“Do you feel like I feel?” – Belinda Carlisle.
Warning, contains scenes of lust, strong feelings of desire, and abject soppiness.
Hi there girls and boys, I hope you’re well.
Back when I was at school, (the place I never wanted to leave, sigh) I had my first crush, my first kiss, my first experiences. I wasn’t the most outgoing of girls, although in the dorm at night, we were all ..erm.. adventurous. Out in the general world though, I wasn’t too confident. As I’ve mentioned previously, I was taller than anyone else in the school, my mane of blonde hair making me easily seen and noticed. Our teachers, all but one of them nuns, did their best to control what could be a screaming mass of girls and overall did a very good job at educating us. It seemed A levels came for free there. I was good at netball and better at hockey, getting as far to be chosen and being captain for the county on more than one occasion, (and representing Northumberland, playing and scoring against Durham..the irony), but preferred to keep my head down rather than be the sort of girl, you know the ones, the popular type, look at me etc. Here in the UK we don’t have cheerleaders, as we don’t have the college football/basketball thing. Our education system is of a better class than certain others, placing an education on scholastic achievement, rather than “Can you run with this ball?” and a good thing too. There are enough cliques in an educational environment without the added pressure of one that seems to exist to promote air-headedness.
So then, I’m 11, having left my primary school and being persuaded by mum and dad2 to go to a very good school in Newcastle. My primary school was in Durham, so the first thing was the distance to travel. Neither of them could drive so it meant a train and a bus. I was ok with that. But then they told me it was a boarding school, basically I’d be living there during the week. At first I didn’t want to go, but a few trips there to see what is was like and I was sold. The sporting facilities alone were very good, (an actual astroturf hockey pitch!!) the girls all seemed nice, and the dorms were lovely. If I’m romanticising this slightly, then yes, but my primary school wasn’t the best. They tried hard and since growing up I’ve visited many times and keep a good relationship with them. But local council restraints meant they never had the cash to sort out problems with buildings and the like. I’m proud to say we’ve helped raise money for them in the last few years. We didn’t have a field to play on, just a little concrete playground. It’s a lot better now, but I don’t want to claim responsibility for their new football pitch or anything!
Term-time arrived and I was delivered to the school, one of a gaggle of twenty or so noisy little girls, all in their sparkly new uniforms, and hats.. yes, it was one of those type of typically English schools you’ve all seen in movies. Thankfully the hats were phased out, but mine is still here, in a hatbox with other memorabilia, such as my cast from the broken arm I sustained while simply walking down a corridor, (long story), signed by staff and pupils. I can’t say the uniform was sexy. I was eleven so nothing was. Since school though, show me a girl in a uniform and I perk up. Along with the hat, I’ve still got my final year’s uniform, which at a push still fits, although it’s far too short, tight around the hips, and the blouse has seen better days. Still gets worn by some though! I keep promising that I’ll make another up with the sewing machine that sits and glowers at me from the corner of the spare room. “You bought me to make stuff and what have you done? Sewed on a few zips.”
My first year was uneventful. I made friends quickly, the very first of those being two chatty little girls named Abby and Ellie. It seemed as though everyone got on, although hindsight is always poor.
I cried my first night there, but then so did a few others, but after that I began my appreciation of what boarding school was all about. I had friends that were attending “normal” secondary schools in Durham, which for those of you not in the UK is in the next county but only about 20 miles away so its not like I was at the ends of the earth. However, all of my friends from primary school had moved into their own little groups at their own schools, meaning that at weekends my attempts to integrate back into their circle were less and less successful. We were still friendly, you understand, and still am with most of them, but I was beginning to understand the meaning of “posh”. Like it or not, there is a definite class thing going on in the UK. If you attend a private school then you are seen as posh. I really try not to be that way, but sometimes I may come across as that. I would like to think I didn’t act like it, but I suspect I may have been a tad “At my boarding school they don’t do that” sort of thing. Insufferable or what?
It was no surprise then that I stopped meeting most of them and spent more time at my own school for weekends, when my foster parents were away or working, mostly. We spent our time on trips to the surrounding areas. Northumberland has some stunning place to visit and it was here that I think I have my love of the sea from, Amble, Seahouses, Craster, Berwick, all lovely places. I’ve had many a good day walking along to Bamburgh Castle, or on a boat to the Farne Islands.
There were two older girls in our dorm, as was the case in all the dorms. Sophie and Gemma were everything I wanted to be, confident, liked and sexy. I had been envious of Gemma especially, as she had a lovely shape. As you can recall, young girl’s conversations are about only a few things, fashion, boys, and boys. My diaries tell me that I had zero interest in boys, but a growing and confusing liking for girls. This is not the place to explore further those events of that time, suffice to say that after three months of being in this dorm, we were all getting somewhat cuddly.
