A Significant Relationship

I remember running all the way to Susan’s house. I was halfway through my evening meal, but this just couldn’t wait. I clutched the pink envelope in my hand with its mysterious one-page letter inside, puffing with excitement, effort and the struggle of running on a full stomach.

‘Look,’ I screeched as I burst into her family’s quietly sedate lounge room. Her parents were watching television, Judy on the floor between them and Susan with a book on her knee in the armchair. Their eyes swivelled – annoyed, interested. “A fan letter!’ I held it aloft and Susan snapped her book shut and got up.

We went into the neat-as-a-pin bedroom she shared with Judy, all lace and flowers and cut glass.

‘Mum brought it home from school. She almost forgot about it.’ I puffed.

We’d just turned 15. We matched. Our hair was fringed and shoulder-length. Our school uniforms were hitched up over our belts so they were no longer than our fingertips with our arms at our sides. We wore make-up to cover our freckles and mascara to enlarge our eyes. We were into Beatles and boys.

It had been another ordinary school day, and when our buses arrived home after our daily 60-kilometre round trip to school in Casterton, we’d gone out separate ways. Susan’s family ate early – her father was a builder. Meg and I went home to a messy house, dad stoking the fire and cooking a stew or rissoles. Sue and Audrey already playing or fighting after primary school and mum exhausted with stacks of marking to do after tea.

But it was while eating, she said, ‘Someone left a letter in the staff room for you. It’s in my bag’.

I loved getting letters, but how come this wasn’t posted? I pulled out the envelope with my name on it ‘per favour’ my mother. How exciting. I opened it . . .

It was the most amazing letter I have ever received in my life. My regret is that I can no longer locate it. It is historic and wonderful and full of a young man’s love and longing.
Every sentence in that letter was the title of a Beatles song. As in,

Dear Jan,
Listen, Do You Want to know a Secret, I Want to Hold your Hand, Please Please Me, I Wanna be your Man. You Really Gotta Hold on Me, so Hold me Tight, Love Me Do and It Won’t Be Long. All I’ve Got to Do is give All My Loving. It Won’t be Long. Please Mr Postman. PS I Love You.
It was signed, RCJ.

If you’re interested, please reply C/- Casterton Post Office.

Susan and I were in a frenzy of delight. Who was this mysterious Beatle-mad, fab, groovy boy – writing to me! I didn’t give a thought to Susan being jealous. We did everything together, so I just assumed she was as excited as me.

We spent the rest of the night going through the boys at school. It would have to be one of them because the letter had been delivered to mum in the staffroom. We couldn’t make head or tail of the initials, they didn’t fit with anyone. We ruled out most of our egg heads – they’d know nothing of the Beatles anyway. We skipped to the guys in form five – a year above us, but we hardly knew them.

We weren’t as clever as RCJ, but we cobbled a letter together from song titles across the board. I can’t remember whose songs we used, but the usuals – Supremes, Ronettes, Dusty Springfield, Lulu and Cilla Black were there. We posted the letter and settled in to wait.

The next day, I tried batting my eyelids at every boy on our list, but I got no response. Some even seemed a bit frightened at my obvious ‘come on’. I was puzzled, it was beginning to look as if we had guessed wrongly.

I got the next letter. ‘If you want to meet, be at the Coleraine Post Office at 6pm Saturday.’

What to wear? This would mean a new dress for sure. Susan and I bought material and sewed up new, groovy shift dresses for this meeting. Then we decided to be cool and casual, with stretchy pants and pointy-toed Beatle boots. We made our faces up carefully and sloped down to the seat at the post office half an hour early.

We kept our eyes peeled for what seemed like hours. Some old codgers came out of the Koroit Hotel across the road, people went in and out of Grinham’s milk bar. A big tall guy and a little short one stared into the newsagent’s window. A car drove slowly past, but we couldn’t see who was inside. The cricketers packed up from their early season match and wandered back from Silvester Oval. Surely it couldn’t be a cricketer, sportsmen weren’t into Beatles. Susan and I became absorbed in out fantasy talk where the main street became Carnaby Street and everything was groovy and not some remote Australian rural town.

‘Jan?’ I looked up startled.
It was the tall guy we’d seen outside the newsagent.
‘So you got my letter.’

I was gobsmacked and totally speechless. Robert had been a prefect at our school a year ago. He was hopelessly old – at least 18. He didn’t even go to school any more.
He was known as Casterton’s first Beatle. And he was interested in me! I was floored.
‘Yes,’ I squeaked, then remembered my manners. ‘This is Susan.’ I said, then blushed furiously realising that he would know I’d told her everything about the letters and that it probably should have been kept private.

‘This is my brother, Ian, he came over for the drive.’
The little short kid was probably still in primary school . . . hang on – he’d said ‘drive’.
‘Have you got a car?’ I squeaked.
‘Yep.’ Things were looking up. ‘Do you want to go for a walk?’
This is where I wanted to tell Susan to disappear, but I couldn’t. I’d involved her and it would have been cruel not to let her see it through, too. Besides, little Ian wasn’t being banished.

We wandered up the desolate main street of Coleraine, discussing our favourite Beatle songs. At the end, we turned and wandered back down the street as he told us he had seen them in Melbourne earlier that year when they played at Festival Hall and was among the crush of people outside the Southern Cross Hotel.

We stopped outside Trangmar’s. ‘Can I see you again?’ he asked.

Blood surged in my ears, my heart was pounding fit to burst. ‘Sure,’ I replied as coolly as I could. My hands were sweating.

‘A Hard Day’s Night is on the Regent, do you want to go?’

Do I? I’d already been pestering dad to drive us over. Now I would go in my own right with my own Beatle.

‘Yes,’ I said, my whole body telling me to throw my arms around this huge tall Beatle boy who’d picked me out, but so terrified of my overwhelming feelings that I could only stand rooted to the spot and nod.

‘I’ll be in touch,’ he said, then walked over to an ancient green Morris Minor parked nearby and folded his six-foot frame in behind the wheel while little Ian climbed in beside him.

‘Wow,’ I said to Susan, as they drove off, ‘who’d have thought it was him.’
‘He’s awfully old,’ she said. ‘and now who am I going go with to see A Hard Day’s Night?’

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