I approached the front gate of Debbie’s house clutching the flowers and chocolates. The wind had subsided slightly, which was a relief to my cheeks, which had spent most of the ½ mile walk being battered by the large starched collars on my school shirt. This was it, the moment I’d been waiting for, it was my time. Finally, I would be the one with a gorgeous girl on my arm. Borehamwood Fair seemed a distant memory, I had made it, I was cool, I had … what did I have? A girlfriend? A girl who wanted to go out with me? A challenge?
I’d spent so much time thinking about getting to this point, I’d completely forgotten about what I should say or do on the date. Did I act all cool and suave? Did I try to be funny? Bloody hell. I had no idea.
I swallowed what felt like a very large, spiky frog and knocked on the green council issue door, with its reeded glass. I saw movement through the reeds as a fuzzy image of Doreen approached and opened the door.
She smiled and said “Hello, Robert!” All mothers used my full name at the time.
“Come in – Debbie will be down in a minute.”
She looked at the items I was clutching close to my chest with a rather strange expression, quizzical and as if stifling laughter. I panicked. Did Doreen have the chocolates or the flowers? What did mum say? I’m sure she said…
“Oooo, which lucky girl’s getting those?” she asked, a sly grin on her face.
Trying my best to smile but still undecided as to which part of the gift giving portion belonged to the mother of one’s intended date, Doreen turned and called up the stairs:
“Deborah! Robert’s here to take you out! He looks very smart.”
She then excused herself and retired to the kitchen, where I swear I could hear stifled laughter and snorting.
Now, Debbie’s house and this particular moment was best described by Jarvis Cocker in the song Year 2000. It was so apt. Although written many years later, it described my situation perfectly. I worried for a while that he had been following me, because her name was Deborah, her house was small and there was woodchip on the wall. Then again, our house was also small and wood chipped.
Still considering the gift conundrum, I heard a rustle at the top of the stairs. Looking up, there was Debbie, in a red pencil skirt and a tight, white top. Her hair was a triumph, lacquered into a perfectly flick -backed sculpture. Make up, perfect; foundation that gave not a hint of blemished skin; deep red lipstick and the heady, heady fragrance of Stowaway (Sleepy Lagoon). She was a beautiful vision and she was going out with me.
As she slowly walked down the stairs, I felt my mouth go dry, my heart beat slightly faster and my legs lose their stability. I fought the feeling of complete elation and the realisation that this situation was way, way over my head.
Debbie’s deep brown eyes looked me up and down, wearing the same expression that her mother had moments earlier. In fact, her mum had appeared from the kitchen, but I was too busy gawping at Debbie to notice. Mother and daughter exchanged glances. To this day, I’m still grateful that both of them didn’t fall on the floor laughing until their stomachs ached.
Words failed me. Straightening my arms, I proffered both courting gifts at once, like a small child appealing to his mummy for a cuddle. She took both items and placed them on the telephone table in the hall.
“Fanks,” she said. “See yer later mum! Come on! Let’s go!”
She wafted past me, opened the front door and tottered out on impossibly high wedges.
“Don’t be too late, love,” said Doreen.
“Yeah, alright mum.”
“Don’t worry, Mrs Seabrook, I’ll make sure she’s home by…”
“Come on, you! We’ll miss the bus!”
To be honest, I can’t remember what was said on our walk to the bus stop. I do remember that at one point it would be prudent to offer some form of affection. Upon placing my hand on her shoulder, Debbie stiffened slightly and gave me a look that suggested I’d just tried to pull down her knickers. I retracted my intended embrace and thought of something to say.
“What film would yer like to see?” I asked.
Debbie formed a thin smile and narrowed those beautiful, brown, mascara painted eyes.
“Oh I thought yer’d guess,” she said, looking at me intently, “ I really wanna see Emmanuelle.”
The spiky frog jumped back into my throat. For younger readers, let me enlighten you, or rather, let Wikipedia enlighten you:
‘Emmanuelle is the lead character in a series of French softcore erotic movies…’
So, my predicament. 16 and a half years old, in a polyester/wool mix hand me down suit and kipper tie, accompanying a rather predatory young lady with who knows what on her mind to see what in my mind was a sex film. Main panic? How would we get in?
