The moment he asked her to explain what happened on the abandoned golf course, there among the trees by the eighth hole, she knew. She was thirteen years old. Five figures loomed beneath a broken sky, faceless figures led her through the undergrowth.
Cooper’s curly hair, custard yellow from sun and surf; Cooper was fifteen. Jack Burrows rode his skateboard everywhere he went, his knees crusted with scabs; he was fifteen too. And Tristan from her science class, and little Tom ‘Tomato’ the butcher’s kid, and Robbie Meagher who always had his trombone case.
She knew. From the moment he looked at her.
He wounded her in ways she’d take years to understand. Her teenage relationships with boys and her twenties relationships with men: marred. Sometimes she loved them too much. They scooped from the pools of her love until they were empty. Sometimes they hurt her too much, hands opened or closed, and she forgave them for this every time. In the beginning she ascribed it all to the day at the golf course, and the other days and nights this led to. But later, after she’d learned about men, she put it down to the way her father looked at her when she was thirteen.
He called her into the kitchen; she stood on the cold slate floor. She knew by the set of his mouth, the blackness in his eyes, the strange way his jaw hung slack like the sleeve of his oldest jumper, the candle he’d held for her was fizzled out.
Jane? What happened exactly?
She couldn’t remember.
How sunlight fell through trees in shafts, the earth-dust grimly swooning, and five boys stood around her like shadows.