‘No one must ever know,’ Tony said firmly, looking directly into Claire’s eyes and gently tucking a stray piece of hair back into her pigtail. ‘I love you and I want to show you just how much.’ As Claire stared back into Tony’s earnest face, his moustache twitching ever so slightly and his gaze almost burning through her, she suddenly felt lost for words. She couldn’t make out all the new feelings that were coursing through her. She didn’t think this felt right, but then again, this might be how right feels? She felt wanted and attractive for the first time in her life and, although it was confusing, it was also exciting and she believed him when he told her she was special.
Most of her school friends were already sexually active, with some having lost their virginity as young as eleven years old. Claire had been secretly horrified to learn this fact when she had first started at secondary school and had made a promise to herself that she wouldn’t be so easily persuaded. Her parents didn’t say much on the subject, but when they did it was always profound; and her father’s words about boys only wanting girls for experience at that age made sense and made her even more determined to wait for someone special.
Standing under the trees next to Tony’s bright blue Ford Escort, listening to his declaration of love, Claire truly believed he was that special someone. She loved being with him, and he seemed to need her which made her feel important. With him having married into the family; Claire trusted Tony to look after her, so she felt absolutely sure when she said she wanted him too.
‘We must do it right, though,’ Tony said matter-of-factly. ‘The first thing you need to do is get yourself on the pill. We can’t risk any unwanted surprises, that would ruin everything, and what we have is too precious. Remember, this is our special secret, just the two of us, in our little love world.’
As he gently pulled her towards him and embraced her, Claire’s legs felt wobbly and unstable. ‘Have you ever French kissed before?’ he asked softly.
‘No,’ she whispered, suddenly feeling her young age.
Before Claire knew what was happening, Tony’s lips were on hers, his mouth parted and his tongue was gently exploring the inside of her mouth. His moustache rubbed against her skin feeling both soft and scratchy with the slight movements of his head. Not really sure what to do, Claire poked her tongue back into his mouth and moved it about a bit. A pang of anxiety sprung into her mind; was this right? Would he think she’s just a silly little girl and stop loving her? It felt nice, though, to be in a grown-up man’s arms; it made her feel grown-up. French kissing felt lovely and she didn’t want it to stop. She decided, then and there, she would go to the doctor and get her pills as soon as she could.
It made Claire happy to please Tony. It always had since the first time her older cousin, Louise, had introduced him at a barbeque her nan had helped to organise at the church she attended. Claire had been eight years old at the time and had taken immense delight in Tony bothering to play football and skipping with all the kids, as the grown-ups typically didn’t want to know. Tony had recently had his twentieth birthday and made a point of declaring that just because he wasn’t a teenager any more, it didn’t mean he had to stop having fun. Her younger brother, Peter, had been a tiny baby then and Louise was more interested in cuddling him and talking babies with Claire’s mum. A year later, Claire’s little sister, Lucy, was born so Louise wanted to visit as much as possible.
Claire loved it when Tony and Louise came to visit and, equally, when she went with her mum to visit them, as it was always guaranteed to be fun. Tony was brilliant at playing and came up with excellent games. Some of them involved him chasing and tickling her until she almost burst with laughter when he caught her, and other times he would sit and play snap or board games with her while her mum dealt with the little ones.
At some point over the last six years, Tony and Louise had married in secret which annoyed her mum and auntie but cemented Tony firmly in the family. He gradually became an integral part of Claire’s life and, more recently, a confidant as well. Her parents always seemed to be busy, running around after the two little ones, or glued to their TV programmes, so she never felt she could sit and talk to either of them. They pretty much left her to her own devices and, once she had started at secondary school, she was regarded as being responsible for herself and making her own decisions. So, it was Tony who took the time to sit and listen to her. He would find opportunities every visit to ask how she was when everyone else was preoccupied and squeeze her hand discreetly while she talked. He constantly reassured her that she could trust him not to repeat anything she told him, and she believed him.
Her parents were not ones for showing affection, either to each other or to her, so being hugged and touched by this man, whom she trusted and knew was looking after her, felt reassuring and safe. Tony loved her and Claire knew she was special because it was a secret between the two of them; no one else in the whole world knew.
Claire felt hugely rewarded on seeing the absolute pleasure in Tony’s eyes when she told him, a week later, that she had got her contraceptive pills and was just waiting for her period so she could start taking them.
‘That’s brilliant, sweetheart. I love you so much. I can’t wait to hold you close and show you what loving someone really means,’ he whispered into her ear meaningfully. Claire couldn’t wait either; she was elated that the thought of being with her in that way made him so happy.
Hanging out with her school friends the next night, she silently observed the boys mucking about on their bikes. They were in the concrete service area of the big council estate where most of them lived, which had become the main meeting place and acted almost as a youth club. Someone had brought along their ghetto blaster and was playing a Duran Duran cassette as loud as it could go until the batteries ran out. A large group of teenage kids regularly hung out there. Tonight the boys were doing wheelie races on their bikes and counting how many times each of them fell off, laughing at the ones who had fallen the most. They seemed so immature in comparison to her man. They wouldn’t know what love was, even though most of them had boasted about losing their virginity and rated their ‘girlfriends’ on how much ‘stuff’ they would do.
