Two young girls go to the cinema and Kenny is off to the dance studio. Retro fiction.
Locksford, Cheshire. 1957.
Lynn caught the bus into town with her friend Kathy. They left the bus terminus and were on their way to see a matinee performance at the local cinema. It was a pre-birthday treat for Lynn from her father for her ninth birthday.
As they neared the cinema, Kenny, a smartly dressed sixteen-year-old youth, noticed the girls. He crossed the road and began walking towards them. He wore a smart two-piece suit, white shirt with a blue knitted tie, and winkle-picker shoes. He smiled as he began closing the gap and when he got close he called out to them.
The girls looked around and it brought a smile to Lynn’s face. She stopped to let him catch up even though she realised Kathy was nervous at his obvious interest in them.
“Hello, Lynn,” he said. “And where are you off to?”
“We’re going to the pictures, Kenny. There’s a Norman Wisdom film on. Come with us if you want to.”
“No thanks, Lynn, I’m off to the dance studio. There's an afternoon session on Saturdays and there's a girl that, I sort of like.”
“Oooh, I know you now, Kenny. I didn't know you had a girlfriend.” Lynn said and started to laugh.
“I don't, not yet anyway."
"Do you want some bubbly, Kenny?" Lynn said. "I've got loads."
"Not for me. Don't let your dad see you with that."
"I won't. I have to hide it or he throws it away. Then he tells me off like I'm a child."
"Yeah, and you're nearly nine years old as well," Kenny said.
"I am nine."
"No, you're not," Kathy said. "I'm nine; you're not nine till tomorrow."
"Shut up, Kathy."
"No, you shut up."
"Pack it in you two," Kenny said. "Anyway, Lynn, how come your dad doesn’t bring you to the gym anymore?”
“Well, girls don’t do boxing really,” Kathy interrupted.
“This one does,” Kenny said. He took up a boxing stance and leant forward to tap Lynn on her head. Lynn laughed, spat her bubble gum into a tissue and put it in her pocket before putting up her arms and taking three swipes back at him. Kenny swerved the first two but he let her third punch connect, catching him in his right eye.
"Stop it, Lynn," Kathy said. "People are gawping at us."
"Let 'em gawp," Lynn replied and gave Kathy a comical smug grin. She looked back at Kenny. “Dad spends more time training my brothers now. So I have managed to get out of it.”
“You could still go to the gym though if you like the fight training,” Kenny said.
“I don't like it, Kenny, but I was too scared to tell Dad that. I am so glad the boys are old enough now.”
“Yeah, she can be a girl at last,” Kathy said.
Kenny took a step back and looked at Lynn. “Yes, it sure is rare to see you in a nice frock and your hair is getting longer. It won’t be long before you are breaking the boy’s hearts.”
His words embarrassed Lynn a little. “We had better go or we will miss the start of the film. Don't forget my party tomorrow, Kenny? Bring your girlfriend if you want.” They said their goodbyes and went off on their separate ways with the girls giggling between themselves.
When Kenny was out of sight of the girls he rubbed the side of his face. He had not expected a girl so young to hit so hard.
He arrived at the dance studio. The building stood alone and resembled an army barrack hut but much bigger. He walked in and looked around. It was a large open area with a storeroom and office at the far end. Behind a window, a staff member would play the records and do the announcements into the microphone. Next to that an alcove was set back off the floor with a hatch where refreshments were sold. Kenny saw his usual dance partner, Penny, dancing with young Tommy to a slow Pat Boone song. He walked over and smiled at Penny and was greeted with a smile in return. “About time,” she said.
He turned his attention to Tommy. “Hey up, Tommy lad. There is a pre-puberty girl over there by the radiator, go and ask her to dance.”
“Go!” Kenny gave a flick of his hand as a sign for Tommy to walk away. As the dejected Tommy walked off, Kenny looked at Penny. “Like ‘em young then, Penny?”
“Yeah, but don’t forget I’m also two years older than you.”
“But five years older than Tommy. Anyway, why are they playing this slow love song?”
“To give us a break from the jiving I suppose. Anyway, I see you are late again as usual."
Kenny grinned. "But I’m here now so when this silly record finishes we can get this show started.”
“Big-headed sod. Why can’t you get here in the week some nights? There are a lot of really good dancers here but in the free session at the end, Tommy is the only one who can jive nearly as good as you.”
Kenny glanced over at Tommy before looking back at Penny. "What, do you have to lure him with a tube of Smarties?"
Penny laughed at his comment before continuing. "So, will you make an effort in the week then?"
“No, there is not much free time here anyway during the week. And I don't like all that ballroom stuff. Not only that, I go to the gym most nights anyway. I need to keep myself fit.”
“You can get fit dancing with me.”
“It’s a boxing gym. I can’t get that here.”
“I see. Is that why you’ve got a black eye?”
“I haven’t got a black eye.”
“You bloody well have and it’s getting worse.”
Lynn arrived home from the cinema and looked over at her father as he sat in his armchair studying the Radio and TV Times for the evening's viewing. He looked up at her. “How was the film then, princess?”
“Good. It was funny.”
“Is Kathy coming to your birthday party tomorrow?”
“Yes, and her little sister, Jackie.”
“So you have really decided that you want to hang up your boxing gloves?”
“Well, If that’s all right.”
“Of course it is. I understand. You’re at an age now when you want to do girl things.”
Although he didn’t mention the training of her two younger brothers, Lynn knew that was the reason he was not trying to persuade her to carry on training.
He reached down beside his chair and lifted her gloves. “One last tournament then. What do you say?”
Lynn gave a laugh as she walked over. “I’ll bash you again,” she said. She put the gloves on and her dad laced them up. He got on his knees and they sparred for a while. She hit him with some left hooks and jabs and every time he retaliated with a gentle slap to her face. But then she threw an unexpected straight right which caught him square on the nose. He rolled over pretending to be hurt.
“Dad, I’m sorry. Dad!” Lynn kneeled down to him in panic.
Martyn jumped up and lifted Lynn towards the ceiling like a rag doll. "Lynn McLean knocks down the undefeated Martyn McLean to become the slugger champion of Locksford."
They laughed and he let her down as they shared a hug before he removed her gloves and tied the laces together. “I’ve put a hook on the shelf. You can hang your gloves with all my trophies.”
Lynn hung the gloves on the hook while her dad returned to his chair. She walked over and cuddled up on his lap. “I love you, Dad.”
“I know. And I love you too, princess.”
"Dad, I'm nine tomorrow, can you stop calling me princess?"
"Of course princess.” He laughed. “I mean Lynn."