I bit into my apple and silently watched my friends talk about our mock biology exam. It's only a few short months until our GCSE exams, and I'm ready for the stress. I have prepared all of my revision plans and unearthed every possible crisis.
I had this down.
"What grade do you think you got, Verity?" Sammy said, twirling her pencil around in her fingers.
I swallowed my food and leant forward on the bench. "I'm hoping for an A, but I'll be happy with a B. You?"
Anna smirked at me. "You’re getting A's all around. Don't worry."
I felt my cheeks flush bright pink at her encouragement. "We'll see. As long as I get my marks in English, Maths and Science. I'm happy."
"I think you'd make the best teacher, Verity. You are always so kind to everyone," Sammy replied, blowing a bubble with her chewing gum.
"Thanks, Sammy," I responded, hoping they were right. I wanted the chance to teach more than anything in this world.
My heart jumped into my throat when a solid pair of hands gripped either side of my shoulders to shove me forward so the apple in my hand went flying across the table and onto the muddy ground.
I spun around ready to throw a punch at whoever made me jump to catch Henry's smiling face just in time. "What did I tell you about trying to scare me?"
His arm slyly fit around my waist when he slipped into the space next to me. "Never to do it."
My eyes narrowed. “Exactly. You'll give me a heart attack."
Hugo climbed into the space next to Henry with his girlfriend, Marnie, close to his side. I smiled. "Hey, guys. You manage to beat the Friday fish and chips rush in the lunch hall?"
Marnie nodded. "Yeah, they’re going wild. Why weren't you in there? Henry saved you a seat."
I glanced at my friends. "Girl time."
Sammy showed off her teeth when she beamed from ear to ear, leaning on her elbows to rest her chin on her palms. "Are you coming to the arcades with us tonight, Henry? Verity doesn't dare ask you."
I managed to kick her in the shin and feel better for hearing her quiet hiss. "I said Henry would be busy tonight—
“I'm not busy,” he interrupted. “You do know the point of being boyfriend and girlfriend is to spend time with each other, right?"
"Yeah.” Hugo bent down to look at me. "You two even kissed yet?"
I don't know where to look as my friends watched me in quiet curiosity. Henry shook his head. "Dude, shut up."
"It was only a question. I mean you do need your cherry popping too," he snickered, earning a punch from Marnie now.
It's no secret that Henry was the last boy within his friendship group to lose his virginity. I didn't see the rush myself. We were sixteen-years-old. The last thing on my mind right now was when I was going to start having sex. I had other goals to focus on... like getting into the right college to study for my A-levels.
"I'm not ready for that stuff yet," I said, lowering my eyes as they all judged me, no doubt.
My skin tingled with goosebumps when Henry placed his lips over my ear, whispering, "Neither am I. We go at our own pace, yeah?"
I leaned into his embrace. "Yeah."
"How did your maths lesson go? You up for another tutor session this afternoon at break?" I said.
In Henry's words, I was a bit of a wiz when it came to maths. It started with a few simple sums, and before we knew it, we were scheduling tutor sessions into our fifteen-minute breaks at school to try help him up his grades. I said it was because I wanted for him to get the chance to experience sixth form with us, but in truth, it was only because I wanted to spend more time with him.
He nodded. "It went okay. I could do with your help on my algebra, VerBear."
My heart did a funny skip in my chest at the nickname he insisted on calling me. I tried to appear like it annoyed me in front of my friends, but inside I was jumping for joy. You couldn't find a boy sweeter than Henry Clay.
Even if I did make him work for it in the beginning.
Hugo nudged my side with his fist, getting me to pull my attention away from Henry who was telling me about our next study session at his house. "I never thought you were going to agree to date Henner's. Man, did you make the boy sweat."
I beamed at him. "I don't come easily."
"Boy, do I know that.” Henry chuckled in my ear.
I spun around to push at his chest a little bit. "Well, do you blame me? You made my life hell for years."
"I did not," he said on a laugh, rolling his eyes to the sky. "You just don't know how to take a joke."
"I do, it's just your jokes are rubbish," I replied.
A chorus of ooh's echoed around the table, and then Hugo screeched a high, "She told him!"
I fixed my glare on Hugo and his sarcastic mouth. "Go away."
"It's too easy to wind you up, I swear," he laughed, wrapping his arm around Marnie's shoulder who was trying her best to get out of it.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I fell for his jokes and pranks every time and seemed to go back for more. I guess I was a sucker for any attention he'd give me.
Henry shuffled closer. "You can't deny it didn't catch your heart though, can you?"
No, I couldn't. "Unfortunately not."
I caught sight of his dimples and sparkling eyes and melted on the inside."There is nothing unfortunate about us. We're made to last," he replied.
I put ten two-pence-pieces in the slots one after the other to try and get the sliding dish to push the money and prizes over the lip. Slot machines were addictive. Henry and I had wasted almost forty minutes of our night trying to win as much money as we could, even going into our ten-pound taxi money to get some more coins.
"I need that mobile phone charm. It's amazing," I said, watching it edge closer to the tipping point.
Henry pushed at the glass as if doing so would magically give us all the cash and prizes. "They corrupt these machines so you never win, you know."
Probably, but I was too engrossed to give up now.
Henry gave it a second shake. "Come on you piece of rubbish."
"Hey, kid! No pushing the machines," a stern male voice shouted across the room, and we both turned to see a heavy built guy glaring our way behind a plastic screen.
"Sorry," Henry said, pulling a guilty face.
I laughed. "Maybe we should give it one more shot and then give up."
I don't want my obsession with shiny things to ruin our date. I mean, you can buy phone charms anywhere.
