Episode 4: A Date at the Maypole
This week Anna and Billy went on a date, but was it hideous or did Cilla smile upon them?
Catch up with last week’s episode here
Anna had eaten all the tangfastics she’d brought with her. There were no more. It was a date tic of hers that she’d developed at the age of thirteen – an early developer – when her first boyfriend – Kyle who liked to set fire to nettles – had told her that boys liked girls who had something to give. Their relationship had progressed to a kiss, but Anna certainly wasn’t going to ‘give’ Kyle any of the things he was, at that point in time, asking her for. She was only thirteen and besides, Kyle never seemed to himself give anything to their dates or, when push came to shove, the relationship. Things had ended amicably, but on this crisp November evening Anna found herself wondering where Kyle was now, what he was doing, and if he ever thought back to the advice which had guided her down a singularly thorny path of romance.
You’re thinking too much, Anna told herself. This is another date tic of yours, and it’s much more unattractive than the tangfastics.
But where was he? It was ten past nine, and they’d agreed to meet at nine. Anna was standing outside the Maypole and behind her could hear shrieks and various snatches of ‘Part of Your World.’ What would be the collective noun for a group of thesps, she wondered. A scream of thesps? A truck? A –
And there he was. Billy Franklin, wrapped in a grey wool coat, standing not more than five feet away. She thought about telling him that he’d crept up on her like a big grey rabbit but decided against it.
‘Hi!’ She moved towards him, and he to her. Was he going to hug her? Yes. Yes he was and he did.
‘Hi.’ He said again, before giving her a smile so open and happy that she was, momentarily, disarmed. ‘You look beautiful.’
Anna couldn’t help the instinctive stomach clench. Really?
But she did. She looked utterly beautiful. Billy had stood staring at her for a minute before approaching. Had she known that she’d been twitching slightly at the Disney fragments? That the sweet packet she’d put in the bin had flown out and was rustling by her feet?
She interrupted his thoughts. ‘Shall we head in?’
He nodded. ‘Sure.’ Another grin. ‘After you.’
‘And that’s when I told him – no.’
Billy and Anna were two hours into their date. The crowd in the Maypole had thinned and swelled in patterns that had gone unnoticed by them. They had been talking about – not everything and anything, but specific and interesting anecdotes, pre-assembled in Anna’s case, but reactive in Billy’s. Of course, he had had things he thought he might say to Anna but they had blazed out of his head the moment he’d seen her outside the Maypole. To just be sitting at a table opposite her made him feel like he was occupying some kind of bright, other plane. His inhibitions had vanished, and there was nothing she said that he was unable to pick up and discuss. Essentially, he felt as if he were very, very high. Currently they were on the topic of Billy’s year nine French exchange, for whom the wonders of Camden Market had travelled across the Channel, and who would make bids to get there at all hours of the day.
‘“No,” I said. “No more Camden Market for you. If you want an Andy Warhol print I will find you one online, but we’re in a biology class now and we can’t just leave. Go and find your petri dish.”’
Anna laughed. ‘Tout suite.’
‘Exactly.’ There was a pause and he looked at her, but it was for too long, and Anna suddenly felt uncomfortable.
‘I think I should be heading off. I have some stuff to do for tomorrow.’
‘OK.’ The grin he gave her was broad and not disappointed at all, and Anna felt perturbed instead. ‘I’ll walk you back,’ he said.
‘I mean we do both live in Whewell’s,’ she replied, referencing their accommodation in Trinity.
‘Isn’t that nice?’
‘Right.’ She picked up her coat and gave him a little nudge out. ‘Let’s go.’
The walk back was brisk, and Anna had only got halfway through the story of her German exchange who had insisted on dressing up her dog by the time they reached Whewell’s. They stopped in the little courtyard where Anna would go left and Billy right.
‘The double glazing of these walls gets me every time.’ She smiled at him. ‘It can be as loud as anything outside and then as soon as you step through the door all the noise just goes.’
‘Can I kiss you?’
Now Anna had been asked this before. By tall boys who had smiled at her meaningfully. But Billy was looking at her frankly and steadily, and her first instinct was to laugh and look away. But then she remembered why she’d agreed to the date in the first place, how she was tired of boys who didn’t seem to listen when she talked and how Billy seemed different – intense, yes, and odd, but also somehow decent… This thinking time on her part, however, had understandably read as a no, and had earned her a rueful smile from Billy.
‘Night Anna. I hope your dog didn’t – ’ when she leaned in and kissed him, and in the process changed the course of Billy Franklin’s life forever.
Find out what happened next here