Ellis gets a date with Gloria.
I work as a locomotive cleaner at the depot. I already passed my first test at the firing school before I transferred from Chesterfield. This meant I was available for firing work on local and light trains, but still had to pass for mainline work, though it is just a formality. I walked into the control office hoping for a firing duty.
"Ellis, get on the bike and get over to Middlefield, I need a driver for the ballast train tomorrow."
"No firing today?"
"Not for you, lad, I've got three firemen sitting in the cabin doing nothing as it is. But there's some good news. The inspector's here on Tuesday to pass you for mainline."
It was great news for me and I felt delighted as I went to collect the depot bicycle from the stores. The small brown knocking-up card was in my breast pocket and I was about to set off to the neighbouring town of Middlefield when an attractive girl walked out from the depot path. She walked briskly and confidently and I thought she looked a little older than me. Her natural blonde hair was cut in a bob, fashioned after the early Mod style and it bounced slightly as she walked. Her hair looked shiny and healthy and not one strand appeared to be out of place; it hung around her face like a golden frame displaying a wonderful portrait. She wore a red sweater with large black spots on, like a ladybird. I let my eyes wander down the perfect shape of her legs between her black mini skirt and her red sneakers. A pair of white ankle socks folded back completed the picture.
I felt a little embarrassed when she looked over and smiled at me staring at her. I felt a desire to speak to her. "Can I help you?" I said.
"It's okay, I'm just dropping some invitations into the office. I know the way."
I sat on the bicycle watching her. When she had gone into the office and out of sight, I hurried into the canteen. "You wanna see the girl who's gone down to the foreman's office," I called out. There were a dozen enginemen sitting inside, some playing cards, some drinking tea and chatting. They all looked over at me.
"She'll be back in a minute, she's wearing a mini-skirt and she's got the most fantastic pair of legs."
Whether out of curiosity or lechery, a group of the enginemen went outside and stood waiting for her to return from the foreman's office. When she did, she looked over at the men assembled outside the canteen and laughed. "It's all right it's only me again."
"Hiya, Lynn," one of them called.
"I've left the wedding invitations in the office," she replied.
"Making it legal at last then?"
"Don't be cheeky." She gave them a huge smile as she walked off.
"You all know her then?" I said.
"Course, she's Brian's girl. Brian Conway, the lucky, mucky bastard."
The crowd dispersed, some of them back to the cabin, some of them to the office to check out the invitations. I didn't know Brian so I wouldn't have an invitation and I set off on the bicycle for the long trek to Middlefield.
It took me almost an hour to reach the small town and as I cycled through the main street, I noticed a blue motorcycle in the front window of a motorcycle dealer's. It was a smart looking machine and I got off my bicycle to look at it. A twin-cylinder James, but it was a lot of money and I would need to sort out some finance to buy it. Now I was about to pass for mainline work I could get more pay at the extra firing rate. Perhaps I could get a bit of overtime as well and I could easily afford the repayments.
I remembered the girl at the club, thinking how things would have been different if I had my own motorcycle. I made up my mind, I was going to have it.
The fairground set up just outside the town and I was in The Kings Arms trying to persuade Gordy to go there with me, but I was having no success.
"Look, Ellis, if it were a Wednesday or even a Thursday I might have taken a look, but not on a Saturday night."
"Come on it might be a laugh. We can be there in ten minutes on your bike and we don't have to stay long. If it's boring we can just come back."
"No if about it. I used to go to the fair ten years ago, it was a laugh when I was a kid, now it's crap. You want to go, then get the bus. I'm staying here."
"Right, I'll see you later." I started to walk off, but Gordy called after me and I stopped to look round.
Gordy threw me the key to the lock on his motorcycle. "You can take the bike, but make sure you're back here before closing time, and don't make yourself look a prat by bringing back a coconut." Gordy began laughing, but this time I laughed with him, pleased he let me borrow the motorcycle.
