I am 16 years old.  It is the height of summer and I’m sitting with Valerie in an open park shelter with a tiled roof watching my friends play football.  Valerie is not in a relationship and neither am I.  In fact she has only recently split up with her long-time boyfriend, Colin Jones.  Colin lives in the same street as me, just across the road.  He thinks he is tough.  To be truthful he’s a bit of an oddball, slightly mentally unstable and therefore very unpredictable.  One never knows if he’s dangerous or not.  People steer clear of him.  I think his quick temper and highly strung emotions were partially responsible for the breakup of their relationship.  Valerie is a hot-headed, ginger haired girl with freckles on her cheeks.  She is quite tall and has fabulous legs.  There’s something about her demeanour that screams: experienced!

So we are sitting in the shelter chatting.  Suddenly she puts her hand on my leg and starts rubbing my thigh, her hand travelling further up towards my crutch with each stroke.  Colin Jones is on the pitch and playing football.  We are in full view of everyone.  Although I am excited I feel uncomfortable knowing that we can be seen.  I tell Valerie to stop it but she continues.  She is toying with me, goading me into some sort of reciprocal action. Valerie lost her virginity years ago.  Everybody knows that.  Yes … experienced is definitely the word to describe her. 

I am still a virgin.  Girls like Valerie make me feel uneasy.  Valerie must realise how shy I am and how uneasy I feel.  I’m sure it turns her on.  I playfully pull her hand away.  The guys stop playing football and she stops rubbing my thigh.     

Later that day I am sitting in the garden with my sister.  She tells me that Valerie wants to go out with me.  I am flattered but unsure what to do.  Something inside tells me it might be a good idea but I don’t pursue it.  I could never really love her.  Relationships to me are all about love and trust.  We could only ever be good friends.  Evading the issue, I tell my sister that I’ll think about it.

I don’t see Valerie again until 10 years later.  She is married and so am I.  We have both moved from Charlton to Plumstead.  Coincidentally we live just fifty yards from each other.  Now and again we say hello but that’s as far as the conversation goes.

I wonder now — many years later — what would have happened if I had gone out with her?  Who knows how it might have panned out? 

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