2nd of December, 2010 20:00 GMT+10:30
A fancy iron balustrade interrupted at intervals my vision of the rear half of three hundred persons seated on wooden pews. The front half which I could see clearly were formally or at least dressily attired, the front few rows of the left-hand side wearing long black gowns with brightly coloured ribbons draped over them. Behind and beside me sit nearly a hundred more, momentary flashes emanating from cameras in their hands every so often. The old hall's lights are dimmed bar those aimed at the large stage at the very front. Wooden partitions taller than human height stretch from one side of the stage to the other about halfway down, making it appear much smaller to those seated down below. The far left of the stage is occupied by a lectern manned by a distinguished but biologically unrelated man and woman. A bare nothingness separates them from a grand piano on the far right. The occupants of the hall, myself included, burst into a roar of applause as another figure rises from her seat and paces unsteadily forward on three inch heels. I consider a wolf-whistle, but refrain. I am here because she asked me to be. Well, here in this building because she asked me to be, here in this seat because I prefer the view.
Again the audience rises in a standing ovation as a tall brunette ends an inspiring but weirdly modulated three page summary of the year. My eyes shift immediately from the valedictorian to the third row of seats, and I watch in disbelief as a girl returns to her heels. The crowd billows like a mushroom, and the gowned group file out like gliders from Game of Life, leaving the rest to disperse like thrown confetti. My seating position at the front allowed me to maintain a good few metres distance ahead of the others flooding the narrow carpeted passage. I reached the ground floor, and wove through the throng congregating in the vestibule toward the main double oak doors that were over a hundred years old. I cut a parabola over the main stairs rather than walking down them, and dropped heavily to the old granite stone pavement. A figure streaked towards me from out of the moonlit shadows, and a moment later long dark hair covered my face, blotting out my view, arms engulfed me like a recovery claw, a pair of firm breasts pressed themselves against my chest, and weight equal to or greater than that of my own body mass skewed my centre of gravity. I stumbled sideways, regaining my balance, and swung my new payload round full circle.
We stood motionless, staring, grinning, speechless, having disentangled ourselves from each other's embrace. Where was the red-headed girl with the knee-high black goth boots, striped tights, denim mini-skirt, random tight-fitting t-shirt, tattered backpack and ridiculously overdone makeup? Where was that little girl she was always with, cuddled up together somewhere? Had she been stolen from me? Tonight stood before me instead a
woman lady of the same build and height, except slightly taller due to the shoes, with dark flowing hair, close to perfectly chosen and applied makeup, black cardigan hiding the top of a floral print dress of various browns, and a respectable length, and semi-opaque black nylons. From her shoulder hung a handbag big enough to smuggle a small animal out of a zoo in, and in her hand she held a laminated A4 sheet with all official-like embossings on it.
"I... You... I almost can't believe tonight is... Thank you." She wrapped her arm tightly around me from the side and beamed, and pressed a face on the verge of tears into my shoulder, and walked silently back into the crowd with me in search of her mother.