Like my alter ego Rachel in My (not so) Simple Life, as a teenager I fell in love frequently, swiftly and with absolute conviction. Unlike Rachel, I never had to swear off boys and their complications and contradictions, or rather never had the chance to, because, like the unnamed narrator in “The Movie Kiss” in And Then He Kissed Me my paramours were mostly of the fictional type.
My first love was Pennington. I still remember him in stark detail. The way his hair curled over his collar, defying school rules, and endless and pointless detentions from masters. His hands stuck stubbornly, sulkily in his pockets. Then the way they would come to life at the piano, dancing up and down the ivory as he practised the Liszt.
He was seventeen. And I was younger: fourteen – too young, really. But old enough to know that this was true love. That I was the only person who understood him; his moods, his genius. Ruth claimed to. But I knew deep down she wasn’t the one. I was.
If only he could see that. If only he could see me. If only he were, well, real.
But then again, if he had been, would he have been as perfect? If he’d been on the bus to Peterborough Ice Disco, would he have sat next to me? Or would he have fallen for Karen: captain of the netball team, and owner of not one but three ra-ra skirts.
I’ll never forget him. The way he made me (and hundreds more) feel. The way I still feel when I flick through the pages of KM Peyton’s ‘Beethoven Medal’. But of course love is fickle. And in the Autumn I met John in a cinema in Cambridge. Another broken, difficult boy. He was on-screen of course, in “The Breakfast Club”. But that didn’t diminish my adoration.
I still fall in love when I open a book though. And I’m still grateful to Peyton and Penn. They gave me my first crush. And a life-long love of musicians and artists and writers: disheveled, tortured souls, whom only I, of all the girls, could possibly understand.