A second bite of the cherry

Julia was nineteen, Irish and blonde. She was naturally blonde but died her hair black. Julia lived at 24 Bassett Road, just off Ladbroke Grove. This was a few years ago, when individual rooms in what is now a swanky town house were being rented out as bedsits. Today the address would be unaffordable to someone like Julia – who’d been in The Smoke for a couple of years working as a child minder. Julia was five feet four and a half inches tall. She was smartly dressed. Her skill at needlework meant that the clothes she wore had cost far less than a casual observer might imagine. Julia made her own outfits.

Julia lay me down on the bed. She picked up a piece of clooth and threw it playfully over my head. I giglled and Julia whipped the cloth away. She stood up, walked across the room and pulled a Charlie Parker album from a pile of records. Julia was about perfect and would have been inhuman if she hadn’t had a fault. In my eyes, her fault was a liking for modern jazz. Rebelling against her strict Catholic upbringing, Julia had got into sounds that she viewed as seriously cosmopolitan. Her father, who worked as a docker, shared my dislike of this type of music.

Sunlight filtered through a dirty window. The room was clean, the window was grimy on the outside. It was the landlord’s responsibility to keep the exterior of the building shipshape. Julia picked up the off cut she’d discarded when she’d walked across to the record player. She ran the bottom edge of the cloth over my body, from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. She ran the edge of the off-cut from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Back and forth went the cloth as I giggled and finally I grabbed it. Julia held out her hand and I played with her fingers. She put two of her fingers into my mouth and I sucked them.

Julia lay down beside me and we gazed into each others eyes, deep blue eyes. I swam in the ocean of her deep blue eyes. I smiled. Julia smiled. I giggled. Julia grinned from ear to ear. I threw my head back. I could smell the fragrant flowers that stood in the vase on the window sill. Yellow flowers. Julia smelled of hyacinths, her perfume discreetly applied. These smells covered the reek of boiled cabbage that permeated the hallway. Other tenants were cooking Sunday lunch. It was another, more perfect world in our room. Julia kissed me on the forehead and I imagined myself branded with a red faint “O” from her lipstick. She kissed my left cheek, she kissed my right cheek, then she kised me on the forehead again.

I gurgled. Julia smiled. She caressed my cheek. I cried and Julia bared a breast. Pushed a nipple into my mouth. I sucked her sweet milk. My sweet mother’s milk. When I’d finished Julia put me over her shoulder and belched me. She put a towel on the bed and removed my soiled nappy. “What a clever boy,” Julia burbled, “You’ve got a present for mummy!” More than thirty-five years have passed since I was first praised for taking a shit. Looking back on thoise first idyllic weeks of my life can make growing up seem like a slow but irrevocable expulsion from paradise.

A short story by Stewart Home
Idler 26 – Paradise