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Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Intriguing Tale: my early love life [Part 4]

[continued from Part 3]

‘Guess what?’ said Robyn, ‘I’m staying with Christine Foster tomorrow night. I can come to the Calliope dance!’

‘That’s great!’ I said, with as much fake enthusiasm as I could muster, hoping that rising panic might be interpreted as delirious joy. But I knew it wasn’t great; not in the usual sense of the word 'great' anyway. Had I known my history better, images of the Titanic sliding to its watery grave would have flashed before my eyes.

Robyn had recently added Christine to her list of friends. Christine, as you will have gathered, lived in Calliope, though they had only come there recently and she was not a frequenter of the Diggers Arms Hall dances, which was just as well, or I could have been in a spot long before this announcement by Robyn. Still, it took only a millisecond for the full import of her statement to hit me. Chickens had come home to roost. Large ones with long sharp claws. 

I was going to turn up at the Dance and find two winsome maidens waiting there for me, and for me, it was going to be lose some, for sure. Both of them. If I could spin-doctor my way out of this one by explaining to them, either singly or as a pair, why they might appreciate the opportunity to alternate dances with little old me on a hot October night and keep themselves cool for their next dance, I would have a fantastic future in politics. Or retail, especially used cars. But what was I to do? I couldn’t feign sickness, as I was never sick on a Saturday night and I was not that great a liar. My mother would know I was malingering for some reason and I could hardly tell her my dilemma.

I did what every 15 year old youth does under these circumstances. Nothing. I did nothing because I had no idea what to do. When you see a convict on death row and his former cellmates start shouting ‘Dead Man Walking’ there’s nothing the Dead Man can do but walk, really, towards his doom. The same principle applied here. 

But I was too young to die and let’s be reasonable – I had only had two real girlfriends in my High School career, and aren’t kids of that age expected to be free spirits, share themselves around – all that sort of thing? 

My only crime, m'lord, was that two beautiful Ladies did not have the faintest idea of the other’s existence, and it hadn’t mattered tuppence till right then. So I thought, anyway. I had never lied to either about the chance of a paramour in my life; they just hadn't asked me, that's all. If they didn't check these things out and raise any possible objections at a more convenient time and place than the first encounter between them, that could hardly be chalked down on the debit side of the ledger to me. Could it?

And now, because of that minor sin of omission, I was going to lose them both, in the most public way, looking exactly like the total pratt I was. And I know there are heaps of readers out there, probably not males, who are rubbing their hands in glee awaiting that tuppence of come-uppance.

I dressed for the dance as I had done every Calliope dance, hair slicked down with Brilliantine and wearing my dancing pumps. Lord knows why, as I wasn’t going to be using them much that night, but if I was going to go out, it may as well have been in style. 

Saturday seemed to go much faster than normal, even the usually interminable milking in the afternoon. Normally it would drag on while I dreamed of slow Jazz Waltzes with whichever Lady I was stepping out with that night. For once in my life I was wishing illness on myself, but of course it never happens that way. I don’t even remember which if any of my siblings were going. Mum was doing the ticket office and it could actually have been just the pair of us that night, but it meant we had to go a bit early so she could get things organised. I think I’ve blocked some things out of my memory, which isn’t surprising. 

What I do remember with crystal clarity was standing in the small Gent cluster at the entrance to the hall and looking around at who was there. Which Ladies were coming in, I mean. There were not too many Gents there at that stage and I stuck out like prawns' eyes, or so it felt.

Let’s consider the possibilities, just before I go on.
[a] Neither might turn up. Given the circumstances, that might not be a bad result. Odds: 200 to 1
[b] One or other might turn up. Excellent result. Odds: 500 to 1
[c] Both would turn up. Least favourable result. Odds: 100 to 1 on.

On past form, Lorraine would be there a little after 8, just as the MC would be announcing the Opening Waltz.  Past form proved to be a reliable guide, and she came in, giving me a little mock regal wave and her usual flashing smile. I grimaced what was intended to look like a smile of joy at seeing her, but I confess my heart wasn’t really in it. She stopped smiling, frowned slightly, and sat down. Obviously the grimace looked exactly what it was. Possibility [a] was scratched. The odds for [b] remained at 500 to 1. The odds for [c] had shortened fearfully. Incalculable. Off the scale at the wrong end.

The dance was announced, and the Pops Ballroom Dressing sprinkled around the floor. Mercifully, Robyn hadn’t shown up yet, so I felt quite justified in requesting the Opening Waltz with Lorraine. That would give me fifteen minutes before the guillotine fell. As we waltzed our way round the hall, I could not keep my eyes from the doorway so that I would know when Robyn walked in the door with Christine.

The night was humid and still. The first bracket of music came to a halt and we waited for the second one to start. ‘Are you OK? What’s happened? Why are you looking out the door all the time? Is there a storm coming?’

Is there a storm coming?? You hit the nail on the head with that question. ‘Oh…. I feel a bit ... peculiar tonight, that’s all.’ This was perfectly true, only very understated. The next bracket started up, and I tried to be more discreet in my glances toward the door. The Opening Waltz ended, and I escorted her back to her seat. She whispered something to her mother, who glanced at me with a searching look on her face.

No Robyn. Yet. Not much past 8.25 pm. Anytime now….  A Boston Two-Step was announced. Strange, that one was usually later in the night. I asked Lorraine up and she gave me another of those intense looks that make a guilty man feel uncomfortable. But at least it gave me another 15 minutes or so of comparative freedom while the guillotine was being sharpened and raised to its apogee. I resolved not to look towards the doorway this time but simply watch out for who was sitting in every seat as we went round the floor. That would tell me soon enough. I tried to buck up a bit, as the silent inquisition I was getting was nearly as bad as if Robyn actually walked in. No, that’s not really true. Nothing was going to be anywhere near that bad.

The Boston Two-Step ended and once more I was escorting Lorraine back to her place beside her mother. The latter decided to go over to the road and have a shandy with Chippie, leaving Lorraine all alone. I didn't know if that was good or bad. 8.45 pm. The next dance would be announced shortly. It would be a Gypsy Tap for sure.

It was a Tap Gypsy Tap! What? Had the MC been on the grog this early? If I were tapped with Lorraine, and Robyn had turned up during the dance, then I would feel obliged to pick her up from her seat. My two sweethearts would then be on the floor at the same time and I would have to keep them separate somehow. Why? I don’t know. Just to delay the inevitable I suppose, for one more minute. This is panic talking, not reason. But again, there was little choice.

We danced the Tap Gypsy Tap. And we hadn’t been on the floor for more than a minute when I saw Eddie Roberts striding purposefully towards me. The sod was going to tap me. I whirled Lorraine to the outer rim of the Diggers Arms Hall galaxy and she was pleased to see me livening up for the first time that night, and pleased also that I was trying to keep her away from my competitors. I was pleased that she had no idea of my primary and far baser motive.

[continued - Final Part ahead!] [Back to Index]

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