“My mate fancies you.” It’s hard to know how to react to that phrase.
Who is your mate?
Does she not have the manners and self-respect to ask me out herself? Is she hideously disfigured? Is she going to point and laugh if I ask her out? Is this a gee up?
I must have been 14 or 15 years old. Her name was Emma. She sent her friend Lisa over. I knew Lisa well. She was a good laugh and had an older boyfriend, so there was no reason to put up a front to try and impress her. I think she appreciated that.
She had, how can I put it, developed early? Guys chased after her all the time. Looking back, she was probably the older guy’s plaything. She never seemed to be with her boyfriend, so either (a) he didn’t exist; (b) he hung around with his mates and only hooked up when he was after some; or (c) he was ashamed that she was so young.
Saturday nights at the local church youth club were the hub of teenage social life, before we graduated to underage drinking in the park after dark. There was usually someone making a play for Lisa. It was never me because I had neither the confidence, nor the ability to cope with the imminent rejection.
I must have been a refreshing break from the desperate teens who asked her out on a date. We were in our early teens, where were we going to take a girl on a date, Laser Quest?
I didn’t date much in my teens.
This particular night, Lisa bounded over and the sea of guys parted, tongues hanging out. I remember she was wearing a low-cut top, and as I turned when she patted me on the shoulder, my eyes zeroed in on her ample cleavage. I made an effort to look her in the eye, which being 15 should have earned me a medal.
She pointed over to a group of girls who I vaguely knew and uttered the immortal words, “My mate fancies you.”
I asked which one and she pointed Emma out. She had a short bowl haircut and a flat chest. I think I audibly groaned. Emma was blushing deeply. I did what most 15-year-old boys would have done and ignored the whole thing, aside from telling my mates, of course.
Looking back, I have a lot of respect for Emma’s ingenuity. We all paid a pound per night at the youth club and had a membership card. One of the youth leaders sat at the door and checked you off on the rolodex to make sure you were a member. Each member had a card with their name and contact details of a parent in case there were any medical emergencies. There often were.
I was concussed playing football one night and a few years later my brother would collapse after drinking fortified wine. My parents were called and he was banned. It was hilarious.
The industrious Emma had got hold of the rolodex and my phone number.
Monday was a bank holiday. I was just finishing lunch with my family when the phone rang. This was before mobile phones were around, so I answered the phone in the kitchen. It was on a cord, so I had no privacy. I said hello and the other end was silent. I heard some giggling then the line went dead. I sat down and it rang again minutes later. I answered and said hello. A teenaged girl asked if this was Will. I said it was. More giggling. I said hello again and could hear the phone being passed around. I hung up and went outside to play football.
My mother shouted through the window that there was a girl on the phone. I came inside, took the phone off her and heard the giggling and without evening holding the handset to my ear, hung it up.
Total pimp move.
The calls continued for ten minutes until I snapped and shouted, “Stop calling me!”
My parents thought this was hilarious.
I saw Emma most Saturday evenings for the next few years. I never spoke to her. She blushed constantly.
Fast forward fifteen years.
My wife is in hospital for some gynecological operation. It’s some simple procedure, where you are in and out in a day.
I drive her to the hospital, drop her off with some magazines and bottled water. I return that night with a bag of grapes and some energy drinks. She is pale and a bit woozy from the anesthetic.
She is in a shared ward, but has privacy from the curtain pulled round her bed. She says she has had a good afternoon recovering, chatting to the girl in the next bed who is going into surgery shortly.
A nurse comes in to check Mrs the Conqueror and says she should be okay to go home, then goes to check on her new friend. Mrs the C gets her things together and thanks the nurse who is leaving the ward.
She goes in to see her new mate and wish her good luck. She pulls back the curtain to reveal Emma. Slightly older looking and less flat chested now.
She flashes me a smile. We both wave and leave.
I wait until we get to the car park and whisper in my wife’s ear, “She used to fancy me.”