In my dorm there was Abby, a girl unable to talk quietly, (even now, but being a barrister she has to be able to make herself understood) and more than happy to be the adventurous one. She and I were very … friendly, and still are, but one girl in particular had my attention, the other girl I met on our first day, Ellie. She was from Blyth on the Northumberland coast, but her mum was Indian and had given her daughter a dusky skin shade, big brown eyes, and later, her stunning looks. I can recall having extremely confusing thoughts about her mum, which I later realised was my first crush, as the term goes. Can I admit that she still rings my bell? I’ve discussed this with Ellie a number of times, and she has said that her mum was aware of the strangely shy and quiet girl that sometimes appeared with her daughter at weekends, making big eyes at her. I can vividly remember being 14 and walking with Ellie on the beach at Blyth, hand in hand, being absolutely and bewilderingly happy. We’d had sleepovers at each other’s houses, but apart from that nothing had happened between us, Ellie being in a separate dorm to me and to be frank not interesting me sexually. My thoughts while in those …. private moments were all about nebulous girls, such as the ones seen on copies of Mayfair or Club that found their way into school. I can’t recall seeing any hardcore porn mags but they were there. We were all summoned to the hall one day, where a red-faced, angry Sister Anne ranted about the evils of lust for about an hour, after finding one such mag.
One girl I did think about was Jasmine, the groundkeeper’s daughter. The groundskeeper, called Old Jack by everyone, was a pipe-smoking bloke of about 45 who appeared far older than he was. He was always there, weeding, chopping, making sure the place was spotless. He was always on hand on the first day of a new term to carry boxes and suitcases up to the dorms. One at a time he would lead new girls up the stairs, on the way telling the wide-eyed first-year about the ghosts in the toilets and the screaming that you might hear from the witch that was drowned in the school well…. Guess which one from my year believed this?
Every year he was baked a cake by the pupils for his birthday, into which we would put whisky, supplied by the nuns. And every year, on the day following, he would stagger about and behave as if drunk, all day, whilst doing his work. You’d look out of a window at random and see him in the distance, cutting the grass on the big mower, cutting wiggly lines where they should be straight, even when he thought there was nobody watching him. He never had a bad word to say and was always polite. And he told the worst jokes, real groaners. His daughter though… You know the way rumours spread in school, and the ones about her were wild. She was 20, had attended the local comprehensive, (oh the horror!) and according to the rumours, was a complete slut. AND she used to get drunk at weekend in clubs! Please remember, I was a naive girl. Even today I can be about some things..just ask my neighbour about something called Grand Theft Auto 5.
The rumours were that Jasmine would happily do allsorts to you, you only had to ask. My tiny brain was in turmoil. I knew I wanted a girl to be interested in me, someone apart from the girls in the dorm, and here in the school grounds was just the opportunity. She never did make any move, but to hear stories years later from friends that I had been noticed by Jasmine as, and these are the words they used, “That stuck up cow from Durham.” I class that as an opportunity escaped from! The last time I saw her was earlier this year, at the funeral of her dad, Jack. The attendance was so large the funeral was held in the cathedral in Newcastle. He was loved by hundreds, with never any sort of rumour about him and any of the girls. He was just a nice man. I cried my eyes out.
Nowadays Jasmine is working on the checkout in Asda, (nothing wrong with that) and seems happy with her four kids. All from different dads.
It turns out of course that just the girl I needed was closer by than the groundskeeper’s house. In my final year my feelings towards the girl who would become my only long term girlfriend became stronger. Ellie and I had become firm friends, having sleepovers at each others houses, becoming a force to be reckoned with on the hockey team, long summer days at the beach, (oh that one day was excellent), and by our final year, just about inseparable. It’s natural for close friendships to form in any school, but in a boarding school environment that intensifies. Some of the girls had actual girlfriends in school, but far less than the sex stories websites wold have you believe. Apparently there are such websites. (What’s that? My halo is slipping? My halo slips as it’s not a good fit, and those aren’t rust spots, that’ll be pasta sauce. I’m just a messy eater). The nighttime stuff continued, but I was now a 16 year old and looking after a dorm as one of the two “older girls” with Becky, head girl from our year, and we were supposed to keep a check on this sort of thing. The embarrassing conversation with Sister Agnes concerning sexual morals, hands above the sheets etc, was the most toe-curling, excruciating five minutes I’ve ever spent. “I know you two won’t let me down, head girl and our star hockey player”. To my endless shame, I’m sorry Sister, I tried. But not much. Much like Sophie and Gemma had had the laissezz-faire attitude to me as a 14 year old, we adopted the same sort of thing. Not exactly the same though, as these younger girls were far more adventurous, rowdy, hand-rectangle using and often drunk than we had been just two years previously.
