Chapter 8 : Turning On Porch Lights
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I had my very first kiss two days after my eleventh birthday. I remember it was with my friend Justin, who lived next door to me and Lily.
My parents had been hosting an end-of-the-summer neighborhood cookout and Justin, Lily, and I spent the day together. It was fun. Justin was just a year older than I was and we had always been friends.
If I can recall correctly, it had been night time and all of the grownups were sitting around the small bonfire drinking and talking quietly. Justin, Lily and I had been sitting on the old swing set sharing a bag of marshmallows and talking amongst ourselves.
Everything had been going splendidly until Lily went and took the last marshmallow. Justin and I sent her back into the kitchen to get a new bag.
Then Justin proceeded to say something funny, or stupid, or a mixture of the two, which caused me to laugh.
It caused me to laugh a lot.
And the next thing I knew, Justin’s lips were planted gently on mine and I was receiving a very sweet, marshmallowy kiss.
And somehow, just somehow, a marshmallow from the new bag Lily was holding managed to hit me square on the nose as Lily yelled for Mum and Dad to come over and see what Justin and I were doing.
Thank goodness Dad was slightly tipsy, otherwise I fear he would have killed Justin, or worse, gave him a ‘man to man’ talk.
And that would have been a great tragedy.
At the beginning of that summer, Yvonne and I decided to get jobs at the bakery downtown. It was a small bakery called the Bread Basket, but everyone simply referred to it as the bakery. It was run by a middle aged Italian couple, Mr. and Mrs. Costello.
Mr. Costello was a tall man with a dark handlebar moustache and Mrs. Costello was an equally tall woman with dark hair and a rather beakish nose. They were both rather immaculate people, neater than pins. I’d often find myself scrubbing hard at invisible coffee stains from a million years ago, not knowing if they were gone until Mrs. Costello would come, peer over my shoulder and deem the table clean enough for the day. I wouldn’t have minded as much if there hadn’t been exactly twenty two tables with the same invisible stains in the cramped bakery.
I suppose working behind the counter wasn’t much better, especially in the mornings. Serving half the town of Greenside in the two hour rush is a rather daunting task and often enough, Yvonne and I would hide under the counter for a minute or two, just to catch our breaths. We’d try to form defensive strategies against the crowd, we attempted taking turns for awhile, but in the end we realized that in order for this to work we both had to be on the front line…and if one of us fell, she would stay fallen, because there was no holding back the masses.
There is one customer that sticks out in my mind, he was a rather large blonde boy, around my age, and he would always order vast amounts of coffee and buns. I asked Yvonne about it once and she said that he must be an intern of some sorts, probably for the little company down the road that was just getting started, Grunnings Drill Company.
The first time the boy stood in line, he looked rather shy. I smiled kindly at him when it was his turn to order, but he merely puffed out his chest proudly and demanded his order. He did this everyday, acting all shy in line but rather proud when he finally got to me. It irked me at first, that is, until I noticed the size of the tips he was leaving.
Yvonne said that was just the way it was with some people, there’s a good side and a bad side to everyone, and we can all only hope that the good side pays us decently.
I had on a floaty pink dress that night. I brushed back my long blonde hair and looked in the mirror, satisfied. I was going to Yvonne’s party that night and supposedly some boys from Smeltings were coming.
I dashed out the door, hearing my mother call out behind me. “Be back by eleven!”
Of course I’d be back; they really ought to have trusted me more.
All was quiet as I walked up towards Yvonne’s house. I rang the doorbell and waited patiently for someone to answer. When Yvonne opened the door I was greeted with a blast of music and laughter.
Yvonne grabbed my arm. “C’mon Petunia. Ooh, you have to meet some of these Smeltings boys, the rugby captain even showed up!”
She dragged me by the arm to the kitchen were a massive plate of cookies was being attacked by equally massive boys. A few girls were floating around here and there, but Yvonne marched right past them. “Hey guys! Meet my friend Petunia.”
