TO THE POOL WITH BENEDICT.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A BOY AND GIRL IN 1950S LONDON A TRIP TO A SWIMMING POOL AND LIFE

Submitted: November 13, 2013

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Submitted: November 13, 2013

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Lydia opens the front door of the flat with a towel under her arm and rushes into the Square to look for Benedict. He isn't there. Maybe he's in his flat upstairs, she wonders, and crosses over to his block and climbs the concrete stairs. She knocks at his door and his mother answers and says that he is out someplace, she wasn't sure where. Lydia says thank you and ok and  walks slowly down the stairs trying to think where he might be. Once out in the Square again , the morning sunshine on her head, the fresh air there, she walks on and  down the slope and over Rockingham Street and up Meadow Row all the time looking for him. Her lip has stopped bleeding. It feels kind of lumpy. Benedict said he'd get her brother Hemmy for making her lip bleed. She comes to the green grocer shop and stops to look across the bomb site for him. She doesn't like bomb sites on her own. A tramp once tried to grab her and she ran off screaming wondering if he was going to strangle her as her mother said had happened to a little girl who ventured on to a bomb site alone. Now she is nervous. She peers all over the bomb site, over the semi standing houses, the lone walls, the dips where cellars were. She stands with one of her thin hands over her brow to block out the sunlight. He is there, over by a wall, catapulting tin cans off of rocks a distance away. She calls out to him. He turns and waves her over. She stands by him, watching him put a stone in his catapult, draw back the holder and then release it, the stone whizzing through the air and knocking a tin can flying. She holds her hands together in front of her red and black dress. She can feel the rough stones and bricks beneath her feet. He looks at her. Your lip stopped bleeding then? Yes, she says. She feels shy. He looks at her, takes in her red and black dress, her ankle socks. What did your mum say about Bedlam park? He asks. She smiles. She says yes I can and I have brought my swimming costume and towel, she says showing him the towel in her hand. Good, he says. Didn't think she'd say yes, he adds, putting another stone in the catapult and firing at another tin can. She looks at him, at his hair, the way he has it with the quiff, the jeans and shirt. OK, he says, tucking the catapult in his back pocket, we'll go to my place and I'll get my towel and stuff. So they walk back to his flat and she sits in the living room while he went to get a towel from his mother and dig out his swimming trunks. She sits there in the room alone. There is an old TV in the corner on an old radiogram, a table and four chairs by the window, a fire place with a small fire burning despite the warm weather. There is a sense of peace about the room. Unlike her parent's flat where there is a sense of hostility, noise and raised voices or singing about the place. She looks at her plimsolls, dusty, worn. Her ankle socks becoming too small so that her toes push against the cloth. He returns and smiles. Right then, let's be off,and he has a towel and trunks wrapped up inside, and his mother hands him some coins from her purse, and smiles at her, and says be good and enjoy yourselves. Her mother had never said that. Seldom smiles, never speaks softly,mostly bellows. They go down the stairs and out through the Square and down the slope and up Meadow Row and on their way. She tells him her big sister is still snoring, smelling of booze, her clothes scattered all over the place, a pair of underwear hanging from the end of the bed. He listens, takes in her words, how she says it, her tone, senses an anxiety in her speech,watches her hands clutch the towel as they walk along. He knows her sister, sees her go out late at night, dressed up, make up thick, hair in a beehive style, skirt up her backside, as his mother says, high heel shoes. She speaks on about her dad getting up with a lousy head, moaning, wanting his breakfast, smoking, saying her mother was the best thing since Marilyn Monroe, her mother saying nothing giving him the dark glare, anger in the air. They cross under the subway and walk in the surreal arena below ground, Benedict making a weird monkey sound, she laughing, feeling less anxious, unwinding. She echoes words, he laughs, she hears their laughter race along the walls. Out the side they walk along St George's Road. She says her brother Hemmy put a spider in her bed the night before and laughed when she screamed and ran around the room nigh wetting herself with fear. Benedict says he'll get the little git when they get back, shove my fist in his gut, he says, miming it as they walk. She likes him. Feels safe with. He has that self confidence she never has. She moves closer to him, lets her thin hand brush next to his, near but not quite touching. She asks Benedict about his dad, about his job and how he is. Benedict looks at her, gives her a quick once over stare, looks ahead. He's an electric welder, Benedict says, well not him, but the job he does. He made me a blue metal sword a little while ago, he says, so I could be another Ivanhoe or Robin Hood. She listens, holds onto his every word, lets her hand brush closer to his. And a money box of metal, too, he adds, not that I have money long enough to put in it, anyway even if I do, he gets it out and buys cigarettes if he's short of money. Not even his father is perfect, she thinks, stealing his son's money. They pass their junior school, by the church where they have services on certain days of the week. Benedict told her at school one day that he says rude lyrics to hymns when he has to sing. No one notices, he had said. They walk on. He says his parents row. Money mostly, he says, he likes the best: clothes, shoes, cinema tickets, we have to come second. She listens to him, there is a certain warmth in his voice, no bitterness, no rancour. Mum does early morning cleaning in the City, up West, he says, to make the money go around. He talks on, his words like smooth chocolate, she could eat them if they were in her mouth. They enter Bedlam park and walk along the path between the vast areas of grass. Although she's only nine she feels older now, today, being with him, being beside him, he, ten, feels almost ancient in his ways. They walk towards the swimming pool, past the football grounds and tennis courts, by courting couples kissing and lying on the grass, dogs running, kids playing ball. They enter the swimming pool and Benedict pays for two lockers and gets two keys and gives one to Lydia. See you in the pool, he says, she nods, shy, undressing in front of others, others seeing the bruise on her thigh where her brother had kicked her. Benedict goes into the male arena, undresses, puts on his trunks, shoves his clothes into the locker and locks up and puts the key around his wrist. Don't swallow the swimming pool water, some kid says, some girl's pissed.


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