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That day he took me as far as Bray, to show off the car, and we tore through the lanes with Derek doing quite unnecessary racing changes on the flattest curves. Sitting so near the ground, even at fifty-one felt as if one was doing at least a hundred, and to begin with I clutched on to the safety grip on the dashboard and hoped for the best.

But Derek was a good driver and I soon got confidence in him and controlled my trembles. He took me to a fearfully smart place, the Hotel de Paris, and we had smoked salmon, which cost extra, and roast chicken and ice cream and then he hired an electric canoe from the boat-house next door and we chugged sedately up-river and under Maidenhead Bridge and found a little backwater, just this side of Cookham Lock, where Derek rammed the canoe far in under the branches.

He had brought a portable gramophone with him and I scrambled down to his end of the canoe and we sat and later lay side by side and listened to the records and watched a small bird hopping about in the network of branches over our heads.

It was a beautiful, drowsy afternoon and we kissed but didn't go any further and I felt reassured that Derek didn't after all think I was 'easy'. Later the midges came and we nearly upset the canoe trying to get it out of the creek backwards, but then we were going fast down-river with the current and there were a lot of other boats with couples and families in them, but I was quite certain we looked the gayest and handsomest of everyone. We drove back and went down to Eton and had scrambled eggs and coffee in a place called The Thatched House that Derek knew about and then he suggested we should go to the cinema.

The Royalty Kinema was on Farquhar Street, one of the small streets leading down from the Castle towards the Ascot road. It was a meagre-looking place, showing two Westerns, a cartoon and so-called 'News' that consisted of what the Queen had been doing a month ago. I realized why Derek had chosen it when he paid twelve shillings for a box. There was one on each side of the projection room, about six feet square, dark and with two chairs, and as soon as we went in Derek pulled his chair close to me and began kissing and feeling me.

At first I thought, Oh, God! Is this where he brings them? But after a bit I sort of melted and then his hands were slowly exploring me and they were gentle and seemed to know, and then they were there and I hid my face against his shoulder and bit my lip with the exquisite tingle and then it was all over and I was flooded with warmth and tears came by themselves out of my eyes and wet the collar of his shirt.

He kissed me gently and whispered that he loved me and that I was the most wonderful girl in the world. But I sat up and away from him and dabbed at my eyes and tried to watch the film and reflected that I had lost my virginity, or some kind of virginity, and that now he would never respect me again. But then the interval came and he bought me an ice and put his arm round the back of my chair and whispered that it was being the most wonderful day of his life and that we must have the same day over and over again.

And I told myself not to be silly. That this was just petting. Everybody did it, and anyway it had been rather marvellous and it wasn't as if I would get a baby or anything.

Besides, boys wanted to pet and if I didn't do it with him he would find some other girl who would. So when the lights went out again and his hands came back it seemed natural that they should go to my breasts and that excited me. Then his breath came panting against my neck and he said, 'Oh, Baby! He drove me back to catch the last train for London and we arranged to meet at the same time on the next Saturday and he stood and waved for as long as I could see him under the yellow lights of that darling little station and so our real love-affair began.

It was always the same, with perhaps different places for luncheon and high tea, the river, the gramophone, the little box in the cinema, but now there was added the extra thrill of the physical side and always, in the boat, the car, the cinema, our hands were on each other's bodies, more lingering, more expert as the endless summer drew on into September.

In my memory of those days the sun is always shining and the willows dip into water as limpid clear as the sky. Swans ride in the shadows of the poplars and swallows dip and skim as the Thames slips down from Queens Eyot, past Boveney Lock and Coocoo Weir, where we used to bathe, and on down the long stretch through Brocas meadows towards Windsor Bridge.

It surely must have rained, there must have been noisy holiday-makers crowding our river, there must have been clouds in our private skies, but if there were I can't remember them.

The weeks slipped by like the river, sparkling, luminous, full of enchantment. And then came the last Saturday of September and, though till then we had ignored the fact, a new chapter had to be opened.

Susan was coming back to the flat on Monday, I had the chance of a job, and Derek was going up to Oxford. We pretended it would all be the same. I would explain to Susan and there would be weekends when I could go to Oxford or Derek come up to London.

