Letters and Diary Fiction posted November 1, 2015


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Ruth's distress and the solution

Taken by Surprise--Part 8 of 9

by jpduck


Friday, 28th July, 1951
 
It’s over. Jack’s gone. I’m just mooning about doing nothing. I’m bored and fed up and cross and miserable.
 
How can this be? He’s only a bloody boy, for pity’s sake, and a pretty average one, too. That’s not true and you know it, Ruth.
 
OK, OK, OK, OK. So why isn’t it true? Make a list, Ruth.
 
  • He’s fun to be with. Lots of fun, actually.
  • He loves walking, and he can keep up with me (which takes some doing).
  • He’s fit.
  • He’s strong.
  • He’s so considerate.
  • He has a great sense of humour.
  • He likes writing, and he’s good at it.
  • He’s very protective.
  • And, oh God, he’s so good looking.
 
How, then, can it be I will never see him again, look into those gorgeous eyes, ruffle that golden hair? Because he lives a hundred miles or so away, and anyhow, I don’t have a bicycle.
 
There was only one thing for it:
 
“Mum, can I have a bicycle?”
 
“No, darling. Your birthday isn’t for seven months, and I can’t promise we will be able to afford it even then.”
 
“No, Mum, you don’t understand. It can be a second hand bike. But I must have one now.”
 
“Ruthie, love, what’s this all about?”
 
What could I say? I would have to tell her. I wasn’t going to, but what choice did I have?
 
“I miss Jack so much, Mum. I can’t think straight; I can’t do anything. I’m just stuck . . .  and so miserable.”
 
“Oh, Ruthie, my darling girl. I was afraid this might happen.” She gave me a hug. “But how would a bicycle help?”
 
“So I could cycle down to Brighton to see Jack, of course.”
 
“Even if you had a bike right now, it would be out of the question. Your Dad and I would not allow it.”
 
“Oh, Mum, why are you always so horrible to me? You just don’t understand, do you? I . . .  I love Jack.”
 
“I do understand, Ruth. Truly, I do. I went through the same agonies three times during my teenage years. I do know; it’s searingly painful.”
 
“But can’t you see Mum? It doesn’t have to be. All I have to do is go to Brighton and be with Jack, and I would be blissfully happy.”
 
“Would Jack feel the same way, do you think?”
 
That one hit me hard. “Yes, of course he would. Well I think so, anyway. Oh, Mum, please, please.”
 
“I’m sorry, darling. You can’t do that; you haven’t been invited.”
 
“Oh, for goodness sake, Mum. I have been in and out of their caravan for the last week; I don’t need an invitation.”
 
“Enough, Ruth! Listen to me very carefully. What you are suggesting is out of the question. Do you hear me? Out of the question.”
 
I started to sob.
 
“But . . .  Listen to me Ruth. I have a suggestion. Are you listening to me?”
 
“Yes, Mum,” I managed.
 
“Why don’t you write to Jack and invite him to come to stay with us for a week?”
 
“Oh Mum you’re wonderful. Of course. That’s a brilliant idea.”

 
 
15 Parton Street
Pinner
Middlesex
 
Friday, 28th July, 1951
 
My Dearest Jack,
 
I am missing you badly already. It was only this morning we waved to each other as Dad drove us away from you. I feel lost.
 
But, I have great news. Mum has said I can invite you to stay with us for the week beginning 12th August. Please say you will come. If you’ve got something planned for that week, just cancel it, and come to me. Darling Jack, I love you. There, I’ve said it. H-O-O-R-A-Y.
 
With all my love,
Ruth

 
 
 
Monday, 30th July, 1951
 
I have pasted Ruth’s extraordinary letter above. I think I must love Ruth, but how can I know? What exactly does love mean? I know I have felt all fluttery since I got back from that great beautiful holiday. And I keep feeling out of breath for no reason — even when I have just been lying down. I think that’s got something to do with it. It was the best holiday I have ever had, by a million miles.
 
The holiday is one thing, but this letter is something else. What is it? It’s scary. It’s demanding (no, that’s not fair. Poor Ruth — but it feels demanding to me). The holiday was easy. We just had fun. We played together. We swam together. We walked together. The kissing gate and the ghost train were easy too. But that’s the stuff in the letter.
 
Oh, what am I to do? What can I do? What must I do? What should I do? Help me someone. There’s no-one to help. I couldn’t, in a thousand years, talk to them about any of this — Mum and Dad, I mean. No, no, no!
 
What is expected of me? How am I supposed to behave? What does Ruth want? I DON’T KNOW. I suppose she’s thinking girlfriend and boyfriend. Letter stuff. I have no idea how to be a boyfriend. No-one’s ever told me that. No-one’s ever even talked about it.
 
But I can’t just ignore the letter. That would be wrong. What would Ruth think? Poor Ruth. She would be so pissed angry upset and insulted. I can’t do that to her.
 
What shall I write? How shall I write it? What can I say? What? How? Why? Help, help, help!
 
I can’t go. It’s too difficult. It’s too scary. I don’t know how to be a boyfriend.

 


Story of the Month contest entry

Recognized


These are extracts from the diaries of two 12-year-old children, Ruth and Jack, who meet on a caravan holiday in Dorset, UK. It is fictionalised biography. The main characters are all real, with names changed. The broad outline of the holiday is also real.

The nine episodes will be posted on alternate Sundays, interleaved with further chapters from the novel, 'Time & Again'
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