She smiled at me, I think. It was hard to tell, because she might have been smiling already and just happened to glance up and catch my eye, but I think it was for me.
Of course, that wasn’t why I walked over. I was with Danny, who was meeting Amy, and since the girls’ school broke up at 3.20 and we were in until 3.45 they would always come and wait outside the gates for us to come out.
It was quite a sight actually, with hindsight. Small groups of heavenly angels (surely they must have been as spotty as us?) would constellate outside the gates, each keeping furtively to themselves, applying make-up and touching up their hair in the grimy and fractured mirror of the vandalised bus stop.
When we came out of the gates they came quickly away from the mirrors and make-up, but did not deign to lift their make-up smeared eyelashes to us, excepting of course the one or two wildly enthusiastic screaming specimens whose excitement was only exceeded by the pitch of their voices. And excepting Olivia, who smiled. Probably.
Danny was taking Amy to prom, so the plan was to shop for dresses, a task to which I could pride myself in being only slightly less qualified than Danny. His role was to tell her she looked good, which would be helped by the fact that she would, at least to his eyes. My role was to keep Danny entertained, which would be hindered by the fact that Amy affected my tongue like salt on a slug. Olivia’s role was as yet as mysterious as that subtle smile.
We slowly wended our way down the street, past the smoking sixth-formers and the tutting and spluttering old women who might just have been waiting there since they had been checking make-up and flashing might-be smiles of their own. Amy was complaining about Maisy or Daisy who had been bitching about Lucy or Susie, the exact details seeming so much less important than the slightest hint of a bra strap through her white shirt, which for some reason seemed a resting place for my eyes more appropriate than Olivia’s eyes.
We wended our way down past the police station, through the churchyard, across the main road (you didn’t need to wait for the lights if you pushed the button and kept walking down, because it was one-way) and into town. As we went I first rolled up my sleeves, but then, worrying about the unsightly goosebumps, slid them down again, settling for an undone top button which was intended to look more alternative than it perhaps did.
We first went to the department store, where we walked around for what seemed like hours. Whatever Einstein said about time flying when it was spent with a pretty girl, he obviously didn’t go prom dress shopping. When we had traversed every aisle Amy had finally accrued five dresses to try on, and disappeared off to the changing rooms. But Olivia didn’t.
“You not been asked to prom Liv?” asked Danny, hands shoved awkwardly in his pockets, removed from his comfort zone of nodding and smiling.
She smiled again, I glimpsed her eyes looking shyly (or slyly) down in the second it took me to lose my nerve and look away, finding a sudden inexplicable interest in the nearby lingerie department, before the reality of my unnoticed shame dawned on me.
“Nah Dan. Not yet, anyway.”
She might have been looking my way, but regrettably her eyes weren’t on the floor so I can’t say I saw.
“Oh… Cool.” I think Danny must have won Amy’s heart with his way with words.
Amy returned, none of the dresses had fit, prompting her to claim she had gained weight, which Danny and Olivia quickly and confidently refuted, while I helpfully muttered something that was meant to be ‘no’, but wasn’t quite so well articulated.
The department store morphed into a high street shop, then a charity shop (very briefly, and more, it seemed, for comedy value), then another chain store, with sufficient time to walk disdainfully past the shops where all my clothes were from (excepting, of course, those bought by my mother).
Finally we returned, inevitably, to the first department store, where four more dresses were taken back to the dressing room. An awkward silence filled the air, once again my wandering eyes fell into the trap of the lingerie-clad mannequins, once again they darted away, this time they met Olivia’s smiling glance and I went still redder.
“You bringing anyone to prom then Matt?”
It took me a brief second to realise that Matt was my name. What to say? Words flowed rapidly through my mind without troubling to stop at my tongue. My mouth was dry.
“Erm, nah, don’t think so… Nah.”
There wasn’t much to say.
Amy returned, wearing a short blue dress that almost tore my eyes away from my shoes. Appropriate approving words were provided, and the dress was returned to the hangar for Mum and Dad to buy later.
We left the shop and went back down the street to the bus station where we would head our separate ways. Danny’s bus was there when we arrived, and with a quick peck on Amy’s lips he was gone, leaving me with the girls, shuffling from foot to foot.
Amy was next to go, leaving with a kiss on the cheek for Olivia and a smile for me that never quite reached her mouth, let alone her eyes. It was just the two of us left, listening to roar of traffic. I bit my lip.
Olivia’s bus pulled in, a number thirty-one, single decker, heading out to Trenton, so it said. I didn’t know where she lived, indeed my geography was so poor I couldn’t even have said where Trenton was. I bit harder.
I caught her eyes properly for the first time. They were a blue somewhere between the colour of the sky and of the sea. She smiled, definitely this time. At me.
“See you round.”