For me, twas that fantastic year 1998 and I was the tender age of thirteen years old, although I already had the hips of a grown woman and little boobage to speak of. So imagine, if you will, a tall girl with blonde, fluffy hair and sleek henna-orange bangs, gangly legs, giant feet and a bottom half wider than a barge. I was somewhere between a pretty picture and an awkward weirdo, with a penchant for the colour 'baby blue' and an obsession with Leonardo Di Caprio.
As far as boys were concerned, my pals and I had been stuck with the same motley crew in our class for too long. We had loved them and then shortly after decided that they were too small, spotty or generally annoying. We thirsted for variety. We expected more from love than a bag of sticky cola cubes or a crumpled piece of paper declaring undying passion. We wanted Elizabeth Duke jewellery, damn it! A statement of true love indeed.
And so we were more than thrilled when we moved into year eight and could finally mingle with the other classes in our school. We had spent hours watching 'Clueless' and were ready for action. We had seen the boys we liked at the school discos and practised Cher's move of knocking into them as we passed to get their attention. Unfortunately for me, this often resulted in small boys being catapulted across the school hall on account of the strength of my hip bones and their small, teary eyes would glare up at me accusingly as I towered over them dancing like a maniac to Barbie Girl, denying the embarrassing responsibility of their injury.
And so it was that our teachers decided they couldn't keep us apart any longer. It was due time for an overseas school trip. They chose the rather exotic Normandy, in France, and we were on our way! Now, in order to get to Normandy, we all had to clamber aboard a coach and head to Dover to catch the ferry at some ridiculous hour in the morning.
As we pulled up next to the white cliffs, the doors of the coach sprang open in a gust of warm air that was full of farts, the distinct aroma of cheesy Wotsits and a gaggle of spotty teenagers slowly spilled out, brimming with sleepy-eyed excitement. The ferry stood, waiting for us like the Titanic- or so we imagined it, having recently seen the film.
Once we had left the port, we all ran up to the deck to reenact that famous scene with Jack and Rose but, after realising it was decidedly nippy, we returned to slouch around in the waiting area. And that, dear readers, is where I first set eyes on him. Tall, lanky and with insanely blonde curtains. Sweet Peter Beardmore. He raised his eyes and looked at me. I was there. And he was there. Neither of us dared move to say hello. Rather, we slowly positioned ourselves in a way that we might eventually be drawn closer together. And, as fate waved its magic wand, someone amongst his friends decided to start throwing biscuit crumbs at us and before I knew it, we had our legs tucked up on the seat and were chatting away amidst the bourbon battle of the century.
By the time we arrived at Calais we were officially 'going out', although I didn't really know what that meant or how to behave by it so we just carried on chatting and walking around together, scrutinised by the beady eyes of our young friends. And so over the coming days where he went, I went, and vice versa. Slowly building up. Little by little. Step by step. Croissant by croissant, oui oui c'est vrai!
One fine evening, we visited Mont St Michel. The beauty of the place was simply astounding. Even as gobby teenagers we were silenced by its overwhelming presence. Slowly we meandered through the curves and incredible architecture and as the little blue lights danced over our faces, Peter took my hand in his, sealing any doubt in my head that, at some point, we were going to kiss. I felt giddy and nervous. It was to be the very next night that we did. At the disco.
Well, we ladies got ourselves into a right little flap. Twas to be the disco of our young lives! There was only one thing for it.. we had to look GORGEOUS. And so we set off into the small town and after some buying some fancy glass dolphins (you couldn't avoid dolphins in the nineties), we bought ourselves some fine cosmetics and raced back to prepare.
Rather wisely, I decided the only thing for it was lashings of baby blue. The more, the better. And so it was that I wore baby blue shoes, a baby blue dress, baby blue lipstick, baby blue eyeshadow and baby blue hair mascara. My friend Kate kindly stepped in at the last minute to offer me her baby blue hair feather. I was fitter than ever and ready to go! I remember looking around at the other girls and noticing just how grown up we all looked. Bobbie was wearing a slick of black eyeliner that was simply smouldering and Lauren had her hair swept back neatly, even her fringe was behaving itself for once.
We set off for the hall as a gaggle of girls, with hushed murmurings about who we were going to dance with; who was ours.
When we arrived, we found all the boys lurking together on one side of the hall looking rather nervous. We took our stance at the other side and there we stood. Eyeing up the opposition, waiting for the first move. The teachers decided it was time to intervene and nudged us all towards each other and so reluctantly but yet so eagerly we began to mingle. There he was. My Peter. With his white blonde curtains and his fluorescent green shirt. Inch by inch, I moved over to him... dying to be closer but nervous by what it would bring. I was biding my time for 'the' moment. I watched as other girls paired off and started the awkward slow dance with their heart's desire. The opening notes to Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On' called throughout the hall and my heart leapt into my throat. This HAD to be it. Our eyes met and as we started towards each other my name was suddenly called 'Sally!'. My blasted friends needed me. I wrenched myself away from my intended path to comfort a friend who had yet to be kissed, despite her best attempts to trace 'KISS ME' on her loved one's back with her finger. Somehow he just hadn't got the message and she was beside herself. I did my best to patch her up and encourage her to go out there and get him! No need for secret codes!
The final notes of Celine died away, as did my courage and just as I thought I wouldn't get the chance again, Robbie William's piped up with 'Angels'. Without hesitation I ran into the hall, grabbed Peter and threw my arms around his neck and pulled him closer, eager to hold him. We swayed slowly from side to side. Cheek to cheek. I wet my lips nervously and buried my face in his neck, feeling his heart thumping in his chest, before I lifted my head to finally receive my sweet treat. Our lips met in a warm collision and we clumsily set about 'snogging' one another. It was wet and strange and I didn't have a clue what I was doing but to hell with it! I was kissing a boy! I was kissing my Peter! His teeth grazed gently against my upper lip and as the final notes of the song died away, we pulled apart, as if in a daze and I stumbled away blindly as he wiped my baby blue presence from his mouth. I was desperate to find Bobbie.
Find her I did and I tugged her away from the crowds, down the hallway and into the wide open night.
Taking a deep breath, we sat on the steps as I told her my story. How it had felt. How I had felt. How my upper lip tingled slightly. In fact, it was stinging sweetly. What would happen now? I wondered out loud to her. Were we going to fall in love?
The air was cool and she glanced at me almost sadly and said, biting her lip, 'I don't know. I suppose we're all growing up now... we're not children anymore'. There were little tears glistening in her eyes and pulling her close into a hug I replied 'Yes, I suppose we are.'