We didn't discuss our affair. It was obvious that it would go on. Derek had talked vaguely of my meeting his parents, but he had never pressed it and on our Saturdays together there were always so many better things to do. Perhaps I thought it rather odd that Derek seemed to have no time for me during the week, but he played a lot of cricket and tennis and had hosts of friends all of whom he said were a bore. I didn't want to get mixed up in this side of his life, at any rate not for the present.

I was happy to have him absolutely to myself for our one day a week. I didn't want to share him with a crowd of other people who would anyway make me shy. So things were left very much in the air, and I just didn't look beyond the next Saturday. That day Derek was particularly affectionate and in the evening he took me to the Bridge Hotel and we had three rounds of gins and tonics, though usually we hardly drank at all. And then he insisted on champagne for dinner and by the time we got to our little cinema we were both rather tight.

I was glad, because it would make me forget that tomorrow would mean the turning of a new page and the breaking up of all our darling routines. But when we got into our little box, Derek was morose. He didn't take me in his arms as usual but sat a little away from me and smoked and watched the film.

I came close to him and took his hand, but he just sat and looked straight in front of him. I asked him what was the matter. After a moment he said obstinately, 'I want to sleep with you.

Properly, I mean. It was his rough tone of voice. We had talked about it of course, but it was always agreed, more or less, that this would come 'later'. Now I used the same old arguments, but I was nervous and upset. Why did he have to spoil our last evening?

He argued back, fiercely. I was being a hard-boiled virgin. It was bad for him. Anyway, we were lovers, so why not behave like lovers? I said I was frightened of getting a baby. He said that was easy. There were things he could wear. But why now? I argued. We couldn't do it here. Oh yes we could. There was plenty of room.

And he wanted to do it before he went up to Oxford. It would sort of, sort of marry us. Tremulously I considered this. Perhaps there was something in it. It would be a kind of seal on our love. But I was frightened. Hesitantly I said had he got one of these 'things'? He said no, but there was an all-night chemist and he would go and download one.

And he kissed me and got up eagerly and walked out of the box. I sat and stared dully at the screen. Now I couldn't refuse him! He would come back and it would be messy and horrible in this filthy little box in this filthy little back-street cinema and it was going to hurt and he would despise me afterwards for giving in. I had an instinct to get up and run out and down to the station and take the next train back to London. But that would make him furious.

It would hurt his vanity. I wouldn't be being 'a sport', and the rhythm of our friendship, so much based on us both 'having fun', would be wrecked. And, after all, was it fair on him to hold this back from him? Perhaps it really was bad for him not to be able to do it properly.

And, after all, it had to happen sometime. One couldn't choose the perfect moment for that particular thing. No girl ever seemed to enjoy the first time. Perhaps it would be better to get it over with. Anything not to make him angry! Anything better than the danger of wrecking our love!

The door opened and there was a brief shaft of light from the lobby. Then he was beside me, breathless and excited. There was a girl behind the counter. I didn't know what to call it. I finally said, "One of those things for not having babies. You know. She asked me what quality. I said the best of course. I almost thought she was going to ask "What size? I giggled feebly back. Better to 'be a sport'!

Better not to make a drama out of it! Nowadays nobody did. It would make it all so embarrassing, particularly for him. His preliminary love-making was so perfunctory it almost made me cry. Then he pushed his chair to the back of the box and took off his coat and laid it down on the wooden floor.

When he told me to, I lay down on it and he knelt beside me. He said to put my feet up against the front of the box and I did, and I was so cramped and uncomfortable that I said, 'No, Derek! Not here! And then the world fell in! There was suddenly a great gush of yellow light and a furious voice said from above and behind me, 'What the hell do you think you're doing in my cinema?

Get up, you filthy little swine. Derek was standing, his face white as a sheet. I scrambled to my feet, banging against the wall of the box.


I stood there, waiting to be killed, waiting to be shot dead. The black silhouette in the doorway pointed at my bag on the floor with the white scrap of my pants beside it. The manager banged the door of the box shut and got in front of us, thinking, I suppose, that we might make a run for it. Two or three people had seeped out of the back seats into the foyer.

The whole audience must have heard the manager's voice. Had the seats below us heard the whole thing, the argument, the pause, then Derek's instructions what to do? I shuddered. The ticket woman had come out of her box and one or two passersby, who had been examining the programme, gazed in from under the cheap coloured lights over the entrance. The manager was a plump, dark man with a tight suit and a flower in his buttonhole. His face was red with rage as he looked us up and down.

