In the morning I woke up last and we all went for a walk around the village. The boys wore their dinner jackets and Jonny walked the dog and gave me a piggy-back. Alice and Lottie planned to spend the day revising maths, but I didn’t want to go home. Ben invited me back to his, so we went our spontaneous separate ways at lunch time and sang along to Bob Dylan in the car.
Jonny warned me that I would want to live in Ben’s house when we arrived, and he was right. It was ancient and enormous but cottage-y, with tiny winding wooden staircases and low ceilings and cubbyholes. It had an attic room and a cottage kitchen, and then we stepped outside and I was so glad I had brought my camera. He showed us acres and acres of grassland and woodland and wild flower meadows and ponds and grassy lawns. Eventually we sat out in the garden and revised while listening to my Music A2 set works on iPod speakers. I got burnt in the sun and Jonny stole my camera to take photographs of damselflies. I talked about never getting up to see a sunrise, and he said we should wake up in the morning and go out into the meadow to watch. The boys had a school barbeque to go to, so I spent the evening on Ben’s laptop until golden hour, before venturing out to take photographs. The spare room had the comfiest bed and I slept under a skylight for the first time in my life.
Neither mine nor Jonny’s alarm woke us up at 4am, but he shook me awake at half past five and we walked down to the meadow. It was overcast but the everything was so alive. Four deer watched us as we approached, and then skipped into the trees. I forgot about my camera and we stood there and talked and listened for an hour and a half, as the mist rose and the sun came up and the dew collected around our feet. When the church bell struck seven, we went back indoors and Jonny made omelettes before mum came to pick me up.
The day before, when I’d spontaneously accepted Ben’s invitation, I’d forgotten that Lottie had organised for us to waitress at a local (international) horse championship. Reunited with Lottie, Alice, and Kim, and having yet to step back through my own front door, the surreal experience of serving canapés in the VIP marquee felt like a very odd extension to the surreal experience of my anti-prom. We worked for nine hours with just a ten-minute break, earned tuppence, and smiled until our cheeks ached, but it was oddly fun.
In the past three days I’ve had eight hours sleep, left college, worn a gorgeous dress, watched a sunrise, slept under a skylight, and taken too many photographs. I feel as though I’ve made a seamless transition from one part of my life to the next, and I owe so much to a group of people I didn’t know this time last year. Alice has plans for us to play a series of concerts before she takes her flute diploma in July, Jonny suggests a trip to the beach, Lottie wants another origami picnic, and we’re making secret plans to host our next gathering at Ben’s extraordinary house.
Here is the making of my alternative summer.