You Can Never Go Back
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Welcome to another tall tale.
I’ve been advised to write what I know so this time I’ve tried setting this one in a version of the world that I know and inhabit. There are parallels to my reality but very few real intersections. Don’t try to track me down based on this — that would be a true exercise in futility!
Great job as always from no1Uno on the editing tune-up, thanks man for making me look good (well, less bad anyway!)
This turned out a bit longer than I expected, but rather than split it into chapters I present the entire thing, a fait accompli if you will.
This is not a sexy romp, I strove for a more complex, plot-driven storyline this time. So, if you’re just plain horny right now, pop this one in your reading queue. Then you can move on and come back when you’re just chilling on the couch with a glass of red wine. That’s what I was doing when I wrote it!
All characters are over eighteen.
As always, enjoy
I was in my happy place, my favourite place on earth. It’s right at the top of Ireland, in the middle. Sitting on our deck, all I can see is our garden, a dirt road, the beach and the white caps on the blue-green Atlantic Ocean. That’s it. Well, apart from some seagulls and that stupid wanker Anderson walking his annoying little dog.
Ok, calm down Jack. I’m not usually this sweary… well not on the outside anyway.
I’d been spending a week at my parents’ holiday cottage. I’d offered to spring clean it for them in readiness for the summer season. I’d planned to do all the little odd jobs that I knew would frustrate them. Leaky taps, squeaky doors, peeling paint, that sort of stuff.
The seaside is a harsh environment, especially here where it’s so exposed. The wind and rain whip in from the west, carrying corrosive salt to eat away at anything metallic. So, there were plenty of things to do to keep me busy.
I’d never been very interested in DIY as a kid. My younger brother was much more hands-on, more attuned to all of the physical aspects of life. He and my dad bonded over it in a way that I never could. I’d helped out and stuff but usually lost interest as my concentration wavered. Of course, this translated in parent speak to laziness, and the lazier they thought I was, the more they gave me to do.
Vicious circles, eh? Gotta love ’em.
Nowadays you kids are spoiled. Don’t know how to straighten up a wonky door? YouTube. Easy. Back then there was trial and error (never good), buy a book (rarely good) or be taught by an exasperated parent. A parent who (I now know) just wanted it done so he could have a glass of wine to de-stress from a shitty job). Whichever way it went it seldom ended well for a bored kid who was on vacation and just wanted to bike and swim with his mates.
I’d picked up the basics. I could smear paint on just about anything; spray WD40 around like a fireman. Tightening things? That’s where it’s at for me. I’m a big fellow, work out a lot, so if you need something tightened, I’m your man. Loosened too, come to think of it. So I pottered around, slowly making the place ship shape. I couldn’t do everything, had to leave a few things for dad to bitch about. I still enjoyed every minute of it though, the sea air just does something to me.
So, it was nice up here. The weather in late March had been unseasonably warm, sunny even. For the maintenance side of things, I couldn’t have picked a better week to come.
On the personal side, however, turns out I couldn’t have picked a worse one.
I’d walked up to the village shop the evening of my fourth day in town. On the way, I recalled childhood summers of skidding around on bikes, shirtless and fearless in the summer sun. Racing each other to the Simms’s shop in case we’d miss the last ice cream or find that the sherbet dips had run out. They got re-supplied once a week back then, but people didn’t care. No white bread? Brown will be fine.
I wandered aimlessly around the retail equivalent of a time capsule looking for dinner inspiration. I noticed a tall, slim woman at the counter. Her back was to me and all I could see was a long, yellow sundress, a messy bun of long, white-blonde hair and a fairly tatty pair of brown sandals.
My conscious mind thought little of it (nice arse maybe, but that was about all). The animal part however was sitting up, interest piqued, nose in the air sniffing back and forth. Deep in my subconscious, there was a spark of recognition whilst up in the driving seat I was drawing a blank. As I stared, the spark grew into a flame of interest… and excitement! Next thing I knew I was almost right beside her, with no idea what I was doing!
I know it’s my body but it’s my subconscious too and I kinda have to do what it says. So next thing I know I’m bumping my basket gently into her hip (kinda my go-to move in these situations), hoping for a reaction. I got one alright, her head whipped around quickly, the gaze from her deep brown malatya escort eyes spearing mine.
“Hey, watch it asshole!”
Holy fucking shit! It was her! It was Jenny!
