Small Town, Saturday Night
BY WINNIE BURKE
I had always worshipped Johnny Baxter, back then in our one horse town he represented life..... I hung on his every word, long black hair to his shoulders and would dance in the breeze emphasising his lantern jaw line to perfection. All the girls were trying to catch his eyes, be the one who became special to him, I played my trump card, being the little sister of Blake Gilbert scored me some brownie points, they were best friends and played football together.
'Ma, tell love's young dream here to go shopping with you this morning.... it's getting tedious my little sis being the only female hanging about down the park with us.’
Mum looked at me and saw the emotions on my face, barely concealed adoration for the tall athletic Johnny. She relented, 'Listen, Blake, it's just a few small errands I need, won't be long then myself and Jenny will give you a boys only afternoon, agreed Jen?’
I smiled, a half hour was better than none, I had got snippets of a hushed conversation, cinema then bowling down the precinct, my idea of a fun night out. As we walked to the park I could feel Blake's anger at boiling point.
'He sees you as a kid Jenny...get over it'. As my brother was engrossed in conversation with Piers Maguire I sauntered over to Johnny. He was tying his boots preparing to be a Adonis on the football field. He smiled and it felt like Xmas had arrived.
'You don't mind me tagging along....it's better fun than watching Mum deciding which colour curtains to buy?’
He looked straight at me, at a time when all girls fanaticised about the Hero's of the silver screen, mine stood right here, I needed to be in this guys radar or die trying.
'Mine is blue by the way, my favourite colour.’
I smiled, 'You mean not black or purple or some dark juristic vibe but blue the colour of the sky'. I was babbling; Mum always said I tended to babble when excited.
'You have a cute smile.’ Had I died and gone to heaven? Johnny then took to his heels and joined his mates on the pitch for a kick about.
'Jenny what do you want to do?’ I sat there completely in orbit, ever since returning that smile and those words Johnny had said had me all a tizzy. 'Earth to Jenny,’ Mum laughed.
'Sorry Mum I was day dreaming again. We walked the beach and had tea in the little cafe by the pier, I loved spending time with Mum, since Dad left her she did feel quite lonely sometimes. 'I am being silly aren't I? He is perfect, inside and out, why on earth would he look at someone like me?’
She placed her hand on mine.
‘You are beautiful, Jenny, on the threshold of becoming a young woman, Johnny is your first crush and he won't be the last, enjoy the moment but never ever let someone else define who you are'.
I didn't go to the cinema or the bowling, myself and Mum watched an old movie instead, days and nights came in our small town, so too did the years and with them the changes.
I boarded the train with my suitcase full of dreams, Blake already had flown the nest, Mum would be okay, she had a good job and a circle of loyal friends but I vowed that I would always return at weekends and we would do all the things we once did. Johnny's Dad died the following Spring, being in a small place everyone felt like family, I stood there with Mum and Blake and felt the tears fall for the hurt Johnny must be feeling, since that day he had said his favourite colour was blue I knew he was always going to remain the same Johnny never let big town ideals influence him and I was right, saying goodbye to his mentor and the Man who shaped his life, his grief was raw and unyielding.
I hugged him close and I saw him study my face, he didn't know me, how could he? I had matured beyond recognition, he still looked exactly the same, jet black hair and the bluest eyes, they were now full of sadness and self doubt. 'Jenny is that you?’
I smiled and in a moment of madness said. 'If you get five minutes meet me at the pier, that is if you need to talk?’ Johnny. His name resounded on the breeze. Just then a tall elegant woman came into view linking her arm through his. Before he could introduce us I got jostled and thankfully got lost among the sympathisers and disappeared from view.
Blake found me in the kitchen later. 'He might take a second look now, sis, you sure look a million dollars, the big city obviously agrees with you'.
I returned his smile. 'And look at you, all grown up and not wet behind the ears no more, what do you say we hit the town for old times sake. It's Saturday night after all.’ Blake disappeared amongst his friends after a while, I found the loud music claustrophobic and needed to breathe fresh air, I strolled to the pier and sat alone.
Watching the harbour lights twinkling in the distance, this small town with its family vibe always had my heart, I remember the fresh faced young girl full of idiotic dreams and if only, even accosting Johnny earlier whilst he mourned his Father. Blake was right before: he might take a second look but it was too late, the years and distance had come between us, life got in the way....heading back Monday to my new life in the city, it was where I belonged now.
'Is this seat taken?’ Johnny stood there, a black coat with its collar turned up to ward off the night’s chill.
He looked to the lights and I could see the tears still glistening in his eyes. ‘I have to be, Mum needs me and Claire'.
Jenny blushed. 'Of course, she seemed nice, have you been together long?’ Without knowing it my whole world turned on its axis and I knew my whole life depended on his next words to me.
He smiled. 'Still fishing I see, many moons ago you asked me my favourite colour, it hasn't changed and neither has my favourite girl.’
Jenny got to her unsteady feet. 'I really should be going, Mum will be wondering where I got to, it is our movie night after all'.
'You still do that. This place never changes but you sure have, Jenny, and I am so happy to have met you again and by the way that girl earlier was my sister, you never knew I had a sister, she didn't like you follow her big brother everywhere but…’
‘She is your sister'.
Johnny leaned across and kissed me softly. 'You are the best thing to happen to me today, always wondered about you, when you spread your wings and flew would you still idolise a no marker from sleepy Bay water or get your head turned by the flash lads from the city?’
I kissed him back. 'Does that answer your question?’ We strolled the beach and we made memories that night, we became whom we were destined to be.
Johnny emerges from the train with his baby son in his proud arms, I have missed my two boys but now we can finally function as a Family, life has come full circle, we both followed our dreams and they brought us back here to this small town and to each other, two qualified doctors no mean feat and the icing on the cake our remarkable little man Beau.
Living in the Baxter's old place looking over the Bay is kind of ironic really, I often sat at the pier and wished that Johnny would notice me, really notice me and all the while he had allowed me to follow my dream and become who I needed to be and now I have it all and more. Mum is ecstatic.
'Whatever is meant for you will not pass you by.' She was right but then mothers always are.