Ellis and Gloria set off camping, out of Rachel's reach.
I was ready and waiting when Ellis called for me on the Saturday morning of the holiday weekend and I couldn't help laughing when I saw the huge grin on his face.
"I still can't believe it," he said. "We're going away for the weekend, on our own. It's not a trick is it, Gloria? We'll get to Blackpool and all your family will be there."
"Of course it's not a trick, but I'm trusting you to behave yourself. Just because we're going away together I don't want you thinking you've got the green light to take advantage."
"We've been going out with each other for nearly two months; you should know me better by now. It'll be a thrill just to be with you, even if we are in separate tents. I can see this is gonna be the best birthday I've ever had."
"I just hope you've picked a good site, Ellis."
"Course I have, I went there with my mum and dad a couple of years ago."
We left my house with a mountain of tents and bags on the rear carrier and it looked as if we were going on an expedition somewhere. The motorcycle wobbled as we pulled away, but Ellis soon got used to the weight, though it proved to be a long slow journey. It was just before midday when we pulled into the drive of a large farmhouse.
"What's going on?" I said. "It says bed and breakfast. You said it was a campsite."
"It is a campsite, but we have to book in at the farmhouse. The tents are in a field round the back. Trust me, Gloria, trust me."
We booked in, set up the tents, and then cooked some sausages and beans on the Primus stove. We soon scoffed the meal, cleaning off the plates with chunks of a crusty loaf we bought from the farmhouse. Ellis brought his billycan from work and he brewed the tea while I relaxed on a blanket. We still had a couple of hours lazing in the spring sunshine before setting off for the town and a walk along the promenade. A warm evening followed a warm day and the town was packed with trippers getting away for the bank holiday. I persuaded Ellis to spend a few hours at the bowling alley instead of going straight into the public houses; getting drunk was not one of my favourite pastimes, but after the bowling and as I expected, we called at one of the promenade bars. I walked over and sat on a chair by the window, looking out to the sea and deep in thought. I was wondering how I should proceed, or if I should proceed at all. I suddenly had serious doubts about my plan and did not really want to go through with it. Ellis brought over our drinks and I snapped out of my trance-like thoughts.
"Bloody hell, I thought you'd gone to sleep."
"No, just watching the waves. It wouldn't take a lot though, I'm whacked."
"Half a shandy, are you sure that's all you want?"
"That's fine, I don't want a lot to drink."
"We'll have this and go back to the campsite. We can call at an off-licence and have a drink in torchlight in one of the tents."
"No, no I'm too tired. I just want to get some sleep; it's been a long day."
"What's up, Gloria?"
"Nothing's up. What makes you ask that?"
"I don't know, I mean we've had a great day, but all the time we've been here you've seemed a bit tense like something was troubling you. Are you scared to be alone with me? Do you regret coming?"
"Of course not, don't be silly." I wondered if he knew how near the truth he was.
"I promised not to try anything on, and I meant it."
"It's not that."
Ellis looked into my eyes but I looked away, looking out to sea again. "I'm worried, Gloria. We're here for the weekend and I'm overjoyed with that, but I can see something is bothering you, and I'm worried in case you're regretting coming here with me."
I took hold of his hand. "Please don't think like that. It's a personal problem that's all. I'll be all right tomorrow, I promise." I reached over and kissed him. I certainly didn't want him thinking the worst or even guessing the truth.
"Gloria, everyone's watching us."
"Sod 'em." I threw my arms around him and began kissing him with an urgent passion that no amount of prying eyes could subdue.
We returned to the campsite just after ten o'clock with both of us exhausted after our long and tiring day. Ellis switched on the torches and put one in each of the tents before rolling out the two sleeping bags and blowing up the inflatable pillows.
"Do you want me to make a brew?" He asked.
"I don't want one. I just want to turn in. You have one though."
"No I'm not bothered. I'll see you in the morning then."
I glanced into my tent. "I see you've given yourself the double sleeping bag."
"Oh, I never really noticed. We can swap if you like."
"No, it's all right; I'll probably be warmer in the single one."
"It might get really cold later on. We might be better off huddled together in the big bag, nice and cosy, but I will behave myself."
I stared at him for a moment with a blank expression on my face. "Goodnight, Ellis," I said.
"Gloria, I was only joking about sharing the double sleeping bag," he said.
"I know you were," I said, but I was not sure that he was.
The tents were small and I struggled in the cramped conditions to get into my pyjamas and then into my sleeping bag. I would never wear pyjamas at home, but decided to bring them as an extra line of security. I tried to sleep, but I felt lonely and also uneasy because of the multitude of noises outside; not loud noises, but they irritated me. I tried turning different ways and adopting different postures, but I could not get comfortable and every time I moved inside the sleeping bag I felt as if I were a giant worm. I thought of my earlier plan to allow Ellis to seduce me, but then how I changed my mind and felt I was still not ready to take such a big step in my life.
