Authors: Lucy Courtenay
he moon is insanely full on the beach at Argole-sur-Mer. It hangs there like one of those massive concertina lampshades that fill your bedroom and make you wish you’d chosen something a bit smaller. It’s also indecently close to the sea, making the midnight Mediterranean glitter with promise.
I look with excitement at the smooth brown hand holding mine as we walk along the soft, cold sand. Rubbing my thumb with his, Laurent tosses his head towards the still-thumping nightclub behind us on the beach front.
‘You dance very well. Like a mermaid.’
The correct term for my dancing is ‘unhinged’.
‘Thanks,’ I gulp. ‘So do you.’
Witty backchat is impossible. Not in the moonlight, on a French beach, with the Mediterranean swishing away in the background like a big wet theatre curtain. Right now, it’s all I can do to keep one foot moving in front of the other.
Laurent picks up one of my long blond curls and twirls it around his fingers. ‘What is your name, mermaid?’
‘Delilah,’ I say, bracing myself for The Song.
Vinyl smells awful when it catches fire. I know this because Dad burned all Mum’s records when she left. The inferno wasn’t as dramatic as he would have liked, but that’s gas fires for you. The house reeked for weeks. When I put Dad’s record collection in the flames, which I plan to do the next time someone sings The Song at me, I will do it in the back garden.
Laurent doesn’t react. He’s too busy circling the back of my hand with his thumb. Round and round and round. Clearly, Tom Jones is no biggie on the Med.
I love France.
We stop by a big sand dune and he moves a little closer. I am giddy. I’ve heard French boys are excellent in the lip department.
‘It is a beautiful moon,
?’ he murmurs, his mouth grazing my ear.
,’ I manage.
I feel a flicker of concern in case I’ve just said ‘My dad’s sick’ by mistake. Laurent’s mouth on my ear is scrambling my head. I half expect an accordion to warble into action behind the sand dune. This is all just so –
I’d spotted him at the bar half an hour earlier. Fatima had already pulled and was kissing her prey in one of the darker corners of the club when he walked across the pulsing dancefloor with its flashing lights and silently started dancing with me. Unsmiling. Utterly lush. It pushed my whole unhinged-dancing thing to new heights. He’s tall, and blond, and there’s a smudge of sand still sitting on his collarbone under the soft cotton collar of his shirt.
‘It is the moon of Aphrodite,’ Laurent informs me now. ‘The moon of love. You know about Aphrodite,
‘There’s a Greek bar back home called Aphrodite’s Moon,’ I say like an idiot. ‘They do excellent mezze.’
Laurent’s voice gets lower. ‘Aphrodite kissed a mortal once by the light of this moon, many thousands of years ago. It drove him crazy. The next person that he kissed –
. The craziness travelled like this . . .’
His lips start making their way along my jawline. I think I say ‘meh,’ like a goat.
‘It travelled from person to person. It travelled through time. Everywhere –
! Like a bomb.
‘Where did it end up?’ I whisper. His lips are on my cheek now.
‘It ended with me. And now I am going to pass it to you. You will like that, mermaid?’
I’m not proud. I make the first move and grab his chin. It’s the moon, OK? That crazy lampshade moon.
As he kisses me, a ball of white heat travels from my lips all the way down my legs. My knees turn to rubber as it ripples on, right to the tips of my toes. I seriously think my toenails are going to blow right off as Laurent tightens his arms around my back and gets stuck in. This is it! THIS is what all the fuss is about! Lips, doing precisely THIS THING! Never in the field of human conquest has Delilah Jones been kissed as well as this. It’s like the moon itself is inside me, filling me with light.
I don’t know how long we kiss for. It’s delirious. Glorious. Wondrous with great big dangly bells on. And when it’s over, I want to fly up to that big fat moon and thank it from the bottom of my poor old broken heart.
ome is already wetter than a fish in a bikini, and it’s only early September. I look crossly out of the window, and think of moonlight, and beaches.
I’m telling you the most important thing that has EVER happened to me and you’re looking out of
I pull my eyes back into the room.
‘Look!’ Tabby thrusts her phone under my nose again. ‘This is him. Isn’t he gorgeous?’
I stare at the picture of the smiling boy. Tabs has told me his name is Sam. I get as far as registering that his hair is sandy, but then the thought of sand catapults my brain back to Argole-sur-Mer. The evil rain slaps against the darkening windows. Why aren’t I still in France?
‘He looks like an onion,’ I say.