I stared into her face, immediately realising that my subconscious had nothing useful to add at this point. It had got me this far and recognised her face, but that was it. Unfortunately, no other part of my mind anything useful to add either! This hadn’t happened since school. WTF? Somewhere deep inside all my words of greeting decided to just leap out of my mouth together.
“Oh, sorry. Hi, ah. I mean hello. No, I mean sorry. I hope. Forgive me. Em.” Brilliant! Now I sounded like an Irish Hugh Grant and I hate Hugh Grant! And now I was getting an erection as well!
I set my basket down and clasped my hands over the front of my shorts. Deep breath, in through the nose and relax.
“Jenny? Jenny Harris?”
“Yes, well it’s Dixon now… for now, I mean,” she said, looking at me quizzically. I could see she was scrambling for a name, so I pulled my signature move from back then… when I was seven.
I stuck out my tongue at her, blew up my cheeks and made the loudest raspberry noise I could.
Her eyes went wide, cute frown lines appearing fleetingly on her forehead. I would love to have heard her internal monologue as this enormous lunatic appeared to be having an aneurysm in front of her. As it turned out, she had her shit very much together and she grinned, infectiously:
“Jack? Jackie Boy?!! Oh my god! It must have been twenty years! How ARE you?!”
Her smile lit up the shop. If we’d been outside it would have lit up the entire town.
At this moment, I need to point out a few things, fill in a few blanks for you. This lady was Jennifer Harris, my number one crush since before I knew what that even was. She lived here in the village permanently back then, not like us, the summer invaders. So she knew all the cool places to go and stuff to do. She could run and bike faster than us and could swim like a fish. As kids, we would spend all summer together, running, jumping and even standing still sometimes. She’s the reason I’m usually so good at meeting girls. Talking to them too in fact, even talking with them; but not settling down with them. Never quite got the hang of that bit, but as you’ll see that was probably her fault too!
She and I would talk long into those late summer evenings. I’ve no idea what we talked about but it gave me an insight into the female perspective. That was something I never could have got from my brother or my plethora of male friends. She taught me about empathy and sharing and (whisper) that girls were just people too.
And she had been gorgeous. Now, however, she had it all turned up to eleven! I managed to get some words out sequentially at last:
“I’m really good thanks. Just here to get mum and dad’s old place ship-shape for the summer. Did I hear another name, are you married now?”
“I was,” she said quietly, “but I’m in the middle of a divorce.”
“Oh dear, I’m sorry. That’s rough. What about you, do you still live here? Are you well… otherwise?”
Phew, I had really pulled it out of the fire there, I’d be cracking open the good whisky to celebrate tonight.
“No, no… I’m fine but I’m only here for mum’s funeral. It’s tomorrow and I’m trying to organise everything.”
CHRIST! I MEAN SHIT. FUCK …
My mind was in meltdown, I needed to get the conversation back on an even keel.
“Wow, that’s terrible. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. What about your dad? Is he ok?”
“He died last year; he’d been in a home for some time. Dementia.”
STRIKE THREE! YOU’RE OUTTA HERE…
Her shoulders slumped. She looked like someone had dumped the weight of the world on her. They had … I had.
In my realm, these were the moments when I would almost exclusively default to humour. It’s a defence mechanism really, a kind of Get Out of Jail Free card. Nothing beats a big belly laugh, especially when you’ve put both feet in it as badly as I just had.
Luckily, my body was way ahead of me on this one and it went with an emotional response. I wrapped her up in my arms and held her to my chest as she began to sob.
I mentioned I was big, and I meant it. I’m 6’3″ and weigh over 20 stone (280lbs). I’m heavy set but muscular, I was a weightlifter in college and I’ve maintained that habit ever since. I have thick black curly hair, a full-face black beard and no visible tattoos.
Anyway, Jenny’s head was tucked under my chin, she felt like a baby bird in my arms.
“Oh Jenny, I’m sorry. Shh, hey, hey, it’s ok, shh.”
I stroked her hair and whispered more soothing nonsense to her.
After a minute or two, she pushed back and looked up at me, her eyes red, her mascara running.
“When did you get so fucking big?” Then she giggled and smiled again.
“Ahh, you haven’t changed a bit, you foul-mouthed trollop” I chuckled. This was the old Jenny, my BFF… that I stupidly hadn’t spoken to or even thought about in almost two decades.
