Saturday 18 June 2022

'when love was all we knew' by Amanda Huggins

Driven ashore by a storm, the trawler lads take shelter in our cottage, dropping oilskins by the door, crowding the Aga as I pour mugs of tea.

‘Never thought I’d see you back here,’ he says. ‘London, wasn’t it? The bright city lights?’

I remember his kiss behind the science block, something malty-sweet on his breath, the heat of his skin through my school blouse.

‘Yes, London.’

I thought the city would be mine forever with her grit and spit and swagger, all art and song and high kicks, lunches at French Frank’s, drinking half-chilled wine, falling asleep on the Northern line. But she was mine for only a moment; a headlong train racing by.

And I recall her as a different city too; the school trip we took that hazy day in June, splashing through fountains in Trafalgar Square. I lost my footing and he grabbed my wrist, whispered something I barely heard, each muffled word bringing a blush to my cheek.

‘It’s good to see you again,’ he says, shaking the seawater from his hair, a single salt-drop brushing my lips like a kiss. ‘Was the pull of the sea too strong?’

I remember the herring shed behind the Anchor, his hot breath on the nape of my neck, him fumbling with the button on my jeans. And I remember the girl who snagged him fast with her unborn child, recall caring much more than I expected.

‘Something like that,’ I say, as my husband catches my eye across the room.

‘Call on me when you’re passing,’ he whispers.

And I remember, long before London, before the disappointments and the missed chances and the settling for something less, there was a time when love was all we knew.

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