It was an X film (18 cert, to you teenagers).The shame of being turned away, or, worse still, having to watch ‘Herbie Rides Again’ would be too much to bear.
Don’t worry, I told myself. You’re in a smart suit. You’re with a rather mature looking girl (she had all the womanly bits on show, and some). You have nothing to worry about.
The bus arrived.
I politely allowed Debbie on board first.
“Two for High Barnet, please,” I said.
The bus driver looked me up and down. His mouth twitched briefly, again stifling laughter.
“ Two arf fares, sonny?” he said.
The bus journey only gave one significant incident. On the top deck, as I talked inanely about films, football and ‘O’ levels, Debbie gently took my arm and placed it round her shoulder. I looked into those, hypnotic, brown chocolate eyes and felt something stir.
She fumbled in her tiny handbag and produced a packet of JPS black and a box of matches. Extracting two cigarettes, she placed both in her mouth and lit them. Initially, I thought she was a particularly heavy smoker, but she smoothly removed one
of the burning sticks and placed it in my mouth. Now, I was an athlete. My body was a temple. I’d never smoked in my life. It was bad. John Hollins was on the telly telling you it was very bad and he played for Arsenal, so it must be true.
I casually sucked on my first ciggy and blew the smoke into the air. It felt as if somebody had burnt an old tramp’s socks and stuffed them in my mouth. I coughed violently, my head thumped and I felt nauseous. I attempted a smile. Debbie laughed and looked out of the window.
I approached the ticket office with real trepidation. I’m not sure I was ready for another adult eyeing me suspiciously and potentially ruining my first liaison with a real girl. Debbie tugged my coat.
“Gis the money, Rob, I’ll get these.”
“Two for Emmanuelle, please,” she demanded from the elderly lady in the booth.
Two pink tickets were promptly issued and we were in.
Debbie made a bee line for the middle of the cinema. Back row seats. Oh my word, this is almost too much, I thought. Back row seats. Girlfriend, boyfriend seats. Kissing.
An image of my dad contorted with laughter popped into my mind. I popped him out again.
I had managed to purchase a box of Maltesers for Debbie, which I duly carried to the back seat. My hands were shaking so much people were hushing me for making a rattling noise.
The film began. It didn’t mess about. The subject matter was pretty clear. I knew very little about the rules of intercourse, but it appeared you could do it in a shed, tied up, in four poster (guessed that one), in a field, at a party, with lots of men and with lots of ladies. Now, for most red bloodied heterosexual men, this usually has a very stimulating effect. When you are 16 and a half with little exposure, if you’ll pardon the pun, it has a very, very, stimulating effect.
Combine this with the edifying presence of Debbie, who by this time had placed her hand on my thigh. I felt her hot breath in my ear and managed to tear my gaze away from the screen and look at her face. At that moment, she moved in and kissed me. A proper man and lady kiss. Her soft lips pressed against mine and I gasped, which was enough for her to force her tongue deep into my mouth. ‘I can’t breath! I can’t breath!’ my mind screamed, but her tongue continued to probe. How long did this last? It felt strangely pleasurable.
Now, as you can imagine, having your first French kiss whilst watching soft porn and only being 16 and a half has an extreme effect on your body. My mind raced, my palms turned sweaty and what was going on in my underpants was of seismic proportions. I thought I was going to pass out.
The embrace probably lasted for less than 20 seconds, but it was enough. I think we tried it a few more times before Emmanuelle finally decided to put some clothes on and ride off into the sunset. The effects lasted as I had to hobble to the bus stop, holding hands with Debbie.
Back in Borehamwood, I walked her back to the green front door. We looked at each other for what seemed a long time, but it was almost an unspoken agreement. Tonight was just between the two of us. I would never boast of my actions with her. She would never tell anyone about the suit. Or the flowers and chocolates. Or the stench of Old Spice.
“Fanks, Rob. Yer a nice boy.”
“Erm. Fanks Debbie. I fink yer lovely.”
She smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
We never dated again.