Someone told me that this story has already been written. I read Tess of the d’Urbervilles in school, and saw the film, but I don’t remember the part that this person described as being the crux of the story. Supposedly one crucial aspect was when Tess slid a note under the door of the hero, Angel Clare’s door. Angel Clare never got the note because it slid underneath a mat. Tess decided that he must have ignored the note and so went back to the villain of the story. Fate decreed the rest.
It was December of 1989. I was 17 and a big Stone Roses fan. We had gone on a family holiday to Center Parcs. We almost hadn’t made it as, on the way, my brother had turned the car over he was driving. My parents, following in another car had panicked when they’d seen a broken bottle of tomato ketchup that had leaked all over the motorway, fearing we were badly hurt, but in fact, we were fine and we all still made it to Center Parcs.
On this holiday, I met the girl of my dreams, Claire. I had seen her at the disco, dancing with her dad. She had beautiful black hair, a bit gothy, just the way I liked. I think she was also wearing a Wonderstuff t-shirt. I didn’t speak to her the first night I saw her, but I think the following night, I went back to the disco and plucked up the courage to talk to her. Somehow, we arranged to meet.
All was going smoothly. The conversation flowed really well. We eventually got to the stage where I was walking Claire back to her villa. We got a bit lost on the way and there was a low mist. Claire asked where we were going, and finally I seized my chance to try a kiss. We kissed briefly, then Claire, who was a little short, said she would stand on the sleeping policeman. I’d never heard of this expression for a speed bump before, but anyway, she stood on the speed bump and we carried on kissing. Finally we stopped. “That warmed me up!” said Claire and finally, I walked her home. We made arrangements to meet again, and I walked back to my villa on Cloud Nine.
We spent most of the rest of the holiday together. We even ventured off the site one afternoon and went to HMV. I recommended to Claire that she bought “Bizarro” by The Wedding Present, while I bought “90” by 808 State.
Our holiday came to an end, and we vowed to continue our friendship by staying penpals. This was way before mobile phones of course. The last thing I did was leave Claire an NME video I thought she’d like to borrow, a note and a red carnation. I intended it to be a rose, but I couldn’t find any roses.
I got a really nice letter from Claire, giving me all her news, and asking how I was. Of course, I quickly wrote back. We exchanged a couple more letters, and then I had a parcel containing the video which Claire was returning.
I was a little bit taken aback as there was no letter with the video. This seemed a bit harsh, I thought. Surely if she was going to send the video back, she would also send a letter to go with it? I panicked. Was this a sign that Claire had had second thoughts and that the love I thought was blossoming was over? Had she seen it as nothing more than a holiday romance? I wrote a long, pleading letter to Claire, expressing my feelings, and pleading with her that it shouldn’t have to end now.
I gave it a few days, and no word back from Claire. In a state of panic, I rang her (on a landline of course). Claire didn’t say much. She simply said, “Nick, open the video box!!!” I went straight to the video box, opened it, and inside found a beautiful, perfume-scented letter!!! What a fool I had been!
Well, after that, things were never quite the same. I still went all the way down to Tunbridge Wells to see Claire, and we still went to see The House of Love together at the Tunbridge Wells Angel Centre, but Claire was even reluctant to hold my hand now. I was given Claire’s room, while she stayed in her sister’s room. On her wall was a large poster of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry”. “Oh yes they do” I scribbled underneath. Claire didn’t like that.
We carried on as penpals for another couple of years, but the flame was never properly rekindled. I eventually started going out with another girl from school, but I was still in love with Claire really. My girlfriend went away for a week. I had started suffering from mental health problems, and I decided I would go to visit Claire. I hitched all the way down there. For most of the journey, I was given a lift in a bright yellow Mercedes.
Claire had a flat to herself now. I got to the flat. Her sister and her new boyfriend were there. It was all a bit embarrassing. I was given a book of her new boyfriend’s poetry to read, and it was this really that made me decide I’d like to become a poet. My dad came to pick me up and when he got me home he told me that I should never see Claire again. But if only I’d opened that video box, things might have been quite different.