He was twenty-four. She was only nineteen.
She could type forty words a minute, with perfect spelling and grammar, and a wide and educated vocabulary. He pecked at the keyboard with two fingers, couldn’t spell, didn’t always hit the key he intended anyway and didn’t necessarily notice, and had to look up quite a lot of the words she used.
They’d never met before – not in the flesh, so to speak, anyway. They’d met in an internet chat room over a year earlier, and chatted frequently. They’d seen a couple of still photographs of each other. He’d seen a lot of photographs she’d taken, and she’d seen a few he’d taken, and a few more other people had taken for him.
They met on a windswept and lonely railway station platform, fifty miles from each of their homes. There was no booking clerk in the ticket office, just an automatic ticket machine. It was doubtful there were any railway staff there at all, but they didn’t know for sure one way or the other. She’d travelled from home unaccompanied.
She was well but casually dressed, he was uncomfortable in the unfamiliar shirt and tie and smart trousers. She stood and smiled, looking at him. He looked at the ground, and twisted his fingers together.
He had his little sister – his little sister – and his probation officer with him.
Oonagh and Christine. Oonagh was eleven.
Trying to talk was very awkward for both of them. Christine introduced them, as if it was necessary.
Oonagh suggested that it would be okay if she and Christine stayed in the waiting room, out of sight, for up to an hour. Christine said that would be okay, but gave her a panic alarm, and said they could come into the waiting room before the hour was up if they wanted to. She and he both guessed that this was actually all Christine’s idea, and that she’d arranged beforehand with Oonagh for her to make the suggestion. They were right.
They didn’t hear Christine approaching. She didn’t disturb their kiss. She didn’t know whether it was their first, but it looked like it.
After a minute, she coughed and they saw her.
“That was an hour?”
“ ’Fraid so.”
They held hands and pulled away from each other.
“You want to meet again next week?”
“Yes.” Both of them, no hesitation.
His Mum didn’t approve, and had said so to Christine. Oonagh knew, too, but secretly disagreed. She was quietly excited. Mum would come round. In a way, Mum was relieved that it wasn’t her responsibility, that she could leave it to Christine.