I missed the end of the world because I couldn’t face telling my girlfriend I didn’t want to marry her.
I was hiding in my school’s boiler room getting drunk on a bottle of red wine I’d nicked from dad’s stash. I kept reading Charlotte’s messages over and over.
She sent the first one right in the middle of this special family meal I was at. My brother Chris had come home from uni with the news that he’d got onto to his postgrad course in London so we’d all gone to Marco Marco’s for pizza.
My iphone beeped right as the waiter set my spinach and ricotta pizza down.
Jacob, I’m pregnant.
I had to sit through the rest of dinner pretending everything was ok. Laughing at Chris’ uni stories. Nodding when dad talked about football even though he hasn’t got a clue about it. Trying not to go ridiculously red when mum mentioned that she’d been talking to Charlotte’s mum about how we’d both applied for exactly the same unis.
“What’s wrong, Jacob?” dad asked. I’d hardly touched my pizza. “Aren’t you hungry matey?”
Dad was always calling me matey and usually that would do my head in but it just floated right over me. What I wanted to do was to tell them all what was wrong. Tell them I’d slept with Charlotte just once and it wasn’t even what I thought sex would be. It wasn’t sexy and sweaty or frantic or any of that. It was just awkward and a little bit painful. We did it in my car for God’s sake. You have to understand my car is this ancient Mini that has these seat covers made out of what feels like and smells like dog hair. It doesn’t even have an engine. I keep it in the barn in the top field. It was so freezing in there. Right at the point where I’d officially begun to have sex, to cease to be a virgin, I remember wondering why I’d chosen to bring her there. It was getting more and more freezing. It had been snowing all day. There was an owl hooting all the time almost like he was laughing at my sexual prowess and the bats were whacking themselves off the rafters. I could’ve taken her to my room. Mum and dad wouldn’t have realised what we were doing really, we could have got away with it. I think maybe we both thought we’d be like screaming with pleasure and the bed would be hammering at the wall or something. The Mini rocked a bit but I think that was because its axel has gone and just breathing in it gets it swaying. Neither of us moaned with pleasure. Charlotte kept making this sort of ouch noise and I grunted a couple of times but that was it. It was probably the exact same scenario that thousands, no, million, of kids our age go through every day around the world. The disappointment of losing your virginity. The shattered illusions of sex.
I text her back as soon as I got home from Marco Marco’s. I was meant to stay downstairs and have a brandy with dad and Chris while mum walked Hadrian our Belgian Shepherd. It’s meant to be this special treat when dad cracks open his good brandy and lets me and Chris have a glass but the truth is I can’t stand brandy. I never tell dad that. Usually I sip it, swill the brandy around the glass, look at the brandy like dad does with this intense appreciation. I take my time drinking it. I ask for ice even though dad always shakes his head at me. I let the ice melt and then I down what’s left in one. My throat burns, my stomach burns, I hold in a burp. Chris has been at uni now for two years so a single brandy is nothing to him. Last time he was home he told me him and the other lads in his hall had a party and they made this punch.
“We got this bin, right,” he said, “we filled it with a few litres of vodka, six bottles of Tesco Value cider, two boxes of white wine and two boxes of red, some Pimms that Nicky had, a bottle of JD, a bottle of Courvoisier, a few bottles of gin and loads of cheap apple juice. It tasted sick, bro.”
Chris is always saying everything is sick like he grew up in Brixton instead of Hartley Bridge.
I sat on my bed just holding my iphone trying to figure out what to text. I could hear dad and Chris laughing in the study. I started typing and then it was done. It was sent.
I’ll marry you.
That must go down as the most stupid text anyone has ever sent. My hands were shaking after I’d sent it. I felt like I’d downed a dozen brandies. I even put my iphone on silent just so I could pretend that she hadn’t replied but I still sat there staring at the screen.
I don’t know what time I fell asleep but in the morning she’d text me back.
I love you.
That’s why I got dressed even though it was half four in the morning. That’s why I put my uniform on, my old pea coat and the deerstalker Charlotte gave me last Christmas. That’s why I took a bottle of dad’s best Barolo. That’s why I walked through the snow and early morning darkness to school and pushed open the boiler room door. That’s why I sat there in the boiler room and drank every last drop of the Barolo trying to figure out how to tell her I hadn’t meant what I’d text, that I didn’t love her, not yet, that I couldn’t marry her, that I couldn’t be a dad, that I hadn’t been able to stop shaking ever since she text me. That’s why I got so drunk that I fell asleep as the boilers fired up. That’s why I didn’t wake up till way into the afternoon. That’s why I missed the end of the world.