A few of the boys waved at me. Yvonne turned towards me again and dragged me to the other end of the table. She tapped someone on the back. “Oy, Vernon, I’d like you to meet my friend Petunia.” He turned around and I gasped. It was the boy from the bakery!
Yvonne addressed me. “Petunia, this is Vernon, from Smeltings, he’s rugby captain.” I watched with mild amusement as Vernon turned rather red. I nodded, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Vernon.” He nodded and gruffly muttered a faint “hello” staying red the entire time.
Yvonne went on talking, “You know guys, I think- hey!” She exclaimed seeing someone at the other side of the room. “You put down that vase this instant!”
She marched away, leaving me with Vernon and a giant plate of cookies. I took a cookie and began munching thoughtfully. Despite the noise going on around us, it felt like there was an awkward silence. I said the first thing that popped into my head. “I like cookies.”
Vernon grabbed another cookie.
Vernon put it in his mouth and chewed appreciatively.
Vernon then said, “I like cookies too.”
We both grabbed a cookie and put them in our mouths at the same time.
We looked at each other.
And for whatever reason, we both started laughing.
We both started laughing a lot.
We both leant in a little closer, and closer, and closer, until…
“You know, I can’t stand people sometimes. I mean, you try to throw a good party and all you get are those weirdoes who find something funny about broken vases. What’s so funny about a broken vase?! I don’t know, I kicked them out, imbeciles…” Yvonne looked at me and Vernon. “Having a nice time?” She asked sweetly.
I smiled “I’m having a wonderful time.”
Vernon nodded gruffly in agreement.
We talked for awhile more.
And then by chance I glanced at the clock. It read 10:53.
I could feel my heart stop as I realized the time and I murmured a quick goodbye to Vernon and Yvonne before dashing out of the house. I could hear Vernon following me. “Petunia!” he called. “Do you want a ride?” He dangled his car keys in front of me.
I lived on the next street over, but my parents appreciate promptness greatly, so I nodded. Better safe than sorry.
Being rather late on a Friday night, most people’s lights were off. Vernon drove me up to my relatively dark house and turned off the ignition.
He nodded slightly before saying, “Well, here you go.”
I nodded too before saying thank you.
Before I opened the door, however, I turned and saw in the dimmest of lights that Vernon was rather red. It was almost as though I could feel the heat from his face emanating towards me. For whatever reason, the thought of the Smeltings rugby captain being slightly…afraid, made me smile.
And then it made me do something stupid.
I leaned in and ever so gently gave Vernon Dursley a kiss.
By accident, I placed my elbow on the steering wheel. It slipped, hit the horn and the car beeped loudly for a few seconds, causing the porch lights of several houses to turn on, including my own.
I heard an angry old man yell at us for being crazy kids who didn’t know the meaning of a good nights sleep.
I heard my Mum open up the front door to my house yelling at the top of her lungs. “PETUNIA EVANS, YOU GET INSIDE THIS HOUSE THIS INSTANT BEFORE YOU WAKE THE WHOLE BLOODY NEIGHBORHOOD!!! IT’S ELEVEN-OH TWO, YOUR FATHER AND I HAVE BEEN WORRIED SICK! AND BOY, YOU HAD BETTER GET AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER THIS BLOODY INSTANT!!!”
I gave Vernon a pitying look before whispering, “I bet we woke her up, she hates it when something wakes her up unexpectedly.” I gave a small laugh. “This is nothing; you ought to see her during thunderstorms when the thunder wakes her up. She gets really loud.”
I gave another small laugh.
I smiled again, and noded to Vernon, “I’ll see you at the bakery, then?”
He nodded, “G’night Petunia.”
I stepped out of the car. “Good night, Vernon.”
I know I said that it was a stupid thing to do, and I stand by that. However, I have never once regretted it.
A/N: So, how cliched did I get? Sorry about the delay, but this chapter was a pain to write. Honestly, you'd think this one would be a joy to write, but no. Hmm, I finally get to add some warnings to my story though, no matter how mild they actually are...
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