Then just a few months before we were due to leave, my thoughts about Ellie suddenly turned sexual, I don’t know why this was. She tells me that she had thought about me this way for two years or so, and was wondering if perhaps her best friend wasn’t interested in her. I hadn’t been, at all. I mean we had seen each other in varying states of undress, swimming, sleepovers, but to me she was just my friend. All of a sudden I found myself thinking about her skin, those eyes, oh god those eyes, her hair, her walk and her body. My fantasies congealed from general girls to just her, but during these still there was that underlying non-sexual thing, just a deep physical attraction to my best friend. “Ellie is my best friend, I don’t think I should think about her in sexy way, that’s what lesbians do”, I had written in my diary, (just looked it up, Friday, 13th of May, 2005).
I had never thought of myself as a lesbian. Yes we had kissed and touched and whatever with other girls, but then this was an all girls boarding school! Most of the older girls had boyfriends, as most of them didn’t stay weekends and some not even a night, the “dayers”. By this time I had accepted my non-interest in boys. Every single one of them had hands like a fucking octopus. You’d pass a bus stop and get a pinch on the bum, or a gentle hand on it on the train. I had kissed one. I had been home for the weekend and out at a club where my height allowed me access, dancing with friends until allowing myself to be led to a dark corner by a lad, me a bit drunk, chatting, not realising that he didn’t want to just chat until it was too late, him getting closer, hand on my boob, lips on mine and me hating every second of it. There may be some men out there who can kiss, but he wasn’t one of them. I made my excuses, at which he grabbed my arm and called me a tease, so I slapped him and went back to my group. Since then, girls only. And to all the blokes who will tell me I’m sure, that all lesbians are secretly bi….no, we’re not. I’m not interested in watching you with your wife or girlfriend, but your wife or girlfriend on her own is more than fine.
Even though Ellie had an interest in me, I had no idea of this. We’d kissed but in a friends only way, ok, perhaps with a little more pressure and for longer than friends would have, and once or twice her tongue grazed my lips, but still to me anyway, just as friends. She had left her hand on my boob while in her bed one on a sleepover. Still I didn’t get it. So how was I supposed to break the news that I thought she was the most beautiful girl I’d seen, and that maybe I might want to take this a little bit further? Today, I’ve seen her rotten drunk, throwing up, passed out, sweaty after a workout, first thing in the morning with smeared makeup, and near death with food poisoning, and every time I think she is absolutely gorgeous. Kylie Minogue is maybe my fantasy girl, with perhaps her sister thrown in at the same time, but Ellie is something else. I just hope the high school girls and residents of Houston recognise this!
So, on the 30th of September, I asked her to go for a walk in the school grounds. You can be the most confident person on that hockey pitch, or on stage in a school play, or manage to get served in the Brandling Villa down the road, twice…. I was physically shaking when we sat down. Ellie though I was having some sort of fit. I managed to mumble out a few words about how I felt, asking if perhaps, maybe sometime, we could go out as more than friends… She threw her head back and laughed for what seemed like an hour, but was only a few seconds before saying, “Is that all you wanted to tell me?”. I started to apologise, thinking I had really blown it, now my best friend will think I’m some sort of pervert stalker, when she kissed me properly for the first time, before saying that she had been waiting for this for a year. I cried, she cried, oh I know but this was the most emotional thing I’d ever experienced, give me a break!
After that we really were inseparable. From there we progressed from handholding, to love and living together at 18. Ah, you thought you were going to read juicy details! Perhaps when I publish the secret diaries. Her dad was over the moon, he’d always wanted another daughter, and so was her mum. Only yesterday she was asking when we are getting married! Perhaps.
Why then is she in Texas without me? We discussed her moving for a long time, and in those moments I didn’t really understand, but having my own direction changed by the invitation to work in Canada, I can now. I suppose it’s that selfish “well what about me” gene I have. The job itself looks great, and she is less distance from Jessica than I am. When we were living together we had an agreement that neither of us would see anyone else unless we shared. Sounds great, but in practice, while you might find someone you’d like to bed, that person may not like your partner. I’m happy to say that we managed to find a few that didn’t mind at all. Now though, as we are apart, we have a lesser attitude. I still won’t meet anyone from online though. I suspect she had someone in her sights in Houston, and I’d like to think I won’t be jealous… Just caught my reflection in the mirror there, was that a tinge of green?? I’m still hopelessly in love and we speak all of the time, but can enjoy a night with someone without guilt. Well, without guilt in a non-Catholic sort of way. Sorry Sister Agnes!
As ever, thanks for reading.