Sandra (13): The Brilliant Coincidence
“Sandra, after school on Friday we’ve been invited to dinner with my new boss,” said Sandra’s mother at dinner on Wednesday. “It’s so nice of him, don’t you think?”
“Oh, yes,” Sandra replied, smiling.
“His name’s Raymond Quentin,” her mother added conversationally.
Sandra paused, unwilling to believe her ears in case they had deceived her.
“Quentin, did you say?”
“Yes, that’s right, dear. Raymond Quentin. I think he mentioned, actually, that he has a son about the same age as you.”
Sandra could barely suppress the urge to grin widely. What were the chances? This would surely make it easier to introduce her boyfriend to her parents.
“Oh, I’ve seen him around,” she allowed herself to say. “He’s called Rhyley. Does Economics, Physics and Chemistry.”
Her mother beamed.
“That’s great. You two will be able to talk about school and your young people stuff while your father and I talk to Raymond and his wife.”
When she left the table, Sandra went to her room and instantly got out her phone to send a text to Rhyley.
‘My mum works for your dad! I’m coming round your house on Friday! I told Mum I’ve seen you in school, but otherwise we’ll have to pretend we don’t know each other.’
‘I thought so! Wow, Fate really finds a way. I’ll try to pretend. :P’ was Rhyley’s response.
Sandra grinned. Dinner at Rhyley’s house. How exciting!
After school on Friday, which had been the last day of the first half term of the school year, Sandra had a little time to change her clothes. She put on dark jeans and a deep violet top under a long woollen jumper. She brushed her hair so that it was extra soft and cleaned her teeth before she came downstairs, almost ready - she needed to put on a pair of shoes. She slid long comfy boots over her feet, which were in dark tights.
“You look nice, dear,” her mother commented as she came into the living room, closely followed by her father who was dressed in a suit.
“Thanks, Mum. You too.”
They all got in the car, her father driving while her mother directed. Sandra found it difficult to contain her excitement. She had to bite hard on her lip to suppress reckless, joyful laughter.
In fifteen minutes they were parking outside Rhyley’s house. It was terraced like theirs, made out of red brick with a slate tile roof. Her mum led them up the patio to the front door and pressed the doorbell. A tall man with black hair and pale blue eyes opened the door. His face lit up as he regarded the three Longmorrows.
“Hello, hello. Come in.” He stepped back, letting them in. He passed into the living room as they stopped to take off their shoes in the porch.
Sandra mother stepped into the living room first. She and Mr Quentin shook hands.
“Thanks for coming, Lara.” They kissed each other’s cheek. Sandra’s mother moved further into the room so that Sandra and her dad could come in. They both shook Mr Quentin’s hand, introducing themselves to him.
Rhyley walked into the room.
“Evening, there,” he said warmly. He came up to shake Sandra’s mother’s hand, then her father’s and then he looked at Sandra, making her heart sigh in contentment. The times in the library this week had been moments of softness, of warmth, of easiness, like sinking into a cloud.
“Sandra, is it?” He smiled politely.
“Yes, that’s right,” she replied, keeping her voice calm and level. “And you’re Rhyley, right?”
Rhyley’s father looked at his wristwatch.
“Dinner won’t be done for another ten minutes - let me show you our garden.”
“I’ll show Sandra my artwork,” Rhyley offered.
Rhyley’s dad seemed slightly surprised.
“Oh, that’s a good idea, son.”
So Mr Quentin took Sandra’s parents on through to the back garden whilst Rhyley led Sandra upstairs. She felt a strange sense of solemnity, as if this were something formal and significant: a rite of passage in their relationship.
Rhyley led her to a spacious room with plush light green carpet, which was surprisingly tidy for a teenage guy’s bedroom. The wooden furniture (the wardrobe, the desk and the bedside table) was matching and gave the room a soft feel with its light shade. It was hard to imagine him leading his girlfriends up here, with one intention in mind. But it was conceivable of the guy who had kissed her against her will in the common room. Sandra suddenly felt anxious. What if Roger had been right all along and Rhyley’s pleasantness in the library had been a grand, well-done façade? What if Rhyley had arranged this dinner somehow, to get Sandra alone after five impatient days of waiting and wanting her?
“Wow, it’s weird you being up here,” Rhyley murmured, glancing at the bed and shaking his head slightly.
“Yeah... maybe we shouldn’t have come upstairs,” Sandra said, regretting her quickness to follow him.
Rhyley looked at her, his eyes glinting mischievously.
“Why? Are you afraid, Sandra?”
Sandra wasn’t amused: she was nervous.
“Why don’t you pick up your artwork and bring it downstairs? We could look at it in the living room.”
Rhyley frowned slightly.
“You are worried, aren’t you?”
Sandra looked at the floor, moving one foot over the other. She didn’t say anything.
Rhyley gently tilted her chin upwards so that she was looking into his eyes. She swallowed. This was the point where he kissed her.
“Sandra, I’m not going to try to get you into bed,” he told her calmly.
“Promise?” Sandra asked, feeling slightly stupid for asking such a childish question.
“I promise.” He leant in and kissed her cheek. His hands moved to rest over her hips. Sandra felt herself shiver slightly.
“Can I kiss you on the lips?” Rhyley asked. He gazed into her eyes, his own serious and penetrating.
“Yes.” There was the faintest tremor in Sandra’s reply, but it was a result of Rhyley’s intensity rather than her fear.
His mouth met hers and there was a spark like electricity but thrilling instead of painful. Sandra sank into an ocean of amazing feelings. Rhyley pushed her back against the nearest wall, his fingers stroking her hipbones, making her feel beautiful. Sandra’s hands rested with her palms flat against the wall behind her and she responded a little less passionately, letting Rhyley take control of the kiss. She gasped as at one side, his cool index finger traced the curve of her pelvis under her top, running up and down it. She realised, with a pang of sadness, that it felt practised, like it had been done before. She pushed against him gently but firmly and opened her eyes as he withdrew from the kiss. She gazed into his eyes.
“You’ve done it so many times before,” she murmured. “Not just the sex, but everything before it.” She looked down. “How many girls, Rhyley? How many girls have you slept with?”
Rhyley sighed slightly. He took a while to answer, as if there were a lot to count.
“Nine,” he answered finally.
“Did you need to know that?” he asked, sounding put out. “Do you feel any happier for knowing?”
“Could you step away?” she asked quietly, without replying.
Rhyley made a noise of annoyance and stepped back. Sandra moved around him, careful not to brush against him, and sat down on the office chair at his desk.
“Let’s see this artwork, then,” Sandra said, trying to sound calm and casual while inside her heart was sighing deeply as if it had lost something precious to it.
Rhyley silently opened a drawer in the top of the desk and pulled out a sketchbook. He handed it to her.
“Would you like a drink?” His tone said ‘Please say yes’.
“Um, some water please,” she told him.
Sandra opened the book and carefully leafed through page after page of beautiful sketches, careful paintings, collages and pictures coloured with oil pastels and watercolours.
Sandra stopped at one drawing that took her breath away. It was the full moon, bright and pearlescent (coloured with white chalk), craters appearing as dark shadows made with lead or a grey colouring pencil, striking against a painted black sky, a single dark purple cloud floating underneath.
Rhyley returned with water and a glass of what looked like Coke.