YOUTH IN LOVE
Pass the Peace
The sanctuary of the Adelaide City church appeared crammed full of young people; they squeezed onto benches, pressed up against the walls and almost were swinging from the rafters. So hip for 1980, and looking like Moses but dressed in mohair, Pastor Herrmann stood above his congregation who buzzed with enthusiasm and hormones. He raised his hands and said, ‘Path the Peath.’
The two boys on either side of her, reached across Lillie, as if she didn’t exist, shook hands and said, ‘Peace be with you’. Lillie stared across the crowded hall, the song “Some Enchanted Evening” swimming in her head rather than a chorus from the Green Book. He wasn’t a stranger, not to her.
For Lillie, the popular pastor and his pantomime on the side of the pulpit, and the crowds caught in his spell, didn’t exist. Only he mattered, on the far side, fourth row from the front, thick black hair tumbling over his strong square jaw, his brown eyes fixed on the pastor. Her heart jumped to life and fluttered against her rib cage. She narrowed her eyes. Who’s that girl? That girl with a round face wearing a purple paisley smock and black leggings? Damn her! That smock makes her look pregnant, Lillie mused. Then she frowned. Hope she isn’t, to him.
As the pastor droned, could have been “begattings” and “thou shalts and nots” from Deuteronomy for all she cared, Lillie flicked spying glances on him, dagger looks on her beside him.
Supper: after squeezing though the throng, shaking Pastor Herrmann’s hand, Lillie entered the side hall. She drew in the instant coffee aroma and smiled as the clinking of cups greeted her. Young men and women bunched together gossiping, standing so close Lillie found no wedge of space between them to lever herself in. She stood on the outside of the groups, alone. Groups congregated and dispersed, people moved and jostled, acted and reacted, embraced and retracted under the fluorescent light.
Clutching her tote bag, she side-stepped to the tea stand.
‘No milk!’ said a girl. She struggled to hide her protruding teeth between her lips. Her grey eyes brightened. ‘Wookie!’
A man, wookie in size and amount of hair on his face, blundered past, spilling boiling tea on Lillie’s flared jeans. Hot tea, no milk, no sugar, no ‘oops’ or ‘sorry’ as he brushed her on his bumbling way into the masses.
An acquaintance, from school, flitted past, mincing steps in her tight-fitting paisley pants, and layers of multi-coloured silk. Primping her hippie afro she stopped in mid-flight scratched the air chirping a brief ‘hello’. She glanced at Lillie’s plain black shoes, her beak curled and then she flew away into the crowd.
Lillie gazed down at her stupid shoes, scavenged from an op shop, she wiped her hands over her faded hand-me-down jeans, and tugged at her worn poodle jacket. So I’m not rich. She looked around the room, young ladies like peacocks strutting their Country Road rags, flaunting the fruits of love from wealthy parents. What was she doing here? She felt frumpy, everybody’s averting their gaze from her, avoiding her. She stared at the stained pine floor boards, her temples prickling with heat. Bad idea! Bad idea! What was I thinking? She twisted the cracked bag handle in her fist and resolved to fight her way to the exit.
Fingers pinched her shoulder. ‘Lillie!’ A man’s deep voice rang.
Her heart skipped a beat as she turned. ‘Jimmy!’ She crossed her arms and focussed on his angular shoulders poking through his white t-shirt. His chicken breast chest rose and fell under the weight of a leather jacket. ‘So—’ Don’t think about the pass! Don’t get into conversation about the pass. It’s all in the past. ‘I haven’t seen you since—um…’
Just be thankful I have someone to talk to. Pink elephants. Mmm! I hope he doesn’t…
‘April? Easter in the…’
‘Flinders Ranges.’ She tried to avoid Jim Wood’s blue eyes. Please don’t lead the conversation in that direction. ‘I like the jacket.’
‘Yeah?’ He pulled at the collar. ‘Makes me look like a rock star—Jim Edwards by name, Jim Morrison by nature.’
‘Hardly!’ Lillie sighed. She felt stranded. Yes, he’s a friend. What happened in the Flinders stays in the Flinders, he should understand that. He should. Let it pass. There’s that word again. Just friends. Why do they always want more?
