The Day I Didn't Lose my Virginity
Not unusually for those years between the Depression and the Second World War, I was without a job. My name was listed for the Public Service, but it was known to be a very long list.
I read the Sits. Vac. in the Kew Advertiser and found one for a girl to take telephone messages and mind a shop in the High St. - a few hours every day for 10/- a week.
The shop was ancient - one of a row of shabby old shops and dwellings - narrow doorways, peeling paint, smeared junk-filled windows. Two or three were empty, the one next door was piled with mouldering Second Hand books and dead flies. On the other side a frayed and dingey curtain hid the window - it was obviously used as a dwelling only.
Colin's shop was full of wireless parts, half-gutted bakelite cases, and a few cheap electrical appliances. Inside the floor was bare, a small table served as a counter and rough shelves held wirelesses and electric jugs etc. in varied stages of decrepitude. A sign said, "Wireless Repairs". Colin was behind the counter. He was small and spare, very thin, sandy haired, with a pale foxy face and very bright eyes. He had a long humorous mouth and a sort of pseudo-American, movie-borrowed accent full of a sort of hybrid jargon.
He called me "honey", and "baby", and did little semi-tap dances round the shop. He gave me the job - sorrowfully reducing the wages to 7/6 as I lacked experience.
Customers and messages were few and far between. Colin was out early and late scraping a meagre living. I gained the impression that he was a skilful repair man, and on those rare occasions when he was in the shop, a persuasive salesman.
To me at sixteen, there was something about him that made my heart beat faster - yet I couldn't find him attractive. If I thought of it when he was there, I was almost repelled by him, yet when he was out I waited for his return with excitement.
Premises above and behind the shop were occupied by Mrs. Bone and her two children. She was English with a strong provincial accent, a thin prying face and prominent teeth. She warned me the first day, with a darkling look and a lot of spit, "not to go in the back room with 'im."
The back room was store-room, bed-room, living-room, kitchen for Colin. It held a large old double bed, a wash stand, a bulbous electric jug, and a curtain across the corner for his clothes and anything else he wanted to hide.
Apart from the door into the shop, another opposite led to Mrs. Bone's kitchen. Colin usually arrived back at the shop just as it was time for me to leave. Often with his girl friend, a thin dark intense-looking girl who appeared older than he. They often carried what would obviously be their meal and Mrs. Bone had hinted darkly that the girl, Vera, was often still there in the morning. Vera was not friendly to me - she seemed unsmiling and a great contrast to Colin.
One afternoon Colin's old car coughed to the kerb much earlier than usual outside the shop and he was alone. He dashed in, deposited a Mickey Mouse wireless on the counter, and went into the back room. I heard him putting on the jug.
"Hey, sugar," he called. "Early closing today. How about a cuppa?"
He never did anything slowly - no sooner said than done the front door shut and bolted - and in a flash I was sitting on The Bed with a cup of tea and a biscuit, my heart hammering in anticipation of I knew not what.
Sure enough, Colin sat very close beside me and began the process of seduction. I was extemely, flustered, frightened, but still anxious to "know". Before I did more than protest half-heartedly we were lying on the bed and half my clothes were on the floor.
Colin was very good at the work - he was caressing, gentle and funny, making me laugh as well as pant.
Ruin seemed inevitable. Suddenly there was a loud knocking at Mrs. Bone's access door - fortunately prudently locked by Colin. She called me half a dozen times. We lay petrified, saying "shush shush" and stifling hysterical giggles under the rather frowsty blankets. We scarcely dared move in case the bed creaked. We lay rigidly and heard Mrs. Bone tramp round the side path and rattle the door of the shop.
In small whispers we began to exchange life stories. Colin's life had been lonely and difficult. His ambition now was boundless. Mrs. Bone went away and we could hear her roaring at her children. Colin went on talking - he told me his hopes and fears and disappointments as we lay cuddled in a now-innocent embrace. Quite suddenly he fell asleep, his foxy little face buried in my shoulder. I can conjure even now the smell of his hair, hot, alien, peppery.
I lay beside him for an hour in a bemused dream, before the darkening window made me realise how late it was. I eased myself gently from the bed, dressed hastily, and let myself out through the shop door, leaving it ajar knowing that Colin would find it.
We never repeated our brief encounter. Colin behaved as though it had never happened and so did I. My heart ceased to thump at his approach. Mrs. Bone gave me suspicious looks for a day or two afterwards and I never felt awkward with Colin, or excited, again.
Despite all his skill and energy, the times won, the little business faded and he closed his doors. I never saw him again.
There have been many other persons in my life more worthy to be remembered - but I have never forgotten Colin.