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Up to the Plate

​4 Epworth drive stood roughly in the middle of 6 identical looking houses, with musty orange 
tiling, a black front door and grass that is mowed, loudly, whenever Stephen dreams of Miss 
Thatcher from school. The fire alarm last went off 3 months ago, a malfunction with the wiring. 
Stephen's dad took the batteries out and each night, Stephen believes a fire will eat him and his 
Nirvana posters up, but he never says anything, what's the probability with both parents smoking 
            The precipice was this – Stephen Wilson stood on the eve of his 18th birthday, the day after 
his long term girlfriend Jessica broke up with him, citing “Work commitments”, she was 29. How 
they met? Stephen's mum works as an orthodontist, she has her hands inside angsty teenagers' 
mouths 8 hours a day and it's Jessica that passes Mrs Wilson the instruments. Sexy Jessica-that's 
what Stephen's friends called her, well Pete and Joe anyway, the two that witnessed her first hand 
when Jessica and Mrs Wilson had coffee and cake together, co in-siding with a Tekken marathon the
boys were having a year back now. In truth, Jessica was attractive, yes, but not to the extent that the 
boys fantasised about her, it was her personality that must have shone through, that, or the fact that 
Stephen was a heterosexual teenage male at an all-boys school.
           The first date was, at best, awkwardly exciting. As long as Stephen kept in mind the fantasy 
of dating a hot, mature woman and blocked out the thought that this woman was closer in maturity 
to his mother, he would be fine. The film they were booked to see was Transporter, a Hollywood 
blockbuster with Jason Statham. The choice of film came after a frustrating conversation with his 
           'Beverley Hills cock, that's what you need to see,' Pete helpfully suggested, 'something to get 
things nice and steamy, sets a nice impression' 
           'No, no, no, go for something a little more classic, Jurassic Pork or Reservoir Dongs,' Joe, 
equally assisting.
           'But what if she wants something a little more romantic?'
           'Good point, maybe just Breast side story'
I need better friends.
           Stephen didn't have a job, nowhere wanted to hire someone without experience, but nowhere
was willing to give the opportunity to learn some. He volunteered in a charity shop, one smelling 
just the same as every other charity shop. And so it was with gritted teeth that Stephen offered to 
pay for two tickets to Cineworld, plus popcorn and drinks, not cheap, it took an extra bit of 
bartering with his mother to let him borrow her card for the evening. 
           She looked stunning, a lot like Gillian Anderson from X-files. As they took their seats in the 
very centre (too close forward and the neck pays the price, too far back and Stephen would feel a 
little too detached), Jessica slipped her leather jacket off and caught Stephen, with mouth agape, 
watching her. She smiled a knowing smile, she knew guys were infatuated with her, however old 
they were. Due to being totally inexperienced (minus a kiss with Claire Davis on the year eleven 
trip to Berlin, bonus points for the hand up her top), Stephen read into every look, every shift of 
Jessica's body. She reminded him of Johannes Vermeer's The Girl with The Pearl Earring, the 
vacant, delicate look leaving her face only when laughing, or knowingly smiling, returning with a 
gradual fade, it made Stephen a little anxious to say the least. Stephen was stiff, and not in a good 
           'Do you come to the cinema often?' She asked. 
           ' Last time I came here, was about a month ago for Pete's birthd-' Stephen noticed Jessica's 
lips and eyes moving, darting quickly. As Stephen looked across, he followed her eyes and spotted 
Joe, gave a wave, but it was as if Joe hadn't seen him.
           As the lights went down, Stephen's worried brow eased up as Jessica's hand moved from her
lap, across the dividing arm rest and finding Stephen's, granted a little clammy to say the least. As 
the adverts rolled, followed by one and a half hours of Jason Statham driving, fighting and shagging
his way across France, Stephen found the confidence to put his arm around his date, to even kiss her
in that dark cinema. The date was a little tricky but that was due to inexperience. A series of less 
awkward, more intense dates followed in the following weeks, leading to Stephen losing his 
virginity at Jessica's parents' house on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
           Eastenders, Who wants to be a millionaire, The news, ITV nightscreen. This was the 
soundtrack to every night in the Wilson household, rising up through the thinly carpeted 
floorboards, muffling into Stephen's ears to accompany homework, reading, sleeping or whatever 
else his personal space allowed. The routine would only alter on weekends, when Top of the pops 
would be enjoyed by all three members of the house. Joe would come over occasionally, to leaf 
through Stephen's vast tape collection and tell him about sexual encounters that never actually 
happened. Too young to go out and get drunk, too old to invite friends to a family parties, the 
Stephen, Pete and Joe turned to music. 
           Losing themselves in Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, Tom Robinson and The Jam, 
spending hours leafing through tape collections in charity shops and HMV) if the boys had a little 
bit of money to burn). Back in Stephen's bedroom, underneath Kurt Cobain's watchful glare, Jessica
Simpson's 2D breasts and He-Man's intimidating muscles, the boys lay sprawled out in a haze of 
discovery, there was a piercing noise, cutting through Paul Weller's vocals on Town called Malice. 
           The doorbell. 
           With mascara down her cheek, hair ruffled to the point of fall-out point and hands gripped 
tightly around eachother, Jessica stood in front of the three boys and Stephen's parents, eyes 
bloodshot as her colourless world seemed to instantly change Stephen's, with the utterance of
           'I'm pregnant.'
           The group stared on, mouths open as all eyes slowly turned to Stephen, waiting, desperately hoping 
for a reply. It didn't come out, it just hung there, unspoken in the evening air, 5 seconds passed, 8 
seconds, 10 seconds. It was Mrs Wilson who broke the silence.
'Come in, I'll get you a cup of tea, we'll talk this through.' As if by talking about this situation would
make it disappear. It didn't.
'Pete, Joe, you'd best get off home,' followed Stephen's dad, seemingly disrupting the boy's 
entertainment for the night.
           The lounge had brown wood-looking linoleum across the floor, the sofas were leather and 
the ornaments dotted around were mostly tasteful souvenirs picked up by the Wilson family on their
holidays, however some were the cause of fake smiles at Christmases or birthdays, accompanied by 
a very unconvincing, 'thank you'. None of this mattered now, the décor didn't count for very much 
when something as earth shattering unplanned pregnancy was thrown into the mix. Stephen, white 
faced and silent sat between his mother and Jessica, the only sound heard was the chinking of 
teaspoon against mug, coming from the kitchen. Stephen's father knew his place in this mess. 
           Stephen sipped at his water, part of the colour in his face had returned but very little of his 
speech had done the same.
           'You know how it happened Stephen, you must know, tell me you know how pregnancies 
Stephen's eyes lit up, as if this little comment had caused all of his strength to come back but his 
eyes only illuminated so that they could punctuate his slow nodding head. He glanced at his mother,
this whole time she must have known what was going on, the lack of surprise on her face gave it 
away, she wore a comforting smile, ignored by her eyes. 
           'It's time to do the right thing and step up Stephen,' his father said. 

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