January 5th

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January 5th

14 years ago today, a girl got on a train. She had a duffel bag that was almost bigger than she was, trying her best to manoeuvre her way through the big London station with her Dad and Grandfather. They’d come to see her off. To say goodbye to their little girl, who was fast becoming a big girl. Such a big girl in fact, she was about to embark on the biggest journey she would ever go on, aged just 17.

As she waited for the train, she spotted a guy that she’d noticed at the very first station on her journey. He was kinda cute, that’s why she’d noticed him. Dark hair and dark eyes, with a cheeky smile that made her giggle when he flashed it in her direction. She smiled back. To her delight, he picked up his equally large duffel bag and started walking over to her.

“Hi, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but it looks like we came from the same place and we might be heading to the same place too.”

He pointed to the duffel bag while she amazed at the brass balls of this guy who’d come over to talk to her even though she’d been stood on the platform with her dad and her grandfather, neither of which were particularly small men.

It turned out the pair were heading in the same direction, and they had come from the same starting point too. Girl, 17 and boy, 18 were on their way to start Royal Navy basic training. They were potential future artificer apprentices. Both of them were too excited for words.

They waved goodbye to her family, laughing and chatting, eagerly awaiting the moment they boarded the next and final train together. They’d only known each for half an hour or so, but there was an undeniable frisson of excitement between them. So much so, in fact, that the two naughty, secret beers on the five-hour journey had made them a little mischievous. Flirty and mischievous. She had a boyfriend (The Fireman) and wasn’t aware of his relationship status, but she liked him. He was funny and cute. To say she quite fancied him would have been an understatement.

A five-hour train journey later, plus a half an hour bus ride after that, they found themselves grabbing their duffel bags once again, right in the middle of a parade square. They hugged each other goodbye to go their separate ways at the exact moment that some official man in uniform came around the corner.

“Separate yourselves IMMEDIATELY!”

If anyone could have been told off for “fraternising” within thirty seconds of being on a naval base, it was definitely her. That was the kind of thing she did.

Closer and closer they became over the next eight or so weeks, stealing kisses in dark corners, watching other new couples get caught and given a good telling-off for their not-allowed behaviour. The fact that it wasn’t allowed just made it all the more exciting for them both, and although they didn’t fuck, they fooled around a lot. More than anyone really knew about, despite the rumours that circulated.

The night before she was due to leave, the seven girls that she shared a bedroom with made themselves scarce, keeping watch as he snuck into her dorm room. The two of them got down to some hardcore making out on the bed. The ‘lookout ladies’ clearly weren’t doing the best job of keeping a careful eye out, as it was within half an hour of smooching that the horny couple were caught, separated once again by a big booming voice.

“IS THAT A FUCKING MAN ON YOUR BED?” 

She was going to have a hard time explaining that one away. There was one dorm for the boys and another for the girls. It wasn’t like she could just say that he got lost, especially as they’d snuck him in through the fire escape.

He got written-up for his behaviour, of course. I mean, he clambered up the fire escape stairs under the cover of darkness, to sneak into the girls’ dorm room, with every intention of going however far it went on the bed with her name on it.

She got away with it. She’d already handed in her paperwork to leave, the decision made following a family crisis. A decision she regretted for a very long too, it must be said. It made no sense to fill out the paperwork for her. She was leaving in less than eight hours, never to be seen again.

A few weeks later, she did see him again, ditching the boyfriend she’d originally been tied to. She travelled up with the Sailor’s family to see him “pass in” — to become the man in naval uniform she’d always dreamed of bedding. That same weekend she went to see his parade, they slept together for the first time, escaping from the rest of his family in the pub for half an hour and heading down to the beach. It was littered with little fishing boats. They chose a blue and white one. One that wasn’t quite hit with the lights along the beachfront path. He put his coat down so that she could lie down on it, and she pulled down her jeans as he rolled on a condom. Fifteen drunk and fumbling minutes and sandy knees later, they lay down side by side, half covered by the tiny cockpit area, half staring at the stars above them. For a couple of teens, it was actually pretty romantic.

The relationship lasted a while longer. A few months, perhaps? It wasn’t long before she found herself back in the arms (and bed) of the boyfriend she’d once ditched for her Sailor Boy. She never forgot about that time in the boat though. Or that period of her life. She no longer regrets the decisions she made at the time. What’s the point in that now?

*****

Sailor Boy, Number 39, will know who he is if he ever reads this. Not that I imagine he will. But, just in case he does, I just have a few things that I wanted to say:

I’ve always wondered, you know? Just wondered what-if? What-if you weren’t drunk all the time? I remember that being a major factor in our breakup. To be fair, I was drunk all the time too. I don’t really remember us breaking up either. I just remember really hungover mornings in two pushed-together single beds at my Nan’s house, eating a greasy fry-up because that was her “magic” solution to the big post-drinkathon problem. More often than not, the greasy food would make me vomit and I’d always feel better after that. I guess, in theory, it worked. It really was the magic solution to the post-drinkathon problem.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well. Really well. I tried to hunt you down on social media a few times, but I can’t remember your last name which really doesn’t help. I just remember a first name and a smile. A cheeky smile. That cheeky smile on the platform of the London train station that flashes back to me sometimes when I least expect it.

I hope you’re happy. Maybe with a wife and a couple of kids on whom you dote? I hope you carried on with your naval journey, a life on the ocean waves, going as far as you could go and reaching for the stars.

Thanks for the memories, Sailor Boy. It sure was fun! xo 

January 5th

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