I persuaded Phyl we should go and we followed them to Ye Cracke, a pub where the students often hung out. The place was packed and we had to yell to each other above the hubbub. We'd never been there before, we'd always headed straight home like the good girls we were, and this was our first taste of student social life. We loved the noise, the laughter and the buzzy atmosphere – and realized what we'd been missing.
John was with a couple of his cronies, Geoff Mohammed and Tony Carricker, on the other side of the pub, and made no move to come over to us. Phyl and I had found some friends and were chatting with them, but after a couple of black velvets – the mix of Guinness and cider that all the students drank – I felt a little wobbly and decided I'd better head for my train home. I was disappointed that John hadn't talked to me, and wondered if, after all, he had been laughing at me when he invited me to the pub.
As I made for the door he called me over, teased me about being a nun and asked me to stay. Phyl said she had to get her bus home and asked if I was coming. I knew she didn't approve of John, but I was hooked: if he wanted me to stay I was staying. I smiled apologetically at her. She gave a helpless shrug and headed for the door. John and I had another couple of drinks and then he whispered, "Let's go." The two of us slipped away from the crowd.
By this time it was evening and the street outside was quiet. Almost as soon as we'd left the pub John kissed me, a long, passionate, irresistible kiss. He whispered that his friend, Stuart, had a room we could go to, grabbed my hand and pulled me down the road. I was happy, hugely happy, to be with John and that he felt the same. At that moment I would have gone anywhere with him.
Stuart's place was a large room at the back of a shared house, with no curtains, a mattress on the floor and clothes, art materials, empty cigarette packets and books scattered around it. We couldn't have cared less about the mess and headed for the mattress, where we made love for the next hour. For me it was special and very different from my previous brief experience. And I think it was equally special for John, whose cockiness and tough-guy demeanor melted away as we lay wrapped in each other's arms.
Afterward John said, "Christ, Miss Powell, that was something else. What's all this about being engaged, then?" I told him my romance in Hoylake was over. John grinned and said he thought I was incredibly sexy and he'd been lusting after me all term. "By the way," he added, "no more Miss Powell. From now on, you're Cyn."
We snapped back to reality when I realized I was about to miss my last train home. We pulled on our clothes and raced to the station, where we managed a hasty good-bye kiss before I leapt into a carriage. "What are you doing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next?" John called, as I waved out of the window.
"Seeing you," I shouted back.
Others might have seen us as an unlikely couple, but I knew from the outset that we had made a deep connection. My feelings for John were very different from those I'd had for any other boy – more powerful, more exciting and totally unshakable. And I sensed in John the same strong feelings. Perhaps each of us recognized and was drawn to a deep need in the other. But at the time I didn't analyze it. I simply felt certain that this was no passing fling. It was real love.