She escort malatya was properly laughing now, one hand on her knees, crossing her legs like she was going to wet herself. She clasped a hand over her mouth and those bright, sparkling eyes were flashing with the promise of endless excitement and fun. She skipped out the door into the last of the evening sunlight.
I quickly paid for my bread and milk and met her outside.
“Oh shit, I needed that,” she said “thank you. I could always rely on you to ruin my knickers!”
“With pee you sicko! From laughing!” She was sniggering again, tears glistening in her eyes.
Those eyes… I’d always been fascinated with how Jenny looked. I’ve told you how pretty… well, how stunningly beautiful she is but I know I’m not conveying it properly. As children, she’d always been taller than me. Her hair was long and almost pure white. She ran and swam everywhere so she was slim, not skinny though, strong, able, wilful even. Looking back, for me, she is and has always set the standard by which all other women should be and are judged.
No one has ever matched up. I learned pretty early on in my dating life that I was going to have to settle for someone just a little bit less perfect than Jennifer Harris. But that’s ok – if you go to the Louvre in Paris to see the Venus de Milo you don’t just walk out straight afterwards. There are other statues there too and some of them are amazing. They’re just not Venus though.
And I had come to terms with that, been quite happy with it really… until about four minutes before.
“Wow, apart from being a bit less ugly, you really haven’t changed a bit,” I joked.
“Neither have you, apart from nearly everything. You’ve got a big pirate beard! What happened to all that lovely bum fluff?”
“Cheeky bitch, at least I had bum fluff, you were always bald as a clam.”
“Sorry, that was terrible.” I really did feel bad, chastened in fact. We’d only met up and I’m already talking about her muff. Or lack thereof I suppose, truth be told.
“Never mind, still am actually!” Now it was her turn to stick her tongue out at me.
This really was the greatest, most terrible reunion in history. Even with my triple faux pas vis a vis her divorce and dead parents.
“Stop, stop,” I said “come on. This is silly, can we just talk for a minute?”
“Ok bossy boots, what do you want to talk about?”
“Can I help? With your mum’s… thing?”
“Thanks, but I think I’m ok, I got some practice last year with dad’s.”
“Oh, right. I’d love to catch up though, can I walk you home?”
“The low bridge is still up that way, will you fit?” Pure merriment twinkling on her face.
“It’s fucking ten feet high, I’m not Finn McCool you know! Why are you so obsessed with my height?”
“You were never anything cool boyo. And I’m not obsessed with your height, it’s your fucking width I’m worried about! How do you fit through doors? And what about Little Jack? I’m interested to know if he grew up big and strong too, or is he still the cute little button as he used to be?”
I tried to nonchalantly adjust Little Jack’s orientation as he began to wake up again. “I’m afraid that Little Jack must forever remain a mystery to you, milady. One such as yourself should never have to associate with such riffraff,” I smirked, that would teach her.
“Oh, so the puberty fairy forgot all about him? How sad. Bless.”
“I can neither confirm nor deny any rumours that said fairy may or may not have blessed me with a monster wang, but I can tell you that my nickname at university was Vlad…”
“As in… the Impaler?”
“Zzzzzzipp” I made the zipping up my lips motion, locked it and threw away the imaginary key. Sadly the truth was much less interesting. On my first date in Freshers week this randy girl from South Africa had bitten my tongue badly during sex. There was blood all around my mouth when I got home. Hence the vampire nickname. The fact that they picked one that had a secondary association in peoples’ minds was not something I ever chose to clear up!
She cocked her head, looking me up and down.
“Hmm, I think I’m going to have to call bullshit buddy. Yes, I’m calling it – baby peen all day long!” she cried, dissolving in gales of laughter again.
“It’s not fair, you look absolutely perfect AND you shave your pussy! What the fuck am I supposed to do with that? Throw me a bone here.”
“That’s meant to be your job mister! Come on, walk me home and I’ll see if I can’t shatter that pedestal you seem to have put me on.”
I knew the way to Jenny’s house; I’d walked and biked it a million times. West along the coast road, under the low bridge and then up the hill, above where the railway track disappeared into the dark, scary tunnel. It sat on a headland about a hundred feet above the level of the town, a long, low bungalow. Ultra-modern when her dad had commissioned it back in the early 1970s but sadly a bit decrepit now I noticed, as we made our way up the hill.
