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The Day Before Yesterday: 23 – Sprinkled with Magic Dust

…Something about me seemed to be of interest to the new lad as he seemed to have eyes only for me. His father didn't keep him short of pocket money as I noticed he always had a small bag of sweets. These he shared generously, but more so with me…

Gladys Schofield begins to receive notes from a 12-year-old suitor.

The little group of children still played in the lamplight. A few more had by this time swelled the ranks. I had a new friend who lived higher up the road and went to a different school to me.

We often called at her house when the evenings were cool, and her mother would make us a hot drink of cocoa. She also cut some of the local children's hair. She charged tuppence for this service, quite reasonable. She had no overheads and cut them in her own home.

This night as we sipped our cocoa, a boy came into the room for a trim. He was about our age but I had never seen him before. His hair was fair and tousled, and he gave us a sidelong glance as he passed through to the kitchen where Annie's mother was waiting for him.

"I didn't know your mother cut boys’ hair,” I whispered.

"Oh just my brothers and Kenneth's,” she said. "He is one of our neighbours and lives with his dad. His mother died last year.”

"Oh,” I said, "how sad. Hasn't he any brothers or sisters?"

"He has one sister, but she is much older than him and has just got married.”

I don't know why this sad tale disturbed me, but I was a real softy for hard luck tales and eyed him more keenly on his outward journey. Much to my surprise he was doing the same.

From then on he seemed to be one of the group, playing hide and seek, Mr Wolf, or just telling bloodcurdling tales. The time always passed quickly and seven-thirty was my time, with no excuses, so back home I would go.

Something about me seemed to be of interest to the new lad as he seemed to have eyes only for me. His father didn't keep him short of pocket money as I noticed he always had a small bag of sweets. These he shared generously, but more so with me.

Sometimes I was not allowed to play out. The weather would keep us in quite often, and days would pass before we met up again. This was the time I began to receive little letters delivered privately by my friend Anne. They were just little notes, sealed in the tiniest square envelopes I had ever seen. They had a black band running all the way around the outside and I suppose were some remnants from his mother's funeral. The notes said how much he had missed me and would I be his girl. He did look rather cute, and I was very flattered as no one had treated me this way before.

When I think of how children our age would act today, it makes me realise just how immature we were. He must have been trying to impress me. One of the tiny envelopes I opened contained a ring with a huge glass diamond in the front. That must have cost him at least threepence at the local bazaar. I hope he didn't think we were engaged now. We couldn't survive on the bags of sugary crescent moons (sweets) he kept handing to me. I suppose they looked more expensive than aniseed balls.

But things came to a head in a way I would never have dreamed. John discovered my store of little notes when he opened my small attaché case that I carried my gym clothes in and showed them to Mum and my sister Dorothy. That was a mean thing to do, for they just laughed at the love letters of my twelve-year-old suitor.

And was I mad. I would get that smug brother of mine in the only way I could hurt him. I stuck a pin into his football and punctured it. I don't know if he ever found out it was me.

I told my first love about this incident and thought it better if he wrote no more letters. This little setback did not perturb my first love at all, apart from threatening to get my brother if I so wished. But I thought he had been punished enough, so things went on very much as before, but not in writing.

What magic dust suddenly makes us bloom at the age of twelve so that children who you have played with so innocently for years, suddenly find you attractive? For I now found I had a problem.

One of the boys who had shared the fish and chips for such a long time got annoyed when he saw the attention I was getting from Kenneth, saying that he had always fancied me himself and I should stay away from my boyfriend. This made things awkward all round, and I didn't go out as often in the evenings after that. I don't know if their passions smouldered, but they stayed friends for years after that.


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