I was almost asleep when some lads passed my tent trying to find their own tent and they were clearly in a drunken state. It startled me and I opened my eyes, but remained silent and didn't move until I was sure they had gone. Something caught my eyes, the shape of a large beetle crawling up the top of the tent right above me. I stared at it, not sure if it was crawling up the inside or the outside of the tent. Suddenly, it fell on my sleeping bag. I screamed and scrambled out of the bag, dragging it outside I began shaking it wildly in case the beetle was still on it.
Ellis rushed out from his tent. "What's the matter?" He asked, in almost as much panic as me.
"A beetle, a sodding great beetle got on me. I think it's still inside. I'm not going back in there, there might be more of them in there."
Ellis looked in the tent and shone the torch all around. "I can't see anything in there, but if you like we'll swap tents."
"No, I'm frightened, Ellis, I don't want to be on my own. Can I share your tent?"
"Yes, of course, you can," he said.
I was aware Ellis was trying not to look too happy. Maybe thinking he was sure to get a bit of goodnight romance, even if it were just a brief kiss and cuddle.
"I'll just move some of the stuff into your tent first to make room for your sleeping bag."
"I'm not getting in that again, the beetle might have got inside of it. You've got a double sleeping bag; can't I get in the bag with you, like you said earlier?"
"All right then if that's what you want. We'll probably be able to squeeze in together, but no snoring all right."
I threw my sleeping bag in my own tent and then went into Ellis's tent and got into his bag while he was securing the other tent. He brought the torch in, but switched both torches off and began to take his jeans off again. "Can you leave your jeans on?" I said.
"What for? I can't sleep in my jeans all night and anyway we'll be cramped up enough as it is."
"Well promise me you'll behave. Please, Ellis, don't try anything, not now."
"Of course I won't. Come on let's get snuggled up and get some sleep."
The goodnight kiss was brief, probably far briefer than Ellis had hoped for, but I was sure he was more than happy with the new arrangement.
It was a long and uncomfortable night. I had trouble getting to sleep, worried about creepy crawlies, and worried about whether Ellis would behave himself, but despite everything, sleep came to me eventually.
I was woken in the morning by Ellis getting out of the bag. "What's up?" I asked. "Where are you going?"
"I'm just going over to the toilets to get freshened up, see if I can get the shower working properly, I don't fancy a cold one."
"Cor, that'll wake you up all right."
"Stuffs in the box if you want to make a start on breakfast."
"Cheeky sod." I sat up. "Happy Birthday, darling," I said and pointed to my lips. "Come and get your birthday kiss then." The birthday kiss turned into a loving embrace that lasted for all of ten minutes before I pushed Ellis away. "Sodding heck, maybe it's best if you do have a cold shower." I laughed loudly. "Get going then, while I do your birthday breakfast."
I got dressed and checked the food in the box. There was plenty of food for breakfast, but we had no eggs. I put on my coat and made my way over to the farmhouse.
The lady in the house was pleasant and chatty. She brought out my two eggs in a small brown paper bag. "There you are, love." She said. "I see you've got two tents. What do you have a tent each, only your crafty boyfriend only paid for one?"
"No, we only use one at a time, one's like a living room and the other's a, a bedroom."
"I see, out for a dirty weekend ay." She gave a laugh and a wink.
"No, it's not like that. We are married."
"Married are ya?" The woman looked me up and down as if to show her disbelief. "How long have you been wed then?"
"Friday, we got married last Friday."
"Last Friday, well this is not much of a honeymoon, is it; a weekend in a tent?"
"We don't have much money, we're moving into a flat and we need to save for carpets and things."
"Look, because it's bank holiday, all the double rooms are taken, but there is a single available. I'm sure you won't mind squeezing up together on your honeymoon."
"No, no really, we can't afford it."
"Don't worry. You can have it tonight as a wedding present. Just pay me for the breakfast in the morning. Can't have you, newlyweds, sleeping in a tent. I remember when me and Ted got married. We spent the night in a room at the local pub, but we had to get home by four in the morning because of the cows."
"Yeah, Ted had a big dairy herd at the time, that's one of the reasons I married him." The woman suddenly began laughing. I laughed with her, thinking what a strange reason it was to get married.
I had mixed feeling as I made my way back to the tent; guilty about deceiving the woman, worried it might be too much to ask for Ellis to control himself if we shared a proper bed, and apprehensive about the possibility of losing my virginity. Nevertheless, I was pleased I didn't have to spend another night in the tent.
We spent the day at the Blackpool pleasure beach and on the seafront. After having our tea in one of the many fish and chip shops we called in at the same promenade bar again. Still, I had not mentioned my conversation with the farmer's wife. I was nervous about telling him in case he got the wrong idea and I was wondering how to bring the subject up.
"Well, what do you want to do tonight?" Ellis said.
"I think I'll have a long soak in the bath, have a few drinks in the pub over the road, then get a good nights sleep."
"How are you gonna have a bath? There's only showers and they're always cold."
