Carlo had no idea what the film was about. His attention was captivated by Daizee who was sitting beside him engrossed in the movie, twisting her short hair with her finger and spooning popcorn into her mouth. She hardly noticed him, at least that was what he thought. Every time she laughed it brought a smile to his face.
Wot dew looken a? She said like an apparition popping up to say boo.
Carlo was certain that he lit up bright enough to distract the small audience of the cinema from watching the film.
Wot? she said again.
You’s bin wotchen I right throo the flick.
You nose et.
Would you mind, said a voice behind them.
Mind wot? she snapped.
This is a cinema.
Fuck I Einstein, I fort et was a fucken beach. She winked at Carlo.
What did you say? said the voice.
Dews right, I’m fucken wiv ya. My sweetheart ere were gonna to tell I dat ee luvs I, weren’t ya Carlo?
What? said Carlo feeling himself shrink into his seat.
Well dohn’t ya?
Don’t I what?
Please I really am trying to watch the film, hissed the voice behind.
An ee reallee iz tryen to tell I he luvs I, ain’t ya?
Carlo felt a rush of emotion run over him.
Cummon Carlo, sey et.
He felt light headed. Yes, said Carlo.
I love you.
She looked to the seat behind them. See. Awl dun. And she turned back to the film, shoved her hand in the popcorn, took a handful and stuffed it into her mouth. Her eyes were bright and wide and her skin had a moon glow.
Carlo sat back. This is what love feels like, he thought, he had made it. Always he had feared that he would never find love with a girl, assuming that it was beyond his reach, that he would never discover the right person or that he was not man enough, not like the boys at school who carried their conquests around on their mobile phones. In the dark of the cinema with the colours of the moving images flickering on his face he began to imagine that anything was possible. He closed his eyes and projected himself into a future with Daizee, growing up, growing old, living out the everyday. Shopping in Tescos with her, walking around the fruit and veg behind a shopping trolley. Carlo had no idea why he was in Tescos, but it felt right, love is often about the sharing of the mundane, he said to himself, and the potion of love a kind of encompassing haze of serenity. As they walked passed the frozen food section of the shopping hall he felt a chill pass through him. In no time at all he would be saying goodbye to Daizee for the week. He would be ignorant of her whereabouts. She had given him a phone number but his parents forbade him from owning his own phone, and monitored all calls to and from the house landline, leaving him with no means of contacting her across the divide. It never occurred to him to use a call box.
Something flicked against his face. He was back in the cinema. It flicked again. Turning to face her a piece of popcorn flicked off his cheek. There was a big broad grin on her face. Dumbstruck he smiled back at her. It was then that she kissed him on the cheek with a quick peck, followed up the kiss with a wink before she reached out and popped a piece of popcorn into his mouth. Carlo had never been kissed by a girl before.
Later, outside the cinema he tried to give her the money his Grandmother had left him.
Why dew do dat?
I spent all week saving it up, he said.
Because I was thinking about you.
Ez dat ow you’s finks on I?
I just think about you, Daizee.
Wot the fuck you’s tawken abowt?
I don’t understand, I thought you needed it.
Dat’s not wot I need.
Her stellar brilliance had hardened into meteorite ice. Well tell me what you want, said Carlo, and I’ll do what I can.
You’s dohn’t get et, do ya?
Don’t get what?
She looked at him. I dohn’t wont yer cash.
What do you want?
She was shaking her head in disbelief at him.
What, Daizee? he said.
Dohn’t you nose?
Behind her, the road was busy. Cars were queued behind a learner driver that coughed itself forward before stalling. Daizee was staring him full in the face. He was lost for words.
Her phone began to sing. She took it out of her pocket and looked at it. Carlo heard the chorus,
Get up, get up, get up, get up,
Let’s make love tonight.
I gotta get go, she said.
OK, he said.
Daizee looked away, watched the street, contorted her face in thought and turned back to him. Lissen, she said, I’m a bit short for a bus.
Nodding, he fished inside his pocket and took out the fifty pounds.
Dat’s too much, she said.
Take it. Please. I don’t need it.
Scowling she glanced down the street.
Buy me something with it, he said quickly.
She turned back to him, stared for a second and then said, OK.
So I’ll see you next week?
Great. Listen, why don’t you choose what we do? You could take me somewhere.
Na, she said and began to walk off.
Where shall I meet you? he called after her.
Ere, she said over her shoulder.
Daizee, he called.
Without answering or looking back she just waved her hand. A bus crossed his field of vision. And Daizee was gone.
Carlo’s youth fell off him. He limped home heavy on melancholy that he made worse by telling himself that that was the last time he would see her. Playing that final moment over and over again, wishing that he could zip round to the front of her to see if her own face betrayed the exact same feelings of sadness that he felt now, rather than that look of hurt she had thrown him when he tried to give her the money. For a moment he was angry because he hadn’t told her that he took his role of bread winner seriously. He wasn’t like the other boys he knew at school who simply boasted of their conquests each and every week. That was not Carlo. Commitment flowed through him. It was in his blood. His mind was jittery with pain and anger. Anger that she had hurt him and anger at himself for not arguing his own case. How stupid could he be. He might have lost her. Inebriated on his tragedy Carlo zombied down the wide streets of the affluent bricked buildings with large windows, mowed lawns and spring laden fauna. The pavement was caked in fallen blossom but to Carlo it was crematorium ash.