The girls, on the other hand, were sitting along the low surrounding wall, all heavily made-up and wearing extremely revealing outfits; cheering on whichever boy happened to be their boyfriend that week and making all sorts of unbecoming promises about what they would do to them if they won. Claire was inwardly disgusted at some of the things the girls came out with, but never voiced her opinion. She was ridiculed enough already. A few of the boys had nicknamed her ‘Snow White’ and she was regularly accused of being ‘frigid’ by both the boys and girls.
Claire had often sat deep in thought about her views and feelings on these matters as she seemed so different from the rest of the kids. She didn’t wear much make-up and had no money for new clothes. All of her clothes were second hand, either given to her by Louise or from jumble sales. Her parents didn’t work, due to supposed ill health, so her family lived on benefits, the same as a lot of kids on the estate; but she already knew this wasn’t the path she would choose. There seemed so much more the world had to offer, and she wanted stories to tell her children when she, hopefully, had them later in life. The thought of becoming a parent at such a young age filled her with horror but, again, she daren’t admit this to her friends as she would be seen to insult them. A lot of the girls already had ambitions of getting pregnant as soon as they were sixteen so they could get a council flat, and mocked her for actually wanting a career.
Being teased was part of the culture of the estate kids. Some days it seemed you couldn’t say anything without someone lambasting you the second you opened your mouth, and then having the whole group laughing in your face. Claire felt like she was on the receiving end of this more than most. She was ridiculed for what she wore, what she said, and for being the only one who didn’t smoke as well as being a virgin, even though she was still only fourteen. To deal with this, she had developed a thick skin and a habit of inwardly responding with comments voiced inside her head without actually saying them out loud. This made her feel like she had the last say without provoking further teasing.
Waiting for the next week to come round, when she would see Tony again, felt like years. He had become the sole focus of her life. She couldn’t concentrate in school and was constantly daydreaming, always about him, although she dare not doodle his name on her jotter like other girls did with their boyfriends.
When she was finally alone with him again, the anticipation of more French kissing was almost overwhelming, which made the next thing he said hit like a thunderbolt through her heart. ‘You must find a boy your own age to have sex with first. It wouldn’t be right for you to lose your virginity to me.’
Completely shocked, Claire sat for a minute not knowing what to say. When she found her voice, she started to protest, telling Tony she only wanted him and no one else but was silenced by his finger placed over her lips. ‘We need to do this the right way, for it to feel right, sweetheart. You know lots of boys, don’t you? You are so beautiful, I’m sure one of them would be very happy if you offered. I think it’s best we don’t see each other until after you’ve had your cherry popped.’
She looked at him in amazement, the disappointment and confusion running riot around her head. Feeling like her heart had just dropped through the ground she went to speak but he wrapped his arms around her, held her tightly and started telling her that it was going to be beautiful and special, that she made him so happy, and no one else had ever made him feel like this, not even Louise. Pacified with the comfort of his arms and words, Claire started wondering who on earth she could lose her virginity to. She only knew the immature boys at school who viewed her as boring and frigid.
Over the next week, while she was mucking about at break times, Claire took a bit more notice of the boys. There seemed to be something wrong with each of them. They were either smelly, spotty or had a tendency to act like a prat. One boy, however, had a cheeky smile that he shyly appeared to direct at her. She found this quite cute and thought that, out of all of them, he would be the one she would focus her attentions on. He had a girlfriend, though, and it wasn’t the thing to do to try and steal a boy from one of the girls, she would never live it down.
Within the group, there was always lots of suggestion and flirting that she had never previously entered into. However, Claire found herself catching the boy’s eye a lot over the next few days and made a few cheeky comments back to him when he directed something at her.
After nearly two weeks of flirting he asked her, ‘If I dumped my girlfriend would you be my next girlfriend?’ This was dangerous territory, she would have a whole gang of girls after her if they thought she was the reason one of their friends had been dumped but, then again, she needed to do this so she could be with Tony and make him happy.
Having not committed to the girlfriend question, Claire made a suggestive comment instead about ‘testing him out first’. She met him, as planned, after school the next day. It was handy that both his parents worked so at least they had a bed and privacy.
The kissing part was a complete let down in comparison to the kiss she had shared with Tony. Her legs didn’t go wobbly and his tongue was prodding and jabbing around in her mouth. As she lay on the bed with her legs open, watching him position himself, she braced herself as he slid his penis into her. It didn’t hurt as much as her friends had said it would, but it wasn’t the electrifying experience she had read about either. She lay still as he buried his head in her shoulder and thrust for a few minutes before ejaculating and rolling off her looking pleased with himself. He picked his underpants up from the floor and started wiping himself down with them. Claire felt a little disgusted but assumed this must be normal. As she stood up, she felt a dribble running down her leg and looked around for something to clean herself with. Laughing, he threw his pants at her and said, ‘Use these; they need to be washed anyway.’
Claire went home feeling very mixed up. She wasn’t a virgin any more but felt disenchanted by the whole thing. The first time was supposed to be special, to be remembered forever. She had wanted her first time to be with Tony, not a boy from school. She let her imagination fast forward to when she would tell Tony she had ‘done it’ and could picture the joy on his face. It felt so good to please him. He would give her lots of praise and affection and then she could make love with him properly. She would pretend in her head that it was her first time, and erase the boy from school from her memory.