‘How can a person look like an onion?’ Tabby demands, tenderly closing Sam’s picture down.
‘Round head. Brown skin. Tufty bit on the top. Onion.’
‘You are so completely wrong I can’t even
about how wrong you are,’ Tabby says hotly. ‘You haven’t even met him and already you’re comparing him to a root vegetable.’
‘Onions aren’t root vegetables.’
‘Not helpful, Delilah! Are you jet-lagged or what?’
I make a massive effort. Tabby is my best friend after all, and I am giving her about as much attention as I give Wellington, her dog, after he’s been kayaking through the puddles in the local park.
‘I’m sorry, Tabs,’ I say, impatient with myself. ‘France scrambled my brain like eggs. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for AGES. Losing my phone was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.’
Shortly after the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The two events aren’t entirely unconnected, if you must know.
‘I feel as if I’ve been in solitary confinement for some heinous crime I never committed,’ I go on. ‘I keep picturing my phone, beeping sadly on a French sand dune while being eaten by a crab. So tell me everything again and I promise I’ll focus.’
Tabs is happy to go right back to the beginning. I settle into my beanbag and listen properly.
My best friend has been going out with Sam for three weeks and four days. He is her first proper we-go-on-dates boyfriend, so the days thing is important.
‘And you won’t believe how we met. It was SO romantic. He was at the water fountain during the break in our choir workshop and I was at the water fountain too and we both bent down to drink the water at the same time!’
‘Cute,’ I say.
Tabby rolls on to her back with a sigh. ‘And then we had sectionals.’
gets my attention. ‘You what?’
‘Sectionals. It’s where the choir gets divided into small groups that rehearse separately,’ Tabby explains. ‘Sam was in my group. He sat next to me. He had water from the water fountain all down his shirt.’ She lowers her voice. ‘You could see bits of his chest through the material.’
‘Describe,’ I say with interest.
‘Muscly,’ says Tabby happily. ‘Like a big ripply walnut.’
? First an onion, now a walnut? What are we making here, a salad?’
We howl about this for a bit.
‘So after the sectionals—’ Tabby’s eyes widen. ‘That actually sounds really rude, doesn’t it?’
We both fall to the carpet. Neither of us can speak for a full minute and a half. I love Tabs. She’s so adorable, with her spiky brown hair and glasses and habit of getting jokes several hours after everyone else.
‘So,’ says Tabby when we’ve got our breath back, ‘at the end of the first day he walked me to the bus stop and took my number. And then he called and picked me up from the bus stop the second day. And then at the
of the second day, he walked me to the bus stop again—’
I hold up my hand. ‘Enough with the travel information. Tell me about the kissing.’
Tabby blushes. ‘He kissed me on the last day.’
‘On the lips,’ says Tab, surprised at my question. ‘Oh,
! In the wings of the hall, just as we were about to go out for the performance we’d been working on all week. He took my hand and squeezed it.’ She grabs my hand and gives it a scrunch to demonstrate. ‘And I turned round to say good luck, and then his nose was, like, there.’
Tabby is really getting into her story now. She looks particularly adorable as she talks, eyes all shiny behind her glasses and cheeks as pink as candyfloss.
‘I thought I was going to stop breathing! I’d been totally desperate for him to kiss me all week and now here we were with just seconds to go before we were supposed to be singing in German. And he kissed me on the spot!’
‘In French, actually,’ Tabby says. ‘You know. Tongues.’
I smile mysteriously. ‘Believe me, I know all about kissing in French.’
Something in my tone of voice catches Tabs’ attention. ‘You got with someone in France!’ she gasps. ‘Didn’t you? That’s why you’ve been on the moon all evening. You got with someone and you haven’t TOLD me!’
‘Your kiss is way more important,’ I inform her piously. ‘Because yours led to a boyfriend while mine was just . . . THE LUSHEST KISS EVER IN THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY.’
We both squeal extremely loudly.
‘Oh my God!’ shouts Tabby. ‘I can’t believe I’ve been going on about Sam when you’ve got juice too!’
‘I can’t tell you how incredible it was,’ I say in a dreamy voice. ‘My head literally caught fire. There was smoke coming out of my nostrils and everything.’
Tabby beams at me. ‘The first guy you’ve kissed since Dave! That’s
I can’t help flinching at the D-word.
‘How “incredible” are we talking?’ Tabby says eagerly.
