Porter Street, being a dead-end, was a quiet street except at ten past three when the inmates of the Finchwood Ladies College burst through its open doors. Our house, fronted by a square, manicured lawn stood three plots away from the dead end of that hallowed institution that incarcerated me for six hours a day.
I lived here with my paternal grandmother after my feckless mother ran off with a Lebanese chiropractor and my heartbroken father left for an extended motorcycle holiday in New Mexico.
My grandmother had renovated and no signs of the former tenant– a priest – remained. Apparently, he died from a coronary while posting a church leaflet into the letterbox of number 42 – an unkempt house inhabited by a midnight-haired family my grandmother claimed followed an occult religion.
On my way to school, I passed number 42. Although my grandmother warned me to look away, my eyes feasted on their riotous garden filled with succulents and palms. I was sure a spell to cure my sorrows lay inside that Aladdin’s cave.
One late summer afternoon, I was alone again in detention when I glanced up from my physics homework. Outside, a striking midnight-haired gardener – a resident of number 42 – beheaded the school hydrangeas. My body swelled with bewildering, ecstatic terrors as he snared my gaze.
His eyes never leaving mine, that tawny Aladdin caressed a ripe pink bloom then squeezed until tiny flowers spurted between his fingers. My young flesh craving the taste of a man’s touch, I replied by lifting my pencil to my lips, lasciviously tracing my tongue over its end just as the detention mistress marched in. She strode to the window yanking the blind down with such vigour it escaped its couplings. My insides still smouldering, a crooked wall of fly-spotted taupe veiling me from my desires, I bitterly returned my gaze to the incomprehensible world of quantum physics.