I was on a home decorating kick that summer. It was a weekday, and Paul and I had just walked home from school together. I liked this time of day, when there were just the two of us. Paul’s sister was at Secondary school, eight miles away, and returned home long after Paul. He took off his coat and we went into the living room. It had taken me almost a fortnight to strip the skirting board back to the wood, peel the horrible woodchip paper off the walls, fill the dips and cracks, and re-plaster in places. I’d re-pointed the stone fireplace, and washed it with a subtly shaded matt varnish, to tone down the brash colour of the stones. I’d custom-made shelves to fit into the recess under the window, and a unit to house the TV, video and such. I’d sewn new curtains and hand-beaded the hems. I was looking forward to finishing the job.
Paul glanced at the walls with a thoughtful expression.
“So, you’re going to paint it tomorrow?” he said.
“Yup. I’ll start as soon as I come back from taking you to school,” I replied.
“You should sign your name across the wall, then it will always be there, like a hidden secret,” he said.
He fumbled through his bag, pulled out a felt pen, and handed it to me. I smiled, and wrote my name across the bare plaster.
“Nice idea. Thanks for that,” I said.
He gave me a wicked look. “Can I write something?” he asked.
“Go for it.”
With that he wrote ‘BUM’ in large letters, beside the fireplace.
I took the pen and wrote ‘LADY BITS.”
He wrote ‘WANG.’
Not to be outdone, I wrote ‘BOOBIES.’
He wrote ‘BUTT CHEEKS.’
I wrote ‘WEE WEE.’
By this time we were laughing so much our writing was coming out wobbly.
When his dad and his sister turned up we were running out of words, and still giggling shamelessly. Mike sobered us up. He was furious.
“What are you doing? You can’t write words like that all over the walls! Get rid of it, NOW,” he raged.
“But I’m going to paint over it tomorrow,” I replied, reasonably.
“But people may see it!”
“What does it matter if they do? We’re just having fun, and the words aren’t actually obscene. And anyway, no-one’s coming to see us this evening, are they? ” I asked.
“No, but, but” he blustered, “someone may look through our window!”
I looked out of the window, at the quiet country road beyond our front garden. Nobody would be able to see the writing on the wall from outside, and he knew it.
Mike walked out of the room. I took the pen from Paul’s hand, and wrote “NIPPLES” beneath the window in tiny letters.
Three days later I finished the painting, and fixed the shelves to the wall beneath the window. I put the new TV unit in the corner of the room and hung the curtains. The colour scheme was a triumph, with swathes of deep red and navy blue, a background of natural wood and cinnamon, and spots of soft gold in the beadwork and the cushions to add highlights.
Every so often when Paul and I were alone in the room, Paul would point at the wall, and as if he was reading the word through the paint, he’d say “boobies,” and smile, making me chuckle. My chuckle would start him laughing, and in no time at all we we’d both be grasping our sides, guffawing like fools.
©Jane Paterson Basil