Remember the 80s? The batwing jumpers, the puffball skirts, the dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards hair? Cass Thomson does – from the heavy eyeliner to the hits of Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, it all feels like yesterday…
Cass is intrigued and a little frightened when she receives an invitation to a school reunion. If she goes, there’s a possibility that she’ll meet Gideon Harker, the boy she adored from the age of 13 with the desperate intensity of first love. From his bleach-blond hair to his punk boots, Gideon was her ideal man, and she’s never met anyone to match him, not even now she’s running a minor stately home and perfectly content with her sports journalist boyfriend Greg.
It’s dangerous to go back and see what might have been: what if Gideon is no longer the romantic, soul-searching, green-eyed charmer she remembers, but a balding, beer-bellied, nine-to-fiver? But Cass just can’t help herself…
“The wit is in the winning details” – Elle (USA)
“It’s the tender moments that set this read apart” – Romantic Times Book Club
“Readers who pine for the 80s and/or Cool Britannia will enjoy this” – Publishers Weekly
“A romantic look at first love” – Heat
“Haasler complements the inventive storyline of this contemporary romantic comedy with a host of colourful characters” – Northern Echo
I ducked my head to check my make-up in one of the slightly-too-low mirrors. There was a familiar smell of Jeyes Fluid and pine disinfectant, with a hint of cigarette smoke that, frankly, had no right being to be there. The door swung open and the sound of ‘Fade to Grey’ by Visage surged louder.
“Cass! There you are,” Heather said. “I’ve been looking all over the place for you. Alison and Pete Bog have just arrived.”
“This is weird, isn’t it?” I said. Heather was studying her hair from every angle, bent at the knees like a downhill skier so she could see in the mirror. “Everything seems smaller. Even the toilets and the washbasins.”
“We were smaller last time we were here. I know my thighs were.”
“I was just thinking about the way there always used to be someone crying in the toilets at the end of a night out.”
“It was usually me,” Heather said.
I laughed. “I can’t remember a single time when it was you in tears.” She’d always been one of those golden, charmed people. If we’d been brought up in America, Heather would have been the prom queen, class president and chief cheerleader.
“There’s a first time for everything. Anyway, come on.” She checked her hair one last time, “Alison has brought a load of photographs, and there’s a hilarious one of you and Punky Harker in full Love-Will-Tear-Us-Apart mode.”
I followed her out into the long corridor that smelled of floor-polish and a whiff of teatowels from the Domestic Science room towards the sound of Duran Duran singing ‘Wild Boys.’
The reunion was warming up. A dozen or so people were even trying to dance in a disjointed fashion. We rejoined the group that that we’d been sitting with earlier, which was basically a disorderly queue of Heather’s admirers past and present waiting for their turn in her spotlight.
A small, brown-eyed woman detached herself from the gaggle and smiled at me. “Hi, Cass.”
“Alison!” We hugged each other – she was a rounder, softer version of her former tiny self – and Heather hovered nearby ready to hug both of us all over again. When we’d all finished hugging, Alison introduced me to her husband Pete, a man who was handsome yet strangely inert. I saw Heather mouthing the word “Bog” at me over his shoulder and tried not to laugh. Then Pete was promptly, and all too easily, ignored while Alison, Heather and I huddled in a corner and had a good gossip about old times.
“Show her those photos,” Heather prompted, and Alison took out a brown envelope full of over- or under-exposed snapshots of various combinations of us with assorted but invariably horrible hairstyles; Alison, Heather and myself at a fancy-dress party as Bananarama, complete with little skirts, big earrings and bandannas; at the Pleasure Beach on a day trip to Blackpool; a school trip to Chester Zoo; in various dingy places I could no longer remember.
“Look at this one, Cass – you’ll die!”
I took the picture from her. There I was in my seventeen year-old glory, thinner and a lot more sulky-looking, with short, fluffed-up, dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards hair. I was dressed entirely in black: a tiny flared skirt on top of black leggings, Doctor Marten’s boots and a baggy, oversized T-shirt that bore the washed-out legend ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours.’ And standing next to me in the picture, with his arm draped across my shoulder, was Gideon Harker. Six feet four, as thin as a rake, his hair a mixture of black and growing-out bleached blond, his gorgeous green eyes circled with eyeliner. I suddenly felt all emotional.
“That was his T-shirt,” I said, remembering the soft, washed-thin feel of it.
“Oh, bless them, they even wore each other’s clothes! It must have been true love!” Heather laughed.
“I wonder if he’s coming? Has anyone seen him?” Alison asked.
I’d been looking around for him ever since we arrived – really he was the only reason I was there at all.