I rode off on Gordy's motorcycle and soon arrived at the fairground. As I walked around I began to think I had made a mistake and perhaps Gordy was right. Being new to the town I didn't know many people outside of work so I would be unlikely to meet anyone I knew. I was considering returning to town when I noticed Evelyn and her sister Gloria walking towards me. This would be a great opportunity to ask Evelyn out on a date. Although I only met Gloria once, I was more attracted to her and I felt thrilled just by her looking over at me. I would have preferred to ask Gloria out, but I thought she wouldn't be interested in dating someone younger than herself. My best option was with Evelyn, but I would feel embarrassed asking her for a date while Gloria was there, in case Evelyn declined my offer.
Both sisters greeted me with huge smiles. "Hiya, Ellis," they said, almost in unison.
"On yer own?" Evelyn added. "Or is Gordy the rat with ya?"
"I just popped up on my own to have a look around. I was thinking of going on the big wheel. Do you fancy going on with me, Eve?"
"No, ta," she replied. "I don't like heights."
"I'll go on with you," Gloria said, taking both Evelyn and me by surprise. As well as being surprised I was relieved my offer had shown at least some success and I could speak to Gloria about my chances of a date with her sister.
The thrill of the ride was nothing compared to the thrill of having my arm around Gloria as we sat together on the seat. I could feel the warmth from her body as she squeezed against me, pretending to be scared as the wheel revolved and the seat swayed. Her hair was pressing against my face, the strands feeling like expensive silk on my flushed cheek, her perfume was filling my head, causing a pleasing reaction and sending tingles all over my body. All too soon the ride stopped and we sat in the car, suspended in the air, waiting our turn to get off. I had been waiting for this moment knowing I wouldn't get a better chance.
"There's a good film on at the pictures, but I don't really fancy going on my own."
Gloria perked up and a smile blossomed on her face.
"Do you think you could get your sister to go with me on Monday night?"
Gloria's smile dropped. "You're on the ride with me, asking for a date with my little sister." She shook her head and tutted a few times. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather go to the pictures with me?"
I was genuinely surprised at her interest in me and I felt foolish when I realised I had not recognised the signs she gave out. "Oh, okay," I said, trying to look as casual as I could as if attractive girls were regularly asking me out. I thought of Evelyn and looked for her below us. I saw her with a young boy, one of her school friends, and the boy put his arm around her as they walked off towards the ghost train. When I looked back at Gloria, the smile had returned to her face, but she was obviously waiting for a better response from me. I wondered if I should kiss her and if she would let me. I had nothing to lose, after all, she had taken the lead and hijacked the date from her sister. I reached across to kiss her and was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response I got in return. But all too soon the wheel began to turn and it was our turn to get off.
I spent the evening with Gloria and we sampled all the rides together. We were having fun and feeling at ease as if we were young children. Tasting candyfloss again for the first time in years, even beginning to feel queasy after the third go on the Waltzer with the sounds of the rock'n'roll records blasting in our ears, was a delight to both of us. We met up with her sister and the girls were about to set off home on the bus. I offered to run Gloria home on the motorcycle, but Gloria had no intentions of leaving her sister and I felt foolish I had even asked her. I now wished I had not borrowed the motorcycle and I could have travelled on the bus with them and spent more time with Gloria. I had to get the motorcycle back to Gordy before the pub closed and I set off towards the town centre. I walked into The King's Arms just before closing time feeling pleased with myself and noticed Gordy at the bar grinning at me.
"No coconut then," Gordy shouted. "I told you it was a waste of time, didn't I?"
"I wouldn't say that." I replied with a beaming grin on my face as I made my way to the bar. "I got fixed up."
"Don't tell me you've got a date with some pre-puberty schoolkid."
"No, I'm taking Gloria to the pictures on Monday night."
"Bollocks, no you're not." Gordy hesitated before continuing. "Are you?" I didn't have to answer, the truth shone from my face like a beacon. "Sod it, I knew I should have made a move on her. If the old tart hadn't shown up in The Coffee Bar earlier today I could probably have had Gloria myself."
"You can dream." I said.
"Yeah, well you can dream as well because that's the only way you'll get anywhere near her knickers."