You're nothing better than a common prostitute. I've a damned good mind to call the police. Indecent exposure. Disturbing the peace. He must have used them often before in his sleazy little house of private darkness.

He was looking at Derek. Only the Henley-Oxford road. At the back,' he added weakly. My mouth was dry. I swallowed. I gaped hopelessly at him. I remembered Chelsea. The manager snapped his book shut.

Get out of here both of you. We edged nervously past him and he followed us, still pointing. I know you both! You ever show up again, I'll have the police on you! I took Derek's arm why didn't he take mine?

We didn't stop until we got to a side street and we went in there and slowly started to work our way back to where the MG was parked up the hill from the cinema. Derek didn't say a word until we were getting close to the car. Then he said, matter-of-factly, 'Mustn't let them get the number. I'll go and get her, and pick you up opposite Fullers on Windsor Hill. I stood and watched him go, the tall, elegant figure that was once more proud and upright, and then I turned and went back to where a lane led up parallel with Farquhar Street towards the Castle.

I found that I still had my pants crushed in my hand. I put them in my bag. The open bag made me think of my appearance. I stopped under a street-light and took out my mirror. I looked dreadful. My face was so white it was almost green, and my eyes belonged to a hunted animal. My hair stuck up at the back where it had been rumpled by the floor and my mouth was smeared by Derek's kisses. All of me felt unclean, degraded, sinful.

What would happen to us? Would the man check on the addresses and put the police on us? Someone would certainly remember us from today or from other Saturdays. Someone would remember the number of Derek's car, some little boy who collected car numbers. There was always some Nosey Parker at the scene of a crime. Yes, of course it was, one of the worst in puritan England--sex, nakedness, indecent exposure. I imagined what the manager must have seen when Derek got up from me.

I shivered with disgust. But now Derek would be waiting for me. My hands had automatically been tidying my face. I gave it a last look. It was the best I could do. I hurried on up the street and turned down Windsor Hill, hugging the wall, expecting people to turn and point.

Opposite Fullers, a policeman was standing by Derek's car, arguing with him. Derek turned and saw me. I said she wouldn't be a minute. Had to, er, powder her nose. Didn't you, darling? More lies!

I said yes, breathlessly, and climbed into the seat beside Derek. The policeman grinned slyly at me, and said to Derek, 'All right, sir. But another time remember there's no parking on the Hill. Even for an emergency like that. Derek put the car in gear, thanked the policeman and gave him the wink of a dirty joke shared, and we were off at last.

Derek said nothing until we had turned right at the lights at the bottom. I thought he was going to drop me at the station, but he continued on along the Datchet road. Thought we were for it. Nice thing for my parents to read in the paper tomorrow. And Oxford! I should have had it. The path of true love and all that. He had recovered. When would I? There's an hour before the train. Why don't we walk up along the river.

It's a well-known beat for Windsor couples. Absolutely private. Pity to waste everything, time and so on, now we've made up our minds. I was aghast. I said urgently, 'Oh, but I can't, Derek!

I simply can't! You've no idea how awful I feel about what happened. You feeling ill or something? It's just that, that it was all so horrible. So shaming. Come on. Be a sport! But I did want to be comforted, feel his arms round me, be certain he still loved me, although everything had gone so wrong for him. But my legs began to tremble at the thought of going through it all again. I clutched my knees with my hands to control them.

I said weakly, 'Oh, well He helped me over a stile into a field and put his arm round me and guided me along the little towpath past some house-boats moored under the willows. Lovely double bed. Probably some drink in the cupboards. For heaven's sake! There's been enough trouble.

Are you the owners of this boat? Come on out and let's have a look at you. Anyway the grass is just as soft. Aren't you excited?

You'll see. It's wonderful. Then we'll really be lovers. But you will be gentle, won't you? I shan't be any good at it the first time. I'll show you. It was lovely walking with him in the moonlight. But there was a grove of trees ahead and I looked at it fearfully. I knew that would be where it was going to happen. I must, I must make it easy and good for him!

I mustn't be silly! I mustn't cry! The path led through the grove. Derek looked about him. Keep your head down. Sure enough, there was a little clearing. Other people had been there before. There was a cigarette packet, a Coca-Cola bottle.

The moss and leaves had been beaten down. I had the feeling that this was a brothel bed where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lovers had pressed and struggled. But now there was no turning back. At least it must be a good place for it if so many others had used it. Derek was eager, impatient. He put his coat down for me and at once started, almost feverishly, his hands devouring me.

