walked around to the driver’s side and got into the car. Then he switched the radio on. Once again, his taste in music was oddly mature. Some honky-tonk Jazz that would have been popular around 1920 or earlier.
“That music is new to me,” Bridget said. “But somehow I like it.”
“It goes with my mood,” Damien said. “I often have nostalgic moods.” He drove the car down to the road that ran along the bank of the river and parked under a convenient bush. Her heart leapt as Bridget realized they were parked in a sort of “lover’s lane”. Luckily they were the only ones there. Bridget wouldn’t want to share with any other couples. They climbed out of the car and stood between the comforting bulk of its body and the overhanging foliage.
Bridget looked up at Damien and he took her into his arms again like when they were dancing. He leaned his face forward and her eyes fixed upon those beautiful lips briefly, before travelling to look into his dark blue eyes. “Tell me if you want me to stop,” Damien whispered. His lips touched hers. It was her very first kiss.
Bridget was surprised to find his lips weren’t warm, but they were firm and controlled against her lips, sending shivers of sensation down her nerves to her spine. Other girls had complained about their boy-friends being sloppy kissers, or grinding too hard with their lips, but Damien got the pressure just right. Her mouth curled up to meet his and her throat ached. His lips tickled her mouth temptingly and then deepened into a demanding kiss. Bridget never wanted him to stop and her head was filled with sweetness.
Damien pulled away from her mouth and feathered small kisses down her chin, along her chin-bone and down her neck in line with her left ear. He nuzzled the spot where her neck joined her shoulder and then turned his attention to the side of her throat. There was a slight prick and Bridget thought he must be giving her what the girls sometimes referred to as a love bite. Bridget closed her eyes and floated in her head. She was not sure how long they stood there like that. It seemed only a moment, but Bridget was slightly dizzy when Damien raised his head.