It malatya escort bayan was a copy, well more of an homage to the Klein house in Scotland. Jenny’s dad had seen it in a magazine and got a local architect to try to copy it. They’d done pretty well. Remember this was 1972, there was no internet, no popping on to a flight for a day to see the original. People just made do with what they had. Two photographs. So they’d filled in the blanks as they went along. Whereas the Klein house was built by a millionaire, Mr Harris had been forced to cut a few corners, especially on the quality of the materials used. The house’s location was everything, the actual structure was secondary.
“They sort of let things get away from them during the last few years,” said Jenny, obviously reading my mind. “They didn’t have a hulking great Wookiee to help them with upkeep,” she teased.
“I’m not much help in all honesty unless you’ve got things that have gotten too loose.”
“What a charming way to talk to a lady!” She had a look of shock and hurt on her face, but it was just a tease and it dissolved back to her beautiful smile in moments.
“Come in, come in, I’ll put the kettle on,” Jenny said, struggling with the lock on the front door. Like so much of the place, the dripping red rust stains were very evident.
“So, tomorrow, will it be in the church?” I asked. The spooky old church had been a favourite late-night haunt for us when we were kids. I remembered midnight ghost stories in the graveyard being a personal highlight.
“No, dad’s was there but mum specifically asked in her will to have a private ceremony in the little council plot up by the forest.”
“She’s not being laid to rest with your dad?”
She shrugged. “No, her will was very clear with her instructions, but never explained her thinking.”
“Fair enough, I suppose it makes your job… well not easier I guess, but you know…”
“No, no; you’re right. Dad’s was horrible. There was only me to organise it and the whole town came. I had no idea about hymns and stuff,” she shuddered “it was a nightmare. At least you’ll have your brother to help when… well, you know.”
“I don’t know about that; he lives in New Zealand with his young family now.”
“Wow, he couldn’t really have gotten much further away from you. Care to comment?”
“His wife’s from there. She’s rich. It was a no brainer really. Plus who wouldn’t want their kids to grow up to be All Blacks?”
“True. Right, tea or coffee? Hey, I’ve never actually made you one before. Huh, you must have been here a million times.”
“You made me that vodka and coke though, remember? Yum!”
“That’s right! It must have been horrible.”
“It was absolutely hideous, warm and thick, it was like Bovril. But I was 14, had to play it cool for the lady you know. I left a trail of vomit all the way down the hill, nearly back into town.”
“Aw, poor baby. Pot of tea ok?”
I turned to admire the view. It was just as spectacular as I remembered. The whole front of the house was glass and beyond that, the land fell away down towards the sleepy village and the beach below.
The golden sand curved off to the east, a majestic sickle of sand, 12 miles long, right up to the huge rocky crags on the horizon. The sun was setting behind us, the shadows lengthening, the land turning a rich burnt orange.
This ramshackle house was worth about a fiver, but that view was utterly priceless.
I must have stood there for ten minutes lost in my thoughts before Jenny appeared with a tray of sandwiches and a pot of tea.
“It never gets old does it?” she said, her arm bumping mine. “Come on, let’s eat.”
“Mars bar and apple sandwiches! No way! That’s pure 1977!” My nostalgia for that lost era was becoming overwhelming. Or was it just being with Jenny? I didn’t know or even care. I was just along for the ride and loving every minute.
I filled a plate with the childhood delicacies, while Jenny poured me a steaming mug of tea. The sofa was aligned so that we were looking out of those windows. It was absolutely idyllic.
“Have you been back much, since… you know?” I asked, turning sideways on the couch to face her.
“No, not really at all. My work took me all over the world. I got caught up in it all and before I knew it twenty years had come and gone. Dad was dying and I kind of had to come back.”
“Jesus, your career, I don’t even know what you do.” How could I have let my greatest friend slip out of my life so completely? My eyes burned with tears of shame and loss.
I don’t think she noticed, entranced as she was by the view.
“Marine biologist. I got a scholarship to go to college in the US. Ended up spending most of my life bobbing about on the ocean.”
“You always belonged in the water. I knew that, even as a child, you were so at home on the beach and out… there,” I pointed at the fiery golden waters.
“Still managed to fuck it up though didn’t I? Married my boss. Tried for years to have a baby, then found out he’d had a vasectomy in college. He never told me he didn’t want kids. I’d never met someone who didn’t so I never even thought to discuss it with him. Turned out he just wanted to screw everything in sight. I was just eye candy for investors and colleagues at conferences. I finally challenged him on it, and he blamed me.”
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