A Paper girl I once knew.

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Do you ever wonder about somebody from your past? 

An ex-girlfriend? Somebody you used to work with?? An old school teacher perhaps???

What became of them? Where are they now??

It is of course easier nowadays to keep in touch with people what with the various social media platforms available. 

But there are still those who fall between the cracks.

The ones who you can kinda remember but struggle with specifics such as even things as basic as their names never mind any other particular details of their life.

Some relationship are so vague it’s bizarre that any lingering memory of them persists at all. Yet some do.

During the periods of lockdown we’ve experienced this year, it’s inevitable that at times your mind drifts to thoughts of times gone by. 

Happier times when you were younger and pandemics were the thing of dystopian novels, movies or TV shows.

Though truth be told I’ve always thought a lot about the past anyway and have done since my youth.

Often my mind fixates temporarily on people I used to know and I wonder what they are doing now.

One such case was back in spring.

It was in regards to the girl who used to deliver the evening paper to my parents’ house for a few years back in the early 2000s.

A pretty, lively little brunette girl aged around 13/14 who would be driven from door to door by her overworked mother in the dark cold early evenings of late Autumn and Winter.

By contrast in the Spring and Summer months, she was often escorted by around a dozen of her school friends.

I mean that has to have been one of the safest paper rounds in Britain at the time.

Literally, over a dozen teenagers ensuring that the Glasgow Evening Times made it through your letterbox.

Often I would look out of the window at her and acolytes and nod my head in disapproval at their actions.

“Why are they all following her around like lost sheep? Idiots!” I’d mutter to myself.

Or during the colder months: “Her poor mum. She does more work on that paper round than the bloody paper girl.” I’d pronounce to anyone in my vicinity.

Oh, how they laughed…….well. More of a smirk really if indeed I got any reaction at all.

The only direct interaction I ever had with her was when she chapped on our door every Friday evening to request the paper money. 

For some reason, it always seemed to be me who was the one who answered and was subsequently left to pay the bill. 

I hardly ever even read the bloody paper too.

Often when she did come to collect it would be at an inopportune moment.

I’d either be arguing in the background with my dad over something vitally important like what time we were having dinner or on the phone to a friend trying to convince them it was in their best interests to meet me down the pub sometime within the next few hours. 

All the while scrambling around in the jacket pockets hung by the door trying to find the money to pay her. 

She’d smile at the chaos of it all. 

A foresight for her into what it’s like to be in your 20s perhaps.

I also distinctly remember the time she came to drop off flowers not long after my mother had passed.

She looked nervous as I suppose you would be in such circumstances and the idea was clearly that of her mother who was waiting for her in the car but still it was a nice touch and very appreciated as all acts of kindness are at such times.

Of course, she grew up as everyone does and wasn’t going to do a paper round all of her life. 

This was confirmed on the night she introduced her replacement. Some little boy of about 4 feet in height who’d barely started high school. 

She announced that she was going to get a proper part-time job somewhere and that the diminutive replacement beside her was taking over the local newspaper racket which had been hers for the previous few years. 

And that was that. Her reign as our paper girl was over.

Never to be seen again……………delivering papers to our door anyway.

Not long after we actually stopped getting that paper delivered when my dad realised that the content was effectively a watered-down version of what was in the Glasgow Herald that he was buying every morning. 

I felt bad telling the wee guy that we didn’t require his services anymore not that he really cared. He just nodded, said ‘Okay’ and ran off to the car that was waiting for him.

Turns out his predecessor wasn’t the only one to get driven around their paper route circa November through February. 

Anyway, some years later I was standing in one of the local pubs to the area and I looked across to the end of the bar to see a familiar face I couldn’t quite place. 

After a few moments spent thinking about it I realised who it was. 

Our old paper girl who was now all grown up and must have been around 19 or 20.

She glanced back and saw me. 

There was no conversation. I mean what do you say? 

“Remember me? I used to give you a fiver ever Friday for sticking newspapers through our letterbox all week. What have you been doing for the last 4/5 years then?”

It’s always surreal to see someone who when you last saw them was still a child now all grown up and standing with an alcoholic beverage in their hand.

Subsequently, I bumped into her a quite few times in various pubs over the following few years. 

We never had an actual conversation as ours was an unspoken bond. A quick nod and a knowing smile. The way you do when you know someone but don’t really know them. 

After a while, the encounters became less frequent. Likely due to the fact that with me getting into my 30s I gradually started socialising much less. 

It’s difficult to say when was the last time I saw her. I tried working that out but couldn’t. Was it three years ago? Or was it four? Maybe longer. 

Who knows?! 

I even brought the topic of her up with my sister when she came to visit at the end of my driveway during lockdown back in May. 

Whilst we chewed the fat over nothing in particular as my bored nine-year-old niece looked on I mentioned that I had been wondering what had ever become of our old paper girl who I used to bump into down at the pub on occasion.

My sister could barely remember the girl mostly due to the fact she’d rarely ever had to deal with finding money to pay her back in the day but some of the details such as her name and physical characteristics as described by me stirred something in her memory.

I could see a realisation mounting about who I was describing.

She then dropped a bombshell.

The girl in question was no more sadly having tragically taken her own life some years before. 

Six years before to be precise.

My immediate reaction to this awful revelation was to insist she’d got it wrong.

I’d definitely seen this girl at some point within the past six years.

Definitely.

Or at least I thought I had.

How sure could I really be?

It gradually dawned on me that my initial insistence that it was somebody else was in error.

Some later checking confirmed it. 

That little lass with the brown hair and cheeky smile was gone and had been for some time.

What a shock.

The circumstances behind her passing aren’t really important in regards to my recollections of her. 

Needless to say like all suicides it was tragic and her being only in her 20s makes it even more so. 

Even though I didn’t know her that well, hardly at really, I still felt somewhat bereft.

How had this happened and I hadn’t known about it?

I began to wonder if maybe I had known about it – a casual conversation in the pub perhaps – but had simply forgotten but then how if it had been so insignificant so as to forget then why did it seem so profound now?!

Added to that it was difficult to believe it had been so long.

All those years with her gone and me thinking that she was still out there leading her life.

It makes you wonder how many people with whom your relationship was vague are gone without you even knowing. 

Maybe it’s for the best that you don’t. 

That girl’s name was Collette by the way.

My initial shock of her passing has since faded but still somehow remains hard to believe.

I’m pretty sure I’ll still think about her from time to time albeit it’ll no longer be to wonder about whatever became of her. 

But it won’t just be sadness over the tragedy about what did either.

Instead, it’ll be simply fondness for the smiley paper girl I once knew.

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