Next to an old garage there are three green pennies hidden in the grass. These are the last tokens of a memory, all that remains of a shop that doesn’t exist anymore and a life that cannot be revisited. After plundering the stash and buying all the chewy sweets that we could afford, it was time to go to the swimming baths. None of us could swim, so we stood in the swelteringly hot viewing gallery, the air heavy with chlorine, drinking free warm water. I used to watch for Helen in the blue bathing suit with the high neckline like a choker, gliding underneath the people treading water or thrashing out lengths.
A few years later we hid inside that old garage, playing ‘hide and seek’ from her friend. Helen tasted of chewing gum, sour milk and iron as we kissed and giggled in pitch darkness. She bit my chin and tried to force my hands down her jeans, but I resisted. I’d spent the morning throwing dried mud clods at my next door neighbours wall. I knew my fingernails were dirty and I didn’t want to fill her with tiny stones.
We could hear the distant crying of her friend, who begged us to come out from wherever we were, but she laughed. I should’ve realised someone who could leave a friend to cry alone would be trouble. When it ended, I thought about the friend every day that I worthlessly sobbed into the coat she left behind.