"Ellis, I can't sleep in the tent again." Although I felt embarrassed, I knew I would have to tell him about the room eventually and this seemed as good a time as any. "When I went for the eggs this morning the woman said we can have one of the rooms in the house, and we only have to pay for the breakfast."
"Are you serious? Bloody hell how did you manage to swing that?"
"I told her that we were on our honeymoon and we got married last Friday."
"You little fibber. I can hardly believe you've done that."
"No, neither can I, but we got talking and it just seemed to get out of control. Anyway, it saves spending another night in the tent."
Ellis gave a huge grin. "Is it a double bed then?"
"No, it's not. It's a single; it's all they had. And before you get any ideas, one of us will have to sleep in a sleeping bag. The deals the same as before."
"Oh, what a shame, and I thought my luck had changed. Still, if you want to sleep in the sleeping bag then that's up to you. Watch out for the beetles though or you'll be diving into bed with me, and who knows what would pop up if we were cuddled together naked in a proper bed." Ellis gave a dirty laugh before finishing his beer, almost in one go. "Come on then let's get back and look at the honeymoon suite."
I was not happy with his remarks. "I know what you're thinking, Ellis, and I know I'm asking a lot from you, maybe it's too much to ask. Look it might be best if we just pack up and go home."
"What for? Gloria, I was only having a joke with you. Of course, you can have the bed, I wouldn't dream of letting you sleep on the floor. Anyway, I'm having a great time; I thought you were as well."
"I am, I am, Ellis, but it's not fair on you. I thought I could do it, what with Gordy getting on to me and I know that you want to so very much, but I really don't want us to do anything yet, I really don't want to, Ellis, and it's all making me so miserable. I'm so sorry."
"Hey, don't go getting upset." Ellis put his arm around me and pulled me close before kissing away a lone tear trickling down my cheek. "Being with you for the weekend is one of the best experiences of my life. Cross my heart, I promise you faithfully I will not try anything." He gave a laugh. "Well not until we get back home anyway. So come on, get rid of that dark cloud that's been hanging over you. Let's make it as good a weekend for you as it is for me."
I gave a sniffle. "It already is, Ellis."
We got back to the campsite and packed away the tents and the equipment before going across to the house. Ellis stacked all our kit in a corner of the room and helped to put our clothes into the dresser and wardrobe. He finished off the unpacking while I went for a long soak in the bath. Ellis was half dozing on the bed when I walked back into the room. He had brought all his birthday cards on the trip and it amused me the way he arranged them on top of the wardrobe. I sat with him and we soon began kissing each other in a slow and tender embrace.
After a while Ellis pulled away and stood up. "I'll go and jump in the tub while you're getting ready, then we'll shoot over to the pub for a couple."
"I'll get your birthday present."
"A present, this whole weekend is like one big present, and there's still the party to come yet."
"Party, what party?"
"Party for my birthday, next Wednesday."
"But, it's your birthday today."
"Yes, and we've gone away, haven't we, so the family party is on Wednesday."
"Funny night for a party," I said, but left it at that and walked to the dresser. "I don't remember which drawer I put your present in."
"No, not that one," he said as if in a panic.
I stood staring into the drawer for a moment before lifting up a pack of contraceptives and turning to look at him.
Ellis sat on the edge of the bed with a look of guilt on his face as he stared back at me. "Look, Gloria, I know what it looks like, but I wasn't planning to do anything. It's just that I thought if maybe you decided you wanted to, then at least we could take precautions, but that was before…"
"Can you just get rid of them?"
"Of course, but I didn't, I just, oh shit I feel terrible now."
I laughed. "Don't worry, we made a deal and I'm trusting you." I opened the next drawer, took out the shirt I had bought for him, and passed it over. "Fifteen and a half collar. Go get your bath and let's have a drink, I think we both need one."
We called at the public house across from the campsite for the evening before returning to the room. I took advantage of the few minutes that Ellis was in the bathroom, to get myself into bed. Ellis was soon back and he rolled out one of the sleeping bags onto the floor. I lay watching him as he stripped to his waist; he grinned at me as he unbuckled his belt. "Stop peeking you, rude girl."
"Well, turn the light off. Anyway, you said in the pub that you had something to ask me."
"I can't ask you tonight, you'll have to wait till tomorrow."
"Oh, don't be so mean. I'll be lying awake all night wondering what it is."
Ellis kicked his sleeping bag. "And I'll be lying awake all night on this cold hard floor."
"Look, you can get in here if you want, we could put the pillows between us or something."
Ellis gave laugh. "The tent was one thing, but I don't think I could spend a night in bed with you without breaking my promise. You might never forgive me." He knelt down next to the bed and looked at me and smiled. "I've learnt from you. I've learned that we both have to be happy and content with anything we do together, and if you are not ready yet for any great big steps in our lives, then neither am I."
"I love you so much, Ellis." I threw my arms around him and we enjoyed a passionate and heated goodnight kiss.