The title, both collective and verb, was an accurate description of the original and clichéd intent, though even that had to be changed as once I’d written the key scenes I quickly lost interest in this particular story, so what remains are only a few fragments that tried to evoke the apparent contradictions of absolute certainty and crippling insecurity that many teenagers like myself felt at that time.
‘One Perfect Day’ is actually an amalgamation of two separate walks along the Thanet coastline, and though some of the things described (e.g., the cross-channel hovercraft terminal, the derelict diving tower) were pulled down a few years later, even at the time there was often a faint air of decay on many of the structures that couldn’t always be accounted for by the harsh winds that stripped paint and tore into the underlying wood of even the grandest buildings.
The events of all three ‘lines’ take place between Aug 1980 & Aug 1981, with a few flash-backs to the same month in different years relating to the main characters, though a few are of entirely different people who are experiencing similar things in previous decades.
If the pair of complementary ‘Line 1’ and ‘Line 2’ stories could be considered opposing branches, the main ‘trunk’ of the story was that of Samantha, who leaves an increasingly abusive boyfriend (in an emotional rather than physical manner), and in so doing is forced to move into rented accommodation where she slowly rebuilds a life she hadn’t realised was particularly damaged, until she looks back and sees just how much she was being manipulated.
New friends are made, parties attended and acquaintances acquired, amongst them a girl whose flirtatious behaviour attracts Samantha until she realises she is the subject of the other woman’s desire, and they eventually spend a night together.
This ‘Main Line’ was supposed to represent Samantha’s decision to try an alternative lifestyle, not embrace it fully in complete rejection of men (as in ‘Line 2’), and unlike the happy ending of ‘Line 1’ this was deliberately left open-ended.
Based in part on my own childhood, the rest on a somewhat romanticised version, this was the fantasy ‘ideal’ part of the novel.
The story begins with Julia in her final term at boarding school, Melissa having left a few months earlier as she was a year ahead, and during half-term they stay at Julia’s home on the coast, for her parents have long accepted Melissa as a dear friend and almost look upon her as a relative, though they have no idea as yet that the two girls are in a relationship.
Told in another flashback is the story of how they met. Julia, staying at boarding school in Sussex, becomes friendly with Melissa, an American whose sometimes brash behaviour is shown to be a mask to protect her deep insecurities, as she is isolated from her home abroad, has recently lost her mother due to an accident, and is under considerable pressure from her father to succeed. Melissa had been transferred from another school for unknown reasons, though naturally various rumours attended her arrival, and it is not until they have a kiss that is almost innocent that Melissa reveals the true reason for her expulsion from her previous school, and Julia has to wrestle with the feelings that have been swirling inside her for a couple of years. There is a lot of introspection and expression of inner doubt, yet they are also growing adults coming to terms with who they truly are, and as they know of no one else at the moment with whom to confide in or seeks answers to their questions and reassurance for their uncertainties, they begin a relationship that further cements their deep friendship even though their future together remains uncertain.
Living together but still unsure enough of their reception so as to present themselves as just two friends living together for company and financial convenience, Julia’s parents arrive for a planned visit and have their long-standing suspicions confirmed when they see how the flat has been furnished and the manner in which the girls relate to one another, but after a heart-felt talk they parents rationalise it as best they can for they do not want to lose their daughter and they can see how happy she is, even though they can never understand it.
The women in this section were deliberately modelled on the ‘psycho-lesbian’ that at the time seemed to be everywhere in the media, where they were reported as if their sexuality was entirely due to their mental / emotional problems rather than merely being one aspect of their personality.
The events take place over a few days at Christmas, where Sam(antha), a bored wife begins an affaire with Juliette, a colleague at work, and encounters Juliette’s lover Margaret, whose past is revealed to Sam in a manner in which veiled threats alternate with revelations about a drugged existence, before Sam leaves in disgust and returns to her husband. Being from Sam’s point of view, the story was written to be somewhat inconsistent, even confusing, though a short follow-up chapter does indeed reveal at least part of Margaret’s life to be as she had described it, though that doesn’t fully explain her reactions, which may have been misunderstood / misinterpreted by Sam.
Outside this story, Juliette and Margaret complete their plan to live in a country house, but following their rocky relationship and in keeping with the genre, it is later revealed in Main Line there was a murder / suicide.