‘Woody’ll do.’ Jimmy nudged her arm. ‘Hey, Lillie, did you see me in the band?’
Stop trying to impress me! ‘Oh, er…’ She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, ‘I was way down the back, couldn’t see much of—except…’ her voice trailed into the thick of the hubbub. Geoffrey stood in a group, head and shoulders taller, so close, just Jimmy and Geoff’s groupies dividing them. As Jimmy continued to try and impress her, Lillie patted her blonde locks and pulled at her cream skivvy, desperate to catch Geoff’s attention.
A lull. Jimmy paused. Lillie snapped her attention back to him. ‘You were saying?’
Jimmy’s eyes narrowed and he bit his trembling lip. ‘You weren’t listening—what is it back there?’
Lillie shrugged. Sprung!
Jimmy glanced over his shoulder. ‘Oh! Fruitcake!’ He turned back hunching over as if trying to retreat into the shell of his leather jacket. ‘Fox! Thinks he’s God’s gift.’
Lillie pointed in Geoff’s direction. ‘Really? Him?’
Jimmy darted his eyes from side to side and muttered, ‘Lucky your brother isn’t here.’ For Lillie, this comment had a double meaning. One her big brother wasn’t there to interfere. Two, Jimmy probably thought he had more of a chance without her big brother hanging around.
‘Steve wouldn’t darken the doorstep of a church,’ Lillie said. ‘More likely to be hanging out in the car-park puffing a cigarette.’
Jimmy wrung his hands and then straightened up. ‘Well, it’s been a long day. I’m off.’ He patted Lillie’s cheek. ‘You need a lift?’
‘It’s alright,’ Lillie pulled away from any further Jim touches, ‘I’m driving.’ Her nose tingled with the lie.
‘See ya at the coffee shop?’ Jimmy nodded at her, then dug his hands in his jeans pockets and sauntered out the exit and into the darkness.
Lillie loped up to Geoff’s group. She knew some of the crew from the coffee shop. ‘Hi.’ She grinned, her knees melting like wax in the presence of Geoff.
One by one the members of the group groaned their excuses and drifted away, leaving Geoff fidgeting opposite Lillie. He nodded, opened his ribbon lips to bare his perfect teeth.
Lillie’s heart thrashed in her chest and she took shallow breaths, barely breathing in his presence. Her tongue tied up in knots rendering her mute, while her brain offered suggestions and lines her voice rejected. She felt like a fish out of water gasping for air or any idea floating around that might hook him in.
He shrugged and then darted for the door.
Lillie raced after him and onto the footpath. Catching him by the arm, she said, ‘Excuse me, Geoffrey?’
Geoffrey Fox stopped, his broad shoulders flinched. He spun around to face Lillie. ‘Who are you?’
She sprang back, his question sinking like a lead weight to the pit of her stomach. ‘But we—I mean we—I thought—’ she scrambled for an explanation.
He raised an eyebrow having a Sean Connery expression about him.
‘You, I mean your family, I mean we were next door neighbours…once.’ Lillie laced her fingers and twisted her hands. ‘I just thought…’
Lillie looked down at the damp asphalt, then glanced up at him. ‘Are you going anywhere near Glenelg? I need a lift.’ As soon as she produced that little gem, thoughts of recrimination crowded in. Have you got rocks in your head? What made you blurt that out? What if he takes you up on the offer? He won’t. You tart! Am not! He’s cute, I like him. What if he’s all hands going everywhere? What then? Hmm? Don’t be silly, he hasn’t taken up the offer yet.
‘I’m sorry, pet, I can’t help you.’ Geoff stared down at Lillie. ‘I’m going in the opposite direction—Magill.’
‘Yeah, it’s alright.’ Lillie shrugged, then turned towards the amber lights of the hall. See, I was right. I knew he wouldn’t accept. She heard the click of a car door opening. She looked over her shoulder. ‘Maybe I’ll see ya at the dance Saturday night.’
‘Maybe,’ she thought she heard him say. Bang! The door slammed shut. The car roared to life and disappeared down the street in a cloud of smoke.
Fine rain spat on Lillie’s hair as she plodded towards the bus stop. She smiled. The dance. He said he’d see me at the dance.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016
Photo: Fireworks © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2009