"It's up to you. But, why should we give up when we are so close to winning?" he replied, pulling a handful of two pence pieces out of the money bag in his hand, waiting for the tray to slide out before dropping the money inside the machine.
"Are you always this competitive? Or are you trying to impress me?" I said, shocking myself with my confidence.
Henry tugged on his tartan flannel shirt. "A bit of both to be honest."
"Come on then. Let's win this thing.” I laughed, pressing closer to the perspex glass.
"It's all about the timing. If you wait back for it," Henry broke off and stuck his tongue out of the side of his mouth. "You'll win a load."
A loud clatter knocked me out of my admiring of his face, and my eyes zeroed in on the pile of money in the change tray, along with a phone charm, lolly pop and key ring.
I clapped my hands together. "Woo!"
Henry bent down and collected our winnings into a round plastic pot, fishing out the prizes to give to me. I took them and turned the phone charm under the light and see it sparkle. It was a beautiful embellished flower, and I would cherish it forever.
"Let's have a look," Henry said, pulling on my hand so he could see what he'd won me.
"Isn't it gorgeous?"
Henry frowned. "Verity, it's a cheap charm from a slot machine."
I tugged my arm back. "That doesn't matter. I still love it."
"You are always so easy to please," he said on a chuckle, walking over to the money station to transfer the two pence pieces into a two-pound coin.
I pulled out my chunky mobile phone and attempted to attach the charm to the side by the small string.
Henry put his two pounds into his wallet to shove into the pocket of his jacket, before warily reaching out his hand to see if I would hold it. I didn't need any encouragement as mine was reaching over before he tried to attach our fingers. We were getting braver with one another, although most of this was done in the privacy of our bedrooms.
"I think the others are hanging out at the Shake Shack. Shall we head over there?" I said, looking for something to say, words failing me with him so close.
"Sure, if you want," he replied on a shrug, keeping hold of my hand as we walked along the promenade, tiny coloured lights flickering above our heads on a looped string, and the echoing of screams could be heard in the distance from the night time theme park.
"I'm excited to meet your family tomorrow. Your mum is always so sweet when she picks you up from school."
Henry invited me over to his house for a famous family barbeque where I would be meeting his parents, siblings and Granny. It was pretty daunting, but I couldn't stop the excitement of being asked.
"They will more than likely embarrass us both. Just be ready for that," he chuckled, swinging our hands back and forth."
"Oh, I will," I replied. "Hey, did you know that they have a new Cadbury cream egg milkshake at the Shake Shack? We need to try it."
"I thought our favourite was the Crunchie?"
I giggled. "We are allowed to change our favourites, you know."
"Not me. I like what I like," he said, stopping at a stall selling multicoloured candy floss.
Henry turned to me, eyes bright under the dark sky and fairy lights above us. "You want a stick?"
I nodded, my cheeks aching from smiling. The night proving to be a good one. "Yes, please, Henry."
I waited back as Henry ordered the candy floss, smiling when he told the tender that we were on a date. I could never wrap my head around Henry's kindness. It was something unknown in boys our age. A true gentleman. And, I found myself falling deeper and deeper into his comfortable arms because of it.
Henry turned his lips bright blue when he nibbled a chunk off the top. His face screwed up. "That's too sweet for me."
I used my fingers to tug off a good sized amount of fluff, placing it on my tongue to feel it disappear and turn into teeth rotting sugar. I was a lover of anything sweet, never not able to skip on pudding after a meal no matter how full I felt.
"Too sweet is just the way I like it," I replied, going in for another taste.
Henry's expression grew cheeky. "I can be sweet."
I sucked on my fingers to get every last bit of floss off. "You are always sweet. It's what I like the most about you."
"You do?" he walked beside me, moving out of the way of running children. "What are the other things you like about me?"
I sensed his smile without looking at him.
The cool air hit my cheeks, and it stung a bit, making me aware that I was more than likely the colour of a beetroot.
I kept my eyes on the candy floss in my hand. "You know...all sorts of things."
I jumped a mile ahead when Henry attempted to wrap his arm around my waist, stumbling when he pulled on my arm to get close to his face. I studied him and admired how perfect he looked with his long thick lashes, dimpled smile and glowing skin. I could get giddy off of it.
"Do you want me to tell you the things I like about you?" he said, moving a piece of hair that was covering my left eye.
Henry moved us out of the middle of the path to stand by the railings near the beach. "Everything. I like everything about you.”
I grinned. “I like everything about you too.”
Henry brought his head closer to mine, tilting it slightly, so I knew that he was going to kiss me. I should have felt nervous, but kissing him at that moment seemed like the right thing to do. I pushed my lips against his soft ones, opening my mouth slowly to let him lead the way.
I opened my eyes when we separated to see Henry's eyes still closed a few seconds later. We grinned at one another, giddily gripping onto each other's hands when we made way to Shake Shack in our happy bubble.
"At least Hugo will get off our backs about being physical in our relationship.” I laughed, feeling Henry's fingers squeeze my hand.
"There’s no way, I'm telling him.”
"Henry,” I said, trying not to laugh. "I thought he was supposed to be your best friend."
Henry scraped his fingers through his shaggy dark blonde hair. "Yeah, he is, but I’m not going to tell him stuff about us. He’s annoying most of the time, anyway.”
"I'll tell him you said that," I replied on a grin.
"Please do. You'll be doing me a favour."
I looked out towards the flashing carousel thinking how lucky I was to have Henry in my life.
I sighed. "Thank you for a lovely evening."
Henry moved closer to me. "Let's hope it's one of many?"
I beamed. "Yes, one of many."