Firsts and Lasts by Georgina Perry


Double maths.

Mr Evans burst into the classroom. “Thatcher’s out!”

Instinctively we cheered.

None of us knew exactly who Thatcher was but we knew it was good.

“This is a moment in history.” Evans rolled out each word with the majesty of the valleys and the heart of the underclass. He stopped his speech as another teacher opened the classroom door and gave Evans a nod. But not just any nod, a special nod, a gesture that was so sure and so definite that it was perfection in itself.  Somehow we shared that moment too, we felt what they felt, even though we didn’t understand a thing.  We were eleven years old.

What was this revolution going on around us?

Inside we were bubbling with unleashed hysterics.

At that moment I don’t think Evans would have cared if all thirty of us had taken to the tables and crooned to the sky gods. Schools are delicate eco-systems built on a combination of routine and symmetry; the slightest change can flatten what had taken months to mould into shape. The morning electricity seemed to leap from child to child and no one gave a toss.

The frivolity continued into the afternoon: class projects were abandoned, photos taken, On this Day accounts dictated. In French, verb tables were hurled out the window; in science we made flags. Meanwhile the teachers huddled in groups in the TV room watching the events unfold – even Ronson, the class liability, knew not to bother injuring himself that day.

There was a carnal feeling in the air that floated us all home that night. No one could quite put their finger on it, but it pulsated somewhere in the ether, knocking over to youth club that evening. As I arrived the doors flung open, Rogers, Stagg and Jones fell over each other and down the steps laughing breathlessly. Before I could go in, a group of fifth year girls followed them out hawking excitedly, then trouped in the opposite direction lighting fags.

There wasn’t much of note about youth club, except it had no windows – boarded up like no one should go in and no one should ever leave. In the summer the older girls hung around on the strip of walls either side of the entrance judging you as you walked though their airless tunnel.

But this wasn’t summer, this was winter: this was the day Thatcher went and nothing was normal – everyone was outside playing tag on the back field, as if we were still enjoying those lengthy bright evenings. Those who weren’t playing tag lurked by the gate consuming the edge of the chaos that had spread across our tiny worlds.

And me, I was inside, at the top end of the building where the youth workers dolled out penny sweets until home-time. It was usually me and to Sammy – the other girl who hung out alone – but she was too sad even for me to stay with. She leaned on the white table that always had a pool of sticky cola on it.

 “Want to play?” she said squinting awkwardly.

I stuffed my mouth with a giant shoelace, muttered in a minute and left the room. I walked down the corridor looking, as I always did, for somewhere comfortable to be, somewhere where I didn’t feel noticeable for the wrong reasons, where I couldn’t feel my blood pumping through my veins, where my knuckles weren’t shining white.

Away from there, trying to find where the hell the party had gone, why I was always half a step behind the world. Down to the games room at the other end of the building; empty but for the pool table with the ripped D-circle, and the table football with a missing centre forward. And Carter.

Foul, farty Carter. Fingernails always black. Carter who looked at you funny, in a way that no one else did. In a way I didn’t understand but liked it even though I knew shouldn’t.

He was holding the cue stick staring at the pool table; then he was staring at me.

 “Want to play?”

 “OK,” I said.

I walked over to take the cue, but he didn’t release it.

I pulled at the stick again not sure if I should.

Then the stick was on the floor and he was holding me, pushing me round so I was against the pool table and he was against me, and no one was against him apart from the nudge of the vast room that had, at that moment, tripled in size, leaving just me and farty Carter as specks of dust in the middle of the world.

It was like something out of a film that we were too young to watch.

Me and Carter and his crusty, farty face.

Then his mouth opened as wide as it could, like he was silently screaming towards my face until his face was clamped over mine. After a second I realised that this was kissing and tried to kiss back but was overwhelmed by the slur of his saliva and his fat tongue soaking my lips, the inside of my cheeks, the outside of my cheeks, my hair, my neck, my face.

Wet, bound and confusing, and as Carter continued to consume my face, I wondered whether life got better than this.

Georgina Perry is a writer who lives in Yorkshire, England.  She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester.  Her non-fiction work has been published in The Guardian and broadcast on the BBC World Service.  She had had plays performed at the Leeds International Festival, and at the 24/7 Theatre Festival and The Contact Theatre both in Manchester.  She is a member of the Todmorden Writers’ Collective