It had been a youth-club outing to somewhere or other – probably to a pop concert in one of the nearby towns. We were to meet at the Village Hall. I could easily walk there but others came by bike. These were the days when you could leave your bike against a wall and it would still be there when you came back.
Off we went – 20/25 teenage kids and a couple of grown-up youth club helpers; we had a good time; and we got back quite late. We all got off the coach and set about going home. It was around 10.30pm. Jamie and Christine lived in the same close as me – about a five minute walk from where the coach had dropped us off. Rosemary lived about two miles away, in a smaller village – but she had come by bike so there was no problem there. She walked with us the couple of hundred yards to the road junction where she would turn right and ride off home while we walked another 200 or so yards and went to bed.
This was the time to say good-night and go our separate ways. I quite liked Rosemary and gave her a cuddle and a kiss on the cheek. She clung to me and murmured ‘I’m scared’.
‘Why?’ I asked. ‘You’ll be OK. You’ve ridden home before and it’s a nice night.’
‘No,’ she murmured, ‘I’ve ridden home in the light but dad has always picked me up when it’s dark – and he’s away on business this week.’
I looked at her, and then looked down the road. It was only a couple of miles or so to her home but there were very few house between where we stood and there; and absolutely no street lights. There was nothing for it but to escort her home. It would mean that I had to walk two ways but what else could a fellow do? Jamie and Christine had carried on walking when I had stopped with Rosemary and were now nowhere to be seen. Never mind – a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.
‘Don’t worry,’ I said to Rosemary, ‘I’ll walk home with you.’
‘Will you? Really? Oh thank you Ben – you’re an angel.’
We set off into the darkness; talking some of the time, keeping quiet at others. It’s amazing how your eyes quickly adjust as you walk in the dark. Quite soon it the road was clearly visible but the grass and the hedges on either side remained a dark mass. Then the Moon broke through the clouds and we had a glimpse of the road edges.
Neither of us had a watch so we couldn’t check the time but it didn’t take us long, it seemed, to reach her small village. Rosemary said that her house was just up the road, held her bike in one hand while she threw her other arm round my shoulder, gave me a kiss on the cheek, said ‘thank you so much’ and headed off to her home.
I stood there alone for a while, then turned round and walked back homeward. The moon kept peeping through the clouds to watch over me and it didn’t seem too long before I reached the corner where this had all started. I turned right, then right again into our cul-de-sac – all ten houses were in darkness; including mine! No one was up and wondering where I had got to it seemed!
The back door was locked but I had a key and could let myself in. All was dark inside. I turned on the kitchen light; locked the back door; took off my coat and shoes and looked up at the clock.
It showed a ‘Quarter to One’! I looked at my watch – I could see it now – ‘yep, that was the time’!
It was a bit late for a 14 year old like me but I shrugged my shoulders, turned off the light and made my way, quietly, to bed.
In the morning my parents said just one thing – ‘How was it last night?’
I replied ‘Pretty good’ and that was the end of it! Nothing more was said!
To this day I don’t know if they knew I was very late home but didn’t care or that they had both gone to sleep and didn’t care about anything else.
Me? I never did that again – but I did one or two other things that were not too much different! Maybe I’ll tell you about these some other time!