Episode 1: The Arrival

The Sunday Serial returns with the story of Billy and Anna. Today is their first day back.

are u sitting comfortably then I'll begin Cambridge Freshers Sunday Serial

Billy Franklin couldn’t believe he was entering his final year of university without a girlfriend.

‘Mum, I can’t believe I’m entering my final year of university without a girlfriend.’

‘Be quiet, Billy.’ His mum, who was driving the car, spoke without turning her head around. ‘It’s not as if this was unexpected.’

Billy nodded thoughtfully. ‘Expected but… sad nonetheless.’

‘Billy you are brave and you are tall.’ His five year old sister Maisy patted his leg.

‘Thanks Maisy.’

‘And you are clever.’

‘That’s right.’

‘And…handthome.’

‘Wow, thanks Mais.’

‘I will be your girlfriend.’

Billy smiled. It was the closest he’d got to a proposition in his two years at Trinity.

‘But what about Mark? From school?’ Their Dad put in. ‘Your art partner?’

‘Oh yes.’ Maisy settled back in her seat. ‘I forgod about him. He is much better.’ She smiled conspiratorially at Billy. ‘Very good ad painting.’

‘I’m good at painting!’

‘On Monday Mark painted de moon.’

‘I’ve done loads of paintings of the moon.’ Maisy raised her eyebrows. ‘It had lots ob glitter. And also… also…’

‘Yes?’ Billy couldn’t quite believe he was entering this competition. ‘What did it have?’

‘Thtar quality.’

Amidst his parents’ laughter Billy comforted himself with the thought that at least at Cambridge there were eligible girls to disappoint.

***

Anna Duggins couldn’t believe she was entering her final year of university without a boyfriend.

‘Anna, I can’t believe you’re entering your final year of university without a boyfriend.’

‘Thanks Mum.’ ‘Do you think that maybe you have some kind of problem?’

Anna didn’t want to say that actually it was the attitude of boys everywhere that was the problem – and of one boy in particular who went to Sidney and who Anna was ensuring had no chance of spotting her by ducking her head down beneath the window of their car.

‘Anna? Anna, love, what are you doing? You won’t find a boyfriend down there.’

Anna craned her neck up furiously to her sniggering dad.

‘I hate you,’ she breathed.

Amidst her parents’ laughter, Anna comforted herself with the thought that at least at Cambridge she could pretend her parents were dead.

***

Great Gate was swarming with people in red t-shirts directing freshers. Billy bent down to pick his trunk out of the boot feeling slightly overwhelmed and very old. A few metres away a girl was scowling at a man and a woman who seemed to be doing an exaggerated mime of looking for someone in the crowds. Billy felt a whisper in his ear.

She’s pretty.’ He looked up. His mum was smiling at him. ‘Is she a friend of yours?’

Billy shrugged.

‘What does she study?’

Billy didn’t want to say that she’d started off as Law but had switched to English because she’d found the case studies monotonous and patronising.

‘Dunno.’

‘Well, I’m sure she looks pretty studying it whatever it is.’

‘OK, Dad.’

‘Have a good term, Bill.’

‘Thanks, Mum.’

‘Eat all of your veggytubbles so you do not get old like de queen.’

‘Thanks Mais.’ His Dad patted his shoulder and, finally, herded the rest of the family away, Maisy simultaneously hobbling and doing a royal wave.

***

Anna managed to pack her parents off fairly quickly considering all the fun they were having at her expense.

‘Goodbye, honey.’

‘We love you Anna banana.’

‘Even if… even if….’ her mum tried to finish the sentence but, overcome by her own wit, could only manage a wheeze. Anna waited patiently. ‘– even if no one else does.’

‘Brilliant.’ Anna considered making another, more cutting response, but it was too much for her mum who was now crying with laughter, and had to be led by her husband back to the car.

‘Call us when you’re lonely.’ Her dad grinned, ‘but bear in mind we do have jobs.’ Her mum let out a scream.

‘Goodbye!’ Anna waved them off, and kept waving firmly until the car was out of sight. And then they were gone. Anna surveyed the bags surrounding her. Would a kind and handsome boy come and help her with them? Almost certainly not. Fashioning a sort of layered wheeled construction, Anna began to push her worldly belongings towards Great Gate.

She was unaware that a pair of brown eyes followed her right up until the moment she disappeared through it….

Find epsiode two here