He looked up at me when I said “with your looks”, with a quizzical expression, as if wondering if I was genuine. But maybe he was wondering something else, because then he said, “the thing is, I don’t think I really want a girl at all”. Now I was feeling very out of my depth. “I guess if it’s a boy you’re after, the beefing up might help, we’re notoriously superficial”. Not that I was a boy, of course. But he knew what I meant. “All the boys at school are jerks. Some are nice-looking, some aren’t even stupid, but they are all jerks”. “Really? All of them?” “Every last one. I don’t like my age group. I go for older guys, but they aren’t going to look at me, because I’m too young and I don’t know anything”. “How young are you?” “Fourteen, but I’ll be fifteen in June”. “Well, that’s kinda on the young side for most men who are older, it’s a bit of a legal problem, you know, the age of consent thing”. “Yeah, I know. I hate that. How can they tell me what I can and can’t do? And anyway, who says I’m leaping into bed with anyone? I just want a guy to be with, to hold”. “Be patient, you’ll find someone”. Which sounded pathetic. “Yeah, but when?” And I had no answer to that.
We sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, on the bench, in the rain. It was early March, and he wasn’t really dressed for the weather, just his school blazer and a thin white shirt. I was going to say cotton, but probably polyester. Snob that I am. Then he started to shiver. “You’re getting cold”. “It’s OK, I don’t want to go home yet.” “I haven’t got anything to warm you up”. “Can I sit closer?” “Er …. Sure”. And he snuggled up against me. I couldn’t help putting my arm around his shoulders. He shuddered, but not in recoil, and not from the cold, either. When I say “I couldn’t help …” I know that’s a lie. I could have said “go home, keep walking, warm yourself up”. But I didn’t. I put my own arm round him, to warm him up. And it was exactly what he wanted. He rested his head against my neck. And I started to feel I had accidentally walked into a really dangerous place. And a bit of me, not all of me, really wanted to be here.