I tried to melt, but my body was still cramped with nerves and my limbs felt like wood. I wished he would say something, something sweet and loving, but he was intent and purposeful, manhandling me almost brutally, treating me as if I was a big clumsy doll. I could hear the deep bass of 'Hoppy' Jones and the sweet soprano counterpoint of Bill Kenny, so piercingly sweet that it tore at the heartstrings. And underneath, the deep pulse-beat of Charlie Fuqua's guitar.

The tears squeezed out of my eyes. Oh, God, what was happening to me? And then the sharp pain and the short scream I quickly stifled and he was lying on top of me, his chest heaving and his heart beating heavily against my breast. I put my arms round him and felt his shirt wet against my hands. We lay like that for long minutes. I watched the moonlight filtering down through the branches, and tried to stop my tears.

So that was it! The great moment. A moment I would never have again. So now I was a woman and the girl was gone!

Simon R. Green bibliography

And there had been no pleasure, only pain like they all said. But there remained something. This man in my arms. I held him more tightly to me.

I was his now, entirely his, and he was mine. He would look after me. We belonged. Now I would never be alone again. There were two of us. Derek kissed my wet cheek and scrambled to his feet. He held out his hands and I pulled down my skirt and he hauled me up. He looked into my face and there was embarrassment in his half-smile. But was it all right for you? He looked at his watch. Only a quarter of an hour for the train! We'd better get moving. Derek walked silently beside me.

His face under the moon was now closed, and when I put my arm through his there was no answering pressure. I wished he would be loving, talk about our next meeting, but I could feel that he was suddenly withdrawn, cold.

I hadn't got used to men's faces after they've done it. I blamed myself. It hadn't been good enough. And I had cried. I had spoiled it for him. We came to the car, and drove silently to the station. I stopped him at the entrance. Under the yellow light his face was taut and strained and his eyes only half met mine. I said, 'Don't come to the train, darling. I can find my way. The Aeronaut's Windlass. Son of the Black Sword. Pocket Apocalypse.

Pushing Luck. The Diamond Conspiracy. Philippa Ballantine. A Red-Rose Chain. Armageddon Rules. Night Fall. Simon R. Deathstalker Legacy. Twilight of the Empire.

Hex and the City. Simon Green. A Hard Day's Knight. Deathstalker Destiny. Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth. The Unnatural Inquirer. Once In a Blue Moon. Paths Not Taken. Nightingale's Lament. Daemons Are Forever. The Bride Wore Black Leather. The Bones of Haven. Deathstalker Rebellion. Drinking Midnight Wine. Mean Streets. Beyond the Blue Moon. The Swords of Haven.

Blood and Honor. Down Among the Dead Men. Blue Moon Rising. Ghost of a Chance. Something from the Nightside. Casino Infernale. Agents of Light and Darkness. Dark Side of the Road, The. From a Drood to a Kill. The Guards of Haven. For Heaven's Eyes Only. The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny. Dead Man Walking. Ghost of a Smile.

Ghost of a Dream. Deathstalker War. Spirits From Beyond. Just Another Judgement Day. From Hell With Love. Very Important Corpses. Hell to Pay. Walking In the Midst of Fire. Low Midnight. Chaos Choreography. Seanan McGuire. Elliott James. A Mindspace Investigations Novella Book 4. Alex C. Crucible Steele. Alex P. Monster Hunter Nemesis. Larry Correia. Jim C. In Shining Armor. Fine Blue Steele. Rob Thurman. The Demonists. Broken Souls.

Stephen Blackmoore. Alien in Chief. Gini Koch. The Ghost Rebellion. Pip Ballantine. Kris Longknife: Mike Shepherd. Kevin Hearne. In the House of the Wicked. The Future Falls. Tanya Huff.

Wish Bound. Infernal Games. The Wrong Dead Guy. The Aeronaut's Windlass. Son of the Black Sword. Pocket Apocalypse. Pushing Luck. The Diamond Conspiracy. Philippa Ballantine. Once Broken Faith. A Red-Rose Chain. Armageddon Rules. Night Fall.

Simon R. Deathstalker Legacy. Twilight of the Empire. Live and Let Drood. Hex and the City. Simon Green. A Hard Day's Knight. Deathstalker Destiny. Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth. The Unnatural Inquirer. Once In a Blue Moon.

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