I focus on remembering Laurent’s kiss instead of the other thing. How am I supposed to find the words? The memory alone is making my tummy melt like ice-cream: warm fudge sauce, sprinkles,
‘It was magnificent,’ I say at last. ‘He had this whole Aphrodite line going about this godlike kiss that’s been breaking hearts since the world began, and then he demonstrated its godlikeness. There were bits of me scattered all over the sand dune by the end. I tell you, no-strings-attached lust is totally my new favourite thing. That first kiss . . .’ I swallow. There really are no words to do it justice. ‘You know the feeling when . . .
‘When mmmm what?’
I dig Tabby gently in the arm. ‘I think we can agree that most of the guys we got with from Year Nine onwards were terrible, with the exception of Ali who did something oddly twisty with his tongue—’
‘I never got with Ali,’ says Tabby.
‘Didn’t you?’ I say, momentarily diverted. ‘I thought everyone did. But that aside, now you’re properly loved
up – well.
Tabby looks worried. ‘Do I?’
There is a strange silence. Oh.
. Hold the ketchup, this is serious.
‘Don’t tell me the Onion can’t kiss?’ I say in dismay.
‘He kisses really well!’ Tabby protests. ‘And he’s not an onion!’
Snatching her phone, I study Sam’s picture again. There is a stab of doom in my guts. He just looks so –
. No way can he kiss a girl until her head blows off.
‘Tell me honestly, Tabs,’ I say, pressing the phone back into my best friend’s hands. ‘Does he kiss like a water fountain? Wet, gushy, dribbling?’
Tabby’s big green eyes shimmer at me. ‘No!’
‘But does he get you
?’ I press my hand into her belly.
Tabby pushes my hand off. ‘Kissing isn’t food, Delilah. That’s my stomach you’re prodding. He gets me here.’ And she touches her heart.
I owe it to my best friend to tell her the truth. To tell her what’s really out there. She’s so young and inexperienced.
‘You have to listen to me, babe,’ I say. ‘Do you fancy him, or is he just . . . nice?’
‘I’m mad about him,’ Tabby says defiantly. ‘And he’s mad about me too. He texts me a hundred times a day and he phones me every evening and I think he kisses just fine.’
This is worse than I thought.
‘Oh Tabs.’ I shake my head. ‘You have no idea. Now you have a boyfriend, you’re going to be kissing this guy a
. His kiss should make your entire body explode. Turn your hair into fuse wire and your guts into dynamite. You should want that kiss over and over and over again because otherwise, frankly, what’s the point?’
‘You should be an agony aunt,’ Tabby grumbles. ‘So tactful and understanding.’
‘What did the Onion’s last text say?’
. . .’
‘Sam, the Onion, whatever.’
Tabby slowly flips open her phone again.
Just wormed the cat. Was tough. See u at bandstand in 10. I’ll be the 1 covered in Elastoplast
She tries to hold my horrified gaze.
‘It’s funny,’ she points out a little sadly. ‘The Elastoplast bit.’
‘You can’t go out with a guy who worms a
before meeting you,’ I say. ‘Did he even wash his hands? Did you actually touch palms?’ I gaze at Tabby’s fingers. ‘Tabs! You could have CAT WORMS!’
Tabby is laughing now, although it sounds a little reluctant.
‘That is so unbelievably gross,’ I say, grinning. ‘If you love me at all, don’t go all exclusive with the Onion. We’re young and free. Don’t you want to stay like that for a bit longer? Not answering to anyone and doing what you want when you want and not so it fits in with football-practice nights?’
Tabby looks at the floor. ‘But I really like him.’
‘And we all know where really liking someone gets you,’ I say sharply.
This whole heartbreak thing, right? The way you see it on TV, it’s awful for about five minutes and then there’s an ad break for some super-strength mascara that gives you eyes like a demented panda and then you’re out dancing with your friends and fancying someone else. No one gave me that script. Crying yourself to sleep for months until your pillow grows mushrooms? Reliving conversations until they’re as worn and tattered as that piece of tissue in your coat pocket from the last time you had a cold? Imagining how things Should Have Been? Burning with shame every time you remember the completely-not-cool texts you sent when you were ‘believe me, totally caned’ i.e. stone-cold sober, lonely and desperate? That’s the reality.
‘There’s a college party tomorrow night at the Gaslight Theatre, welcoming the freshers,’ I say firmly. ‘You and I are going, and we’re going to get you a
kiss so you know what you’re missing before you go and settle down with an Onion. End of.’