tagNon-EroticA Stile

A Stile


I'll always remember the first time I saw Joan. I was fourteen and it was the earliest summer I can recall when it had been really hot. I was in a real bad mood too, because the teacher had kept me behind after school to go over some crazy sums I'd gotten wrong.

My school was in a small town some three miles away from the village I lived in and on my way home I usually took a short-cut across two fields. Anyway, on that afternoon I was scuffling along, down the path that ran along the edge of the first of these fields, feeling very sorry for myself, when I came to the stile that would allow me to get over to the second field. And sitting on the stile was this girl. And she was really pretty. She had long corn-coloured hair that came down almost to her waist, a wide friendly mouth and a pair of large penetrating eyes that kept staring at me. She was wearing a simple white cotton dress and looked so lovely I nearly curled up inside. I felt sure she could hear my heart banging away within me.

When I reached the stile I thought she'd move over and let me cross but instead she just sat there, and, as I looked up at her I saw a little smile start up on her lips.

"Could you move over and let me cross, please, I have to get home?" I said feeling a little irritated in spite of being so attracted to her.

She gazed at me for a few moments and then said, "No, I don't think I will."

I must have had a pretty strange expression on my face, being all mixed up inside with my feelings, because she suddenly burst out laughing and I saw a row of white even teeth that she quickly ran her tongue over.

"I won't move to let you get home," she said, still laughing, "but I will if you'll sit here and talk to me," she added, patting the top of the stile.

Well, you can bet I didn't need a second invitation. I was up on that stile quicker than a bull-frog after a fly. She told me then that her name was Joan. I asked her how come she didn't go to my school and she said that she and her parents had just moved to the area on account of her father was ill and they thought the country air would do him good. She said she would be starting at school next term, after the summer, and I was real pleased to hear that.

So we sat on that stile and talked until the sun dipped over the cornfields and we both started to feel the evening breeze. I had to be getting home then but when I said goodbye she gave me such a gorgeous big smile I felt I could have stayed all night on that stile beside her. However, she said that she would meet me there tomorrow.

When my parents saw me they wanted to know where I'd been but I just didn't feel like talking to them about Joan. She was kind of special to me, even after just one meeting. So I said I'd been playing with Chuck in his backyard and I hoped they'd believe me and wouldn't check it out.

The next day I was on my best behaviour at school and worked real hard to make sure I'd get out on time. As soon as the bell went I was out of the door and running full steam down the road, leaving my friends gaping after me. I got onto the path and down to the stile, my heart pounding and not just because I was running so fast. And there she was. Looking twice as pretty as the day before and I did feel so happy to see her.

We talked some more that afternoon but not for so long as she had to get back to her folks because her father was sick. She was going to plant some roses in their garden because her father liked them so and she hoped the scent and the sight of them would help him get better. That day was the last day of term and the summer break stretched long and glorious in front of me. I told Joan this and she looked pleased too.

"Now you'll be able to show me around your village," she said. "It's not much fun being by yourself in a strange place," she sighed. When we parted that evening she let me kiss her and her skin was warm and dry. And that was the first girl I ever kissed, excepting my sister and my cousin, who didn't count, them being relations.

So the next morning I swallowed my breakfast quick and was out of the house before my mom could dream up anything to keep me busy. When I reached the stile she was there waiting for me. When she saw me she jumped down from the stile and came running up to me, a real nice smile on her face. She stretched out her arm and took my hand. And it seemed so strange and so exciting to be holding hands with a girl. We crossed over the fields, treading our way through the cow parsley and tall grass. At the village we went into the General Store to buy ices, because it was so hot now. Inside, I saw my friends from school and I felt proud to be with this girl who shone and sparkled and bubbled with life.

We spent the whole day exploring the village and I even found out places I'd never seen before. And then Joan remembered something she'd seen up the river bank, the other day, when she'd been by herself, and we went up there and looked and it was a group of moorhens and, you know, I'd never seen moorhens in that river before.

At the end of the day I kissed her again when we parted, only this time the kiss lasted for a good long while.

Well, that was the first day. As the days got hotter and we got into the real summer, Joan and I explored the whole land thereabouts. When we finished helping old Mr Henry to count his cows and Miss Grindley to feed her hens and when we had gotten all clued up as to the history of the inhabitants of the village from Mr Fawcett we just took ourselves off to that stile and sat down on the ground beneath it, our heads resting on the old wooden planks and our bodies wrapped in the tall dry grass lying over us. And we just talked and laughed with each other.

After two or three weeks we gradually forgot about the village and wandered further, through the fields and hedgerows, with the yellow sun burning up the corn and everything smelling so warm and sweet. We held hands most all the time.

One day, just three weeks after I first met Joan, we were sitting in the middle of a field, listening to the crickets chirping and the bees buzzing and, in the distance, the moorhens quacking on the river bank. Joan suddenly turned and looked at me and there was this strange expression on her face as I'd never seen before. She leaned forward and, pressing my shoulders back, laid me down on the grass. Without speaking she began to stroke my face, real gentle like and kissed me, as I'd seen them do in the movies. I took Joan in my arms and held her so close that her breath swept over my face. Then Joan moved and we lay there side by side, just kissing and holding each other and looking up at the sky. And, in that afternoon, I never felt closer to another person.

Well, when the sun dipped on the horizon and evening came on I thought that afternoon had passed too quick for me. I felt different inside and I tried to tell Joan how it was and I found I couldn't get the words right but it didn't matter because Joan seemed to know anyway.

The next day she took a stalk of that long dry yellow grass, broke it into two parts and made each part into a small circle so that they looked a little like gold rings. She put one on my finger and I put one on hers.

From then on the summer changed for me. When I met Joan each day at the stile we kissed, as we had done before, but after that afternoon it was different somehow. We were more than friends but I was too young to know what it meant.

As the summer days grew longer and hotter I got happier and happier and Joan grew even lovelier. But as summer ran down into fall her face got a little sadder every day. And I couldn't think for why. At first she wouldn't tell me and then eventually she did. It was all on account of her father who was sickening from some rare disease there didn't seem to be a cure for.

Each day, when she came, she would tell me that her father was getting worse. And I felt so sorry and bad that I couldn't help her except that I could show her how much I loved her.

Well, one day, she said that her father was so ill she couldn't stay long and had only come to tell me what was happening. We held each other longer that day than we ever did before and when we parted she was crying so that she could hardly find her way down the path. I wanted to go with her but she wouldn't have it: she wished to keep the happiness she found with me separate from the sadness of her family life.

The next day when I got to the stile she was not there but, but pinned to the top of the stile was a note. And I realised it was the first time I'd seen her handwriting. The note said that her father had died during the night and that she wouldn't be able to come and see me that day and that they would now have to go and live with their folks in Buffalo, way up in the north.

Well, I've still got that note, even after these many years. She wasn't there the next day either but, on top of the stile, was a long-stemmed rose that I guess must have come from their garden. I kept that rose for a good long while too.

I never saw her again. And, you know, I never knew her full name, nor where she came from, nor what became of her. But when I think of her I don't feel sad for that summer did something to me. Joan taught me what it was to be a man. And that lesson has stayed with me my whole life.

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